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Commentary on "Jealousy"



Day 3: Monday, February 28, 2011 - Joseph's Brothers



Today we will examine the conflict between Joseph and his brothers.

So often, jealousy and envy arise among those with whom we are very close, which makes the potential for serious consequences even more devastating. Indeed, a large portion of aggression (physical or psychological) today is found within the family circle, and jealousy and rivalry between family members is so often at the root. (Quarterly Lesson quote)



As has already been pointed out, since emotions are not sinful of themselves, the jealousy expressed by Joseph’s brothers could not have been the root cause of how they sinned. We need to return to scripture and look into this deeper to understand what their sin really was and what the root cause was that produced it.

By referring to Exodus 20:17 the lesson author asserts that jealousy is a sin. However, when you read this verse you learn that coveting is the sin that is condemned. Just prior in verse five we learn the God is a jealous God. Since God is a holy God and does not sin, it should be obvious that coveting and jealousy are not the same thing.

Elsewhere, on the topic of what does and does not defile a person, Jesus makes it very clear sin is something that originates in a person’s heart. Not only is it not what we put into our bodies, it is not related to our circumstances or what people do to us. The sinful actions of each of us are generated out from each of our own sinful hearts.

Then He said, “What comes out of a person—that defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23 HCSB)

Jealousy can be evidence of sin but we need to look past the jealousy and examine the cause before concluding it is related to sin in a person’s life. For instance, in the marriage relationship, when one spouse is unfaithful to the other member of that marriage, that person will have a perfectly natural reason to be jealous. Never forget that our God is a jealous God.

As in the case of Joseph’s brothers, the real question is what was the root cause of their jealousy? In their hearts they hated Joseph. They plotted to murder their brother. Later, they covered up their deed by lying to their father about what had happened to Joseph. Without justifying what they did it would be useful to examine the circumstances that generated this hatred.


Consider these factors

Their father had four wives who lived in close proximity to each other, sharing the same husband. They were twelve sons with a common father but with four different mothers. Their father favored one wife above the other three. And, Jacob displayed obvious favoritism toward Joseph who was next to the youngest of the brothers without equal concern for the other brothers. Joseph didn’t help the situation by turning in a bad report on his brothers, Gen. 37:2. It really wasn’t prudent to flaunt his father’s favoritism by wearing the ‘coat of many colors’ around them. Telling his brothers of the dreams where he would rule over them didn’t help matters either, Gen. 37:5-11. Their jealousy was natural and an obvious result of these circumstances. While knowing the circumstances help to explain, it never justifies sin. The hatred that came from their hearts and what they did to Joseph as a result of their jealousy was sin. That is what they were held accountable for.

Now, let us consider Joseph. Having been sold into slavery, he had every reason to hate his brothers but he took a totally different approach to his circumstances which were things he had no personal control over. At each step of his life, he knew God was the one who was really in control and did not succumb to the hardships that came his way. He was equally at peace in all situations. As Paul later expressed (Phil. 4:10-13), he knew how “to have abundance and to suffer want”. A perfect summary of his life is revealed by what he said to his brothers when they came to him in fear right after the death of their father.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people. Therefore don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen 50:19-21 HCSB)



  1. When we focus on jealousy instead of what produced that emotion, we are overlooking the real dynamics that may have justified or seem to justify the emotion of jealousy. We need to search deeper before concluding what is or is not sin.
  2. When we react to our circumstances and what others do to us instead of acknowledging that God is the one who is really in control, we succumb to our sinful nature and allow such things as hatred and anger to control our actions. Jealousy, even when justified, is then misplaced.
  3. When ‘hard things’ come our way, we can have the same peace that both Joseph and Paul experienced in their lives by knowing ‘God planned it for good’.
  4. Have no jealousy in your life except to be jealous about the same things God is jealous of.




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