You will remember from *last time* that Jacob sent Joseph to Shechem to keep an eye on his brothers who were tending to his (Jacob’s) lands there, and his sheep. Joseph’s arrival in Shechem – or more specifically in the little town of Dothan – didn’t go down well with his brothers.
When they saw Joseph approaching they began talking among themselves. “Now is our chance to get rid of that dreaming little brother of ours for ever”, said the hot-headed Simeon.
“I agree with you, Brother Simeon”, said the equally hot-headed Levi, “Let’s just kill little brother and throw his body down one of these wells around here. When we see Father, we can say a wild beast ate him.”
The other brothers murmured assent except Reuben, who said, “Let’s have no bloodshed. By all means throw little brother down the well, but don’t do him any bodily harm.”
“Why are you getting all soft-hearted, Brother Reuben?” said Simeon, “You don’t have plans, do you, to rescue little brother when we’re not looking, and to return him to Father, so that Father will again love you as did before he found out about *you and Bilhah?”*
“What happened with me and Bilhah is past” said Reuben, “I say, let’s move on.”
“And I say we also throw Brother Reuben into the well” said Dan, who, although a brother of Reuben’s, was only a half-brother, because Bilhah was his mother.
“Good idea, Brother”, said Naphtali, another son of Bilhah’s by Jacob.
“Calm down, Brothers” said Simeon, “If you were going to do something about Brother Reuben, it should have been when you first heard about him and your beautiful mother, who, I have to tell you, I couldn’t have resisted either had I had the chance that Brother Reuben had.”
“You take that back” said Dan, his face flushed, his fists clenched.
“I was just thinking aloud. Sorry, Brother” said Simeon. “Now, I propose that we do as Brother Reuben suggests. We throw little brother Joseph into a well, but not kill him beforehand. After a few days in it, he’ll be as dead from starvation and scorpion bites as he would if we killed him ourselves. Besides, he’ll suffer much more from a slow lingering death than from a quick and summary one. Isn’t this what you would want, Brothers?”
“Absolutely” said the other brothers as if they were one.
Source: Genesis 37, 17-23