And Reuben answered them, saying, Spoke I not to you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and you would not hear? therefore…
Although it was not certain that Joseph was dead, yet Reuben had too good reason to charge his brethren with blood-guiltiness. They were guilty of a bloody crime even in the eyes of men. No thanks were due to them for the care that Divine Providence took of him, any more than we owe thanks to the murderers of our Lord, because God brought Him again from the dead. We are accountable for those mischiefs that are the probable consequences of our wilful sins, as much as for the real consequences of them, if we had the same reason to dread them. When we repent of such sins, our grief on the whole will not be so painful as it would have been if God had not prevented the fatal effects which we had reason to dread; but the sin is the same, and the grief with which we ought to lament the sin is the same, only it is to be mingled with thankfulness and joy in that mercy which hath counteracted the natural effects of our misconduct. Two pair of combatants go forth to fight a duel. One kills his antagonist. Another fires his pistol with a view to kill his neighbour; but Divine Providence mercifully prevents the shedding of blood. He is no less a murderer in the eye of God than the other, and has the same reason to deplore his bloody purposes. But the other has an additional reason or bitter grief, because God hath suffered him to execute his bloody purpose, and to send into the other world a fellow-creature, who died in an act of wickedness like his own. You will all say, that whatever crimes are chargeable upon you, the guilt of blood is not in your skirts. Joseph's brethren might probably have said the same thing. They do not say, We are guilty of our brother's blood, but, We are guilty of turning a deaf ear to his mournful cries. Reuben, however, does not hesitate to charge them in direct terms with the guilt of blood; and we do not find that they had the courage to contradict him. They could not but see that their cruelty to Joseph had brought on, or might have brought on, his death. Isaiah tells the people of his own time, that their hands were full of blood (Isaiah 1:15). It is not to be supposed that the generality of the people were chargeable with that kind of murder which would have exposed them to an ignominous death by the laws of their country. But in the eyes of the great Judge, they were stained with blood in such a manner, that when they made many prayers with hands stretched out to His throne of mercy, He turned away His eyes from beholding them. and His ears from hearing their supplication (Isaiah 1:15).
(G. Lawson D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.