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?
Joseph is now cast into a dry pit and they took off his coat of many colors much like Jesus’ garment was removed in Matthew 27:35 and John 19:23 although the similarity is limited to the removal only. Notice the difference in the nastiness of the dungeon Jeremiah will be thrown into in Jeremiah 38:6. It is then Judah, without Reuben present, who suggests they sell their brother to the Ishmaelite traders who are traveling to Egypt. This is done as an act of mercy as Judah says that it would be better to do this than to kill him. The brothers consent. This passage seems to indicate that the Midianites were also Ishmaelities; Midianites through Abraham’s wife, Keturah;
Genesis 25:1 ¶ Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. 2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.
…and Ishmaelites through his concubine, Sarai’s handmaid, Hagar;
Genesis 16:15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
So, we see how quickly the genealogies of the Ancient Near East became muddled.
Joseph’s life was worth twenty pieces of silver to the traders. Jesus was betrayed for thirty. To Reuben’s dismay, when he returned from wherever he had gone not knowing about or approving the sale of Joseph, his brother was gone. Tearing one’s clothing was a sign of grief in the Ancient Near East as evident in many places throughout the Bible.
What was Reuben going to do now?