Joseph was quick and eager to please his father. Jacob trusted Joseph to complete the task honestly. There is a curious brief mention of a man telling Joseph where to find his brothers. Without this man directing Joseph, his journey may have taken a different path.
Joseph’s brothers recognized him from a distance, probably because of the robe he was wearing. They immediately plotted to kill him. Here came the one who dreamed he would rule over them. It is evident how much the dream needled them, and too, how much truth they read into it. They made the assumption that Joseph would rule over them in the family setting and take Jacob’s place in the event of Jacob’s death, an assumption that was supported by Jacob’s unfair devotion Joseph. Though the assumption is on a lesser extent correct, it underestimated the scale of Joseph’s rule, and their plan to kill Joseph underestimated God’s will.
Reuben tried to intercede, but his solution was cowardly. As the oldest, he should have taken command and protected the younger, weaker Joseph. Reuben had fallen out of favor with Jacob (Gen 35:22), and he hoped his ‘rescue” of Joseph would put him back in good graces.
The brothers attacked Joseph. It pleased them to rip the robe from him. It surely caused great emotional pain to Joseph. They threw him into a pit, with no regard for him as a brother, or even a person. Then they sat to eat, pleased with themselves at the evil they had committed.
The Ishmaelites were a nomadic people, descendants of Isaac’s half-brother Ishmael. The caravan was on a trade route to Egypt. Judah argued that Joseph’s life was valuable if they could profit monetarily for it. Judah’s rationale that Joseph was their flesh and blood should have taken him much further morally than just to the point of sparing his life and instead selling him as a slave.
Reuben had turned his back on his brothers and found they sold Joseph. He tore his clothes in mourning because his weak attempt to rescue Joseph failed. He chose to join the deceitful plan of his brothers.
The robe stained with blood served as false evidence to Jacob. They presented their father with the symbol of his favoritism covered in blood. It was meant to hurt him. Jacob was convinced of Joseph’s death without hesitation or suspicion. It is possible that attacks by wild animals were common, and there was no reason to second guess. Jacob had sent Joseph by himself to on a journey; he probably felt responsible. He mourned with all of his heart, and refused comfort.
The evil of Joseph’s brothers accomplished nothing. They were no more tender or dear to their father than they had been. The love Jacob had for Joseph was not destroyed with the robe, or with his “death”. They only lost their younger brother, whom they should have protected, and deeply hurt their father.
Although Joseph faced much evil, God was with him, and the guiding hand of God brought him to serve an official in Egypt.