TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 37:18-28 (NRSV*)
They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.
Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE
I had no idea that my brothers could be so bloodthirsty. Joseph is an annoying kid, no doubt about it, but as soon as we saw him coming up over the hill they started talking about killing him! I have to admit I was shocked. Big brother Reuben stepped in to the rescue, and he talked our brothers out of killing Joseph. He convinced them to just throw Joseph down the well. I thought that might even be good for the little tattle-tale! Put a little fear in him, warn him that he shouldn’t mess with his older brothers. A good lesson for him to learn. Certainly our father wasn’t going to teach him to respect us. So when Joseph showed up, we gave him a good scare, taking away that ridiculously expensive coat that our father had given him. (He never gave ME anything half so nice.) Then we gave him a shove into the well. You should have heard the whining. What a wimp. Not like there was water in the well. He wasn’t going to drown. We’re not that mean. But then… as soon as Reuben left, the talk started back up again: “Let’s kill the boy.” I started getting nervous. Even though Simeon and Levi are older than me, I knew that I had to be the voice of reason. But I’m not an authority figure like Reuben, and it’s a good thing that caravan came by when they did! If they hadn’t come by, I think my brothers might really have killed him…
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…
- Are you surprised by the violence of the brothers’ reaction to seeing Joseph approaching?
- Do you think the brothers really wanted to kill Joseph, or were they exaggerating out of anger?
- What is the symbolism of the brothers taking away the coat that Jacob had given to Joseph?
- Do you think that Reuben believed he had convinced the brothers not to kill Joseph?
- How do you think Joseph felt when he was down in the well?
- Do you think that Joseph believed that his brothers would do him real harm?
- Ironically, the brothers’ selling Joseph into slavery will make it possible for his earlier dreams to eventually become reality. What do you think the brothers would have done if they understood this?
- How do you think Joseph felt when he realized that his brothers really were betraying him, that this was not just a cruel practical joke?
- If you were on the caravan, and you came upon this dysfunctional family, what would you have thought of their decision to sell off their youngest brother?
“No individual in this story emerges innocent. Even Joseph, though certainly the primary victim, furnishes fuel for his own troubles. Everyone in his own way contributes to the mess in which the family finds itself; at the same time, to level out the sins of the characters and to make everyone equally irresponsible is to fail to consider issues of communal consequence. Or to turn God into an all-determining power undermines human responsibility for sin and encourages human passivity in the face of the power of evil.” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. I, Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1994, page 601.)
* New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.