12 ¶ And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem. 13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I. 14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou? 16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks. 17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan. 18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. 19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. 20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams. 21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. 22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
Here goes Joseph on another reporting expedition for his father. No wonder his brothers can’t stand him. Are they expecting another evil report?
Introduced into the narrative is someone who enters the picture several times in the Bible. He or she is a seemingly random person who accomplishes something important or is used as an example. His or her existence makes one wonder about the place of so-called “divine appointments” in our everyday lives denying our very concepts of randomness, luck, and chance. I am referring to the references to a certain man or a certain woman who do something noteworthy but whose name isn’t given. As two examples;
Judges 9:53 And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull.
1Kings 22:34 And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.
A certain man found Joseph wandering, unsure of where to find his brothers. This anonymous individual lets Joseph know where to find them and exits the narrative.
Their hatred of Joseph is so great, their envy is so murderous, that they conspire against him as they see him approaching them. Jesus’ own brethren would not receive Him and conspired against Him.
John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
He spoke against the Jews’ practices of His time and they conspired against Him. But, Joseph will yet save them all as we will see, as Christ came to save His own people.
They cynically and with blood in their hearts want to kill Joseph but Reuben, Jacob and Leah’s firstborn, refuses them their wish to end Joseph’s life and blame it on an animal. Here we see one of the definitions of evil as intending to do violence.
Reuben’s desire is to deliver Joseph, to return him to their father, Jacob. Reuben, who had before this committed the grievous sin of having sex with his father’s concubine, Bilhah, has a heart of mercy toward Joseph. This goes to show just how complex and really normal these patriarchs were in that they were not two dimensional but like us and all men were capable of evil and good. We do err when we paint the Bible’s human characters as having only one side; when we ignore Moses’ temper, Jeremiah’s doubts, or David’s sexual weakness. Only Christ, who is God in the flesh, was without sin, and, pastors, that includes Paul.