What does Genesis 37:25 mean?Joseph's older brothers have just ripped off his multi-colored robe (Genesis 37:3–4), a sign of their father's outrageous favoritism. Their initial plan seems to be to throw him into a dry cistern (Genesis 37:24) and leave him there to die.
After ambushing their younger brother and throwing him into a hole, the men then sit down to a meal. Aside from Reuben (Genesis 37:18–22), Joseph's brothers are portrayed as being intensely cold-hearted toward him. They clearly and truly despise Joseph.
At some point in the meal, they see a caravan approaching from the north. Dothan, where they were camped, is near a common trade route to Egypt. This was a caravan of merchants coming from Gilead and carrying a variety of goods to sell and trade. These traders were carrying various kinds of valuable multi-purpose gums, also referred to as spices, balm, and myrrh, made from plants in the region. Seeing a passing caravan will give Joseph's brothers another idea about how to dispose of him (Genesis 37:26–27).
Later, these travelers will be described as "Midianites." True Ishmaelites were descendants of Abraham by Hagar (Genesis 25:12), while Midianites came from Abraham by his concubine Keturah (Genesis 25:1–2). However, by this time, it seems the word "Ishmaelites" had come to be a general description of any of the nomadic tribes in the region. Thus, at this time, Midianites were spoken of as one of several Ishmaelite peoples.