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Lesson 4: The Coat of Different Colors *

Introduction: Do you struggle with feelings of inferiority? Does jealousy sometimes cause you to do things that you would not otherwise do? What portion of your life is wasted trying to prove to others that you are worthy? Has jealousy altered the course of your life and that of your family? This week we turn our attention to a family filled with jealousy and feelings of inferiority. Terrible things happened as a result. Let's dig into our Bible story and see what we can learn!

  1. Joseph and The Mothers

    1. Read Genesis 37:1-2. Notice that Joseph is working with his brothers, but they have different mothers. What do we know about the different mothers?

      1. Read Genesis 29:16-18 and Genesis 29:21-29. What kind of relationship do you think existed between Leah and Rachel?

        1. Who is at fault for this situation?

      2. Read Genesis 30:1-5. What do you think about the process of Bilhah becoming Jacob's wife?

        1. What motivated this decision? (Jealousy.)

      3. Read Genesis 30:9-11. What do you think about the process of Zilpah becoming Jacob's wife?

        1. What motivated this decision? (Ambition.)

    2. Let's go back to Genesis 37:1-2. Notice that verse two says "this is the account of Jacob" and then immediately talks about Joseph and his brothers. How does that make any sense? (Jacob's life is defined by the dysfunctional situation in his family.)

      1. What control did Jacob have over this situation?

    3. Read Genesis 30:22-24. Is Rachel happy with having Joseph? (She wants more sons.)

    4. Let's make you the family advisor (maybe family psychiatrist). What advice would you give them?

    1. Would you say that the wives should find their value in their relationship with God, not their husband or the number of their children?

  2. Read Genesis 30:17-18. Now what do you say about your advice?

    1. Did God reward Leah for giving her maidservant to her husband? (No doubt God listened to Leah's prayers. But, I feel confident He did not reward her for being jealous and giving another woman to her husband!)

      1. What does this teach us? (Be careful what we attribute to God.)

  • Joseph and His Brothers

    1. We've learned that the family situation is a mess. Let's look at Genesis 37:1-2 again. Joseph gives a bad report on his older half-brothers. If you knew only this fact, what would you surmise about the relationship between these brothers?

      1. Let's add some more facts. Read Genesis 35:22 and think back to what we learned about the way in which Bilhah and Zilpah became wives. What kind of attitude do you think the sons of Zilpah (and especially Bilhah) had about their self-worth? (They were the sons of the lesser wives. Reuben, the son of Leah, had even slept with Bilhah! I'm sure that in this jealousy-filled situation that they felt inferior to Joseph.)

      2. How do you think Joseph felt about his older brothers? (Since Joseph was only seventeen, he probably looked up to his brothers. No doubt they were in charge.)

      3. Is it possible that everyone - Joseph and the sons of the lesser wives - all had feelings of inferiority?

      4. What do you think the sons of the lesser wives thought about Joseph reporting on their bad behavior?

    2. Read Genesis 37:3. Why did Jacob (Israel) give this robe to Joseph? (Because he was old when Joseph was born.)

      1. What kind of a reason is that? (Jacob may be sentimental, but I've got to believe that his love for Rachel was part of the reasons for his feelings towards Joseph.)

    3. Read Genesis 37:4. Is Jacob truly showing love towards Joseph?

      1. Should Jacob have anticipated this?

        1. Do you think Jacob cares?

      2. How do you think that Joseph would react to this? (This would only increase Joseph's feelings that he was an "outsider" and was not worthy to be part "of the gang.")

    4. Read Genesis 37:5-7. Why do you think Joseph shared this dream? Was he insensitive? Stupid? Arrogant? (He certainly was not showing emotional intelligence and maturity, but I suspect he told the story because he wanted to show his older brothers that he was worthy. They should let him into their circle.)

    5. Read Genesis 37:8. Did Joseph's story have its intended affect?

    6. Read Genesis 37:9-10. This time, does Joseph have any excuse for telling his dream?

    7. Read Genesis 37:11. Are these the reactions you would expect? (You might expect the brothers to conclude Joseph was an arrogant pup. Jealousy, is not what would come to mind. The fact they are jealous reinforces the idea that they felt inferior, and now they think that perhaps God has chosen Joseph over them.)

      1. Does Jacob believe this dream is from God? (Jacob thinks it is significant.)

    8. Do you think these dreams came from God? Why would God give them to Joseph knowing that he would be reporting them?

  • Joseph and the Train Wreck

    1. Read Genesis 37:12-14. What level of authority is being given to Joseph?

      1. To what degree is Jacob responsible for what happens next?

    2. Read Genesis 37:18-20. What directly motivated the murder plot? (Joseph's dreams.)

      1. Let's make you the family advisor again. What advice would you give to avoid this train wreck?

        1. Would you say to Jacob, "Don't send your younger son to give a report on the older sons?"

        2. Would you say to God, "Don't give Joseph those dreams?" (Jacob is entitled to appoint whoever he wants as supervisor. I'm sure there were reasons to choose Joseph. God is entitled to reveal the future to His servants. The problem is with the brothers (and us). We need to come to grips with the fact that we are not as bright, talented, honest, or able as some others. Perhaps just timing (a son of Jacob's old age) gives one person an advantage over another. We need to accept this with grace and without jealousy.)

    3. Read Genesis 37:21-28 and focus on verse 26. What motivates the final decision of the brothers?

  • Joseph and the Consequences

    1. Our story continues with the amazing twist that Joseph appears before Pharaoh King of Egypt, reveals a future famine, and reveals how to avoid its consequences. Pharaoh makes Joseph second in authority and in charge of the famine relief plan. Read Genesis 41:56-42:2.

      1. If the brothers had followed their original plan and killed Joseph, what would have been the results? (Probably many of them would have died.)

        1. What does this teach us about feelings of jealousy, inferiority and revenge?

      2. What happened to the brothers as a result of their modified plan to harm Joseph? (Genesis 42-50 and Exodus 1 recount that in the short term they lived. Their sin was revealed. Their descendants lived in Egypt 430 years ( Exodus 12:40), some part of which they were slaves.)

    2. Friend, the decisions you make today based on feelings of inferiority, jealousy and revenge can have a clear impact on your life, your family and your descendants. Will you decide today to ask God to take away your feelings of inferiority and jealousy and replace them with feelings of gratitude for what God has done for you?

  • Next week: Priestly Garments of Grace.
  • * Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

    © 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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