Brothers in Conflict

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY…. “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!” Genesis 37:19,20 NLT

Family dynamics are more complicated than those found in politics, business or other relationships. It is interesting that Jacob knew what it was to be the “favorite” son of his mother and to be hated by his older brother. So it is not without some irony that we find him showing favor to Joseph the oldest son of Rachel, his beloved wife who died in childbirth when Benjamin was born.

When you have a favored and protected son and that son shares his dreams that indicate his future superiority over his family, it is not a good combination. Then we see that Joseph was noted as giving a “bad” report to Jacob about his brothers which did not help.

Joseph’s brothers “hated” him for all of this, but they also harbored resentment against their father for how he treated Joseph. When they were out in the fields alone with Joesph they were presented with a prime opportunity to execute some revenge.

We don’t know which brother instigated the plot to kill Joseph, but we know that Ruben and Judah were instrumental in keeping him alive. Ruben suggested throwing Joseph into the pit (planning to rescue him later) and then Judah suggested selling him into slavery to keep from killing him.

Ruben is an interesting study in contrast to his uncle Esau. Esau lost his firstborn position and reacted by creating pain for his parents. Ruben lost his firstborn position by sleeping with his father’s concubine and spent his years trying to regain his father’s favor.

We see this in his plan to rescue Joseph from the pit and return him to his father. I’m not sure how that was going to play out, but we see his desire to take advantage of Joseph’s favored status to regain some favor in his father’s eyes.

Then 13 years later when Joesph is Prime Minister in Egypt and accuses his brothers of being spies and keeps Simeon in prison until they return with Benjamin, Ruben steps up and asked his father to entrust the boy to his care. I believe it is noteworthy to see Ruben act like a leader and to seek to win back his father’s favor opposed to becoming filled with resentment and bitterness over his own failure.

We then see how the actions of Joseph’s brothers haunted them the rest of their lives. Instead of “settling a score” they found themselves carrying a burden instead of a grudge. When they encountered Joseph and were accused of being spies we read Ruben’s response,  “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?” Reuben asked. “But you wouldn’t listen. And now we have to answer for his blood!” (Genesis 42:22 NLT)

Even though Joesph eventually revealed himself to his brothers and provided for their care, we see their lingering fear and guilt revealed years later when their father died.  “…now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful. “Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him….” (Genesis 50:15 NLT)

Through all of this, we can see that forgiveness, not revenge brings true freedom. We see a proper response to failure is better than resentment. In Revelation, we find the Tribe of Ruben listed second among the tribes of Israel.