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Reuben: - 'Where is he now?' He thought about decision hours.
Joseph sold by His Brothers -  Friedrich J. Overbeck , 1816, German
Joseph sold by His Brothers - Friedrich J. Overbeck , 1816, German


Joseph of the coat of many colours was "missing" to his family. After they sold him they did not know what happened to him. To what country was he brought? Did he survive?

All of Joseph's brothers did NOT agree to harm him severely or unto death. Fact was he went "missing" from a distant-from-home dry water well to unknown parts in the direction of Egypt.

(In the picture, that shows the main decision time, either Reuben is not there at all or he is the shepherd in the back on the right. Joseph is the young man in the middle of the picture being held by the arm. He is looking down. The selling brothers are basically on the right of the picture with short tunics and no fancy turbans. All the multi-cultural people on the left belong to the travelling caravan.)

When Reuben returned to the cistern/well and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes! - Genesis 37:29
르 우 벤 이 돌 아 와 서 구 덩 이 에 이 르 러 본 즉 거 기 요 셉 이 없 는 지 라 옷 을 찢 고 - Korean
Quand Ruben revint à la citerne et vit que Joseph n'était plus dans la citerne, il déchira ses vêtements. - French
Lè Woubenn tounen nan pi a, li pa jwenn Jozèf ladan l'. Sa te fè l' lapenn anpil. Li chire rad ki te sou li a. - Haitian


He did not rejoice nor was he content at all.

He went back to his brothers. Genesis 37:30
"The boy isn't there!" Genesis 37:30
"Didn't I tell you not to sin against the boy?" Genesis 42:22
"You wouldn't listen!" Genesis 42:22
"Where can I turn now?" Genesis 37:30

He was looking for him actively!
(And) Where is he ((now))?
Wordings: Exodus 2:20, 2 Samuel 9:4, Job 20:7
(Ve) o nerede? - Turkish
¿(Y) donde está? - Spanish
(En) waar is hij ((nu))?
Waar bevindt hij zich?
Waar is hij gebleven? - Dutch
When Reuben learned all he could, he left to ask someone else. He always instructed everyone:
"Go and make a careful search for ... Joseph."

'Where is he now?' is the question that wouldn't leave Reuben in peace for years, especially after his brother's trail grew cold.
Peace never came, because Reuben must have felt guilty that he did not do enough to prevent this brotherly calamity. After what happened Reuben was in a bind. Would he tattle on his brothers who did not listen to him?
Would he be ignored and hated by his father even more, bringing up all that was already unmentioned and probably somewhat forgiven between them?

Really 'Where is he now?' had been asked about the young man, Joseph, since he was quite small. The answers always indicated that he was doing "nothing useful." He had always been "the baby" of the family. After a while the question was asked in a derogatory fashion.
The answer, when this brother was younger, was often:
"Here comes that dreamer." Genesis 37:19
Da kommt der Kerl, dem seine Träume zu Kopf gestiegen sind.
(Here comes the fellow, whose dreams went to his head.) - German
Allí viene el soñador. - Spanish
Not even one brother recognized any future or benefit of visioning in this way, since they must have thought that they were stuck with doing all the work. Yet, what did they really know about their future or God's plan for them?

Joseph's brothers had envied their brother and his special status with their father. At the age of 17, Joseph had "tattled rather publicly" about them to their father. He had even told horrible dreams that showed him in a position of power over them. Not very tactful! That must have irked Reuben, the firstborn. His relationship with his father was strained already. Before the extended family had settled in Caanan, their grandfather's country, Reuben had been foolish and maybe vengeful. He had known about a certain "mandrake fiasko" between his plain mother Leah and his father's favorite wife Rachel, who was Joseph's mother. What happened was hard to take. Soon after, at the next stop of the resettlement journey to Canaan, after Rachel had died in childbirth, Reuben slept with Bilhah! She was his father's concubine--the "servant" to his mother's former rival! The father "heard" of it. Oh, he was angry. Oh, he was perhaps ready to kill him. But since the father did love "less-loved" Leah too--, she must have pleaded for their son:
"Let Reuben live and not die." (similar~~~Deu 33:6)
Leah knew all about Reuben's father and must have reminded him about the fact that even he might have been killed by his own brother Esau. Esau had let HIM live.... 'Remember....Esau spared your life.'
(Could be even Joseph pleaded for Reuben's life.)

(1Ch 5:1) So Jacob/Israel punished Reuben by taking away Reuben's rights as firstborn....they were given to the youngest, Joseph. Then, Reuben was not listed in formal genealogical records as firstborn and lost the associated privileges; he is listed as Leah's firstborn in the Bible...and another brother Judah became ancestor of Jesus...

At Dothan, the brothers decided about Joseph:
"Let's kill him."
Genesis 37:20
Vamos matémoslo. - Spanish
But Reuben advised them.
"Let's not take his life."
"Don't lay a hand on him." Genesis 37:21
No lo matemos.
No pongan las manos sobre él. - Spanish
(Reuben knew what is was to be threatened. And if Joseph had pleaded for him before, Reuben "had to be grateful".)

Reuben didn't know what to do, so he suggested:
"Throw him into this cistern here in the desert."
Genesis 37:21
Echémoslo a ese pozo desierto. - Spanish
Well, let the brothers think that doing that would "teach Joseph a lesson." At least he would be safer out of harms way and in the shade!

While the brothers stripped him of his clothes, Joseph pleaded for his life. He survived, but he found himself at the bottom of the abandoned, dry desert well.

No one would find him there in such an out of the way place, if left behind.

"Rescue me." (Words from Jeremiah 17:14)
¡Sálvame! - Spanish
Tu puoi salvarmi. (You can rescue me.) - Italian
Si tu me sauves,... (If you save me, ...) - French
The brothers debated while they ate meat.
Joseph could hear plenty enough.
They envied him. He was a dreamer. He didn't understand the older brothers. Keeping Joseph there in the desert would mean a slow, painful death. Not an option. Taking him was not an option.
Releasing him was not an option, as Joseph was bound to talk to their father. Even if Joseph promised them everything possible as reward, they would not have let him come back home.
What to do?

Judah thought and sort of agreed with Reuben.
"Let's not lay a hand on him; after all he is our brother, our own flesh and blood."
Genesis 37:27
Lassen wir ihn leben; (let's let him live);
er ist doch unser Bruder! - German
After a while Joseph could not hear his brother Reuben any more. Had he gone to look after some sheep, like a good shepherd would? Did he leave because he was tired, but satisfied that they would not lay a hand on Joseph?
Did he go to see if he could help Joseph somehow? Perhaps getting a rope or ladder?

Ah, Joseph's brothers, they continued discussing...

They looked up and saw a caravan.
Genesis 37: 25
Auf einmal sahen sie eine Karawane. - German
His brothers agreed.
Simeon, oh Simeon....
"Let's sell him."
Genesis 37:27
Laten we Jozef/___ verkopen. Dutch
Vendons-le. - French
Laßt uns ihn verkaufen. - German
Vendiamolo. - Italian
melius est ut vendatur - Latin
Vendámoslo. - Spanish

(Simeon later was tested more by Joseph...he was jailed and left in Egypt, while his brothers went home.)

Now the question was not:
"What will we gain if we kill our brother."
Was nützt es uns, wenn wir unseren Bruder umbringen? - German
it became:
"What will we gain" Genesis 37:26."
Was nützt es uns? - German
'20 shekels.'
Genesis 37:28
20 Silberstücke. - German


'So that's what I am worth. Now what?' thought Joseph.
Maybe they would even pay to get rid of me!!!!

When Reuben returned to the cistern,
and saw that his Joseph was not there,
he tore his clothes. (Genesis 37:29)
Now he lived with the consequences of not only his own sins, but with those of all the others around him.
Where is he? wording from Ex 2:20
Wo ist er?
"The boy isn't there!"
"Where can I turn now?"
Genesis 37:29
Der Junge ist nicht mehr da. Wie soll ich das verantworten?(How should I be responsible?) - German
Reuben questioned.

The brothers didn't want to answer, because they were afraid Reuben would run after him and buy him back.
Reuben continued pestering the brothers.
'What happens if one day he returns? Have you thought of that.'
"Now we must give an accounting for his blood." Genesis 42:22

The brothers rigged the evidence with animal blood. But there was no hard evidence--part of Joseph's or a human body.

"We found this."
"Does it belong to your son?"
Genesis 37:32
Das haben wir gefunden!
Ist es vielleicht das ____ deines Sohnes? - German
The father eagerly took in the evidence.

"Joseph has surely been torn to pieces."
"Some ferocious animal has devoured him."
Genesis 37:33
Josef ist tot!
Ein Raubtier hat ihn gefressen. - German
But Reuben cautioned his brothers.
'Father may ask us all separately about what we know!
He may notice that there is not even one piece of evidence of the body. He may start looking for him further. He knows that animals leave at least some of the bones, such as the skull. It's likely we will contradict each other.'

Many people came to comfort Joseph's father.

All his sons and daughters came to comfort him. Genesis 37:35
Tous ses fils et toutes ses filles vinrent pour le consoler. - French
Seine Söhne und Töchter kamen, um ihn zu trösten. - German
Tutti i suoi figli e le sue figlie vennero a consolarlo. - Italian
Todos sus hijos y sus hijas intentaban calmarlo. - Spanish

All of them. No use.
"He refused to be comforted." Genesis 37:35
Il ne voulut recevoir aucune consolation. - French
Er wollte sich nicht trösten lassen. - German
Egli non volle essere consolato. - Italian
(Pero) él no se dejaba consolar. - Spanish

That was not the response the brothers expected.
They would be reminded every day about what they did.

Joseph's father noticed some discrepancies.
He mourned for his son a long time.
He would watch them search for other clues and say:
"Why don't you do something?" Genesis 42:1
Warum steht ihr untätig herum? - German
He started asking:

"Why do you just keep looking at each other?"
Genesis 42:1
Pourquoi vous regardez-vous les uns les autres? - French
Warum seht ihr euch gegenseitig an? - German
Perché state a guardarvi l'un l'altro? - Italian
¿Qué hacen ahí parados, mirándose unos a otros? - Spanish

It was a question he asked particularly later when there was a famine and he instructed his sons to go to Egypt,... where food was available, but also where, horror of horror, Joseph might have ended up.
The father said,
"I have heard that.............there is grain in Egypt."
"Go down there."
"....so we may live and not die."
Genesis 42:2
Ich habe gehört daß....man in Ägypten Getreide bekommen kann.
Reist hin.
....sonst werden wir noch verhungern.
(otherwise we will starve to death.) - German
Reuben's old fears came back intensely:
'Where is he now?'

We can say the seeming truth:
Einer ist tot. - German
a"One is no more."
Genesis 42:13
all we want, but it is not true.

"Didn't I tell you not to sin against the boy?"
"But you wouldn't listen!"
Genesis 42:22
Ich sagte zu euch: »Vergreift euch nicht an dem Jungen!
Ihr wolltet ja nicht hören.« - German
'Are we being punished?'
'Must we give an accounting for his blood?'
Questions. Questions.

"We saw how distressed he (Joseph) was when he pleaded with us for his life!"
Genesis 42:21
Well, they also repeatedly saw how distressed their father was all the time. He had said he would go down to the world of the dead mourning. (Genesis 37:35) And he wept for his son. (same verse)
(In mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.
C'est en pleurant que je descendrai vers mon fils au séjour des morts! - French
Guardaré luto hasta que descienda al sepulcro para reunirme con mi hijo. - Spanish)

"We are being paid back for his death," Reuben said.
They had to live with the consequences of their action. Many unpleasant consequences before things were better.
They had to prove that they were not hateful after all this time.
"This is how I will find out if you are honest men!" (Genesis 42:33) said Joseph!

The brothers were not trusted to take their brother Benjamin to Egypt by their father.
They thought of themselves as slaves.
They were accused of being spies.
They were under surveillance when they spoke their own language when they were with Joseph, so he could find out what really happened so long ago.
They were put in prison for three days.
All, except one brother, were allowed to leave to return home. Simeon was picked to stay behind as the surety bond. (See Genesis 42:24)
They became afraid when they found money that did not belong to them - the payment money for food bought during the famine. It had been returned in each of their sacks. Their conclusion was that they had been framed for a reason they did not understand.

They were afraid of God's reaction to their sin:
"What has God done to us?" they said. Gen 42:28

They knew the governor of Egypt(Joseph) spoke harshly for a reason. The governor asked for them to bring the youngest brother! Anything but that!!
(Before the brothers would bring Benjamin, they would have to deal with all their father's concerns.)

First they did not want to go back ever. They waited as long as possible not to.

Reuben, was perhaps the least guilty son. Yet he attempted to be peacemaker.

xxx that you send, you can kill my two sons." He was desparate, offering the apple of his eyes." But why would he do that? His father refused that offer. Not only would he mourn his children but his grandchildren as well!
"Something might happen. .... I am an old man. The sorrow you would cause me would kill me." They didn't know what to do.
So they waited until they were starving so much, that Jacob said,
"Go back and buy a little food for us".
in other words: Go back without the governor knowing. AND don't call attention to yourselves.

All of them assured their father that doing this successfully was not possible.
This time Judah bargained.
"I will pledge my own life."
"If I do not bring him back to you safe, I will always bear the blame."

They all decided to go together (perhaps to all make sure about Benjamin) and their father decided to send the best products of the land...their trading riches...money, resin, honey, spices and nuts. (food - the most nutritious food!)
(He sent what amounts to sending the last seed potatoes for a farmer.)

They went to see Joseph directly.
They were not able to ask for food.
They did not find out any news about Simeon.
AND there was more testing on Joseph's part!

They were told to follow a servant to Joseph's house.
They were afaid of being attacked and of being made slaves.
They made their case to the servant.
We brought back all and even more money. We did not steal it. We want to pay for more food.

The servant reassured them by even talking about God:
"Don't be afraid."
He brought Simeon.
He treated them as honoured guests with water and feed for the animals.

Joseph came. He took their gifts into his house.
He asked about their father.
"How is he? Is he still alive and well?"
He saw his younger brother.
"God bless you, my son." he said.
Joseph left suddenly. (He wanted privacy, since he was too emotional!)
He left to come back only when he ordered the meal.
More puzzles.
How did the brothers get seated in order of age correctly?
Why did Benjamin get served 5 times as much as his brothers?
Why were they served from Joseph's table?
Why could they not sit with the other Egyptians?
Why did they end up satisfied and drunk?

It is never good to get drunk in a difficult situation such as this!

Soon the mystery was resolved. Joseph identified himself. Good news, but maybe bad news for them.

Now all the brothers had a new problem. The truth had to be told. Ooooh. How would their father react! There was a time delay before they found out. Maybe it was a relief to tell the truth after all these years. No more making up stories. No more unrelenting mourning by their father.

There was healing and making up for lost time.
The perpetrators had closure. They did not have to remember their alibis and play liars games any more. With the truth they would not trip up.
Jacob/Israel would know Reuben's peacemaking efforts. Reuben received new-found respect from his father.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on people who can't safeguard others from perils. Have mercy when we are in trouble. Straighen things out. Make everything turn out to be only for the best. Help those who are jealous. Help those that have lost touch with their loved ones.

We give you thanks and praise, O Lord.
Amen.