“Hey, guess what?” Joseph said during breakfast. “I had a dream last night.”
Everyone sort of mumbled something and went back to eating. “What was your dream?” I finally asked, only so Joseph wouldn’t go crying off to Father about how he was ignored. Perhaps that was an exaggeration–he was tough enough not to cry–but he was always tattling on us and it was best not to take any chances.
“So, we were in the field, tying up grain bundles, and then my bundle stood up and all of yours encircled me and bowed to mine!” He smiled. “Isn’t that cool?
He was received with frowns and grumbles. “What do you mean–you’ll be our king or something?” Levi asked with a snarl. “Do you actually think you’ll reign over us?”
Joseph just shrugged and pretended to ignore our hostile attitudes. Man, I thought, if Joseph keeps this up–tattling on us, getting cool robes from Father, and bragging about his dreams–he won’t last long. I didn’t realize how true my thinking would become.
* * *
“Look, guys,” Asher said with a smirk. “Is that who I think it is?”
We all looked up from the flock to spy Joseph walking toward us from a distance.
“Did the little squirt travel all the way to Dothan to track us down?” Zebulun asked, his ever-present scowl darker than usual.
“Maybe he’s here so he can tattle on us!” someone joked. I think it was Dan.
“Look,” Naphtali said. “He’s even wearing that stupid robe Father gave him.”
Simeon spoke up. “I’m sick of that dreamer.”
“Yeah,” Judah said. “Always basking in the glory of being Father’s favorite. And now telling us dreams of ruling over us! Ugh.”
There was a murmur as everyone agreed. I just stood there quietly, not really knowing what to think.
“I have an idea,” Gad said. His voice was low, as if passing on a secret. “When he comes closer, we’ll kill him and get rid of that filthy dreamer of a brother.”
“And throw his body into a dried-up well!”
“What?” I asked incredulously. “Kill him? Are you nuts?”
My brothers all looked at me as if I was crazy.
“Oh, c’mon, Reuben,” Issachar argued. “Don’t you agree that he’s an arrogant idiot? With him gone, Father will look at us with approval.”
I had to admit, it was tempting. Here was a perfect opportunity to get rid of Joseph and his dreams. But still, killing him didn’t seem like a good idea. “If we kill him, we’ll have to face Father–“
“So we’ll tell him a wild animal has eaten him!”
“Why don’t we just throw him into the cistern and leave him here to die?” I said. “We don’t have to shed any blood.” Maybe I could come back later to save Joseph. He may have been annoying, but he was still our brother.
My idea was surprisingly well-received. Several nodded. We quieted down as Joseph approached.
“Hey, guys!” Joseph called. “Father told me to–“
“So, our little brother has come to see us,” Dan said. “How sweet.”
Judah stepped forward and shoved Joseph. He fell backward. Several others started pushing him around. Zebulun grabbed his fancy cloak and ripped it off of him. “You won’t be needing this anymore!” he spat.
“What do you mean?” Joseph asked, breathing hard. “What did I ever do to you?”
“We’re sick of your dreams,” Simeon said.
“And that robe!”
“Oh, c’mon!” Joseph cried. They all paused to listen. “It’s not my fault Father gave me that coat! It’s not my fault I dreamt those things!”
It seemed like pretty good arguments to me. But of course nobody else thought that.
“Well, this way we won’t have to hear any of it anymore,” Levi snarled. They grabbed him and started carrying him to a cistern. Joseph twisted around frantically, but their grip was strong and determined. He stopped fighting when he saw me.
“Reuben!” he shouted. “Tell them they’re mad! Please!” His expression screamed for mercy, but I looked down instead of meeting his desperate eyes.
I heard a thud as Joseph landed in the dry well. I winced.
“Aw, Reuben, do you really want to miss all the fun?” Dan asked. Everyone was surrounding the cistern, laughing at Joseph and throwing dirt at him.
I peered down at my brother, guilt seeping into me. Sure, I hadn’t done anything, but maybe that was the point. Maybe I should have helped him.
“C’mon, guys,” Joseph called. “Joke’s over. Pull me out.”
“He’s right, you know,” I said, pulling people away. “You’ve had your fun. Let him be.”
“Oh, bug off,” someone said, but everyone back away anyway.
“How ’bout lunch?” Asher asked. “I’m hungry.”
Everyone agreed. There was, however, one problem–all we had was money. Someone would have to go buy food.
Issachar suggested making Joseph buy it, but he could escape. So I volunteered.
As I walked across the field to Dothan, I kept thinking of Joseph in the dried-up well. Something didn’t seem right about letting him slowly die out there. What if I were to free him? I wondered. Joseph and Father would love me! The more I thought about it, the better it seemed. Joseph, of course, would be forever grateful. Father might consider me a favorite. And both of them would think of me as a hero.
There was the issue of my brothers, though. If they were willing to kill Joseph over some dreams and a coat, what would they do with me when I destroyed their plan?
I had reached Dothan. I tried to ignore my questions as I bought some food. On my way back to the fields, I stopped by a shop selling rope and bought some. Now it was too late–I was freeing Joseph and there was no stopping me.
“Hey, Reuben, about time!” Naphtali called. “What were you doing–crawling there?”
“Did you see a nice camel you wanted to buy?” Several laughed.
“Oh, shut up,” I replied, annoyed. I tossed the food at my brothers and casually strolled over to the cistern. Joseph was awfully quiet for being trapped in a well. I peered down.
The cistern was empty.
I closed my eyes and opened them again, hoping I was wrong. I strained my eyes, trying to see if he was just hidden in the darkness. I even called his name quietly. There was no reply.
I walked back to the group, where everyone was sitting around eating. “What did you guys do with him? Kill him while I was gone?”
“Who?” Dan asked, always the joker. They all laughed.
“Naw,” Gad said with his mouth full. “He’s not dead. We just won’t have to see his stupid face anymore.”
“What did you do?” I asked again, my voice rising.
“Oh, calm down,” Judah said. “We sold him to some traders.”
I was a little relieved that Joseph wasn’t dead, but I still wanted to explode. “He’s gone! The boy is gone!” I cried, turning around and grabbing at my hair. “What will I do? What will Father do?”
“Good question,” Asher said. When everyone looked at him, he shrugged. “We can’t tell Father we sold him.”
“True, but we do have his coat.” Issachar held up Joseph’s colorful robe.
I sat down beside the cistern as my brothers argued about how to make it look like a wild animal had gotten him. I could hear them as they killed a goat and started dipping the coat in its blood, still bickering about how much to dip and how to make it realistic. I shook my head and sighed.
I should have saved him.
I should I have made someone else go buy food.
I should have seen this coming.
And now I would never see my brother again…
This is based from Genesis 37. For the full story read Genesis 37-50.