Have you ever noticed that there are many dysfunctional families and relationships in scripture? There’s Jacob, who married two sisters. He loved Rachael but did not love her sister who was his first wife Leah. There’s Elkanah, who also had two wives, Peninah and Hannah, and showed more love to one than the other with disastrous consequences.
This is definitely not a case for polygamy, but there were polygamous marriages in scripture. God said He allowed it because of the hardness of people’s hearts and the desire to mimic the culture around them instead of following God and His way of life and marriage. After all, He began marriage when He gave Eve to Adam and intended it to be an example for us all to follow.
Back to Jacob and Elkanah. Both beloved wives were initially childless, which was a reason in their society to esteem them less. In both cases, there was more of a connection with the childless wife than with the ones who bore them sons and heirs. In both cases, God later opened the wombs of Rachael and Hannah, and they bore children into the marriage relationship. It’s sad when you think about it. Leah thought Jacob would love her once she became a mother. He didn’t. Peninah thought she had a weapon against Hannah while she was childless. Scripture plainly says Elkanah loved Hannah more than he loved Peninah.
One can’t help but wonder how Jacob’s attitude affected the children. Joseph and Benjamin were cherished. Joseph was treated as special: he probably acted like something of a brat and flaunted his position with dad. He wore that coat of many colors and probably bragged about the dreams God gave him regarding his family bowing down to him subserviently. It’s really no great surprise that his brothers sold him into slavery. Regarding Elkanah, scripture says that he gave the normal portion of the sacrifice yearly to Peninah and her children but singled Hannah out by giving her a double portion. That resulted in Hannah having to take Peninah’s verbal abuse that disressed her to tears. You can read the story in 1 Samuel 1.
Pastor G and I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened had both men decided to love their wives and children equally. Jacob got tricked by his father in law Laban and received Leah as his wife when he expected Rachael. They obviously knew each other in the biblical sense because she bore him children. But he didn’t love her. Scripture doesn’t say why Elkanah married both Peninah and Hannah. Perhaps Peninah was an arranged wife, and their fathers had made an agreement. Regardless, Elkanah could have made the decision to love both his wives equally and their children equally. Peninah’s tormenting Hannah probably would not have happened. When a woman knows she is loved, there is security and peace in the household. Her children would not have been exposed to her hostile, disrespectful, superior attitude towards Hannah.
God sets the husband as the household’s leader. Therefore it’s his responsibility not only to provide a secure physical foundation, but a secure emotional and spiritual foundation as well. Both men failed miserably, and their families suffered the consequences.
Back to the present. Many families today are dysfunctional, and the root of the problem is lack of love. There’s a reason God gives us His law of love towards Him, others and self. It existed in Old Testament times and is still valid today. It makes for secure, balanced, happy relationships. Pastor G and I pray that if your family is dysfunctional, you realize it doesn’t have to stay that way. God gives you a plan and pattern for change. He even promises to help you make those changes you need to make. We pray you take Him up on it. You can learn to love relationally and spiritually appropriately.
copyright 2013, Pastors George and Sharon Billington, All Rights reserved