Loving People When They Hurt You: Thoughts from the Life of Judah and his Dad

Read through the Bible in 2 years: Genesis 42-44

Genesis 42 kicks off with the famine having spread to the land of Canaan, thereby forcing Jacob to send his sons to Egypt to buy grain. Jacob sends ten of his remaining sons, but refuses to send Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin, the only other son of Rachel, “for he feared that harm might happen to him.” (Genesis 42:4) Jacob is still playing favorites, like I wrote about here.

As though that’s not bad enough, even after Simeon (Jacob’s second son from his unloved wife, Leah) is left behind in Egypt, Jacob continues to insist that Benjamin cannot go to Egypt, saying, “My son shall not go down with you [Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn son], for his brother [Joseph] is dead, and he is the only one left.” (Genesis 42:38) In fact, Jacob still has eight other sons in addition to Reuben left at home, namely Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, and Zebulun.

How would you feel if you heard your father say such a thing about one of your brothers?

Wouldn’t you want to scream and cry and stomp your feet, “Hey, Dad, what about me? Don’t you love me? Aren’t I your son? What about me and my children? What if we starve here from this famine?”

When the famine becomes even more severe and all the Egyptian grain has been consumed, Jacob is finally willing to send his sons again to Egypt to buy food. (Keep in mind, Simeon had been left in Egypt as a captive all this time.)

Judah, Jacob’s fourth son who was also born to Leah, solemnly pledges to his father, “From my hand you shall require him [Benjamin]. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.” (Genesis 43:9 ESV)

To which Jacob finally relents, “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” (Genesis 43:14)

Now, put yourself in the shoes of Judah, or one of Leah’s other sons or worse yet one of the sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah or Leah’s servant Zilpah. Imagine hearing your father refer to Simeon, your big brother as “your other brother” while Rachel’s son is referred to by name. Benjamin, Jacob’s last son. Benjamin, the only remaining son of Rachel, Jacob’s dearly loved wife who died during his birth. Benjamin, the “son of my right hand.”

Whether spoken intentionally or not, Jacob’s words communicated to his children that Benjamin is more valuable than they are. Read Judah’s own words to Joseph about his dad at the end of Genesis 44.

“As soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die
Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me?
I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”

Genesis 44:31a, 33-34 ESV

In spite of the pain that his father has caused him, Judah still loves his dad. He may not be expecting a prodigal son’s welcome home — no father running to him with arms open wide. Rather, he is expecting to arrive home to a father who is looking behind him to see if his baby brother is there. And yet … Judah is still worried about the deep pain that his brother’s loss will cause his father.

Are you having a hard time loving someone who has hurt you again and again? Are you struggling to forgive someone who repeatedly has broken your heart?

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father,

How I long to see you face to face, to sit at your feet and have every tear wiped away from my eyes. How I ache for the pain and sin and sorrow of this world to be over.

But, Father, in the meantime, help me to love as Your Son loved. Remind me how much You have forgiven me. Show me my sin.

Help me to forgive even those who forget me and reject me and spit in my face. I want to forgive others as You have forgiven me.

Lord, I can’t do this on my own. I need Your strength. Help me to see the log in my own eye, to accept responsibility for where my own sin has contributed to the pain that I find myself in.

I want to overcome evil with good for You are good and I am Yours.

In the Good and Gracious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Hymn of Heaven by Phil Wickham

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