In today’s first reading we again hear the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, and how he ended up in Egypt. You know the story: to his brothers Joseph seems the “favorite son.” Joseph garners special attention and gifts from his father. The brothers did not like Joseph for reasons that were left out of today’s readings: (a) he used to report the misdeeds and failings of his brothers to Jacob, and (b) he told his brothers about a dream where he would rule over them all. All-in-all, Joseph was hated by his brothers; verse 5 of the scripture, not included in the reading, uses the word “hate.”
All that sets the scene for the narrative of today’s reading. Of course we rightly blame the bothers for their murderous intent and plan to leave their brother in the well to die. But are we to admire his brother Judah for rescuing his little brother….sort of… by retrieving him from the well and selling him into slavery to the Egyptian traders?
A lesser sin for which we are to commend Judah for his stepping forward with the lesser of two evils? Perhaps that is Judah’s perspective. But then it is a matter of perspective. Joseph is heading south to a life of slavery and, in his mind, likely a death just slower in coming.
And there was another option: “No.” Perhaps he ends up down the well with Joseph, but such is the cost of righteousness which in God’s eyes is not a matter of perspective.