Saving But Not Saving Joseph

Genesis 37:21 – And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.

Genesis 37:22 – And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.

Genesis 49:3 – Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

Genesis 49:4 – Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.

Hello readers, new blog time today, and a fairly brief one, but to the point! Reuben was the oldest of all of Jacob’s children. And in Genesis 37 he appeared to be pretty noble, attempting to rescue Joseph out of his brother’s hands. But was it that noble? For all of Reuben good intentions… Joseph ended up sold as a slave, left for dead. It all came unstuck. Our lives come unstuck when we sin. We will see in this blog that Reuben’s ability to do right was affected by sin in his own life. He didn’t have a pure, clean conscience… and he had no power to save Joseph. If we have a pure conscience and testimony amongst others, it will dramatically alter our ability to do right and impact others. We might even be able to save people, in the sense of having such a real effect on their lives that God can use us to reach other people.

The reality is, many people in this world do want to do right, you don’t have to be saved to have morals and want to do right. God put his laws in our consciences, and even if many people do not attribute their ideas of right and wrong, even as twisted as it can become because of our own error and lust, order and law and morality is based on God. It is no surprise that in today’s society, as people do not like to retain God in their knowledge, this is being accompanied in a sharp decline in law, in morality, in freedom, in righteousness. However, as with Reuben, often people lose their credibility, their power with others, because of sin in their own lives.

The brothers grabbed Joseph, stripped him off his coat and were going to kill him. But Reuben said don’t kill him, and came up with an alternative plan of dealing with Joseph… and we know from the scriptures it was because he wanted to deliver Joseph out of their hands. So while this seems all well and good… it wasn’t quite as good as first appears. He may have saved his life, but was Joseph being sold as a slave really that much better an outcome? I mean, often our righteousness at best, if we really look at it, it’s entirely corrupt. This story shows that half measures and compromises don’t help… sure not killing Joseph was good, but was casting him into a pit any better? The question is, why didn’t Reuben instead of saying cast him into a pit… why didn’t he just speak up and say no, we are not doing this wicked thing? Wake up guys!?

The problem is, Reuben had sin in his life. He had done something really wrong, he had taken one of his father’s concubines, and slept with her. That’s a bit messed up isn’t it? What do you think the other brothers thought? What did Reuben’s “praise God”s mean to them? Hardly much. It was wrong that Jacob even had a concubine to begin with… and so often the children’s sins flow on from the parents sins. But this doesn’t excuse Reuben. And this act really cost him, and it cost him his testimony and his conscience. If he had spoken up, and if we speak up, what do people hit back with? They point out our sin. If you have committed adultery, you’re not likely to be able to point out faults in others without your own heart condemning you and others pointing out your lack of credentials to say anything. Imagine if John the Baptist was in fornication, could’ve he really been able to say to Herod that it was not lawful for Herod to have his brother’s wife?

Reuben would’ve liked to have done the right thing, but he was held back by sin in his own life. And, truly, even if he had done wrong in his life, it still didn’t make what they did to Joseph any less ok. So often people engage in comparative morality, but just because someone else has done wrong, doesn’t make your wrong ok. The Bible is the standard, God’s word is what judges, and is what will judge us at judgement. It’s the importance though here of keeping a good conscience… so you can impact others for the glory of Jesus Christ. Reuben sought to save Joseph, but he wasn’t able to. He was powerless. His own idea of saving Joseph failed, and it ended up with Joseph in a pit and sold. Wow, what a lesson. How often Christians try to “save” people not with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but through “seeker friendly” means. Reuben tried to do all this without offending anyone… saving Joseph and appeasing his brothers. He ended up not helping Joseph at all. He really only helped himself. And so often people are not help to others, their helping of others is really only about making themselves feel better. Was his good intentions really of any use at the end of the day? Hardly. It’s not enough to want to do good, or plan to do good, because saying and hoping is one thing, doing is another. So often we come unhinged at the doing part.

Reuben lost his birthright over the incident with Bilhah, his dad’s concubine. His birthright went to Joseph. Through our sin we can forfeit our ability to impact others for Christ. Jacob described Reuben as unstable as water. That’s where our sin gets us. It renders us unstable, useless, compromised. Reuben was unable to save Joseph, he was saved but not saved, and right was not done. Why did Reuben join in on the lie that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal when the brothers showed the bloody coat to their father? Peer pressure is a funny thing, it can really sort out who will stand versus who won’t. Reuben coulda, woulda, shoulda stood up, and opposed the wickedness, but in the end he was an accomplice to it. It’s not enough to know something is wrong, how about do something about it. Sin undermined his ability to do right, to think right, to live a life that counted, he didn’t have stability, and he did not excel. It can be very hard to live for God in the public sphere, but who will, like Phineas, recognize the need to and actually stand up and do right? Reuben saved Joseph, but he didn’t save him at all. Jesus came to save us from our sins, and through his power, we can overcome sin in our life, and live a life that counts, a life where God can use us to save Joseph’s of this world, and not just see to do right, but to actually do right before the Lord.


Joseph View All →

Hi, my name is Joseph Zadow. I am a 32 y/o Bible Blogger. I was new to blogging once! God’s word is the best thing that we can be given, and once we have it and know it for ourselves it is both a privilege and responsibility to bring it to others! We are blessed to be a blessing! I am a sinner (for sure!) saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and I am a Lord Jesus Christ follower. He is faithful even though I rarely am to him. I believe the Bible is the word of God, and stake my life on it. My destination is heaven. As they say, I’m just a passin’ through this world… although most of the time it’s more like hangin’ by a thread in Jericho! I love playing sports – particularly cricket… I currently work on an orchard and a side hobby business of mine is growing vegetables etc – they are good for you! I love writing. Always happy to talk, so feel free to leave a comment. You can read more about me and my blog here – :)

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I am not sure I knew the part that Reuben slept with His father’s concubine. That is very interesting. Imma have to do some studying.

    “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.”
    2 Peter 2:19

    This sort of puts me in the mind of the above scripture. Reuben set Joseph free from his brothers but as you said in reality he wasn’t really free.

    I would like to extend an invitation to you to read my blog. It is fairly new but I hope you enjoy the read.


    • Thanks for your comment Donalso. Reuben was powerless to save Joseph in the same way when we aren’t right with God ourselves how can we expect to be taken seriously or have the courage and right spirit to both know the time to stand and what to stand for. Sin really unhinges all our lives. Look at Lot in Sodom, he seemed as one that mocked to his sons in law… all of Lot’s compromise rendered him powerless to save others and have a word that meant something. Peer pressure can be a strong thing as we all seek acceptance and don’t want to be ostracized, we need God’s grace and strength to be able to stand up and do right even if we are the only one, even at cost to ourselves… and having a good conscience towards God (which Reuben didn’t have) is a key part of that. I’ll have a look at your blog, and all the best with it 🙂


      • That is most definitely true. We can’t truly and honestly help others if we ourselves are not right. It’d be like teaching a new carpenter how to build and it being wrong. Every house he built would be wrong because that’s how who helped him learn taught him. It’s a ripple effect.


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