When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes. He returned to his brothers, and said, “The boy is gone; and I, where can I turn?” Then they took Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat, and dipped the robe in the blood. They had the long robe with sleeves taken to their father, and they said, “This we have found; see now whether it is your son’s robe or not.” He recognized it, and said, “It is my son’s robe! A wild animal has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father bewailed him. Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.
I love Genesis it’s all in there! The whole of human life! We think we invented anaesthetic, operations and cloning but the ideas are there in Genesis at the beginning of all time. Along with: murder, drunkenness, incest, lust, lies and surrogacy, all of human life unfolding. There isn’t anything we read in our papers or see on TV that isn’t in Genesis and while this sounds cynical it isn’t meant to be. It’s not about picking over the bones of the ancestors it simply makes the point that when God made us and gave us free will, we see in Genesis just what humans are capable of.
Human stories; picture Rebekah sliding off her camel to meet Isaac in the fields and the love at first sight this text implies. More family squabbles between her sons Esau and Jacob and what about Jacob? At least thirteen children with four different ladies, bet there were fun times in their tents! And it’s through Jacob and his favourite wife Rachel we have Joseph and the passage above and what does that tell us about human nature?
Sibling rivalry! Poor old Reuben, the others wanted to kill Joseph, Reuben wanted to save him. Reuben probably had no part in the original plan to kill Joseph because he went back to the brothers to tell them Joseph had gone. The next thing that happens is that they (and I wonder if Reuben is now part of the ‘they’ – until now this is very much about Reuben and them) kill a goat and dip Joseph’s robe in the blood and have it sent to Jacob. Then Jacob mourns for several days and all his sons (and all his daughters try to comfort him.) What hypocrisy!
Lord God, so much the scriptures tell us and show us, not least what we are capable of. So many questions they raise – why we do the things we do? And as we question and wonder, Lord, we come to you in prayer, realising that to try and understand all the things that scripture unfolds is impossible. But we recognize that we are indeed wonderfully made with all our emotions and we give you thanks for creating each one of us unique and special and for loving us not just in spite of what we are but because of who we are. Thank you Lord, Amen
The Rev’d Lena Talbot Minister in North East Blackburn