The Bible has quite a load of sibling rivalry. Here are some examples:
- Cain & Abel (Genesis 4). Cain’s jealousy at Abel when God accepted Abel’s offering leads Cain to murder his brother.
- Shem, Ham, & Japheth (Genesis 9:18-29). Noah’s sons’ family discord arises after Ham disgraces his drunk naked father. It is noted that Ham involved his brothers (verse 22). The Canaanites – descended from Ham – are cursed in verse 25 and remain rivals of God’s people right through the Old Testament.
- Isaac and Ishmael. These half-brothers, sons of Abraham, are the spark of conflict in the tents of Abraham. The problems are between the mothers, Sarah and Hagar, as well as between Abraham and the two women (Genesis 16; 21:8-21).
- Esau & Jacob. Fighting begins in the womb (Genesis 25:19-26), it continues for life. Most notable are the birthright treated as a commodity (Genesis 25:29-34) and Jacob’s theft of the paternal blessing (Genesis 27). Read the extended Genesis account, them remember that Israel versus Edom is the nation-sized expansion of this rivalry (Numbers 20, Obadiah, etc).
- The Twelve Sons of Jacob. The central conflict is eleven sons against Joseph. They plan to kill him, but “mercifully” only throw him into a pit, sell him as a slave, and fake his death to deceive father (Genesis 37). This fraternal rivalry undergirds the final dozen chapters of Genesis, along with God turning human evil intent to good (Genesis 50:20).
- Moses, Aaron & Miriam (Numbers 12). Moses’ brother and sister oppose Moses, that they too might be known as speakers for the Lord. It was not their wisest idea.
- Amnon, Tamar, & Absalom (2 Samuel 13). Children of King David, but torn by lust, rape & revenge killing. Amnon lusts for, takes, then dispenses with his beautiful half-sister. Absalom broods for two years on avenging his sister. This is not only an awful moral mess, but is a violent death to the putative king – Amnon was David’s first-born (1 Chronicles 3:1).
- Adonijah and Solomon (1 Kings 1). There was plenty of other trouble between sons of David, not only these two, but this example shows how the trouble plays out in striving for the kingship.
I am not about to draw major conclusions from this line of intra-family discord. But it does, at least, raise a few questions or lead to further observations.
Some observations might by relatively minor. Such as the awareness that the first four disciples Jesus called, later to be apostles, were two pairs of brothers (Mark 1:16-20, Matthew 4:18-22). Do Peter and Andrew, James and John signal the need to end sibling squabbles?
Other observations are much more straightforward. Those who trust the gospel of Jesus must live a different and new way with their ‘brothers’ (also translated ‘brethren’ or ‘brothers and sisters’). Love, peace, agreement and more are to be usual among fellow Christian believers. As a small sample, note these verses of ‘brotherhood’:
- Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour (Romans 12:10)
- Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11)
- Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9)
- For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
- Let brotherly love continue (Hebrews 13:1)
- Honour everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the emperor (1 Peter 2:17)
- We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death (1 John 3:14)
I get the distinct impression that Christian love for fellow Christian – expressed in word, in acts, with devotion, and as a foundational aspect of our new identity – is one of the more extraordinary parts of the radical change Jesus brings. It can be a challenge. It is a privilege.