TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: Genesis 37:29-36 (NRSV*)
When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes. He returned to his brothers, and said, “The boy is gone; and I, where can I turn?” Then they took Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat, and dipped the robe in the blood. They had the long robe with sleeves taken to their father, and they said, “This we have found; see now whether it is your son’s robe or not.” He recognized it, and said, “It is my son’s robe! A wild animal has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father bewailed him. Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.
AN IMAGINARY JOURNAL ARTICLE
There’s just something about a youngest son. The smallest of my children, my last chance to get it right. Joseph was such a bright child, full of curiosity and enthusiasm. He reminded me so much of me as a young boy. Always getting into trouble, but fearlessly exploring and stretching the boundaries of what he knew. Joseph had some difficulties with his older brothers, but that’s just a part of being in a family. After all, my older brother Esau and I used to fight constantly, and Joseph and his brothers were no different. I remember how much attention my father paid to my older brother — how he called him his favorite — and how that made me feel. I vowed never to let that happen to my youngest boy. I admit that I did occasionally go overboard with Joseph, and that didn’t make his brothers very happy. But he brought me so much joy! Oh, but now… He’s gone… I can’t believe it. My little boy, my hope and pride. Gone. His brothers brought back his torn and bloody coat— the very coat I had made for him. People are coming from all over to comfort me. But what comfort can they offer? My little boy Joseph… the comfort of my old age… is gone forever…
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT…
- What do you think of Reuben’s question to his brothers: “The boy is gone, and I, where can I turn?”
- How would you have felt if you were in Reuben’s place?
- There is no mention of the brothers giving Reuben an explanation for Joseph’s disappearance. They are entirely silent. Why does Reuben agree to the conspiracy?
- What is the symbolism of the brothers’ use of the coat here?
- What did the brothers hope to gain by ridding themselves of Joseph?
- Did their conspiracy accomplish this goal?
- Does Jacob’s reaction to Joseph’s alleged death surprise you? How do you imagine you would have reacted upon receiving the news?
As the eldest son, Reuben was responsible for his brothers’ behavior and for their safety while they were away from their father. When Reuben returns to find Joseph gone, he “tears his clothing.” In that culture, this was a sign of deep grief and despair. Click here to read an interesting (and short) article about the Jewish practice of tearing clothing as a sign of mourning. This article is from the website of a sect of Judaism, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
* 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.