Verses 23-30 (Genesis 37:23-30)

We have here the execution of their plot against Joseph. 1. They stripped him, each striving to seize the envied coat of many colours, Gen. 37:23. Thus, in imagination, they degraded him from the birthright, of which perhaps this was the badge, grieving him, affronting their father, and making themselves sport, while they insulted over him. ?Now, Joseph, where is the fine coat?? Thus our Lord Jesus was stripped of his seamless coat, and thus his suffering saints have first been industriously divested of their privileges and honours, and then made the off-scouring of all things. 2. They went about to starve him, throwing him into a dry pit, to perish there with hunger and cold, so cruel were their tender mercies, Gen. 37:25. Note, Where envy reigns pity is banished, and humanity itself is forgotten, Prov. 27:4. So full of deadly poison is malice that the more barbarous any thing is the more grateful it is. Now Joseph begged for his life, in the anguish of his soul (Gen. 42:21), entreated, by all imaginable endearments, that they would be content with his coat and spare his life. He pleads innocence, relation, affection, submission; he weeps and makes supplication, but all in vain. Reuben alone relents and intercedes for him, Gen. 42:22. But he cannot prevail to save Joseph from the horrible pit, in which they resolve he shall die by degrees, and be buried alive. Isa. this he to whom his brethren must do homage? Note, God?s providences often seem to contradict his purposes, even when they are serving them, and working at a distance towards the accomplishment of them. 3. They slighted him when he was in distress, and were not grieved for the affliction of Joseph; for when he was pining away in the pit, bemoaning his own misery, and with a languishing cry calling to them for pity, they sat down to eat bread, Gen. 37:25. (1.) They felt no remorse of conscience for the sin; if they had, it would have spoiled their appetite for their meat, and the relish of it. Note, A great force put upon conscience commonly stupefies it, and for the time deprives it both of sense and speech. Daring sinners are secure ones. But the consciences of Joseph?s brethren, though asleep now, were roused long afterwards, Gen. 42:21. (2.) They were now pleased to think how they were freed from the fear of their brother?s dominion over them, and that, on the contrary, they had turned the wheel upon him. They made merry over him, as the persecutors over the two witnesses that had tormented them, Rev. 11:10. Note, Those that oppose God?s counsels may possibly prevail so far as to think they have gained their point, and yet be deceived. 4. They sold him. A caravan of merchants very opportunely passed by (Providence so ordering it), and Judah made the motion that they should sell Joseph to them, to be carried far enough off into Egypt, where, in all probability, he would be lost, and never heard of more. (1.) Judah proposed it in compassion to Joseph (Gen. 37:26): ?What profit is it if we slay our brother? it will be less guilt, and more gain, to sell him.? Note, When we are tempted to sin, we should consider the unprofitableness of it. It is what there is nothing to be got by. (2.) They acquiesced in it, because they thought that if he were sold for a slave he would never be a lord, if sold into Egypt he would never be their lord; yet all this was working towards it. Note, The wrath of man shall praise God, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain, Ps. 76:10. Joseph?s brethren were wonderfully restrained from murdering him, and their selling him was as wonderfully turned to God?s praise. As Joseph was sold by the contrivance of Judah for twenty pieces of silver, so was our Lord Jesus for thirty, and by one of the same name too, Judas. Reuben (it seems) had gone away from his brethren, when they sold Joseph, intending to come round some other way to the pit, and to help Joseph out of it, and return him safely to his father. This was a kind project, but, if it had taken effect, what had become of God?s purpose concerning his preferment in Egypt? Note, There are many devices in man?s heart, many devices of the enemies of God?s people to destroy them and of their friends to help them, which perhaps are both disappointed, as these were; but the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand. Reuben thought himself undone, because the child was sold: I, whither shall I go? Gen. 37:30. He being the eldest, his father would expect from him an account of Joseph; but, as it proved, they would all have been undone if he had not been sold.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary