Joseph’s brothers hated him. They outright despised their brother Joseph.
There were a few good reasons for this:
- Jacob showed favoritism towards Joseph over his brothers.
- Joseph brought a bad report about his brothers back to his father.
- Jacob adorned Joseph with a coat of many colors.
- Joseph shared his dream with his brothers and father.
Put yourself in the shoes of Reuben or Judah. How would Joseph’s dreams sound to you? Would they plague your ears to no end? Just picture being one of those brothers as they saw Joseph coming their way. Think hard about how you might have joined in when one of your other brothers brought up killing “the dreamer.”
There is a sociological phenomena called “mob rule.” It occurs when people find themselves caught up and swept away in the moment of intensity. They literally go out of their minds, following the crowd mentality. It happens at sporting events, rallies, marches and concerts. Couldn’t it happen among brothers out with their father’s flocks near Dothan?
In verses 19 and 20, we see the pronouncement for Joseph’s arrival and the spoken idea of killing him. It even says in the following verse that Reuben tried to dissuade them from taking the young man’s life. However, verse 18 reads: “But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.” Before they even talk it up in verse 19 and 20, the plot was unfolding. It was on at first sight of their brother Joseph. They had it in their minds to take him out.
We can look down upon these men, the other sons of Jacob, but we should be careful in our judgment of them. Yes, they thought what would seem unthinkable and did what seems to be downright dirty and dastardly. Unlike Cain, they did not murder their brother. They sold him into slavery and lied to their father about what happened to him. Essentially, they rid themselves of what they considered to be their biggest problem.
Take another perspective on all that happened with this family. They said they plotted against Joseph because of his dreams, but what about Jacob’s role. Did he offend Judah or Reuben by overlooking them as elder brothers and favoring Joseph? How did the part that Jacob played out impact the depth of these young men’s disdain for their own brother? We cannot overlook the fact that Jacob played a role in the way things happened.
I am not sure what each and every person’s tipping point may be, but I can assure you that no one expects the father to be the reason for one brother to seek to kill another brother. That’s not our normal outlook on things, so when we see and hear such things in the daily news, we are in shock and we basically cannot understand how something like that can happen.
If you are not close to it, then you most probably don’t know. If you have never seen a father vehemently chastise his child in public, you probably don’t know about it. If you have never heard a mother berate her child with cuss words and demeaning words without losing her breath or batting her eyes, then you probably don’t understand the horror of such upbringing. Until you hear the little girl who has grown up retell of living in fear when Daddy went on a drinking binge or Mama never had anything good to say, you may not recognize it until the monster that emerges out of the depths of dysfunction as a John Wayne Gacy or the Son of Sam. You may not even recognize the Sunday school teacher or soccer coach, even the nice, quiet mom, who have lived under such conditions and survived to live differently.
You just may not know.