Brothers of the Bible

Powerful Essays
Brothers of the Bible

The Old Testament sibling rivalries between Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers were similar in some ways and different in others, but they all hold lessons for us today, for brothers today still face many of the same problems in life that challenged brothers thousands of years ago.

Cain and Abel were in a situation much more unique than Esau and Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers faced, for the society they lived in was extremely small, and they each had a direct relationship with God. As the book of Genesis tells us, Cain was the first born son of Adam and Eve. Their next son was a boy whom they named Abel. As Cain and Abel grew up both took responsibilities for making a living. Abel took care of the sheep and Cain became a farmer. (Genesis 4:7)

Both brothers in the space of time began to offer sacrifices unto God. Cain, being a farmer, offered the produce of his fields, and Abel offered the first-born sheep with its fat. God had respect for the offering of Abel but rejected the offering of Cain. It thus comes as something of a surprise that God accepts Abel?s offering but not Cain?s. Two puzzles emerge: (1) We are not told how Cain discovered that neither he nor his offering was accepted. Given God?s way of responding in the story, Cain may have told directly. (2) No rationale is given, hence God?s action appears arbitrary (Abingdon, 373). The biblical text gives no explicit reason for God?s preference for Abel?s offering. This has given rise to speculation. (Doubleday) And envious of his brother so angered Cain that he killed him. Cain?s response ? the downcast face ? reveals more the idea of dejection, feelings associated with rejection, than anger. Cain must care about what God thinks of him and his sacrifice. But the basic issue becomes not that Cain acts in a dejected fashion, but how he responds to God?s interaction with him about his dejection. That God responds at all reveals a divine concern for Cain. (Abingdon, 373)

When God confronted Cain with what he had done and asked, ?Where is Abel your brother?? Cain replied, ?Am I my brother?s keeper?? (Genesis 4:15) The answer is yes, and relates to Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers, and to us today, for we are all our brother?s keeper. We live our lives in close relation to our family, neighbors, friends, and even people we only casually me...

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...howing us that when the ancient Israelites got involved in sibling rivalries they didn?t fool around, they also illustrate for modern day readers how harmful parental favoritism can be. Today?s parents should make every effort to treat their children equally, for the psychological consequences may be severe if they don?t.

Finally, these Old Testament stories demonstrate to us today that sibling rivalries can be controlled if brothers or sisters make efforts to treat one another fairly. They show us as well that it is very important for siblings to forgive one another if their rivalries lead to hard feelings or even lengthy estrangement.


Abingdon. The New interpreter?s Bible, Volume 1. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994.

Chait, Israel. ?Joseph and His Brothers.? Online. Available: 20 June 2001.

Doubleday. The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Volume 1. New York: Doubleday Dell Pulbishing group, 1992.

Smith, Dictionary of the Bible. London, 1893.

The Holy Bible. New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983.

White, Ellen G. Patriarchs and Prophets. Washington D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958.
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