And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold…
The very brightest and luckiest idea of all. He touched human nature to the very quick when he said, "What profit is it?" And instantly they seemed to convict themselves of a kind of thickheadedness, and said one to another, "Ah, to be sure, why no profit at all. Here is an opportunity of selling him, and that will turn to the account of us all. Sell is as short a word as slay. Sell! that will get clear of him. Let us sell. Sell! we shall have no blood upon our hands. Then we shall, perhaps, have a couple of shekels a-piece, and tossing them up in the air an inch or so, and catching them again, and hearing their pleasant chink. This is the plan, to be sure. This is the way out of the difficulty. We are sorry we ever thought of shedding blood; we shake ourselves from all such imputations. Let us sell the lad, and there will be an end of the difficulty." Selling does not always take a man out of difficulty. Bargain-making is not always satisfactory. There is a gain that is loss; there is a loss that is gain. There is a separation that takes the hated object from the eyes, yet that object is an element in society and in life — working, penetrating, developing — and it will come back again upon us some day greater than power, with intensified poignancy; and the man that was driven away from us a beggar and a slave may one day rise up in our path, terrible as an avenger, irresistible as a judgment of God. Well, his brethren were content. Men even say that they enjoy a great peace, and, therefore, that if circumstances are tolerably favourable, they say that on the whole they feel in a good state of mind. Therefore, they conclude that they have not been doing anything very wrong. Let us understand that vice may have a soporific effect upon the conscience and judgment; that we may work ourselves into such a state of mind as to place ourselves under circumstances that are fictitious, unsound in their moral bearing, however enjoyable may be their immediate influence upon the mind. I am struck by this circumstance, in reading the account which is before me, namely, how possible it is to fall from a rough kind of vice, such as, "Let us slay our brother," into a milder form of iniquity, such as, "Let us sell our brother," and to think that we have now actually come into a state of virtue. That is to say, selling as contrasted with slaying seems so moderate and amiable a thing, as actually to amount to a kind of virtue. Am I understood upon this point? We are not to compare one act with another and say, Comparatively speaking this act is good. Virtue is not a quantity to be compared. Virtue is a non-declinable quality. I know how easy it is, when some very startling proposition has been before the mind, to accept a modified form of the proposition, which in itself is morally corrupt; and yet to imagine, by the very descent from the other point, that we have come into a region of virtue. When men say, "Let us slay our brother," there is a little shuddering in society. We don't want to slay our brother. "Well, then," says an acute man, "let us sell him." And, instantly, amiable Christian people say, "Ay, ay, this is a very different thing; yes, let us sell him." Observe, the morality is not changed, only the point in the scale has been lowered. When God comes to judge lie will not say, Is this virtue and water? is this diluted vice? but, Is this right? is this wrong? The standard of judgment will be the holiness of God!
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
WEB: They sat down to eat bread, and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing spices and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.