Nobody likes family drama. That term “drama” is actually a misnomer. “Family drama” is usually a light-hearted coverup for a whole lot of pain. Sometimes we call it family dysfunction, but that’s just a sterilized, clinical word for hurt and broken relationships. You might have a little of this in your family, or maybe you have a lot. Most of us have at least some. But few of us can match the drama of family from Genesis 29 and 30.
It’s the stuff tabloids thrive on, so bizarre and contentious it makes your head spin. First a man falls in love with a girl, but her father tricks him into marrying her older sister. He then marries both sisters but only loves the younger. For years the two sisters try to earn his affection by having his babies, even going so far as to name their sons with words that mean “I have wrestled with my sister and won.” When that doesn’t work, they give their slaves to the man as surrogate mothers and claim those sons too. At one point, one sister trades mandrakes, a special root, for an extra turn sleeping with the husband.
They are bonkers, completely batty, out of their heads—at least if you take it face value. But we can’t just look at face value because there’s much more to the story.
If you look at the names of the sons—those bartering chips for their father’s affection—you see Reuben, Asher, Judah, Benjamin, and others. Their father’s name is Jacob. They have another brother named Joseph. This is the first family of Israel—literally, the first, the ones from which a nation is born. Jacob becomes “Israel,” who is listed along with Abraham and Isaac as a patriarch of God’s people. Those sons bear the names that the twelve tribes of Israel will later carry.
All that drama and dysfunction did hurt. It hurt the people in that family and it had ripple effects for generations to come. It left scars and wounds.
Yet God still used those people, all of them. He used the deceptive ones and the spiteful ones and the victims. God has a way of redeeming awful messes and terrible decisions. He doesn’t make all the pain go away, but through it all good does happen and His purposes move ahead.
How hopeful is that?! You might see some of your family or your life in this story. You might be a deceiver or a manipulator or you might be a victim who suffered at another’s hands. But God can redeem the wrongs. He can bring about good.
Written by Barnabas Piper