(18) They saw him from afar, and before he came close to them they conspired to kill him. (19) They said to one another, “Here comes that dreamer! (20) Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we can say, ‘A savage beast devoured him.’ We shall see what comes of his dreams!” (21) But when Reuben heard it, he tried to save him from them. He said, “Let us not take his life.” (22) And Reuben went on, “Shed no blood! Cast him into that pit out in the wilderness, but do not touch him yourselves”—intending to save him from them and restore him to his father. (23) When Joseph came up to his brothers, they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the ornamented tunic that he was wearing, (24) and took him and cast him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. (25) Then they sat down to a meal. Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels bearing gum, balm, and ladanum to be taken to Egypt. (26) Then Judah said to his brothers, “What do we gain by killing our brother and covering up his blood? (27) Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let us not do away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. (28) When Midianite traders passed by, they pulled Joseph up out of the pit. They sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who brought Joseph to Egypt. (29) When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he rent his clothes.
(1) When Joseph was taken down to Egypt, a certain Egyptian, Potiphar, a courtier of Pharaoh and his chief steward, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him there.
(13) In three days Pharaoh will pardon you and restore you to your post; you will place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, as was your custom formerly when you were his cupbearer. (14) But think of me when all is well with you again, and do me the kindness of mentioning me to Pharaoh, so as to free me from this place. (15) For in truth, I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews; nor have I done anything here that they should have put me in the dungeon.”
(18) On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you shall live, for I am a God-fearing man. (19) If you are honest men, let one of you brothers be held in your place of detention, while the rest of you go and take home rations for your starving households; (20) but you must bring me your youngest brother, that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” And they did accordingly. (21) They said to one another, “Alas, we are being punished on account of our brother, because we looked on at his anguish, yet paid no heed as he pleaded with us. That is why this distress has come upon us.” (22) Then Reuben spoke up and said to them, “Did I not tell you, ‘Do no wrong to the boy’? But you paid no heed. Now comes the reckoning for his blood.”
(4) Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come forward to me.” And when they came forward, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, he whom you sold into Egypt.
(1) ויעברו אנשים מדינים AND THERE PASSED BY MIDIANITES — This was another caravan: Scripture indicates that he was sold several times. (2) וימשכו AND THEY DREW UP — the sons of Jacob drew up את יוסף מן הבור JOSEPH FROM THE PIT, and they sold him to the Ishmaelites, and the Ishmaelites to the Midianites and the Midianites into Egypt (Midrash Tanchuma 1:9:13). (1) וישב ראובן AND REUBEN RETURNED — When he (Joseph) was sold he had not been present, for it was his day (his turn) to go to attend to his father (Genesis Rabbah 84:19). Another explanation is: he had not sat with them at the meal because he was occupied with his sack-cloth and fast in penitence for having disturbed his father’s couch (Genesis Rabbah 84:19).
(1) Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. (2) She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.
(1) קטורה KETURAH — This is Hagar. She was named Keturah because her deeds were as beautiful (sweet) as incense (Ketoreth) (Genesis Rabbah 61). And since she closed her 'opening,' as she did not mate with anyone from the time she separated from Avraham (Genesis Rabbah 61:4).
(1) When the Ishmaelite merchants passed by them, because the Midianites are called Ishmaelites. And so it says about the kings of Midian, that they were Ishmaelites (Shoftim 8:24).
(1) ויעברו אנשים מדינים, while the brothers had been sitting down to consume their meal, having distanced themselves somewhat from the pit into which they had thrown Joseph in order not to be guilty of “eating while spilling blood,” they were waiting for the Ishmaelites whom they had seen in the distance, to arrive. During this period the Midianites, coming from a different direction had passed there, saw Joseph in the pit, pulled him up, and proceeded to sell him to the Ishmaelites. One may assume that the brothers had no knowledge of this. Even though the Torah appears to attribute the sale of Joseph to the Ishmaelites to the brothers, (based on Joseph accusing them of having sold him to Egypt, 45,4) we would have to say that because of their having been instrumental in bringing about that sale they are considered as if having assisted in that sale. This appears to me the deeper meaning of the plain meaning of the text both here and in chapter 45. The line describing the Midianites passing that way is described as something totally coincidental, having nothing to do with what the brothers had planned to do with Joseph. Even if the Torah says:וימכרו (את) יוסף לישמעאלים, this sounds as if the brothers did the selling. It is also possible that the brothers noting the Midianites suddenly materialising out of nowhere, instructed them to pull Joseph out of the pit after which they themselves sold him to the Ishmaelites.
ר"י החסיד בראשית לז:כח
הקשה החסיד ז"ל, וכי יוסף אמר דבר שקר כי גנב גנבתי והלא נמכר? אלא לפי הפשט כך היה המעשה: שהשבטים ישבו לאכול לחם וישאו עיניהם ויראו והנה ארחת ישמעאלים באה מגלעד וכו' ונתייעצו למכרו לישמעאלים... ומתוך שהיו טרודים עם הישמעאלים במכירה ובשטר ויעברו אנשים מדינים סוחרים והציצו בבור לשאוב מים ושמעו קול זעקת יוסף ומשכו אותו בגניבה. והישמעאלים לא ידעו שהמדינים משכוהו מן הבור, כי היו אצל בני יעקב במקום שאכלו ... והוצרכו הישמעאלים להשתתף עם המדיינים, כי המדיינים טענו מהפקר זכינו, והישמעאלים אמרו אנו קנינו אותו בכסף מבני יעקב, ונתפשרו להשתתף יחד, והורידוהו שניהם למצרים, ומכרוהו לפוטיפר. ועתה יתיישבו היטב שתי המקראות יחד, קרא דכתיב והמד(יי)נים מכרו אותו אל מצרים לפוטיפר, וקרא אחרינא דכתיב ויקנהו פוטיפר סריס פרעה מיד הישמעאלים, דודאי שתי חבורות אלו הורידוהו למצרים ושניהם מכרוהו, ולכך תלה הכתוב (מ)כל מכירתו לשניהם... ועוד הקשה החסיד והלא כתיב אני יוסף אחיכם אשר מכרתם אותי מצרימה. ותי' שעל יד' גרמתכם נמכרתי מצרימה, והגרמה כעשייה.
Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid, Genesis 37:28
Did Joseph tell a lie when he said "I was stolen", since doesn't it seem that he was sold? Rather, according to the straightforward reading, this is what happened:
The brothers were sitting together, eating bread, and the say a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilad, and they decided to sell Joseph to the Yishmaelites...While they were negotiating a price with the Yishmaelites, Midianite merchants passed by to get water from the well, and they heard Joseph crying out from the bottom of the well and they took him through theft. The Yishmaelites didn't know that the Midianites had pulled him up from the well, since they were a slight distance away, negotiating with the brothers. Since it wasn't clear who was the legal "owner" of Joseph, the Yishmaelites who "bought" him or the Midianites who sold him, they agreed to travel to Egypt together as one combined caravan, and together sold him to Potiphar. This helps resolve the apparent contradiction between the verses, one of which says, "The Medanim (read as Midianites) sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, and another verse which states "Potiphar bought him from the Ishmaelites". In truth, there were two separate groups which brought him to Egypt together, and together sold him, and this is why the verse mentions both of them. Another challenging verse is the one in which Joseph states, "I am Joseph, your brother, who you sold to Egypt." This isn't a problem, though, since they set in motion a process that led to him being sold to Egypt, and by setting this process in motion they are held liable as if they sold him themselves.