Then they sent the tunic of many colors, and they brought it to their father and said, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?”
After their evil act of attacking and selling their brother Joseph into slavery, the brothers now faced the most immediate consequence of their actions: What would they tell their father?
At this point they had essentially two options:
- They could repent of their sin, admit to their father what they had done and immediately begin searching for Joseph to bring him home.
- They could make up a story that explained Joseph’s disappearance and lie to their father.
Unfortunately, the brothers chose the latter. They led Jacob to believe that Joseph had been attacked and killed by a “wild beast” (verse 33). They even presented his bloody, multicolored coat as evidence of Joseph’s death. As they knew would be the case, Jacob was grief-stricken.
As an aside, we see here that Jacob was experiencing what he had done to others earlier in his life. Jacob’s early years were characterized by cunning and deception toward members of his family. Now he was the unhappy recipient of the same treatment by his sons.
There are two major lessons we can learn from this tragic account:
- The dangerous, progressive nature of sin. The sad reality is that sin begets sin. In this account, we see the intensifying progression of sin. The sin of jealousy led the brothers to anger. Anger led to hatred. Hatred led to the brothers’ plan to murder. Their plan to murder was abated by coveting a monetary payment for Joseph. Covetousness led to their selling their brother into slavery. The accumulation of these sins led to the brothers’ willful deception of their father.
One of the Bible’s great warnings about sin is of its progressive nature. The prophet Jeremiah wrote that sinful people “proceed from evil to evil” (Jeremiah 9:3). The apostle Paul likened sin to leaven (1 Corinthians 5:6)—highlighting its tendency to start small and eventually spread and escalate in severity. James described the detailed progression of sin from temptation to death in James 1:14-15.
The lesson for Christians today is to stop the progression of sin as early as possible (1 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 5:16; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8-9).
- Silence can be sin. It is interesting that Reuben, who intended to save Joseph from the other brothers, participated in the deception of Jacob. It seems he could have intervened at that moment, revealed the truth and have begun the process of rescuing his brother. But he remained silent and was complicit in the brothers’ conspiracy to present a false explanation of Joseph’s disappearance. He was guilty not only of participating in the lie, but of not doing what he knew was right—often called a sin of omission (James 4:17).
Jacob’s reaction was intense. Essentially, he declared that he would live the rest of his life in depression and mourning for his son Joseph (Genesis 37:35).
To overcome sin, we must repent. For a detailed explanation of how to repent, read our article “How to Repent.”
Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “Joseph Sold to Potiphar.”