Filled with hatred and rage, Joseph’s brothers had thrown him into an empty cistern (click here to learn more about cisterns).
Can you imagine the fear he felt at his brothers’ rage? Joseph was simply doing his father’s bidding. I’m sure he knew his brothers didn’t like him, because they had made no attempt to hide their disdain from him. Yet, they were still his brothers, and, confident in his father’s love for him, I don’t imagine it ever occurred to Joseph that his brothers’ would ever want to kill him.
Yet, their hatred of him became nauseatingly obvious, when they grabbed him, ripping his coat off him and hurling bitter angry insults at him. Joseph was only seventeen years old, and there were eleven of them against him. This was no mere child’s play. He could see the fury in their eyes, as they grabbed him. There was no gentleness in their touch and no holding back their ire. They hated him, and they wanted him to know it, as they roughly dragged him to the empty cistern and threw him in.
Can you imagine how Joseph must have pleaded with his brothers, begging them for mercy? Can you imagine the utter terror he felt, as they ignored his pleas? Then after being dragged by his brothers, he was forced into the small opening of an empty cistern, falling, who knows how many feet to the bottom? I can picture them covering the cistern, then walking away, while the boy cried out to them, still pleading for mercy.
Alone in the dark cistern, his throat raw from crying out to his brothers for who knows how long, do you think Joseph prayed? I can picture his tear stained face pleading with El Shaddai for mercy, as it began to dawn on him that his brothers would show him none. I imagine he thought of his father, weeping at the pain his death would cause the old man.
Then, probably after many hours, Joseph heard the sound of the cistern’s cover being rolled away. I imagine his heart leapt to his throat, as hope filled his chest. His brothers had returned! They were sorry for their actions. Praise YHWH (Yahweh), who had heard his prayers and answered them! As light filled the dark chamber, I believe Joseph would have forgiven his brothers. I can picture him grinning up at them, as he stood there, bloodied and dusty, with the stains of his tears still on his cheeks. Did he thank his brothers for their mercy, as they dropped a rope down, for him to tie around his waist, so they could pull him up?
Did his joy turn into fear once more, as they drew him up, and he saw the same hatred in their eyes as before? Did he fear they were going to kill him? As he looked from one brother to another, did Joseph even notice the Midianite traders at first? Was it his brothers or the Midianites, who informed Joseph that he was now a slave? Did his brothers smile in satisfaction, as they saw the look of horror on Joseph’s face, when the realization hit him?
Did Joseph see his brothers, with their backs turned against him, greedily dividing the 20 pieces of silver they had just earned for selling him? Did he rue the day that he was born? Did he wish for death at that point? Did his faith in the Most High God falter or remain strong? How he must grieved the loss of his father, his home and yes, even his brothers! What a tragedy for such a young man to endure! Or was it a tragedy? Could Joseph’s tribulation have simply been the fulfillment of God’s will?
Too often, in today’s church, we are taught to believe that if we are faithful, our lives will be filled with health and wealth. But, if you truly study God’s word, you will discover that this is a lie straight from the pit of hell. Jesus told His disciples, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)
Beloved reader, His words weren’t just for His twelve original disciples. They were for everyone who would follow Him, then and now. We will face many trials and sorrows in our lives, just as Joseph did, just as Jesus did, and just as His disciples did. If someone tells you any different, they are lying to you.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are alone in your suffering. Joseph wasn’t. Imagine how Jacob, his father felt, when his sons returned to him with Joseph’s bloody, torn coat. Those of us who are parents, can imagine nothing worse than losing one of our beloved children. I can only begin to envision Jacob’s horror, as his elder sons informed him of his loss. How he must have lamented sending his beloved son to check on his brothers that day! Did he blame himself for Joseph’s loss? While his other sons tried to comfort him, Jacob swore that he would go to his grave mourning for Joseph, as he wept. (Read Genesis 37)
Did his brothers feel any remorse for their crime? Did they, too, suffer for the sin they had committed against their brother, Joseph? Do you think they felt pain for their father’s grief? We’ll explore this another time.
But remember this. As tragic as it was, if Joseph had never been sold into slavery, there would have been no need for Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, more than 400 years later. So, was this truly a tragedy, or was it simply God’s will? Is your life a tragedy? Or is it, too, God’s will?
Cheryl A. Showers