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2 This is the account of Jacob’s descendants. Joseph was 17 years old and tended the flock with his brothers. While he was helping the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives, Joseph told their father unflattering things about them. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he was born when Jacob was old. Jacob had made for him a long [Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Old Testament, many-colored] robe. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of his brothers, they hated him and couldn’t even talk nicely to him.
5 Joseph had a dream and told it to his brothers, which made them hate him even more.
17 The man said, “They left here. I heard them saying, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan.
18 They saw Joseph in the distance before he got close to them, and they plotted to kill him. 19 The brothers said to each other, “Here comes the big dreamer. 20 Come on now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns, and we’ll say a wild animal devoured him. Then we will see what becomes of his dreams!”
21 When Reuben heard what they said, he saved him from them, telling them, “Let’s not take his life.” 22 Reuben said to them, “Don’t spill his blood! Throw him into this desert cistern, but don’t lay a hand on him.” He intended to save Joseph from them and take him back to his father.
23 When Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped off Joseph’s long robe, 24 took him, and threw him into the cistern, an empty cistern with no water in it. 25 When they sat down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with camels carrying sweet resin, medicinal resin, and fragrant resin on their way down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What do we gain if we kill our brother and hide his blood? 27 Come on, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites. Let’s not harm him because he’s our brother; he’s family.” His brothers agreed.
28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern. They sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver, and they brought Joseph to Egypt.
Genesis 37 seemed to blend perhaps three different stories about Joseph, each giving a slightly different reason for why his brothers hated him. But the reasons weren’t mutually exclusive. Family therapists know that being a “chosen child” like Joseph often skews relationships and emotional growth. Oldest brother Reuben could only think of an idea that was hardly less than leaving Joseph to die in the empty cistern. Slavery in Egypt seemed like little more than a drawn-out death sentence.
Lord Jesus, people betrayed you, but you did not allow that to knock you off course. Help me find in your love the source of strength to move beyond any pain I experience from others. Amen.
This whole situation was avoidable.
Could this have all been avoided if Jacob didn’t show favoritism to Joseph? Of course, we’ll never know for sure. I wish he had been able to spread his time, love, and attention to all of his sons, but that’s not how the life of a parent works most of the time.
God, help me to see the relationships in my life that I need to give more attention and time too.
Can we truly blame the brothers for their frustrations with Joseph? They’re lacking love, attention, and approval from their Dad–everything that Joseph is getting from their perspective. As most of the brothers are able to agree on a plan to get rid of their brother, I find Reuben the most relatable.
God, help me to work through the times where jealousy and comparison are standing in the way.
Growing up as a middle child I found myself always trying to make sure everyone was happy-–or more importantly, not disappointed in me. As we read about Reuben trying to play both sides it makes me cringe to think of all the times I didn’t do the right thing and lacked the courage to stand up for what was right.
God, help me to be brave in the moments when I need to stand up for what is right, even when I’m alone in doing so.
I’ve never thought much about the ways that Joseph may have unintentionally added fuel to the fire when it comes to how his brothers perceived him. I wonder how this story could’ve ended if Joseph realized how his bad mouthing his brothers could’ve left a bad taste in their months.
God, help me to never gossip about anyone.
Overall, Joseph and his brothers have taught me to look differently at the relationships in my life and try to look at any situation from another’s point of view. We all think our perspective is truth until we learn that there is more to truth than just our own perception.
God, help me to see through your eyes and not mine.