Are you an instigator or a moderator?

What do you do when the crowd wants to do something wrong? Do you join in or do you refrain? How much risk are you willing to take to do the right thing? Genesis 37 tells us that Joseph’s brothers hated Joseph. When they were presented with an opportunity to kill him, they plotted together to carry out this deed; however, one brother was willing to go against the rest and resisted the urge to harm Joseph. As you read the following verses, ask what you would have done.

Let’s start with the conflict between Joseph and his brothers. Notice the word “hate”.

Gen. 37:4 His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.

Gen. 37:5 ¶ Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more.

Gen. 37:8 Then his brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Now notice how their hatred affected their behavior. Notice the words “death” and “kill”.

Gen. 37:12 ¶ Then his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem.

Gen. 37:13 Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock in Shechem? Come, and I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “I will go.”

Gen. 37:14 Then he said to him, “Go now and see about the welfare of your brothers and the welfare of the flock, and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

Gen. 37:15 ¶ A man found him, and behold, he was wandering in the field; and the man asked him, “What are you looking for?”

Gen. 37:16 He said, “I am looking for my brothers; please tell me where they are pasturing the flock.”

Gen. 37:17 Then the man said, “They have moved from here; for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

Gen. 37:18 ¶ When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death.

Gen. 37:19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer!

Gen. 37:20 “Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!”

Joseph’s brothers were so full of hatred that they wanted to kill their own brother. Fortunately, Reuben was a moderating influence. What did Reuben do and what was his goal?

Gen. 37:21 But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, “Let us not take his life.”

Gen. 37:22 Reuben further said to them, “Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him” — that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father.

Gen. 37:23 So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him;

Gen. 37:24 and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.

Reuben’s goal was to forestall a murder long enough to rescue Joseph and return him to their father. As you read the following verses, ponder whether Judah was a moderator or an instigator. What was his goal?

Gen. 37:25 ¶ Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt.

Gen. 37:26 Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood?

Gen. 37:27 “Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.

Gen. 37:28 Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.

Gen. 37:29 ¶ Now Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit; so he tore his garments.

Gen. 37:30 He returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is not there; as for me, where am I to go?”

It appears that Judah saved Joseph’s life, but Judah didn’t really care about Joseph’s life, he simply recognized a profit opportunity.

What about you? What do you do in volatile situations? Are you a moderating influence like Reuben, able to resist the crowd and do the right thing; or are you like Judah and the rest of his brothers, giving in to hatred and following your evil passions?

Consider the following verses:

Gal. 5:16 ¶ But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

Gal. 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.


 Further Reading

What should replace revenge?

Why do siblings fight?


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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”