Thursday 4th June 2015
'When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes.' Genesis 37:29. Joseph, aged 17yrs, was sent out to check up on his brothers and the flocks they were tending. They had grown to hate their brother and had not forgotten him speaking ill of them when he got home after spending time with them on a previous occasion,(v2). Consequently, they were none too pleased to see him in the distance heading towards them and decided to kill him and throw him down a cistern.
I am sure that Reuben, the eldest brother, felt equally angry with his youngest brother, but kill him? No way. Reuben's morals might not have been of the highest order to put it mildly, (see Genesis 35:22), but there were some things he just would not agree to. Consequently, Reuben managed to convince his brothers not to murder Joseph, suggesting instead that they merely throw Joseph down a cistern. They agreed to Reuben's proposal, not knowing that he planned to rescue Joseph and return him to his father. You can imagine his shock when he then returned to rescue Joseph from the cistern only to find him gone, and then to discover that his brothers had sold him into slavery.
Appallingly, Reuben had committed incest with one of his father's concubines, something Jacob never forgot, (49:4), but this attempt to save his brother reveals that he was not without virtue. Many years later, Reuben even offered his two sons as hostages when Joseph, (by then the governor of Egypt), demanded that Benjamin be brought to Egypt, (42:37). Some of the worst of people are capable of extraordinary acts of generosity or goodness that would shame we who would claim to belong to Jesus. And Jesus himself spoke of the fact that even we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children, (Luke 11:13). 'Lord help us to see the good in even the worst of people and not condemn them, but seek their salvation as you sought ours. Amen.'