And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near to them, they conspired against him to slay him.…
He boarded the train which he could not arrest, but he boarded it with the purpose of ultimately controlling it and so preventing a catastrophe. The motive was good, but I am not quite so sure about the policy. It savours a little too much of worldly wisdom for me, and little good came out of it in the end. We have seen it tried here often enough in politics, and almost always with this result: that the well-meaning men who have gone into a questionable movement under the idea that they could thereby guide it into something that would be at least harmless, have been themselves outwitted and befooled. It would have been just about as easy for Reuben to have stood out against the persecution of Joseph altogether as it was for him to protest against the shedding of his blood, and it might have been equally efficacious. At any rate it would have exonerated him from the guilt which they all alike ultimately incurred. His plan was to deliver Joseph, but in a way that was itself deceptive, for he seemed to be doing one thing while he was really seeking another. His proposal was that they should put Joseph into a pit. That to them looked to be a refinement on their cruelty, for it left him to starve to death, while they had meant that he should be slain out of hand. As such, therefore, it commended itself to their acceptance. But his secret intention was to come back by himself when the others should be out of the way, and then take him out and return with him to his father. It was well meant, and not very badly planned either; but then it required that a very careful watch should be maintained, and just there the instability of Reuben's character came in to mar it all; for, thinking that now the crisis was past, he wont away and took no further oversight of the matter, and in his absence it was all upset. For the moment, however, it looked as if he had succeeded, for the others accepted his suggestion, and after stripping Joseph of his hated coat, they put him into one of those cisterns which were so common in Palestine, and which, when dry, were sometimes, as in the case of Jeremiah, used as a prison. Lieutenant Anderson, of the Palestine Exploration Enterprise, thus writes regarding them: "The numerous rock-hewn cisterns that are found everywhere would furnish a suitable pit in which they might have thrust him; and as these cisterns are shaped like a bottle, with a narrow mouth, it would be impossible for any one imprisoned within it to extricate himself without assistance. These cisterns are now all cracked and useless; they are, however, the most undoubted evidences that exist of handiwork of the inhabitants in ancient times."
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.