18 “They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. 24 And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.” (Genesis 37:18–24 (ESV)
One of the evidences the Bible is the inerrant Word of God is its historical
accuracy. Such is the case even with seemingly insignificant facts. For example,
Joseph’s brothers were apparently able to take their large flock between Shechem
and Dothan with relative ease (Gen. 37:12–17). This would have only been
possible in the Patriarchal Age when the area was nomadic and lightly populated.
Later on, the increased population density would have made this ease of pasturing
challenging. One commentator explains that, “Moses’ accurate knowledge of the
period he describes contributes to our confidence in the narrative’s truth.”
The pit(s) which Moses’s mentioned were cisterns or water wells. Joseph’s older
brothers conspired to premeditatedly murder him and throw into one of the pits in
order to dispose of the body and cover up their crime. They reasoned, “Come now,
let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce
animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” Such
was their level of hatred toward Joseph, an evidence of their consistent character
along with their disdain for the LORD (Gen. 9:1-7).
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “The brothers devised a plot to kill that dreamer in
order to prevent his dreams from being fulfilled. Before, they plotted to kill many Shechemites in revenge for their sister (34:24–29); now, by contrast, they plotted
to kill their own brother.”
The lone bright spot in this sordid tale was Joseph’s eldest brother, Reuben. He
sought to prevent Joseph’s murder at the hand of his brothers. 21 “ But when Reuben
heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 And
Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the
wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their
hand to restore him to his father.”
Dr. Walvoord explains, “Reuben, trying to gain an opportunity to restore Joseph
to Jacob, persuaded his brothers not to commit such a crime. Reuben suggested
they throw Joseph alive into a cistern. Then Reuben thought he could go rescue
him later. So the brothers … stripped the lad of his tunic and threw him into a dry
cistern to die.”
The brothers’ hatred for Joseph displayed itself by their stripping him of his many
colored tunic. The tunic represented Joseph’s exalted position in the family. They
reasoned that by removing the tunic, they were removing Joseph’s position of
honor. However, outward circumstances before man could not remove Joseph’s
exalted position before God.
Interestingly, Joseph’s brothers do not immediately carry out their plan for murder. No reason is given. No remorse is implied. The lone bright spot remains the behavior of the eldest brother, Reuben. Whatever delay on the part of Joseph’s other brothers to kill him was interrupted by the timely intervention of the eldest.
Dr. R.C. Sproul explains, “The brothers’ act savagely in verses 23–24, but Reuben’s intervention has prevented them from taking Joseph’s life. Evidently, he was absent when the plan was conceived, and he later convinced them to hold back (vv. 21–22). As the oldest brother, Reuben would have borne the greatest responsibility if something happened to Joseph, and he may also have been trying to make amends for lying with Jacob’s concubine (35:22). However, because his response to the loss of Joseph anticipated his father’s reaction to the same news (37:29–30, 34), some commentators note Reuben was also probably motivated by a desire that his father not have to grieve. If this is true, Reuben’s love for Jacob shows he was not a total scoundrel after all.”
One of the evidences the Bible is the inerrant Word of God is that the LORD portrays humans as they really are: deeply flawed by sinful intentions and actions. May each of us evaluate our attitudes and behavior in light of God’s truth (Psalm 1; 19; 119).
Soli deo Gloria!