Genesis 37:18
And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near to them, they conspired against him to slay him.
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Genesis 37:18-19. When they saw him they conspired against him — It was not in a heat, or upon a sudden provocation, that they thought to slay him, but from malice prepense, and in cold blood. Behold this dreamer cometh — Hebrew, this master of dreams; that covers his own ambitious desires and designs, with pretences and fictions of dreams. See the progress of vice! From envy and malice they proceeded to conspire against the life of their brother, and then contrived a lie to impose upon their own father!37:12-22 How readily does Joseph wait his father's orders! Those children who are best beloved by their parents, should be the most ready to obey them. See how deliberate Joseph's brethren were against him. They thought to slay him from malice aforethought, and in cold blood. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer, 1Jo 3:15. The sons of Jacob hated their brother because their father loved him. New occasions, as his dreams and the like, drew them on further; but this laid rankling in their hearts, till they resolved on his death. God has all hearts in his hands. Reuben had most reason to be jealous of Joseph, for he was the first-born; yet he proves his best friend. God overruled all to serve his own purpose, of making Joseph an instrument to save much people alive. Joseph was a type of Christ; for though he was the beloved Son of his Father, and hated by a wicked world, yet the Father sent him out of his bosom to visit us in great humility and love. He came from heaven to earth to seek and save us; yet then malicious plots were laid against him. His own not only received him not, but crucified him. This he submitted to, as a part of his design to redeem and save us.His brothers cast him into a pit. "This master of dreams;" an eastern phrase for a dreamer. "Let us slay him." They had a foreboding that his dreams might prove true, and that he would become their arbitrary master. This thought at all events would abate somewhat of the barbarity of their designs. It is implied in the closing sentence of their proposal. Reuben dissuades them from the act of murder, and advises merely to cast him into the pit, to which they consent. He had a more tender heart, and perhaps a more tender conscience than the rest, and intended to send Joseph back safe to his father. He doubtless took care to choose a pit that was without water.18. when they saw him afar off—on the level grass field, where they were watching their cattle. They could perceive him approaching in the distance from the side of Shechem, or rather, Samaria. No text from Poole on this verse. And when they saw him afar off,.... They knew him as soon as they saw him, by his stature, his gesture or manner of walking, and especially by his coat of various colours he now had on, Genesis 37:23,

even before he came near unto them; the distance he was from them when they first spied him is particularly remarked and repeated, not to show the quickness of their sight, but for the sake of what follows; to observe how soon their passions were raised, how intense and prepense their malice, and which put them upon devising ways and means to destroy him, for it follows:

they conspired against him, to slay him; they entered into a consultation, and devised the most crafty methods they could think of to take away his life, and yet conceal the murder.

And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they (g) conspired against him to slay him.

(g) The Holy Spirit does not cover the faults of men, as vain writers do, who make virtues out of vices.

18–36 (JE). Joseph is sold into Egypt

The composite character of the narrative becomes at this point very evident. J (Genesis 37:21; Genesis 37:25-28 b, 31–35) relates that Judah restrains his brethren from murder, and persuades them to sell Joseph to passing Ishmaelites, who sell him as a slave to an Egyptian noble. E (Genesis 37:22-25 (bread), 28a (pit), 28c–30, 36) relates that Reuben interposes, and saves Joseph from his brethren: by his advice Joseph is cast into a tank, where he is found by passing Midianite merchants, who draw him out, take him to Egypt, and sell him to Potiphar, “captain of the guard.” Reuben returning to the tank, after the interval for food, finds it empty.Verse 18. - And when (literally, and) they saw him afar off, even (or, and) before he came near unto them, they (literally, and they) conspired against him (or, dealt with him fraudulently) to slay him In a short time the hatred of Joseph's brethren grew into a crime. On one occasion, when they were feeding their flock at a distance from Hebron, in the neighbourhood of Shechem (Nablus, in the plain of Mukhnah), and Joseph who was sent thither by Jacob to inquire as to the welfare (shalom, valetudo) of the brethren and their flocks, followed them to Dothain or Dothan, a place 12 Roman miles to the north of Samaria (Sebaste), towards the plain of Jezreel, they formed the malicious resolution to put him, "this dreamer," to death, and throw him into one of the pits, i.e., cisterns, and then to tell (his father) that a wild beast had slain him, and so to bring his dreams to nought.
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