I suppose you could say I “went through the motions” as a shepherd. I did my duty, I showed up and performed my part, I did my time. That particular day we were near Shechem, and it will come as no surprise to anyone that my ambition was far more aligned with the commerce of that Canaanite city than the paltry life of a herdsman. My mind has always been bent toward business, and when Joe showed up to “police us” I wasn’t so much embittered toward him as I simply sized-up the situation and fairly quickly came to the commonsensical conclusion that we could easily be rid of an annoyance, while at the same time availing ourselves of some wealth (slavery has always been a lucrative market). I’m not trying to “justify myself”, I now rigorously admit that my thoughts and actions were reprehensible, but in an effort to explain the particular angle of my sin (and perhaps help the hard-hearted pragmatist gain a better sense of how he attempts to “justify his sin”); I always rationalized things by matter-of-factly observing that “I’ve never really been the resentful type …I’m simply a cold, calculating, pragmatist.”
I can’t say that I was morally bothered with the initial plan to kill Joseph, but my mind instantly began to discern the deficiencies of the plan economically speaking. For a moment I thought that the preliminary plan of thriftless homicide would be carried out before getting an opportunity to put my more fiscally sensitive approach into action. Thankfully Reuben bought me some time (…of course Reuben was just trying to regain ground with our dad after the whole “Bilhah debacle”; but this bonus time was invaluable to getting my plan ready for execution).
I was racking my brain to come up with a plan to hamstring Joseph in a way that wouldn’t have a drastic affect on the price I was hoping to fetch for him in Shechem or Dothan; but then the Ishmaelite caravan came along and everything naturally fell into place. Even Reuben had inexplicably, serendipitously, vanished …it seemed as if it was my manifest destiny! I simply pointed out the obvious facts: we profit nothing by killing Joseph, we could be rid of our brother AND gain something for ourselves at the same time (and the market for a man has quite literally come to us! …when you’ve been craving frozen dairy goodness, and then you hear the milky melody of the ice cream truck it must certainly be destiny!); and then I unleashed the pièce de résistance …I made my scheme seem ethically upright! – I pointed out that we could keep our hands unstained of our brothers blood, and by virtue of selling him to these slave traders we could mercifully spare a man’s life! It was truly some of my savviest work. I could not fathom the tidal wave of shame that would hit me in the days to follow…