Joseph Sold

The Bible in Art: Joseph Sold

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Verses for Consideration: Genesis 37:17-28


17 So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

19 “Here comes that dreamer! ” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns  and say that a ferocious animal  devoured him.  Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”

21 When Reuben  heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern  here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe-the ornate robe  he was wearing- 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern.  The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites  coming from Gilead.  Their camels were loaded with spices, balm  and myrrh,  and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

26 Judah  said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood. ” His brothers agreed.

28 So when the Midianite  merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern  and sold  him for twenty shekels of silver  to the Ishmaelites,  who took him to Egypt.



What can be more distressing than family problems? When we experience them, our emotions can get so mixed up that we don’t even know how to feel.

Sometimes embarrassment and guilt keep us from seeking help while the problem is still small. We may feel so sad and betrayed that we even find it hard to hear God’s Word. Would God understand what we’re going through, we wonder? Would he care enough to help?

When we realize that these verses of Genesis chapter 37 are about God’s chosen people, it finally starts to hit home how much experience God has with family problems. Incest, rape, murder, selling a sibling into slavery -the Bible records many such sad events in the families of ancient believers. The Lord wants us to realize that he understands and that he can help.

Jacob’s family had many problems. Jacob openly played favorites with his son Joseph, whose special coat was like a neon sign advertising his favored status. In the face of Joseph’s dreams, the brothers’ jealousy turned to murderous hatred. They took away Jacob’s son and gave Jacob a bloody robe in return. When Jacob saw Joseph’s robe, he grieved as never before. He literally wanted to die. And his calloused children did nothing to help him over his grief or get their brother back.

Yet as surely as sin is gross and ugly, God’s grace is beautiful and powerful. It is impossible for our mortal eyes to see God’s plans, yet the Lord miraculously keeps his promise to make all things work out for our eternal good (Romans 8:28).

As Joseph’s story unfolds, we have to marvel at the way the Lord used his sale into slavery to save Jacob’s entire family from famine. And more than that, we marvel that in saving Jacob’s family, our gracious God was keeping our hopes of heaven alive. Grace will win the day.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please comfort us through this example of your grace and power. Keep us from sin, but if we do sin, help us know that you can deliver us from its consequences and even work through it. Amen.


Title: The Selling of Joseph into Slavery (1637) 

Artist: Sébastien Bourdon