23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.
28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.
29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
31 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;
32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no.
33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.
34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.
36 And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.
K.J.V. Bible Text
As we read earlier in Chapter 37, when Joseph was approaching the encampment where his brothers were with their flocks, they saw him from a long way off and hatched a plan to murder him. Because Reuben, the oldest brother interceded, they decided to toss him in a cistern—empty of water—instead. Reuben’s plan was to return later and save Joseph.
The brothers stripped Joseph of his rich robe, which must have been a symbol to them of their father’s favoritism to Joseph, and cast him into the cistern. Afterwards, the brothers spotted some Ishmaelites who were on the way to Egypt to sell spices. Judah, one of the brothers, suggested that rather than have Joseph’s blood on their hands, they should sell him to the merchants and they did so, receiving twenty shekels of silver. (Joseph was taken by the merchants to Egypt and sold to the captain of Pharaoh’s guard.)
When Reuben returned to the cistern, Joseph was gone and he was dismayed.
The brothers sought to cover up what they had done by slaughtering a goat and dipping Joseph’s robe in its blood. They took this to their father and claimed to have found it.
Jacob believed that Joseph had been attacked and killed by an animal and he began to mourn and weep for him.
How different it was in those days when people could be snatched into captivity and sold as slaves. It will be interesting to see what becomes of Joseph with the Egyptians. One thing is certain however, becoming a slave was a far better fate than having been murdered or left to die in a dry cistern.
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