Sibling Rivalry: 3 Examples in the Bible You Should Know

Sibling rivalry is a common occurrence in families. And it can happen for many reasons. In the Old Testament part of the Bible, we see numerous examples of sibling rivalry leading to disharmony, conflict, and tragedy.

It is important to study these stories to understand the root causes of sibling rivalry, the symptoms, prevention, and solutions.

Let’s progress by identifying the classical examples of sibling rivalry in the Bible.

Top examples of sibling rivalry in the Bible

Cain and Abel

The first example of sibling rivalry in the Bible is found in the book of Genesis chapter four with the story of Cain and Abel. The story tells us that Cain became jealous of his brother Abel, and eventually killed him.

Incidentally, this duo were the first siblings on Earth – according to Biblical records. That goes to show that the issue of sibling rivalry has been existing since the first children were born into the world.

Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Genesis 4:8, NKJV

The root cause of Cain’s jealousy was that God had favored Abel’s offering over his own. This led to feelings of inferiority and resentment, which eventually manifested as rage. And the rage led to murder.

Therefore, from the story, we can see the extreme level to which sibling rivalry can escalate if not addressed.

Cain and Abel were not born twins, but there was also a case of sibling rivalry between the first recorded twins in the Bible. Let’s examine them too.

Esau and Jacob

Another example of sibling rivalry can be seen in the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob, the younger brother, tricked his older brother Esau into giving away his birthright.

And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? … and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.

Generis 25:30-33, NJKV

Esau losing his birthright to his younger brother Jacob was one major cause of the fight between the two. But before then, there was already a fracture in the love relationship between the two siblings and their parents.

Isaac, their father, favoured Esau because he was a skilled hunter and outdoorsman. On the other hand, their mother favoured Jacob because he was a good cook and stayed home.

This led to feelings of jealousy and resentment between the two siblings, which eventually led to another major deception. Jacob deceived and received their father’s blessing at the expense of Esau.

Therefore, it can be said that the root cause of the rivalry between Esau and Jacob was again based on favoritism.

Let’s look at what happened between Joseph and his brothers.

Joseph and his brothers

The story of Joseph and his brothers in the book of Genesis also highlights the effects of sibling rivalry. Joseph was his father’s favorite son, and this led to jealousy from his brothers. They plotted to kill him, but instead, they sold him into slavery.

When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. 19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

Genesis 37:19-20, NLT

This incident caused heartbreak and pain for the entire family, and it brought years of confusion and turmoil. However, in the end, Joseph was able to rise to power in Egypt and forgive his brothers, but the pain caused by their rivalry lasted for generations.

Causes of sibling rivalry

In all these stories, the root cause of sibling rivalry was jealousy or favoritism. Parents need to be aware of how they relate to each child; they should ensure that they treat each child equally.

When children feel ignored or unappreciated, they will likely develop feelings of jealousy, resentment, or inferiority. These feelings can manifest as sibling rivalry, leading to emotional and physical harm.

Symptoms of sibling rivalry

Parents must also be aware of the signs of sibling rivalry and seek to address them early on. The symptoms may include verbal or physical fighting, mocking, exclusion, or betrayal.

Guardians or Parents should watch out for these signs and intervene, rather than letting the issue fester and escalate to regrettable dimensions.

Prevention of sibling rivalry

One way to prevent sibling rivalry is to ensure that each child feels that they are loved and appreciated. This means giving equal attention and praise to each child, taking an interest in their interests, and supporting them in their pursuits.

Parents should also encourage teamwork and cooperation among siblings, rather than competition.

Solutions to sibling rivalry

To resolve sibling rivalry, parents should encourage communication and problem-solving skills. They should teach their children to talk openly about their feelings, to listen to each other, and to find ways to resolve conflicts peacefully.

In addition, they can also seek help from family therapists or counselors to mediate family conflicts and foster healthy relationships.


Sibling rivalry is a common occurrence in families, and it can have severe consequences if not addressed. The stories in the Bible offer insight into the root causes and symptoms of sibling rivalry, as well as prevention and solutions.

By demonstrating love, fairness, teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills, parents can foster healthy relationships among siblings, and avoid the pitfalls of rivalry that we see in the stories of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Sibling Rivalry: 3 Examples in the Bible You Should Know

  1. Uche 2 July 2023 / 3:06 PM

    Thank you Victor. The message is clear and concise. Would lookout for those sibling rivalry symptoms and nip in the bud.

    • Victorscorner 9 July 2023 / 1:37 PM

      Thanks Uche for the feedback. I’m glad the post made sense to you.

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