In terms of the parable of the Prodigal Son, what other biblical examples from the Old and New Testaments exemplify the elder son?

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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This is a great question. As you probably know the parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most famous parables. It is also interesting that you ask about the older brother, instead of the younger brother. This is very insightful, because in many ways the parable is about the older brother. 

The older brother, rather than being happy for his younger brother, is jealous and envious. He is not happy at all at his return and certainly not happy about the party that his father gives to him. All of this shows that the older brother does not understand the heart of God's love for all people, especially sinners. The two preceding parables show something of God. He seeks and saves the lost, just like the shepherd that looks for the lost sheep and the woman who looks for the lost coin.

From this perspective, the spirit of the older brother can be seen in many places in the Bible. People who are religious in a negative and judgmental way possess the spirit of the older brother. The Pharisees are prime examples in the New Testament. They are so sanctimonious. In the Old Testament, the spirit of the older brother are those who persecute the prophets who speak God's word. 

 

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tinicraw's profile pic

tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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What comes to mind when mentioning brothers in he Bible are Jacob and Esau and Joseph in Egypt. In both of these Old Testament stories there is a rivalry over the birth right and the love of the father. Jacob deceives his own father to receive the birth right after Esau went back on his word to give that right to Jacob. The controversy stirs up a lot of bad feelings because the birth right blessing gives the son power and dominion over the family on earth and in heaven. It gives the son social status, lands, title, and money! This is a spiritual as well as a temporal issue to everyone in the family. Notice that the mothers and other brothers also get involved. See Genesis 27 for Jacob and Esau's story and Genesis 37-50 for Joseph (the youngest of 12) who eventually rises up internationally and becomes not only a ruler over his family but of many others. Ironically, the Prodigal Son is about the younger son messing up and receiving as much as the elder brother who didn't mess up.  Notice here, too, that this parable comes during the life of Christ who is presenting a new law in the New Testament.  The old law is done away and this story shows just that.  The birthright can be given to all who come unto Christ.

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