Joseph is Sold By His Brothers (Genesis 37:25)

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It’s been a while since we talked about Ishmael. The last time we saw him, he was with his half-brother Isaac burying their father Abraham in the cave of Machpelah (Genesis 25:9).

A few generations have passed since that time, and now we have Isaac’s descendants conspiring to sell one of their brothers — Joseph — to the descendants of Ishmael (Genesis 37:25).

Their reasoning is solid: Why kill Joseph when you can sell him into slavery? Both solve the same problem of getting rid of Joseph, but only one nets you a profit in return. By selling him, they were able to pocket 20 shekels of silver in total, which is around $200 in today’s money. About enough to buy each of them lunch.

That number doesn’t tell the whole story, though. After all, what is the actual value of a human life? If they each made several thousand dollars off the sale of their brother, would that make it any better?

There’s also the matter of who his brothers sold him to: the Ishmaelites. There is some disagreement as to whether these represent legitimate heirs of Ishmael, or some variation of them, since Genesis 37:28 uses “Midianites” and “Ishmaelites” interchangeably.

Again, what does it matter? Selling a human into slavery for any reason is a heinous crime, but even in those days, it was usually kept to only prisoners of war. To sell your brother to other potential family members is especially terrible. It shows the depravity of both parties.

But that depravity on their part is counter-balanced by Joseph’s later forgiveness. His own flesh and blood betrayed him in the worst way, yet he later used his elevated position to honor and protect them. 

That’s the very definition of grace. It’s a cruel necessity that we really only see the true depth of mercy by witnessing the worst parts of sin. 

Keep that in mind the next time someone wrongs you. You could stew and plot your revenge, or you could use it as an opportunity to show the same type of love that Christ showed you.