Joseph Sold into Slavery

Joseph’s brothers were out grazing their father’s flocks, and Jacob sent Joseph to check on them and bring a report back to him. Joseph left the valley of Hebron and travelled first to Shechem and then to Dothan. As his brothers saw him approaching from a distance, they saw their chance to do away with him as we see in Genesis 37:19-20. They came up with a plan to kill Joseph and then tell their father Jacob that a wild animal had devoured him. With Joseph dead they knew that his dreams of authority over them would never come to pass.


Reuben, Jacob’s oldest son, tried to talk the others out of their plan. He suggested that they not kill Joseph but throw him into a dry cistern that was nearby and leave him there to die. Reuben suggested this plan because he intended to later rescue Joseph and take him back to their father. The rest of the brothers went along with this plan. They stripped off Joseph’s ornate robe that Jacob had given to him, and they threw him into the cistern. A short time later they sat down to eat.


Then the brothers saw a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants approaching them, coming from Gilead and on their way to Egypt. At this point Judah had the idea that they should not leave Joseph to die, but rather sell him as a slave to the Ishmaelites. They all agreed and pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver.


Soon afterwards Reuben went back to the cistern to rescue Joseph, unaware of what his brothers had done, because he was not with them when they sold Joseph as a slave. When he discovered that Joseph was not there, he returned to his brothers and exclaimed that Joseph was not in the cistern, and he did not know what to do.


At this point the brothers came up with the story that they would tell their father Jacob about Joseph’s disappearance, as we see in Genesis 37:31-

  1. They took Joseph’s robe, which Jacob had given to him, and they dipped it in the blood of a goat they had slaughtered. Then they took the robe back to Jacob, telling him that they had found it, and they asked him to examine it to see if it was Joseph’s.


Jacob did recognize the robe as the one he had given to Joseph, and he surmised that a wild animal had attacked him and torn him to pieces. Jacob then tore his robe, he put on sackcloth, which was customary at that time for those who mourned, and He grieved over the loss of Joseph for many days.


When the Ishmaelites arrived in Egypt they sold Joseph to Potiphar, who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard. Joseph found favor with his Egyptian master as recorded in Genesis 39:2-5. The Scripture tells us that the Lord was with Joseph and prospered him during the time he lived in Potiphar’s house as his servant. Potiphar could see that the Lord was with Joseph and that He gave him success in everything he did. Because of this Potiphar trusted Joseph and put him in charge of his household and all that he owned. The Lord prospered everything Potiphar owned because of Joseph.

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