Reuben returned to the pit; and saw that Joseph wasn’t in the pit; and he tore his clothes. He returned to his brothers, and said, “The child is no more; and I, where will I go?” They took Joseph’s coat, and killed a male goat, and dipped the coat in the blood. They took the coat of many colors, and they brought it to their father, and said, “We have found this. Examine it, now, whether it is your son’s coat or not.”
He recognized it, and said, “It is my son’s coat. An evil animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn in pieces.” Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. He said, “For I will go down to Sheol to my son mourning.” His father wept for him. The Midianites sold him into Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, the captain of the guard.
It may seem, at first, that Rueben really cared for Joseph. As soon as he found out what was done he tore his clothes, but it was what he ended up doing that gave away his true motives. He didn’t admit to being a part of what was done but went to work to cover up what happened.
This reminds me of parenting. As parents, we all want our children to grow up to be good. We want them to be the best that they can be, but do we really care for them? When
something bad happens we, as parents, get to experience what we really think. If we really care for our kids, when they do something wrong, we will desire them to stop for their own good. Could it be that sometimes, what we are thinking about is what it will look like to others? Could it be that we are attempting to cover things up? What does that tell us about our relationship to them?
On his way out to find his brothers, Joseph passed through Schechem. Do you remember what happened there? Just two of these very capable brothers, killed every male in the city in order to get their sister back. They had the ability to make things right and I am sure that Reuben knew this. It seems quite possible that they could have chased down those traders and “convinced” them to sell their brother back to them, but instead, they covered it up.
So, here we read that they brought sorrow to their father and their own flesh and blood was traded as a slave in Egypt.