Genesis 37:24
And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
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Genesis 37:24-25. They cast him into a pit — To perish there with hunger and cold; so cruel were their tender mercies. They sat down to eat bread — They felt no remorse of conscience, which, if they had, would have spoiled their stomachs to their meat. A great force put upon conscience commonly stupifies it, and for the time deprives it both of sense and speech. A company of Ishmaelites — In Genesis 37:28; Genesis 37:36, they are termed also Midianites, or, as it is in the Hebrew of Genesis 37:36, Medanites. It seems these different tribes, which were descended from the sons of Abraham, Medan, and Midian, by Keturah, and of Ishmael, by Hagar, were joined in one caravan, or company of merchants, bringing spicery, balm, and myrrh upon their camels from Gilead, a place noted for these articles, and carrying them into Egypt.

37:23-30 They threw Joseph into a pit, to perish there with hunger and cold; so cruel were their tender mercies. They slighted him when he was in distress, and were not grieved for the affliction of Joseph, see Am 6:6; for when he was pining in the pit, they sat down to eat bread. They felt no remorse of conscience for the sin. But the wrath of man shall praise God, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain, Ps 76:10. Joseph's brethren were wonderfully restrained from murdering him, and their selling him as wonderfully turned to God's praise.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.23. they stripped Joseph out of his coat … of many colors—Imagine him advancing in all the unsuspecting openness of brotherly affection. How astonished and terrified must he have been at the cold reception, the ferocious aspect, the rough usage of his unnatural assailants! A vivid picture of his state of agony and despair was afterwards drawn by themselves (compare Ge 42:21). No text from Poole on this verse.

And they took him, and cast him into a pit,.... Into the same that Reuben pointed to them, whose counsel they gladly took and readily executed, supposing he meant the same thing they did, starving him to death:

and the pit was empty, there was no water in it; only serpents and scorpions, as the Targum of Jonathan; and Jarchi adds, this remark, that there was no water in it, seems to be made either to furnish out a reason why Reuben directed to it, that he might be the more easily got out of it, and not be in danger of losing his life at once, or of being drowned in it; or else to show the uncomfortable situation he was in, having not so much as a drop of water to refresh him; see Zechariah 9:11. Dothan is said to remain to this day, and the inhabitants of it show the ancient ditch into which Joseph was cast (u).

(u) Bunting's Travels, p. 80.

And they took him, and cast {h} him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.

(h) Their hypocrisy appears in this that they feared man more than God: and thought it was not murder, if they did not shed his blood or had excuses to cover their fault.

24. the pit was empty] Cf. the incident in the life of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:6). Presumably this was the reason why Reuben proposes to “cast him into this pit” (Genesis 37:22).

Verses 24, 25. - And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. Cisterns when empty, or only covered with mud at the bottom, were sometimes used as temporary prisons (Jeremiah 38:6; Jeremiah 40:15). And - leaving him, as they must have calculated, to perish by a painful death through starvation, with exquisite cold-bloodedness, paying no heed to his piteous outcries and appeals (Genesis 41:21) - they sat down (the callous composure of the act indicates deplorable brutality on the part of Joseph's brethren) to eat bread (perhaps with a secret feeling of satisfaction, if not also exultation, that they had effectually disposed of the young man and his dreams): and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, Behold, a company - or-chath, from arach, to walk; a band of travelers, especially of merchantmen; a caravan; συνοδία ὁδοιπόροι (LXX.; cf. Job 6:19) - of Ishmaelites - Arabs descended from Ishmael, who occupied the district lying between Egypt and Assyria (Genesis 25:18), and, as appears from the record, carried on a trade with the former country. That Ishmael's descendants should already have developed into a trading nation will not be surprising (Bohlen) if one reflects that Ishmael may have married in his eighteenth or twentieth year, i.e. about 162 years before the date of the present occurrence, that four generations may have been born in the interval, and that, if Ishmael's sons had only five sons each, his posterity in the fifth generation (not reckoning females) may have amounted to 15,000 persons (Murphy). But in point of fact the Ishmaelites spoken of are not described as nations - simply as a company of merchants, without saying how numerous it was (Havernick, 'Introd.,'§ 21) - came (literally, coming) from Oilcad (vide Genesis 31:21) with (literally, and) their camels bearing spicery - נְכאת, either an infinitive from נָכָא, to break, to grind (?), and signifying a pounding, breaking in pieces, hence aromatic powder (Gesenius); or a contraction from נְכָאות (Ewald), meaning that which is powdered or pulverized. Rendered θυμιαμάτα (LXX.), aromata (Vulgate), στύραξ (Aquila), it was probably the gum tragacanth, many kinds of which appear in Syria (Furst, Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Lange, Murphy), or storax, the resinous exudation of the styrax officinale, which abounds in Palestine and the East (Aquila, Bochart, Bush, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Inglis) - and balm - ךצרִי (in pause צרי, after van of union צְרִי), mentioned as one of the most precious fruits of Palestine (Genesis 43:11), rendered ῤητίνη (LXX.) and refina (Vulgate), and derived from צָוָה, to flow, to run (hence, literally, an outflowing, or out-dropping). was unquestionably a balsam, but of what tree cannot now be ascertained, distilling from a tree or fruit growing in Gilead, and highly prized for its healing properties (Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11). Vide Lexicons (Gesenius and Furst) sub voce; Michaelis, 'Suppl.' p. 2142; Kalisch in loco - and myrrh, - לֹט, στακτή (LXX.), stacte (Vulgate), pistacia (Chaldee, Syriac, Michaelis, 'Suppl.,' p. 1424), was more probably ladanum (Gesenius, Furst, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, et alii), an odoriferous gum formed upon the leaves of the cactus-rose, a shrub growing in Arabia, Syria, and Palestine (vide-Herod., 3:112; Pliny, 'N. H., 12:37; Celsius, 'Hierob.,' L 280-288) - going - the caravan route from Gilead crossed the Jordan in the neighborhood of Bersan, and, sweeping through Jenin and the plain of Dothan, joined another track leading southwards from Damascus by way of Ramleh and Gaza (vide Robinson, 3:27, and cf. Tristram, 'Land of Israel,' p. 132) - to carry it down to Egypt. At that time the land of the Pharaohs was the chief emporium for the world's merchandise.

CHAPTER 37:26-36 Genesis 37:24Reuben, who was the eldest son, and therefore specially responsible for his younger brother, opposed this murderous proposal. He dissuaded his brethren from killing Joseph (נפשׁ פ הכּה ), and advised them to throw him "into this pit in the desert," i.e., into a dry pit that was near. As Joseph would inevitably perish even in that pit, their malice was satisfied; but Reuben intended to take Joseph out again, and restore him to his father. As soon, therefore, as Joseph arrived, they took off his coat with sleeves and threw him into the pit, which happened to be dry.
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