Here is, I. The kind visit which Joseph, in obedience to his father’s command, made to his brethren, who were feeding the flock at Shechem, many miles off. Some suggest that they went thither on purpose, expecting that Joseph would be sent to see them, and that then they should have an opportunity to do him a mischief. However, Joseph and his father had both of them more of the innocence of the dove than of the wisdom of the serpent, else he had never come thus into the hands of those that hated him: but God designed it all for good. See in Joseph an instance, 1. Of dutifulness to his father. Though he was his father’s darling, yet he was made, and was willing to be, his father’s servant. How readily does he wait his father’s orders! Here I am, Gen. 37:13. Note, Those children that are best beloved by their parents should be most obedient to their parents; and then their love is well-bestowed and well-returned. 2. Of kindness to his brethren. Though he knew they hated him and envied him, yet he made no objections against his father’s commands, either from the distance of the place or the danger of the journey, but cheerfully embraced the opportunity of showing his respect to his brethren. Note, It is a very good lesson, though it is learnt with difficulty and rarely practised, to love those that hate us; if our relations do not their duty to us, yet we must not be wanting in our duty to them. This is thank-worthy. Joseph was sent by his father to Shechem, to see whether his brethren were well there, and whether the country had not risen upon them and destroyed them, in revenge of their barbarous murder of the Shechemites some years before. But Joseph, not finding them there, went to Dothan, which showed that he undertook this journey, not only in obedience to his father (for then he might have returned when he missed them at Shechem, having done what his father told him), but out of love to his brethren, and therefore he sought diligently till he found them. Thus let brotherly love continue, and let us give proofs of it.
II. The bloody and malicious plot of his brethren against him, who rendered good for evil, and, for his love, were his adversaries. Observe, 1. How deliberate they were in the contrivance of this mischief: when they saw him afar off, they conspired against him, Gen. 37:18. 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. Note, Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; for he will be one if he have an opportunity, 1 John 3:15. Malice is a most mischievous thing, and is in danger of making bloody work where it is harboured and indulged. The more there is of a project and contrivance in a sin the worse it is; it is bad to do evil, but worse to devise it. 2. How cruel they were in their design; nothing less than his blood would satisfy them: Come, and let us slay him, Gen. 37:20. Note, The old enmity hunts for the precious life. It is the blood-thirsty that hate the upright (Prov. 29:10), and it is the blood of the saints that the harlot is drunk with. 3. How scornfully they reproached him for his dreams (Gen. 37:19): This dreamer cometh; and (Gen. 37:20), We shall see what will become of his dreams. This shows what it was that fretted and enraged them. They could not endure to think of doing homage to him; this was what they were plotting to prevent by the murder of him. Note, Men that fret and rage at God’s counsels are impiously aiming to defeat them; but they imagine a vain thing, Ps. 2:1-3. God’s counsels will stand. 4. How they agreed to keep one another’s counsel, and to cover the murder with a lie: We will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him; whereas in thus consulting to devour him they proved themselves worse than the most evil beasts; for evil beasts prey not on those of their own kind, but they were tearing a piece of themselves.
III. Reuben’s project to deliver him, Gen. 37:21, 22. Note, God can raise up friends for his people, even among their enemies; for he has all hearts in his hands. Reuben, of all the brothers, had most reason to be jealous of Joseph, for he was the first-born, and so entitled to those distinguishing favours which Jacob was conferring on Joseph; yet he proves his best friend. Reuben’s temper seems to have been soft and effeminate, which had betrayed him to the sin of uncleanness; while the temper of the next two brothers, Simeon and Levi, was fierce, which betrayed them to the sin of murder, a sin which Reuben startled at the thought of. Note, Our natural constitution should be guarded against those sins to which it is most inclinable, and improved (as Reuben’s here) against those sins to which it is most averse. Reuben made a proposal which they thought would effectually answer their intention of destroying Joseph, and yet which he designed should answer his intention of rescuing Joseph out of their hands and restoring him to his father, probably hoping thereby to recover his father’s favour, which he had lately lost; but God overruled all to serve his own purpose of making Joseph an instrument to save much people alive. Joseph was here a type of Christ. 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. He came to his own, and his own not only received him not, but consulted against him: This is the heir, come let us kill him; Crucify him,crucify him. This he submitted to, in pursuance of his design to redeem and save us.