The Backstory

Have you ever watched someone’s behavior and wondered, “What were you thinking?”  Consider an example in the life of the great patriarch, Jacob.  While Jacob had many attributes and successes, there was one area where he may have fallen short. Jacob had twelve sons and one daughter. In Genesis 37, we read that Jacob had a favorite.  He loved his son, Joseph, more than any of the others. If he could have kept this hidden, it might have been all right, but Jacob did not.  His overt expressions of affection reached their peak when Jacob made Joseph an expensive, beautiful coat. When the siblings saw Joseph in the coat, their response spoke volumes: “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” Tragedy followed.  While other factors most likely contributed to the animosity between brothers, we do wonder how Jacob could have been so unwise in the unequal expression of his love toward them.  There’s a backstory here that might help to explain.

Back in Genesis 29, we read that Jacob traveled to an eastern land to visit his Uncle Laban. After a time, Laban determined that Jacob should be paid for the work he was doing. Laban asked Jacob what his wages should be.  Well, Jacob had fallen in love with Laban’s daughter, Rachel, and therefore replied, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”  And so it was.

Unbeknownst to Jacob, Laban pulled a fast one. On their wedding night, Rachel’s older sister, Leah, was given to Jacob instead of his beloved Rachel.  The next morning, upon realizing the con, Jacob was furious.  “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”

Laban was not apologetic. “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”

Jacob loved Rachel so much that he did work seven more years for her. While they rejoiced in their marriage, sadness came when they realized Rachel was barren.  Life goes on and Jacob had ten sons and a daughter to Leah and the maidservants of Rachel and Leah.  Then, after many years passed, Rachel was blessed with a child. His name was Joseph.  He and Rachel must have been ecstatic.  We can see why Jacob had a great fondness for this very special child. That helps us to understand, but as the saying goes, understanding does not justify.  So, what about us?

What behaviors in our lives would others see that would make them scratch their head but might be understandable if they knew our backstory? But we don’t want to be unwise like Jacob.  While the backstory may be interesting and informative, we don’t want it to create distorted thinking or counterproductive behaviors.  We don’t want our backstory to negatively write the end of our story.  Got anything back there that needs adjusting?

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