“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark Twain

The Most Dysfunctional Family in the Bible

Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Genesis 27:36 

 It's a well-known buzzword these days. But the dysfunctional family didn't start when the phrase appeared in the American lexicon. It goes FAR back - even the first family was dysfunctional. (Brothers don't kill each other in functional familes, do they?)

But as I was reading through Genesis this past week, one family struck me as likely the poster child for conflict-ridden relationships. And it all centers around one man: Jacob.

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He deceived his father and brother (Genesis 27). His Uncle Laban tricked him into marrying BOTH of his daughters (Genesis 29:14-30). His wives, and their concubines, fought for his affections (and bed!) for years (Genesis 29:31-30:22). And don't even get me started on his children (remember Dinah? Joseph?). If this isn't a dysfunctional family, I don't  know what is.

And yet, Jacob is one of the patriarchs. He's mentioned as a member of the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11:22. The name God gave him, Israel, became the name of God's chosen people. He is the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Obviously, God didn't bless Jacob and his dysfunctional family because of their works. They were blessed because of grace - because of His promise to them.
“I am God, the God of your father,” He said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there." Genesis 46:3
And He did. Despite their weaknesses - their sins - their dysfunction. Aren't you glad God worked through the likes of Jacob? It means he could even work through someone like you or me.

Heavenly Father, thank You for working through imperfect people and dysfunctional families like mine. Even when I am deceitful, selfish, violent, or just plain disagreeable, You still love me and are willing to bless me, just as you did Jacob. Thank You for reminding me that salvation and love is Your gift to us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Help me to appreciate it. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen

We're discussing this devotional here, and at Living by Grace on Facebook. Won't you join us?

Do you feel unworthy of God's favor? How hard is it for you to remember God's grace isn't anything we can earn?

Scripture Stories: Timeless Truths


  1. When we really read the Word not just as stories but realizing these were real people with real issues like us, it gives us hope and encouragement. It's great to know that my dysfunction doesn't discount me from being used by God.

    1. You're definitely not alone in that one, Wanda. It amazes me who He uses - me included! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I loved your observations and agree DISFUNCTIONAL.....THANKS Joanne...

  3. Thanks for this reminder, Jo. Once again you've blessed me. When I look back over my broken childhood and life as a young adult, it totally blows me away that He uses me. Hugs!

    1. Hugs right back, Rita! We all have pasts we could be ashamed of - but God uses us anyway. Thanks for stopping by!


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