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Relevant Passages: Genesis 4, 25, 30; Number 12; Luke 10, 15

The sibling rivalries in Scripture are predominantly same-sex rivalries. The tensions which the narratives reveal can be instructive for those who wish to live at peace with their siblings.

  1. Cain and Abel: Genesis 4. In Jewish and Christian tradition, Cain has not been handled very redemptively. Does the narrative in Scripture suggest any mitigating factors that might explain is action or reduce his guilt? Does God’s action toward him suggest only punishment or does it also imply a measure of grace?
  2. Jacob and Esau: Genesis 25. The shadow of divine destiny looms over the Jacob-Esau narrative. What positive traits can one find in Esau, what negative traits can one fine in Jacob, that might reduce our tendency to pass judgment for or against one of the brothers? In short, which of these brothers do you “like” best? What could the parents have done to reduce the tension between them?
  3. Rachel and Leah: Genesis 30. Rivalry between sisters as wives is not one of the problems which loom large in our western culture. Does this unhappy narrative reveal any principles which could be instructive for us today?
  4. Moses, Miriam, and Aaron: Numbers 12. The triangle represented by these siblings comes closer to revealing the tangled nature of our modern sibling rivalries: Miriam rescues Baby Moses, leads the choir, but criticizes her brother’s wife; Aaron is co-leader with Moses, but joins in his sister’s criticism; Moses, though deeply hurt, responds spontaneously to the disaster which struck his sister. How can we learn from this narrative?
  5. Mary and Martha: Luke 10. The tension between the sisters is a classic one: the hard-working Martha chafes at the reflective and contemplative mode of her sister Mary. Does Jesus’ response reveal that the activist is usually in the wrong? How can we help both impulses to live up to their desires and their potential?
  6. Prodigal son and his brother: Luke 15. The match-up between the wayward but repentant brother and his hard-working faithful sibling is a painful one. The elder brother usually gets the short end of our sympathies. Is there any way to affirm both brothers and thus restore family harmony?

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