While Jacob’s sons were discussing *whether or not* to sell Joseph to the owners of a passing Ishmaelite caravan, some Midianite merchants, who were also passing through that area, heard cries from a well. It was the very well that Joseph was at the bottom of.
The Midianites hurried to the well, where they made a twine rope and hauled Joseph out.
“Thanks fellas”, said Joseph, “I thought I was going to die down there. How can I ever repay you?”
“Have you twenty pieces of silver on you, by any chance?” asked the leader of the Midianites.
“As a matter of fact I haven’t”, said Joseph. “My brothers, before they dropped me down this accursed well, took all my silver.”
“A pity”, said the Midianite leader, “We Midianites don’t usually pull men out of wells for nothing, you know. Seeing as you have no money to pay us for saving you, we’ll have to sell you.”
“I take it, then, that if I try to leave, you’ll stop me?”
“I’m afraid so, yes.”
“My father, Jacob, would be more than willing to pay you twenty pieces of silver to get me back.”
“He lives near here, does he?”
“Well, not exactly. He lives in Canaan in fact. How about you taking me to where he lives in Canaan? He’ll pay you the twenty pieces of silver when I explain everything to him.”
“Canaan’s too far away, at least a week’s journey. We’ll have to sell you to someone around here.”
“Look, Boss” shouted one of the Midianites who had just seen the Ishmaelite caravan, the same one that Joseph’s brothers had seen, “Let’s ask those caravan fellows there, if they’d like to buy him.”
The upshot was that the Midianites succeeded in selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver after being bargained down from an asking price of forty pieces.
Reuben, the oldest of Joseph’s brothers, had meanwhile gone back to the well, from which he intended to rescue Joseph and return him to his father, Jacob, who would, Reuben hoped, forgive him for having lain with *one of Jacob’s wives, Bilhah.*
On arriving at the well, Reuben shouted down it but there was no reply. Perturbed, he sought out his brothers and asked, “What have you done with little brother Joseph?”
“What do you mean, ‘What have you done with little brother Joseph?'”, said the second-oldest brother, Simeon, “He’s in the well. You were there when we threw him down it, weren’t you?”
“He’s not there now.”
“You’re not trying to pull a fast one on us are you, Brother Reuben?” said Simeon, “You haven’t rescued him and are hiding him, hoping to return him to Father, thereby restoring yourself to his favour? Well, have you?”
“Of course not, Brother Simeon. How could you even think this?”
“Any man who would lie with one his father’s wives – the most despicable thing a man can do – is capable of anything”, said Simeon. “By the way, Brother, what was Bilhah like, wink wink, nudge nudge, hey hey hey, know what I’m saying, know what I’m saying? Was she, like, a goer? Come on, you can tell me, brother to brother.”
Those of the other brothers present, seeing that Reuben was about to attack Simeon, separated the two.
After tempers calmed, Simeon and the other brothers went to the well and found that, as Reuben had said, Joseph was no longer in it.
Source: Genesis 37, 28-30