The Rich Man's Son Who Was Sold as a Slave
Genesis xxxvii: 1
Jacob came back to the land of Canaan with his
eleven sons, another son was born to him, the second
child of his wife Rachel, whom Jacob loved so well.
Jacob worked for Laban caring for his sheep and oxen
in order that he might have Rachel for his wife. But
now a great sorrow was to come to Jacob, for soon
after the baby came, his mother Rachel died, and
Jacob was filled with sorrow. Even to this day you
can see the place where Rachel was buried, on the
road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Jacob named
the child whom Rachel left, Benjamin; and now Jacob
had twelve sons. Most of them were grown-up men, but
Joseph was a boy, seventeen years old, and his
brother Benjamin was almost a baby.
Of all his children, Jacob loved Joseph the best,
because he was Rachel's child, because he was so
much younger than most of his brothers, and because
he was good, and faithful, and thoughtful. Jacob
gave to Joseph a robe or coat of bright color made
somewhat like a long cloak with wide sleeves. This
was a special mark of Jacob's favor to Joseph, and
it made his older brothers very envious of him.
Then, too, Joseph did what was right, while his
older brothers often did very wrong acts, of which
Joseph sometimes told their father, and this made
them very angry at Joseph. But they hated him still
more because of two strange dreams that he had, and
of which he told them. He said one day:
"Listen to this dream that I have dreamed. I dreamed
that we were out in the field binding sheaves, when
suddenly my sheaf stood up, and all your sheaves
came around it, and bowed down to my sheaf." And
they said, scornfully, "Do you suppose that the
dream means that you will some time rule over us,
and that we shall bow down to you?" Then a few days
after Joseph said, "I have dreamed again. This time
I saw in my dream the sun and the moon and eleven
stars all come and bow down to me."
And his father said to him, "I do not like you to
dream such dreams. Shall I, and your mother, and
your brothers, come and bow down before you, as if
you are a king?"
His brothers hated Joseph, and would not speak
kindly to him; but his father thought much of what
Joseph had said.
At one time, Joseph's ten older brothers were taking
care of the flock in the fields near Shechem, which
was nearly fifty miles from Hebron, where Jacob's
tents were spread. And Jacob wished to send a
message to his sons, and he called Joseph, and said
to him, "Your brothers are near Shechem with the
flock. I wish that you would go to them, and take a
message, and find if they are well, and if the
flocks are doing well; and bring me word from them."
That was quite an errand for a boy to go alone over
the country, and find his way, for fifty miles, and
then walk home again. But Joseph was a boy that
could take care of himself, and could be trusted; so
he went forth on his journey, walking northward over
the mountains, past Bethlehem, and Jerusalem, and
Bethel,—though we are not sure that any of those
cities were then built, except Jerusalem, which we
know was already a strong city.
When Joseph reached Shechem he could not find his
brothers, for they had taken their flocks to another
place. A man met Joseph wandering in the field, and
asked him, "Whom are you seeking?" Joseph said, "I
am looking for my brothers, the sons of Jacob. Can
you tell me where I will find them?" And the man
said, "They are at Dothan; for I heard them say that
they were going there." Then Joseph walked over the
hills to Dothan, which was fifteen miles further.
And his brothers saw him afar off coming towards
them. They knew him by his bright garment; and one
said to another:
"Look, that dreamer is coming! Come, let us kill
him, and throw his body into a pit, and tell his
father that some wild beast has eaten him; and then
we will see what becomes of his dreams."
One of his brothers, whose name was Reuben, felt
more kindly toward Joseph than the others; but he
did not dare to oppose the others openly. Reuben
"Let us not kill him; but let us throw him into this
pit, here in the wilderness, and leave him there to
But Reuben intended, after they had gone away, to
lift Joseph out of the pit, and take him home to his
father. The brothers did as Reuben told them; they
threw Joseph into the pit, which was empty. He
cried, and begged them to save him, but they would
not. They calmly sat down to eat their dinner on the
grass, while their brother was calling to them from
After the dinner, Reuben chanced to go to another
part of the field, so that he was not at hand when a
company of men passed by with their camels, going
from Gilead, on the east of the river Jordan, to
Egypt, to sell spices and fragrant gum from trees to
the Egyptians. Then Judah, another of Joseph's
brothers said, "What good will it do us to kill our
brother? Would it not be better for us to sell him
to these men, and let them carry him away? After
all, he is our brother; and we would better not kill
His brothers agreed with him; so they stopped the
men who were passing, and drew up Joseph from the
pit; and for twenty pieces of silver, they sold
Joseph to these men; and they took him away with
them down to Egypt.
After a while, Reuben came to the pit, where he had
left Joseph, and looked into it; but Joseph was not
there. Then Reuben was in great trouble, and he came
back to his brothers saying, "The boy is not there!
What shall I do?"
Then his brothers told Reuben what they had done,
and they all agreed together to deceive their
father. They killed one of the goats, and dipped
Joseph's coat in its blood, and they brought it to
their father, and they said to him, "We found this
coat out in the wilderness. Look at it, and see if
you think it was your son's." And Jacob knew it at
once. He said, "It is my son's coat. Some wild beast
has eaten him. There is no doubt that Joseph has
been torn in pieces!"
And Jacob's heart was broken over the loss of
Joseph, all the more because he had sent Joseph
alone on the journey through the wilderness. They
tried to comfort him, but he would not be comforted.
"I will go down to the grave mourning for my poor
So the old man sorrowed for his son Joseph; and all
the time his wicked brothers knew that Joseph was
not dead; but they would not tell their father the
dreadful deed that they had done to their brother,
in selling him as a slave.