8 examples of rejection in the Bible – with lessons on rejection for modern day Christians

The Cambridge dictionary defines rejection as the act of refusing to accept, use, or believe someone or something. When someone fails to receive the attention and love that they deserve and expect from others, they feel rejected. Rejection has far-reaching consequences on a person’s emotional well-being and psychologists believe it to be one of the leading causes of depression.

Are there examples of rejection in the Bible? The answer is yes. There are lots of examples of rejection cited in scriptures. Here are some of the most notable:

  1. Cain’s offering was  rejected by God
  2. Hagar and Ishmael were rejected by Sarah
  3. Jacob was rejected by Leah
  4. Joseph was rejected (and sold into slavery) by his brothers
  5. King Saul was rejected by God
  6. David was rejected by king Saul
  7. Jesus was rejected by his people
  8. The disciples were rejected in

These are just a few examples of rejection but the theme of rejection is all over the scriptures. For instance, God’s people (Israel) rejected him over and over again as we can see throughout the entire Bible. But we will just concentrate on the few examples cited above. Let’s look at each of them in more detail. 

Cain’s offering was rejected by God

The very first example of sacrifice in the Bible was when Cain and Abel gave their sacrifice to God. But as the scripture records, Cain’s offering was rejected while Abel’s was accepted by God.

“And in process of time it came to pass, 
that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto Jehovah.
And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.
And Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.
And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Gen. 4:3-5, KJV).

So here are two brothers who loved God and had just brought a sacrifice to God. And yet God rejects the first sacrifice. Why Would God do that? There are many speculations and theories on why Cain’s sacrifice was rejected but the answer is actually given in the book of Hebrews

“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, 
through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous,
God bearing witness in respect of his gifts:
and through it he being dead yet speaketh”
~Hebrews 11:4, NKJV.

Two things are clear from this scripture – first, Abel gave a more excellent (better) sacrifice than his brother and second, Abel did it by faith. The faith part is where most Christians miss it. When God looked at both offerings, he rejected Cain’s because instead of doing it by faith, he did it in the flesh (relying on human wisdom). Abel was walking by faith and as a result, God must have guided him on the best offering to give.

So here is a take away point – those who serve God in the flesh risk getting rejected by God. God will only be pleased by worship/service that is done in the spirit and by faith.

Hagar and Ishmael were rejected by Sarah

The story of Hagar, Sarah and Abraham is one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible. It is also one of the best Examples of rejection in the bible. Here is a brief synopsis. God calls Abraham and promises to make him a father of many nations. But Abraham is growing older by the day and his wife Sarah is well past menopause. So instead of continuing to walk in faith, they decide to “help” God. So Abraham sleeps with his maid and they get a son together, whom they name Ishmael.

But as soon Hagar conceives, Sarah despises her and starts treating her differently. Hagar notices the disdain of her mistress and decides to flee for her life. That’s when God sent his angel to minister to her while she was in the wilderness. This is what the angel told her:

And the angel of the Lord said unto her, 
Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, 
and shalt call his name Ishmael; 
because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. 
~ Genesis 16:10-11

As rejected as Hagar felt, God still had a great future for her! This encouraged her and gave her the strength to go back to her mistress Sarah. However harshly she was treated, she kept remembering the word of the Lord and that sustained her. But as soon as Ishmael got into his teenage years, rejection struck again. Sarah told his husband to chase Hagar and the son away from them. Abraham complied and sent them away and again, God’s angel appeared to them while they were in the wilderness. This time around, Hagar was at the brink of giving up. They were out of water, the son was famished to the point of death and she had nowhere to turn for help. So she hid him in a thicket and turned away because she didn’t want to observe him die.

But while the boy was lying there in desperation, he remembered the God of his father and mother and cried out for help. That’s when God sent his angel.

And God heard the voice of the lad; 
and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven,
and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar?
fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
~Genesis 21:17

Instead of Ishmael crumbling under the weight of being rejected by his own dad, he turned to God in prayer and God bailed him out. This is the best response to rejection. If you ever find yourself dealing with rejection, remember to take it to the Lord in prayer and He will come through for you.

Jacob was rejected by Leah

Jacob conned his brother into giving him his birthright and that coupled with the fact that he “stole” his blessing made his brother furious. Afraid for his life, Jacob fled to a far land. It was while in exile that he saw and fell in love with Rachel, the daughter of Laban. He loved her so much that he offered to work for 7 years as payment for her dowry.

Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, 
“I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
~Genesis 29:18

But after working for the 7 years, Laban cons Jacob into marrying Rachel’s sister instead. Jacob just woke up in the morning to find the wrong girl in his tent. He was so furious but Laban explained that it was against their customs to marry off a younger girl while the older was not yet married.  So he was asked to work for an extra 7 years as dowry for Rachel which he readily did. But even though Laban meant well for her daughter, she had to live in marriage where she was not loved by the husband.

God always looks with compassion on people that are going through rejection – and he did exactly that for Leah.

When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, 
He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.
~ Genesis 29:31, KJV

That should be a source of encouragement for anyone that is going through rejection. Many may reject you but you can always count on God’s unconditional love. And because of his love, he will always comethrough for you with unlimted favour.

Joseph was rejected (and sold into slavery) by his brothers

Another bizarre example of rejection in the Bible is the story of Joseph and his brothers. I call it Bizarre because Joseph was actually sold into slavery with his own brothers – just because they were envious of him. If you are not an only child, I am sure you had to deal with some form of sibling rivalry. Maybe it is still a problem to date. But going to the lengths of selling your own brother is unparalleled.

The saddest part of the story of Joseph was he didn’t do anything wrong to deserve such cruelty. The only mistake was that he just happened to be his father’s favorite. One day, he is going to check on his brothers in the woods, the next day he is in a caravan on his way to Egypt – as a slave. But like all the other examples of rejection we have seen so far, the story of Joseph’s rejection got a nice ending. He ended up saving his brothers from starvation – the very brothers that had sold him away into slavery.

God has an interesting sense of humor. He might just put you in a position to be the only source of help for the people that are currently rejecting you.  So don’t waste your tears on anyone that rejects you. As long as you focus on your relationship with God, one day you might just say like Joseph said,

But as for you, you meant evil against me; 
but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day,
to save many people alive.
~Genesis 50:20, NKJV

King Saul was rejected by God

Israel was the first and probably only theocracy in the history of humanity. But when they got to the Promised Land, they admired the kings off their neighboring communities and desired to have one of their own. Up until now, God had been their leader and by asking for a king, they were actually rejecting God’s leadership.

 And the Lord told him: 
“Listen to all that the people are saying to you;
it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.
~ 1 Sam. 8:7, NIV

But God never forces himself on anyone so he let them do as they pleased. Consequently, Saul became the first king of Israel. God still continued speaking to the nation through the prophets. One day, Saul intentionally neglected God’s instructions by not killing and completely destroying the Amalekites and their livestock (1 Sam 15). God was not amused by this and he rejected Saul. Prophet Samuel tried to intercede for King Saul but the Lord appeared to him and said,

“How long will you mourn for Saul, 
since I have rejected him as king over Israel?
Fill your horn with oil and be on your way;
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem.
I have chosen one of his sons to be king
~1 Sam 16:1, NIV

The worst thing about being rejected by God is that he finds a replacement for you before you even know you have been rejected. God only works with people who cooperate with him and if you keep disobeying his voice, you are just attracting his rejection.

David was rejected by King Saul

The list of noteable examples of rejection in the Bible wouldnt be complete without including David. After God rejected King Saul, he sent the prophet Samuel to anoint David as king. The anointing of God on his life started working for him immediately and within no time; Saul had already put him in charge of the army of Israel. He did such a good job that he even became more famous than king Saul himself. One day, after he had led Israel to victory against the Philistines, the women began singing in the streets:

"Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." 
~ 1 Sam 18:7

Saul immediately realized that his throne was at stake and from that day started looking for an opportunity to kill David. But the rejection in the life of David didn’t begin at this point – even his own father hadn’t thought that he qualified to serve as king. When the prophet Samuel visited them and asked for all his sons to be brought before, Jesse didn’t bother to call for David who was taking care of sheep. It was only after the prophet insisted that David was finally brought to the prophet.

What I love about the story of David is that even though the most powerful man in the country had rejected him and was actively looking for an opportunity to kill him, David still escaped. See, when God is on your side, the people who reject you cannot ruin or harm you. As a matter of fact, they will do more ruin to themselves in their endeavors to try to destroy you.

Jesus was rejected by his own people

So far, I have only looked at rejection examples in the Old Testament. By now, you must be wondering if there are any Examples of rejection in the New Testament. Well, there are actually lots of them. But let’s start with Jesus. In John 1, we get a brief overview of how he was rejected by his own people.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not. John 1:11, KJV.

Can you imagine knowing that you are the savior of the world — the only way for man to reach God – and yet the people you care most about are rejecting you? That must have been heartbreaking! Jesus never gave up on his people though and he kept trying to reach out to them. Eventually, after they had rejected him over and over again, he made the following observation;

Then Jesus told them, 
"A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown
and among his relatives and his own family."
~ Mark 6:4, NLT

If you ever get rejected by family and friends, just remember that Jesus went through the same rejection. In fact, the rejection was so bad that they actually crucified him even though they knew he hadn’t committed any crime. But as Jesus taught and modelled for us, do not hate people just because they reject you. Remember, God loved you when you were still lost in sin. Extend the same grace to friends and family who reject you.

The disciples were rejected in Samaria

Another of the interesting examples of rejection in the Bible is when the disciples of Jesus got rejected in a tiny village somewhere in Samaria. In Luke 9, Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem but they decided to find a place to spend the night in Samaria. So he sent a couple of them to go find a place for them to spend the night. As the disciples went down to the city, they were very certain that the people would gladly receive them as soon as they said they were with Jesus. But to their surprise, everyone in the village turned them down. After knocking on several doors, they finally gave up and came back with the bad report.

James and John didn’t hide their indignation. How can anyone reject their simple request to host the Messiah for just one night? So they got a bright idea. Here is what they said,

And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, 
“Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven
and consume them, just as Elijah did?” Luke 9:54, NKJV

But Jesus would hear none of it. Yes, he knew he had the power to call fire from heaven but that is not the gospel he had come to preach. He had come to preach the gospel of God’s love. So he turned to James and John and rebuked them for letting their emotions to get in the way.

I believe this is the most important lesson we can take from all the examples of rejection in the Bible. When people reject you, respond by loving them back. Do not start praying (or plotting) for their downfall. Instead, pray only good things for them and look for opportunities to express your love for them.

So there you have it – 8 examples of rejection in the Bible and the lessons you can learn from each of them. Is there any other rejection story that I didn’t include and you think is noteworthy? Let me know in the comments below.


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