“Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line.Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. 4 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.” NIV
“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” (4).
‘In Joseph’s history we see something of Christ, who was first humbled and then exalted. It also shows the lot of Christians, who must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom. It is a history that has none like it, for displaying the various workings of the human mind, both good and bad, and the singular providence of God in making use of them for fulfilling his purposes.’ Matthew Henry.
You don’t necessarily have to tell a child, ‘I love you less.’ Who in their right mind would do that? But I’m sure it does happen; and children see things, feel things, pick things up. This goes for adult children too. I suppose it is hard for parents to not have favourites, but if you let your bias show, you do damage, and you may be sowing ugly weeds which will sprout, at some point, in your garden.
This was certainly the case with Jacob. His favouritism towards Joseph came back to bite him savagely, and had unintended consequences for the lad himself. None of this is to excuse what the brothers did to their sibling. It is indefensible. But we surely must remember that these young men came from a severely dysfunctional family. It seems they were deeply hurt, and their pain is understandable, even if their conduct is inexcusable.