Bible stories : 09 Joseph, part 2.
Part 2 : Assumptions.
1600 - 1700-ish B.C.
Spoiler alert: his brothers were not excited to see him. Not at all. As they watched him in the distance, a small and solitary figure, sad in its colourful and lonely state, they began muttering:
One of them - history does not record which - said, half-jokingly:
“We should kill the little jerk and bury his body in a pit, then tell Dad that he got eaten by a wild deer.”
Another brother started laughing: “A wild deer? Yeah, Dad would really buy that.”
The first brother had started off half-joking, which is something that people do sometimes when they want to run a bad idea by a group of people. That way, if everyone disagrees, they can say “Chill, I was just joking!” But if people sort of nod and agree, then it’s started a conversation about something that can start to get serious.
This conversation starts to get serious as the other brothers realise that this really could be a golden opportunity to rid themselves of this pest called Joseph. They have a quick and hurried conversation in which the “joking” part is all gone. It gets serious fast.
“Critical mass” is another way of saying “tipping point,” and “tipping point” is a way of saying that an idea has generated enough momentum to rapidly grow and become popular. This whole idea about killing Joe has hit critical mass and reaching the tipping point.
As an aside, let’s remember that these are all siblings. Brothers. They may have different personalities and all that, but they’re brothers, which means there’s both genetic and implicit bonds tying them together. And now they’re talking about killing one of their own. How much do you have to loathe someone and their very existence to want to kill them?
The problem with something hitting a tipping point is that it means the majority think it’s a good idea. Momentum is rolling and sometimes you can’t just stop it in its tracks. Oldest brother Reuben is the voice of reason, relatively speaking, and he realizes that his brothers are out for blood...literally and figuratively. So he proposes an alternate solution.
“You know what would be even worse,” he says, rolling his eyes as Joseph gets closer. “We should totally, like, throw him in a pit and sell him into slavery when the traders come by.”
“Huh?” another brother says. “Why not just kill him and tell Dad an animal ate him?”
“Because,” Reuben said, thinking quickly. “Think of how terrified he’s gonna be if we throw him into a dark hole, take his coat, and then sell him off to be a slave. He’ll be miserable for years to come, and we’ll make a little extra money. Win-win.”
The others consider this briefly. “Let’s do it!”
So that is what they do.
They attacked him.
They stripped him of his coat.
They threw him into a pit.
And left him.
His brothers, his flesh and blood, did this, and left him.
John Gottman is a respected psychologist and researcher who writes about his version of The Four Horsemen. In the New Testament book Revelation, which is pretty much about the end of the world, also known as the Apocalypse, there are four horsemen mentioned who represent Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death.
In Gottman’s example, he talks about the four horsemen of relationships - in other words, the four things that show up bringing destruction to relationships. They are
It is the last of these that is most interesting in this story. How much contempt do you have to possess for another human being in order to loathe them enough to kill them...or sell them into slavery?
I am the oldest of seven children, and one thing that our parents never told us, but that we somehow knew - I don’t know how exactly - was that it is not okay to sell your siblings into slavery. We somehow grew up knowing that, and managed to not do so.
Sadly, Joseph’s brothers did not know this, or had forgotten this, or chose to ignore this little rule of life.
So they sold him.