The first item to notice as we examine the act of betrayal on Joseph by his older brothers is the PLACE involved.
“Then his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock in Shechem.” (Genesis 37:12)
It was common to have to constantly move one’s sheep from area to area in order to seek out pasture where the animals could graze. As a result, Joseph’s brothers take their father’s flock to Shechem. This wasn’t these brothers first time in Shechem. In Genesis 34 we see the account of their sister, Dinah, who is assaulted and raped by the son of the prince of the city. As a result, in an act of revenge, these brothers killed all of them men of this city and took the women, children and all of the possessions as their own. Now they were back in this same area. To those who lived in the region around Shechem, I doubt very seriously that they saw Jacob’s sons in a favorable light. As a result, when hearing where his sons were, Jacob becomes concerned and sends Joseph to go check on them.
“Then he (Jacob) said to him (Joseph), ‘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 came to Shechem.” (Genesis 37:14)
Joseph obeys his father and goes to the area of Shechem which was no short journey. It would have been over 60 miles from Jacob’s homestead in Hebron. When he arrives he discovers that his brothers have already moved another 15 or so miles away to Dothan so Joseph continues on his journey until he finds them.
The second item to notice as we examine the act of betrayal on Joseph by his older brothers is the PLOT involved.
“When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death” (Genesis 37:18)
With that in mind, beware anytime someone wants to talk to you in secret to communicate to you negatively about someone else behind their back. Whenever this takes place all kinds of red flags and warning alarms ought to go off in your mind, your heart and your spirit. It is these types of secret meetings and hidden conversations that usually lead to betrayal. No place in Scripture are we ever encouraged to participate in such secret conversations. In the New Testament these conversations are always to be done with the person being spoken about present.
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.” (Matthew 18:15-16)
“Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your offering.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)
The third item to notice as we examine the act of betrayal on Joseph by his older brothers is the PIT involved. As you read on in Genesis 37 you see that Reuben, the oldest brother, convinces his brothers not to kill Joseph, so instead they attack him, strip him of his coat, and throw him into an empty pit.
“So it came about when Joseph reached his brothers that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the put was empty, without any water in it.” (Genesis 37:23-24)
Of the ten older brothers, Reuben appears to be the only one to still have at least some part of his conscience still intact and working. His intent in convincing the others not to kill Joseph but instead to throw him in an empty pit was to return later and rescue his younger brother. In reality, Reuben saved Joseph’s life. But while he is gone, the other brothers come up with a plan to dispose of Joseph without taking his life which includes selling him as a slave to some traders who were passing through to Egypt.
When Reuben returns he discovers what they have done but instead of confessing to their father what had happened and sending a rescue party in search of Joseph, Reuben will ultimately go along with the lie the brothers will tell their father, Jacob, in order to cover-up their evil actions. This is another principle regarding betrayal. Even though there may be some involved who see that the actions being taken are far from innocent, they still often succumb to the pressure of the more influential participants and go along with the deed and then with the cover-up.
The fourth item to notice as we examine the act of betrayal on Joseph by his older brothers is the PEACE involved. The beginning words of the next verse are very striking.
“Then they (his brothers) sat down to eat a meal.” (Genesis 37:25)
After attacking Joseph (which I assume was quite violent seeing that their original intent was to kill him) and then throwing him into a pit, what do these brothers do? They have lunch! As they listen to Joseph’s screams coming from deep within the pit where he is trapped, alone and fearful, they sit down to a feast. It is a picture of total contentment. It almost seems out of place. You would expect them to show an attitude of soberness, maybe even guilt. Instead, they sit down to a feast. How can this be? It happens because betrayal, with all of its deceptions, also involves a form of self-deception. In many cases those who are involved in the act of betrayal will at first experience a peace and a satisfaction at their actions as they deceive themselves by rationalizing in their minds a justification for their evil actions.