Genesis 37:12-22

12 Then his brothers went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.

13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” So he said to him, “Here I am.”

14 Then he said to him, “Please go and see if it is well with your brothers and well with the flocks, and bring back word to me.” So he sent him out of the Valley of Hebron, and he went to Shechem.

15 Now a certain man found him, and there he was, wandering in the field. And the man asked him, saying, “What are you seeking?”

16 So he said, “I am seeking my brothers. Please tell me where they are feeding their flocks.”

17 And the man said, “They have departed from here, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan.

18 Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him.

19 Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming!

20 Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams!”

21 But Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands, and said, “Let us not kill him.”

22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit which is in the wilderness, and do not lay a hand on him”—that he might deliver him out of their hands, and bring him back to his father.

Shechem (v.12) was at least 50 miles from Hebron. Jacob did own land there (Genesis 33:19; John 4:5), but with Esau gone, it’s surprising that there wasn’t pasturage closer to home. Especially since Jacob’s family had left Shechem with fear of the surrounding people after Simeon and Levi had killed the men of the city (Genesis 34:30). It was far enough away that Jacob  hadn’t heard from his sons and was concerned. Only Joseph and Benjamin remained at home.

At Shechem, Joseph met a man who told him his brothers had moved on to Dotham, about 20 miles north, further away from home.

The word “Dothan” is believed to mean “two cisterns,” and was presumably so named because of two storage wells there. [It is probable that] one of these cisterns was dry at the time Joseph’s brothers were there, and it was into this well that they later decided to place him. — Morris, page 539.

His brothers recognized Joseph “when they saw him afar off” (v.18). This would seem to indicate that his coat really was uniquely of many colors and not simply long-sleeved as some conjecture. Their hatred and resentment of Joseph must have been very active because they developed their plot between the time they recognized Joseph and when he arrived.

The Hebrew word for “dreamer” (v.19) implies one who is a master at dreaming, perhaps suggesting that he is good for nothing else. — Morris, page 541.


Apparently this plan was hatched mainly by the younger brothers, perhaps supported by Simeon and Levi, since neither Reuben nor Judah would go along with it. Reuben, of all the brothers, would seem to have the most cause to resent Joseph, since Jacob obviously intended to give Joseph the birthright instead of him, the oldest son. His defense of Joseph is, therefore, the more commendable. Though he had lost his right of primogeniture through his incestuous relation with Bilhah, [Genesis 35:22] he must have … tried as best he could under the circumstances to exercise the moral leadership which his firstborn position in the family should have elicited.

[Reuben] persuaded [his brothers] not to slay [Joseph] right then, at least, but to catch him and throw him into the pit alive, perhaps [suggesting] letting him die of thirst rather than shedding his blood. They well knew God’s primeval command against the shedding of human blood (Genesis 9:6). Though Simeon and Levi may have felt justified in shedding blood in the matter of the Shechemites, … there was no such justification in this case; furthermore, Joseph was their father’s son. … [see Genesis 42:22.]

Joseph evidently realized that Reuben was really trying to save him, [perhaps] Reuben actually whispered words to this effect as they cast him into the pit. Years later, Joseph indicated he remembered this by holding Simeon (the next oldest of the sons), rather then Reuben captive in his prison (Genesis 42:24). — Morris, pages 542-543.

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