Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

In the book of Genesis, each generation shows brothers or sisters who competed. Often the competition became bitter and even violent at times. Genesis features the sibling rivalries between Cain and Abel , Esau and Jacob, Ishmael and Isaac, Leah and Rebecca, and Joseph and his brothers. These rivalries were all similar in some ways, and obviously different in others.

Sibling rivalry is a very pervasive pattern in the book of Genesis, and some of the main questions I plan to answer are as follows:

What does this pattern mean?

Are the rivalries accidental and/or natural?

What similarities do all these cases have?

How is each circumstance different?

What is God’s role in these rivalries?

God, at some point, was closely involved in pretty much every sibling rivalry featured in Genesis. I feel the question of God’s role could be an important one in fully understanding the rivalries in Genesis.

Are these sibling rivalries confined to just Genesis or do they happen elsewhere? There are surely sibling rivalries today, are they any different?  What determines the magnitude of these rivalries?

Many of the rivalries have a great amount of gravity associated with them. For instance, take Jacob and Esau. Esau was in line to have his father’s blessing, but their mother wanted Jacob to receive that blessing.  Jacob basically pulls a fast one Esau, effectively screwing Esau out of his own birth right (Genesis 25:21-34). Later Jacob went on to be a patriarch of the Israelites. God must’ve had an opinion on this, so what was it? What role did their parents play in this? These are hopefully some of the questions I’ll be able to answer through my paper.

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6 Responses to Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

  1. Susan Donoho says:

    I think this will def. be a topic that a lot of people can relate to. There are many instances, serious and petty, that all of us deal with when it comes to our siblings.
    It’s a pity that, at times, we find ourselves treating complete strangers better than those in our own families. I think it would be interesting to compare a modern day incident to one of the stories you mentioned that are found in Genesis.
    Your sub-topic of the similarities found in the rivalries should probably be easy to research. There are many reputable people who have researched this.
    Your topic of ‘the roles that God plays in these rivalries’ might be a bit difficult because there are many people who differ in their opinions.

    Overall I think this topic and your sub-topics will make an interesting research paper.

    • zacharyruffing says:

      This is a good topic, and one that is central to the varous stories in Genesis. However, in order to succeed in your paper. You will need to write more formally and avoid coloquialisms. I think you will find significant information if you look at the similarities of the rivalries in the book. Also, Freudian psychology or general theories of psychological development in children and within families would probably add a great deal to your work. The role of parents is also central to all of these stories. The children are frequently passive agents to their parents’ machinations towards one another. Joseph is thrust into his situation ultimately because Jacob likes him most, Jacob is simply the object of Rachel’s schemes in his initial rise to favor, and Isaac is preferred over Ismael because Sarah was old when she had him and feared Ismael’s competition.

  2. marysticklen says:

    I can definitely relate to this topic having a younger sister and brother. I think it would be interesting to learn how the instances of sibling rivalry are related and if these similarites were intentional. It would be intersting to see how these cases of sibling rivalry in Genesis compare to how siblings fight today, I would never kill my siblings, but I’m sure anyone with siblings can attest to wanting to be an only child or manipulating their siblings to get their way. I also think that you have a lot of good sub-topics that will make your paper interesting. You just need to find a good way to relate each topic to each other to make sure the paper has a constant flow.

  3. Da'Keisha Jett says:

    As others have already stated I do think it will be interesting to relate your topic to sibling rivalry today. The magnitude of sibling rivalry has calmed down a lot since then, we don’t here much of brothers and sisters killing one another. It would be interesting to see how you could relate your topic to rivalry between siblings and the role their parents play such as the story with Issac and Esau and Jacob favoring his son Joseph more.

  4. Kristina Strine says:

    Coming from a family with 5 kids, I can totally relate to the sibling rivalry, except with the fact that I would never go as far as killing my brothers or sister. I think this topic will be very interesting and one that many of our classmates can relate to. I like your idea of figuring out the trends/similarities to all the cases of sibling rivalry in Genesis as well as the differences. It makes you wonder if the author of Genesis purposely decided to make this a reoccurring theme. I also think it would be interesting to see if you could research modern sibling rivalries and compare and contrast them to the rivalries in Genesis.

  5. oliviag55 says:

    This is a very interesting subject, I can’t wait to see what answers you find! The similarities between these sibling rivalry stories are very interesting, such as the fact that God (or fortune) usually favors the younger sibling. Christians have theorized for a long time that this is a metaphor for Christian’s supplanting the Jews as the chosen people of God. However, things usually don’t turn out too bad for the older either. God promises to make a great nation out of Ishmael also, Muslims claim to be the descendants of Ishmael, as Jews claim to be the children of Isaac. As you can see, the Islamic population of the world seems to be thriving and growing in influence, even as the Jewish population seems to diminish and become more of an ethnic and cultural sect than a practicing religion.
    Also, be sure that you talk about Rachel and Leah, not Leah and Rebekah. Rebekah is Jacob’s mother, and also Leah’s aunt. Leah is also an older sibling whose life turns out pretty well despite her younger sibling. Leah is the first to bless Jacob with a child, Leah would bear 7 , fertility in the Old Testamen was a sign of God’s favor.

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