We ask the following database query:
Which of the brothers instigated the attempt on Joseph's
life which led to his being sold.
The reader is encouraged to perform the query using a standard Biblical Konnkordance or search engine.
This database query yields the list below.
The list justifies the following Rashi inference:
Shimon instigated the sale. The main proof is that
Joseph is call "ox" by Moses and then Jacob on his deathbed
cursed Shimon and Levi for attempting to castrate an "Ox." This reference to "attempting to castrate an ox" is
a reference to the inevitable consequences of stripping Joseph
and throwing him into the pit (However Judah, and if not
Judah, Reuven, intervened so the inevitable consequence did not happen)
The list below presents the results of the database query.
||Point of verse
|| Moses compares Joseph to an Ox
|| Jacob curses Shimon and Levi for attempting to castrate an Ox
|| Joseph is stripped and thrown into a pit
|| Shimon and Levi take the law into their own hands (They destroy a city where their sister was raped)
|| Shimon's tribe is hit worst by the sin with Moabite woman
|| Reuven, the eldest protested Joseph's treatment
|| Judah, 4th eldest partially protests Joseph's treatment
|| At least 2 brothers conspired on Joseph - probably the remaining oldest - Shimon and Levi
First we point out that we haven't conclusively proved that Shimon instigated Joseph's sale. Maybe most
of the brothers disliked him. All we have done is given a reasonable piece of evidence - Joseph is called
ox and Jacob curses Shimon and Levi for attempting to castrate an ox which would tie in with
the stripping and placing in a pit. This is typical of the flavor of the database rule. It is not
always punchy and to the point. Sometimes it simply points, albeit strongly, in a certain direction.
The point of the rows at the bottom of the table, that of the 4 oldest brothers, Reuven, #1, and Judah #4, protested
to Joseph's treatment also points to the idea that the remaining oldest, Shimon and Levi conspired on Joseph.
This is based on the reasonable assumption that the older brothers in a family lead.
I heard this argument by Rabbi Boncheck. I would add, the point in the middle (my point) that Shimon
and Levi took the law into their own hand when their sister was raped and Shimon seems to have been the most
hotheaded of the tribes as evidenced by the fact that his participation in the sin with the Moabite women
stood out. So even if the other brothers felt enmity towards Joseph, still, it required a brother who
had experience in taking the law into his own hands, Shimon, to instigate the action.
I especially note the Talmudic treatment of Gn37-18:19, which states And they - each person
to his brother - said, 'Behold the master of dreams comes.' This verse seems to say that all the
brothers spoke this way. However the verse could be interpreted to mean that a minimum of two brothers
spoke this way. We therefore cannot prove anything from this verse. However we can use our other proofs -
Jacob's curse, Shimon/Levi's taking the law into their own hands, and the protest of only Reuven and Judah -
to justify reinterpreting this verse to refer to Shimon and Levi. As already indicated this is characteristic
of the flavor of the database rule. What we have importantly done in the table above is carefully
distinguished between the most important arguments, supportive arguments, and arguments arising from
reinterpretation after an initial examination.