I wonder how Reuben felt when he first realized that his father loved his littlest brother the most.
For years, he had witnessed the bitter rivalry between his mom and aunt/step-mom. He watched his father treat Auntie Rachel with special favor, and there’s more than a good chance that he overheard his mother’s snide jabs. So, when the favoritism bled into the next generation, I wonder how it affected the oldest brother.
We know that “[the brothers] hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.” We know that “[the brothers] hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.” But are these descriptions indicative of the brothers in general or, literally, all of the brothers?
In verse 18, “they conspired against him to kill him.” But “they” didn’t include Reuben. When he heard the plan, he led “them” to a different plan: don’t kill the littlest brother…simply stash him in this cistern.
One could easily believe that Reuben, the oldest brother, was simply a sissy…that he couldn’t stomach the idea of killing anyone, much less his brother. Or that he was manipulative…looking for a way to gain favor with his father.
These may be true, but I wonder if perhaps Reuben really loved his brother.
I wonder if he realized that, by thwarting his brothers’ plans, he had helped accomplish God’s. I wonder if he spent the rest of his life trying to compensate for the great injustice he’d been unable to avoid. I wonder how he handled his father’s grief and his brothers’ severe deceit.
As he tore his robe, did he realize that God was completely in control? As he wailed about where to turn next, did he ever consider consulting God on the matter?
I’m the oldest.
I thought plenty of times about tossing my little brother down a cistern. And now, I’m a mother. My children are very different people, and there are times when I want to throw each of them down a cistern, as well. 😉 I even have dreams…I believe some of them are God-given.
Still, the extent to which the themes of this chapter are carried out is foreign to me. Extreme favoritism, extreme jealousy, murderous intent… Who are these people?
The character with whom I identify the most is Reuben: the older brother who tries to overcome his natural selfish desires and still finds his effort lacking in his own eyes. We’ll never know if he tried everything he possibly could to save Joseph. We’ll never know exactly why he tore his robe: was he mourning the loss of Joseph or was he mourning the fact that he had to go back and face Jacob?
What we do know is this: No matter what, God’s will came to be in the end. The events of Genesis Chapter 37 lead directly to the salvation of Israel. The events of Genesis Chapter 37 lead directly to the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams. God is in control, even if Reuben’s not.
I wonder if Reuben’s okay with that.
I wonder if I am…