Jacob returned to the land of Canaan with his eleven sons. He had another son, the second child of his wife Rachel, whom Jacob loved very much. Rachel died shortly after the child was born. Jacob named the child whom Rachel left, Benjamin. He now had twelve sons. Most of them were grown-up men but Joseph was a boy seventeen years old, and his brother Benjamin was a baby.
Jacob loved Joseph the best, because he was Rachel's child and also because he was so much younger than most of his brothers. Joseph was good, and faithful, obedient and thoughtful. Jacob gave Joseph a robe or coat of bright colors, like a long cloak with wide sleeves. This was a special mark of Jacob's favor to Joseph, and it made his older brothers jealous of him.
Joseph did what was right, while his older brothers often did very wrong acts. They hated him because of two strange dreams he had and told them about. He said one day: "Listen to this dream that I have dreamed. I dreamed that we were out in the field binding sheaves, when suddenly my sheaf stood up, and all your sheaves came around it and bowed down to my sheaf!"
His brothers said scornfully, "Do you suppose that the dream means that you will some time rule over us, and that we shall bow down to you?" A few days after Joseph said, "I have dreamed again. This time, I saw in my dream the sun, and the moon, and eleven stars, all come and bow to me!"
Jacob, his father said to him, "I do not like you to dream such dreams. Shall I, and your mother, and your brothers, come and bow down before you as if you were a king?" His brothers hated Joseph, and would not speak kindly to him but his father thought much of what Joseph had said.
Joseph's ten brothers were taking care of the flock in the fields where Jacob's tents were spread. Jacob wanted to send a message to his sons so he called Joseph, and said to him "Your brothers are with the flock. I want you to go to them and find if they are well and if the flocks are doing well."
This was quite an errand, for a boy to go alone over the country, and find his way, for fifty miles, and then walk home again. But Joseph was a boy who could take care of himself, and could be trusted. He started on his journey, walking northward over the mountains. Joseph reached the fields where his brothers were supposed to be but he could not find his brothers. They had taken their flocks to another place. A man met Joseph wandering in the field, and asked him, "Whom are you seeking?"
Joseph said, "I am looking for my brothers, the sons of Jacob. Can you tell me where I will find them?" The man said, "They are further ahead.” Joseph continued on. His brothers saw him in the distance coming toward them. They knew it was him because he was wearing his bright cloak. They said to one another: "Look, that dreamer is coming! Come, let us kill him, and throw his body into a pit, and tell father that some wild beast has eaten him. We will see what becomes of his dreams.”
One of his brothers, whose name was Reuben, felt more kindly toward Joseph than the others. He said "Let us not kill him, but let us throw him into this pit, in the wilderness, and leave him there to die." Reuben intended, after they had gone away, to lift Joseph out of the pit, and take him home. The brothers did as Reuben told them, they threw Joseph into the pit, which was empty. He cried, and begged them to save him but they would not. They calmly sat down to eat their dinner on the grass, while their brother was calling to them from the pit.
After the dinner, Reuben went to another part of the field. He was not there when some men passed by with their camels, going to Egypt, to sell spices and fragrant gum from trees to the Egyptians. Judah, another of Joseph's brothers, said, "What good will it do us to kill our brother? Would it not be better for us to sell him to these men, and let them carry him away? After all, he is our brother, and we would better not kill him." His brothers agreed with him so they stopped the men who were passing, and took Joseph from the pit and removed his cloak. They sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver.
Reuben returned to the pit, where they had left Joseph. He was not there! Reuben went to his brothers, saying: "The boy is not there! What shall I do?" His brothers told him what they had done. They all agreed together to deceive their father. They killed one of the goats, and dipped Joseph's coat in its blood and they brought it to their father, and they said to him "We found this coat out in the wilderness. Look at it, father, and tell us if you think it was the coat of your son."
Jacob knew it was Joseph’s coat. He said: "It is my son's coat. Some wild beast has eaten him. There is no doubt that Joseph has been torn in pieces!" His heart was broken over the loss of Joseph because he had sent Joseph alone on the journey through the wilderness. They tried to comfort him, but he would not be comforted. He said: "I will go down to the grave mourning for son."
Jacob grieved for his son Joseph. His wicked brothers knew that Joseph was not dead but they would not tell their father what they had done to their brother. They had sold him as a slave.