Attention turns away from Isra’el and onto his son, Joseph (the youngest of his sons) and, as we are told, his favorite. Favoritism is never a good thing between parents and children, even if you don’t have one your children will always think you do; this is where sibling rivalry rears its ugly head, and it does so with Joseph and his brothers, and Joseph doesn’t do anything to help the situation.
Joseph is seventeen when the story ensues, young according to our standards, but long a man in his time. Joseph has two dreams wherein it is revealed to him that he will rule over his parents and siblings; unfortunately for him he decides to tell them about the dreams. Joseph angers his father and brothers, though Isra-el quickly puts it aside; not so with his brothers and they begin plotting his demise.
Isra-el’s sons were out pasturing his flocks and had been gone quite some time, so he sends Joseph to find out how everything is going. The assumption was that they had taken the flock from their home in the Hebron valley to Shechem, some 60 miles away. It might seem strange that they would go back to a city where they massacred one of the well-known families, but remember that cities were far more than just the urban area where people lived, they were also used to designate the surrounding area. Shepherds, like the cowboys of the American old west, tended to live outside of the main cities, going into town when needed. As such, they may have heard about the incident between Shechem and Jacob, but would probably not be able to pick them out in a line-up. Isra-el’s sons probably felt comfortable going into the countryside to care for their flocks; in any case they didn’t stay long. When Joseph arrives looking for his brothers he is told by one of the people he meets that they have moved on to Dothan. Now, Dothan was a day’s journey from Shechem (~13 miles) and was famous for its grazing lands, so it was no surprise that they moved on to “greener pastures.”
Joseph’s brothers see him coming, and this is when they decide to carry off their plot to kill him, then blame it on a wild animal. Reuben convinces them not to kill Joseph, but to put him into a pit and let nature take its course (he then planned on sneaking back to rescue Joseph). While eating dinner Judah spots a caravan headed to Egypt and comes up with the idea of selling him to the caravan, the price? Twenty pieces of silver. Reuben wasn’t aware of the sale, he comes running back to his brothers terrified that Joseph was missing. The brothers say nothing about the sale, but everyone comes up with a plan to present to their father. They pour blood onto Joseph’s cloak and present it to their father feigning lack of knowledge about whether it is Joseph’s or not. Isra-el recognized the cloak and goes into a state of inconsolable mourning, assuming that he has been killed by a wild animal and all that remains is the cloak. Meanwhile the caravan sells Joseph to Pot’-i-phar, captain of Pharaoh’s guard.
We break now, next we will look into Judah and Tamar’s odd relationship, then move onto Joseph in Egypt.