Dysfunctional Family: Exhibit A (Palestine)


I believe it was Roger Barrier who I first heard point out that there are basically no functional families in the Bible.  That is absolutely the truth.  And to see how deep the dysfunction can run it only takes a glance at Genesis 29 and 30.  These two chapters tell the story of Jacob’s marriage to Leah and Rachel.  Just look at the dysfunction which abounds:


1)    Laban (Jacob’s uncle) milks Jacob for a month of his service (Gen 29:14, 15).

2)    Laban twists the situation to make himself look generous and puts Jacob in the awkward place of requesting payment (Gen 29:15).

3)    Jacob loves (lusts after?) Rachel because of her physical appearance (Gen 29:17).

4)    Jacob pays a very high dowry (7 years of service) for Rachel (Gen 29:20).

5)    Laban and Leah deceive Jacob by giving Leah to Jacob in marriage (Gen 29:23).

6)    Laban puts Leah in an unfair situation by marrying her to a man who doesn’t love her (Gen 29:23).

7)    By acquiescing to tradition (Gen 29:26) and his greed (wanting Jacob to serve him longer), Laban treats Rachel unfairly by making her wait and by making her share her husband with her sister.

8)    Even after being married to Leah for 7 years, Jacob still shows preferential treatment toward Rachel (Gen 29:30).

9)    Leah’s understanding of love is so distorted she believes that having children will win her Jacob’s love.  In doing this, Leah also shows herself a poor mother – her children are objects she uses to gain the affections of Jacob (Gen 29:32, 34).

10)    Rachel believes her worth is tied to her ability to bear children (Gen 30:1).

11)    Rachel demands that Jacob fix a situation only God can fix (Gen 30:1).

12)    Jacob responds in anger to Rachel and makes a judgment about her only God can make (Gen 30:2).

13)    Jacob commits adultery.  Rachel, then Leah use their servants for their own gain and are complicit in Jacob committing adultery (Gen 30:3-10).

14)    Leah bribes Rachel in order to have sex with Jacob and Jacob is complicit (Gen 30:16).

And it goes on and on.  What an utter mess.  Any dysfunction one could imagine inhabits this family.  And yet somehow it is the sons of these two women and this man who become the twelve tribes of Israel.  It is this family that God so deeply cares for that he has one of the sons sent to Egypt in order to protect them from a famine they never could have predicted and were defenseless against.


Have hope!  I don’t doubt you empathize with all too many of the sin patterns in Jacob’s family.  I don’t doubt that your heart bears the wounds of such patterns and it is all you can do not to pass them on in your own family.  But our God is a choosing God, a God who calls us to be his holy people even out of such circumstances.  Our God is a loving god, a God who loves despite our dysfunction and who is creating a new functional family through the power of the death and resurrection of his own Son.

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