They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer! Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!” But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben further said to them, “Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father. So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it. Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt (Genesis 37:19-24, 28 NAS).
Ahh siblings. Let’s face it, some of the worst family stories can be found in the Bible. Now granted, Joseph was a little bit full of himself; but did he deserve being tossed in the pit or maybe even killed? Of course not. So, what got him on the outs with his brothers? Well, from their perspective, he was a tattletale, ratting them out to father regarding their shepherding practices. Jacob loved Joseph more than his brothers because he was born to him in his old age; and he made him a beautiful robe. Scripture tells us “His brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.” (Remember that last line.) And if that wasn’t bad enough, he was having dreams where he was exalted above all of his brothers, to which he was quick to announce. A little bit full of himself? Okay, maybe a lot.
So, into the pit he goes. Fortunately, Reuben talked the rest of the brothers out of killing him, hoping later to rescue him. But whoops. Along came some Midianite traders who brokered him to the Ishmaelites, who sold him off in Egypt.
Here’s a brief resume of his time in Egypt:
- Sold as a slave to Potiphar, who eventually put in charge of his entire household.
- Unfortunately, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him.
- When Joseph refused, the wife lied and Potiphar put him in prison.
- While in prison, the warden put him in charge of all prisoners.
- At some point, he meets Pharaoh’s cupbearer and chief baker.
- He interprets the dreams of each and asks that they mention him to Pharaoh.
- But they forgot.
Some commentators seem to think that Joseph could have been in prison nearly 12 years. That would’ve been enough time to become really bitter about his older brothers. But two things prevented that. First, God gave Joseph favor throughout all those years. And secondly, Joseph knew what God did, when he said to his brothers: “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:19-20 NLT). And he did something his brothers were never able to do “So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them” (v.21).
It may not be a sibling; it could be a neighbor, a co-worker or a stranger that you meet on the street. What kind of impact would you have if you spoke kindly?