Joseph Sold Into Egypt by His Brothers

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This passage is both a story of hatred  and deception. When the brothers saw Joseph coming they plotted to kill him (vv. 18-20), but Reuben wanting to protect his brother, suggested that they place him in a pit, which they did (vv, 21-22). Reuben actually planned to rescue Joseph later and take him back to his father. Soon after this a group of nomadic merchants, on their way to Egypt, came along. Judah suggested to his brothers that rather than killing Joseph they should sell him to these Ishmaelites for 20 shekels (vv. 23-28). This was equal to 8 ounces of silver, which was probably the average price in that day for a slave. All of the brothers, except Reuben who was gone at the time (who was grieved when he returned and said, “What am I going to do?”), agreed and thus Joseph’s life in the providence of God was preserved. 

The theme of deception again surfaces in the family. As an explanation, to their father Jacob, as to what happened to Joseph, they dipped his fancy coat in goat’s blood and took it to him (vv. 29-32). This was to deceive the patriarch into thinking that Joseph had been devoured by a ferocious animal. Their use of goat’s blood is ironic, for the skins of a goat were what Jacob used to deceive his father (Gen. 27:16) into thinking he was Esau. Jacob’s sin of years before had come back to haunt him. The brothers would have to learn as Jacob did that God does not give His blessing to those who do such things. Jacob recognized his son’s robe and in grief tore his clothes and put sackcloth around his waste. His children tried to comfort him but he refused to be comforted (vv. 33-35). During this time the Midianites had sold Joseph in Egypt to a man named Potiphar, who was the King’s official in charge of the palace guard (v. 36).


This is certainly a vivid example of the law of the harvest. What I sow I will reap (Galatians 6:7). Sometimes it’s hard to realize that because of something I have done I’m now reaping the results.

Genesis 37:18-36 (English Standard Version)

They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him 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 will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams." But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, "Let us not take his life." 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. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors 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 bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, 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 let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh." And his brothers listened to him. 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. When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes and returned to his brothers and said, "The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?" Then they took Joseph's robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, "This we have found; please identify whether it is your son's robe or not." And he identified it and said, "It is my son's robe. A fierce 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 rose up 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 wept for him. Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.

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