22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
Reuben sought to save Joseph, but he had to account for the other brothers’ wrath. Perhaps if he stood entirely on the side of Joseph they would have killed him as well, so instead he suggested that they throw him into a pit in the middle of the wilderness. The idea was that Joseph would still die, there wasn’t even any water for him to drink, but it would spare them from directly staining their hands with his blood.
But as verse 22 reveals, this was all a ruse. Rueben’s actual intention was to come back to the pit after the others had left and get Joseph out of it. Perhaps then he would have urged Joseph to venture out on his own, or maybe he was hoping the others would have calmed down enough to bring the boy back home. In either case, though, this plan of Reuben’s was not to be.
Todays verses again parallel the story of the Savior. Both Joseph and Jesus were betrayed by their brethren and consigned to death. Both of them had a sympathetic ear in Pilate and Reuben, who each tried to save the condemned man but failed. Also, the tearing of Joseph’s cloak seems symbolic to me of when Jesus’s body was torn by the whip before being raised on the cross.
Thus, in many ways Joseph was alone in this suffering, but at the same time he also had a Savior who would endure the same manner of afflictions, and who would therefore know how to speak comfort to his soul. And though that Savior wouldn’t pass through those afflictions until many years later, I believe that in the celestial perspective all of time is laid out as one, and an experience of the future can be called upon to empathize with what has happened in the past.