Genesis 37:23-30: Cruelty.

“23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe – the ornate robe he was wearing – 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. 26 Judah said to his brothers, ‘What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.’ His brothers agreed. 28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels[ of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. 29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, ‘The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?’” NIV


The commentator, Matthew Henry, observes: ‘God’s providence’s often seem to contradict his purposes, even when they are serving them.’ He goes on to point out that all Joseph’s brothers would have been undone if he had not been sold into Egypt. That is not to justify their despicable actions, but to demonstrate how God overruled.

Later on, the brothers were to say, ‘’Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come upon us’’ (42:21). You have to say, then, that were heartless and callous in the extreme to sit down to their meal having thrown young Joseph into the cistern. Think about it though, it’s possible to eat your evening meal as you watch the news, and not feel as you really should about the images and stories filling the screen. God forgive us for our own lack of pity, that we can see terrible things and not be moved to tears; not be stirred to pray.

Judah manifested this same hardness of heart when he declared they’d be better off selling their brother rather than killing him, because then they would at least have some monetary return (26). If they were going to do mischief, they might as well get some financial benefit. Judah added, after floating his proposition of a sale: ‘’…after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.’’ Big deal! So we won’t kill him; we’ll just sell him as a slave!!!

The stripping and selling of Joseph are again pictures of what was to happen to Jesus, centuries later.