25 “Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.” (Genesis 37:25–28 (ESV)
With Joseph in the pit, his brothers encounter a golden opportunity in deciding his fate. Midianites appear carrying gum, balm, and myrrh — wares used in medicines, perfumes, and candies. Ancient commerce also included the selling of human beings.
Judah suggests that they sell Joseph into slavery for a handsome profit; they would earn twenty shekels of silver from the sale (Gen. 37:25–28). This would equal out to be two shekels for each brother.
26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.” The insincere concern for Joseph by Judah and the other brothers is sarcastically touching. They won’t kill Joseph but they will sell him into bondage.
Since the normal yearly wage for a shepherd was eight shekels, twenty would be a great financial gain. In selling Joseph into slavery, his brothers hope to ensure his dreams will not come true (v. 20). However, the LORD would use their wicked deeds to fulfill Joseph’s visions (50:20) and God’s providential plan.
Still, though God’s providence is guarding Joseph, his life is not free of suffering. The same is true of believers today.
John Calvin writes in his comments on 37:19: “We, also, who have received the gratuitous adoption of God amidst many sorrows, experience the same thing. For, from the time that Christ gathers us into his flock, God permits us to be cast down in various ways, so that we seem nearer hell than heaven.”
Joseph’s journey now takes a decisive turn. He is heading south to Egypt. However, he is not alone. God was with him (Acts 7:9).
Soli deo Gloria!