Genesis 37:26
And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
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Genesis 37:26. What profit is it if we slay our brother? — It will be less guilt and more gain to sell him. They all agreed to this. And as Joseph was sold by the contrivance of Judah for twenty pieces of silver, so was our Lord Jesus for thirty, and by one of the same name too, Judas. Reuben, it seems, was gone away from his brethren when they sold Joseph, intending to come round some other way to the pit, and to help Joseph out of it. But had this taken effect, what had become of God’s purpose concerning his preferment in Egypt? There are many devices of the enemies of God’s people to destroy them, and of their friends to help them, which perhaps are both disappointed, as these here; but the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand. Reuben thought himself undone because the child was sold; I, whither shall I go? — He being the eldest, his father would expect from him an account of him; but it proved they had all been undone, if he had not been sold.

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.Reuben rips his clothes when he finds Joseph gone. "To eat bread." This shows the cold and heartless cruelty of their deed. "A caravan" - a company of travelling merchants. "Ishmaelites." Ishmael left his father's house when about fourteen or fifteen years of age. His mother took him a wife probably when he was eighteen, or twenty at the furthest. He had arrived at the latter age about one hundred and sixty-two years before the date of the present occurrence. He had twelve sons Genesis 25:13-15, and if we allow only four other generations and a fivefold increase, there will be about fifteen thousand in the fifth generation. "Came from Gilead;" celebrated for its balm Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11. The caravan road from Damascus to Egypt touches upon the land of Gilead, goes through Beth-shean, and passes by Dothan. "Spicery." This gum is called tragacanth, or goats-thorn gum, because it was supposed to be obtained from this plant. "Balm," or balsam; an aromatic substance obtained from a plant of the genus Amyris, a native of Gilead. "Myrrh" is the name of a gum exuding from the balsamodendron myrrha, growing in Arabia Felix. "Lot," however, is supposed to be the resinous juice of the cistus or rock rose, a plant growing in Crete and Syria. Judah, relenting, and revolting perhaps from the crime of fratricide, proposes to sell Joseph to the merchants.

Midianites and Medanites Genesis 37:36 are mere variations apparently of the same name. They seem to have been the actual purchasers, though the caravan takes its name from the Ishmaelites, who formed by far the larger portion of it. Midian and Medan were both sons of Abraham, and during one hundred and twenty-five years must have increased to a small clan. Thus, Joseph is sold to the descendants of Abraham. "Twenty silver pieces;" probably shekels. This is the rate at which Moses estimates a male from five to twenty years old Leviticus 27:5. A man-servant was valued by him at thirty shekels Exodus 21:32. Reuben finding Joseph gone, rends his clothes, in token of anguish of mind for the loss of his brother and the grief of his father.

26-28. Judah said, … What profit is it if we slay our brother?—The sight of these travelling merchants gave a sudden turn to the views of the conspirators; for having no wish to commit a greater degree of crime than was necessary for the accomplishment of their end, they readily approved of Judah's suggestion to dispose of their obnoxious brother as a slave. The proposal, of course, was founded on their knowledge that the Arabian merchants trafficked in slaves; and there is the clearest evidence furnished by the monuments of Egypt that the traders who were in the habit of bringing slaves from the countries through which they passed, found a ready market in the cities of the Nile.

they … lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold him—Acting impulsively on Judah's advice, they had their poor victim ready by the time the merchants reached them; and money being no part of their object, they sold him for

twenty pieces of silver—The money was probably in rings or pieces (shekels), and silver is always mentioned in the records of that early age before gold, on account of its rarity. The whole sum, if in shekel weight, did not exceed £3.

they brought Joseph into Egypt—There were two routes to Egypt: the one was overland by Hebron, where Jacob dwelt, and by taking which, the fate of his hapless son would likely have reached the paternal ears; the other was directly westward across the country from Dothan to the maritime coast, and in this, the safest and most expeditious way, the merchants carried Joseph to Egypt. Thus did an overruling Providence lead this murderous conclave of brothers, as well as the slave merchants both following their own free courses—to be parties in an act by which He was to work out, in a marvellous manner, the great purposes of His wisdom and goodness towards His ancient Church and people.

If we suffer him to perish in the pit, when we may sell him with advantage,

and conceal his blood, i.e. his death, as the word blood is often used. See Deu 17:8 2 Samuel 1:16 3:28.

And Judah said unto his brethren,.... In sight of the Ishmaelites, a thought came into his mind to get Joseph sold to them:

what profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? it could be no advantage to them even if they could have concealed his blood from men; and if it was discovered, as it would, in all likelihood, by come means or another, then they must be answerable for it; and if not, God would take vengeance on them, from whom they could never conceal it; and therefore it would be most profitable and advantageous to them to sell him, and not destroy him, or take away his life; and to suffer him to lie in the pit and die was the same thing.

And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
26. conceal his blood] Referring to the superstition that blood, which was not covered, would cry for vengeance: see note on Genesis 4:10. Cf. Job 16:18; Isaiah 26:21; Ezekiel 24:7.

Verses 26, 27. - And Judah (apparently shrinking from the idea of murder) said unto his brethren, What profit is it if (literally, what of advantage that) we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? (i.e. and hide the fact of his murder). Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him (literally, and our hand, let it not be upon him, i.e. to slay him); for he is our brother and our flesh - or, more expressly, our brother and our flesh he (cf. Genesis 29:14). And his brethren were content - literally, hearkened, viz., to the proposal. Genesis 37:26Reuben had saved Joseph's life indeed by his proposal; but his intention to send him back to his father was frustrated. For as soon as the brethren sat down to eat, after the deed was performed, they saw a company of Ishmaelites from Gilead coming along the road which leads from Beisan past Jenin (Rob. Pal. iii. 155) and through the plain of Dothan to the great caravan road that runs from Damascus by Lejun (Legio, Megiddo), Ramleh, and Gaza to Egypt (Rob. iii. 27, 178). The caravan drew near, laden with spices: viz., נכאת, gum-tragacanth; צרי, balsam, for which Gilead was celebrated (Genesis 43:11; Jeremiah 8:22; Jeremiah 46:11); and לט, ladanum, the fragrant resin of the cistus-rose. Judah seized the opportunity to propose to his brethren to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. "What profit have we," he said, "that we slay our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites; and our hand, let it not lay hold of him (sc., to slay him), for he is our brother, our flesh." Reuben wished to deliver Joseph entirely from his brothers' malice. Judah also wished to save his life, though not from brotherly love so much as from the feeling of horror, which was not quite extinct within him, at incurring the guilt of fratricide; but he would still like to get rid of him, that his dreams might not come true. Judah, like his brethren, was probably afraid that their father might confer upon Joseph the rights of the first-born, and so make him lord over them. His proposal was a welcome one. When the Arabs passed by, the brethren fetched Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites, who took him into Egypt. The different names given to the traders - viz., Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:25, Genesis 37:27, and Genesis 37:28), Midianites (Genesis 37:28), and Medanites (Genesis 37:36) - do not show that the account has been drawn from different legends, but that these tribes were often confounded, from the fact that they resembled one another so closely, not only in their common descent from Abraham (Genesis 16:15 and Genesis 25:2), but also in the similarity of their mode of life and their constant change of abode, that strangers could hardly distinguish them, especially when they appeared not as tribes but as Arabian merchants, such as they are here described as being: "Midianitish men, merchants." That descendants of Abraham should already be met with in this capacity is by no means strange, if we consider that 150 years had passed by since Ishmael's dismissal from his father's house, - a period amply sufficient for his descendants to have grown through marriage into a respectable tribe. The price, "twenty (sc., shekels) of silver," was the price which Moses afterwards fixed as the value of a boy between 5 and 20 (Leviticus 27:5), the average price of a slave being 30 shekels (Exodus 21:32). But the Ishmaelites naturally wanted to make money by the transaction.
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