"Here I am!" Joseph answered his father one day.
"Go see what your brothers are up to."
"Yes, Father," Joseph said.
There is another reason why Joseph's brothers probably didn't like him very much. He always wanted to please his father - and they didn't.
But let's see what comes of that.
Joseph's 10 older brothers were out in the pastures tending their sheep, and Jacob wanted to know how they were. And so he sent Joseph out to check on them. Little brothers are good at spying for their parents! And there's ANOTHER reason why sometimes they aren't liked very well by their older brothers and sisters!
But it wasn't really that Jacob was spying on his sons. He cared about all his children deeply, and he wanted to make sure they were all right. He also knew that people can get into trouble when they think that no one is watching.
And he was right.
So Joseph set out for the distant pastures.
But he couldn't find his brothers anywhere. Once again, they weren't where they said they would be.
A stranger found Joseph wandering around in the fields.
"Are you looking for something?" the stranger asked.
"I am looking for my brothers - the sons of Israel. Do you know where they are?"
"Sure do," the stranger said. "They were here a while ago. I heard them say that they were going to go to Dothan."
"Thanks!" Joseph said, and he began to walk to Dothan.
He was still a ways away, when the colors of his coat, shining in the bright sun, caught the eye of his older brother Levi. "Oh brother! Here comes that dreamer Joseph - in his fancy-schmancy coat!"
"Now is our chance!" one of the brothers said.
"Let's get rid of Joseph and his dreams once and for all! Let's kill him and throw his body into this pit here in the wilderness. We can say a wild animal ate him. There is no one around. Father is far away. Who will know?"
They thought no one could see them - and so they thought they could get away with - well, murder.
But, they were wrong. Someone COULD see them.
GOD could see them.
"Great plan!" one brother said to the other.
"Let's do it!"
But something inside the heart of the oldest brother Reuben told him that he should be looking out for his little brother - not looking to kill him. And so he said, "No, let's just throw him into the pit - we don't want his blood on our hands." Secretly, he was planning to come back later and rescue his little brother.
So when Joseph got near enough, they grabbed him.
They ripped off his fancy coat - the one they were so jealous of - and threw Joseph into a hole in the ground.
These were his very own brothers, the ones he looked up to, the ones he loved so much.
Joseph looked up from the pit with tears in his eyes.
He felt so alone. His brothers hated him, his father was far away.
But he wasn't alone. God was with him, even in that deep, dark pit.
Meanwhile, it was getting late in the morning, and the brothers were hungry. "Hey, isn't it time for lunch?" Dan said.
They cared more about their own stomachs than they cared about their brother. And that's what causes most of the trouble in the world.
And so they sat down for lunch.
"Pass me Reuben's sandwich!" Dan said.
Just then, a caravan of Ishmaelites came riding by.
(If you remember, a long time ago Joseph's great grandfather Abraham had two sons; Isaac and Ishmael. The Ishmaelites were the other side of the family. God loved them just as much, but they were not part of what we call the Chosen People, the people God chose to show the world who he is. Still, God was about to use them to save his servant Joseph.)
The Ishmaelites' camels were loaded with things to sell in Egypt. And that gave Judah an idea.
"Hey, guys!" Judah said. "Let's be traders too! We can sell Joseph to these Ishmaelites. That way we can get rid of Joseph and make some money on the deal besides!"
And so, that's just what they did.
They pulled poor, dirty and bewildered Joseph from the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. That's all their little brother was worth to them.
(artist's conception. Probably not very accurate!)
Now, you might think it was just lucky for Joseph that that caravan came by when it did. But it wasn't luck at all. That caravan could have come by yesterday, or it could have come by tomorrow. But, no, God sent that caravan at just the right time - just like he always does.
God is always at work. And God has a plan.