Jewish law establishes the death penalty for kidnappers of Jews. The forefathers accepted the yoke of the Law before it was given to all Jews. It is commonly believed that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery—but they were not punished. It pays to read the Torah closely.

Genesis 37:18-20: “And they [Joseph’s brothers] saw him from a distance, and before he would approach them, they crafted [a plot] for him to die. And they said, each to his brother, ‘Here comes [the] interpreter of dreams. Now, let us go and cause him to be jabbed into and fallen into one of the trenches, and we will say a wild animal devoured him, and we will see what will be his dreams.’”

The brothers had some reason to hate Joseph, who informed Jacob on them and boasted of his arrogant ambitions. The word for “trench” possibly relates to havar, astrologist (according to Steinberg, they zone the sky, akin to trenches), which is akin to Joseph, and thus an instance of black humor.

The brothers didn’t intend to kill Joseph, but to retreat with their flocks, leaving him to deal with the wild animals. Genesis 37:17 concurs: when Joseph came to see his brothers at Schem, they had already moved to Dotan. Likewise, they intended to retreat further upon his approach.

In Genesis 37:21-22, Reuben pleads with the other brothers to drop Joseph into a pit rather than leaving him to the animals: “Let us not cause his soul to be smitten!” The brothers followed Reuben’s advice. Now, Joseph sits in a waterless pit, and his brothers are undecided what to do about him.

Genesis 37:26: “And Judah said to his brothers, If we would cause our brother to die and hid his blood, what profit [would that be to us]?” Judah, don’t forget, is a virtuous man: he offered himself into slavery in place of his brother Binyamin, who had allegedly stolen a silver cup (Genesis 44:33). In Genesis 37:26, Judah expresses satisfaction that they did not cause Joseph’s death.

Immediately thereafter, Reuben returns to the pit with the evident intention to remove Joseph—and doesn’t see him. The narration recalls the structure of horror movies: evil intention (to give Joseph to animals, v.20); thinking it over while the subject is trapped (Joseph in a pit, vs.23); while the characters elaborate their plot, the threat approaches (the Ishmaelite caravan passes just before their eyes); the conspirators recant (v.26), but unbeknownst to them, it’s already too late (the Midianites find Joseph and sell him to the Ishmaelites, v.28); the conspirators come to release their victim, but he is gone (v.29).

Reuben did not come to save Joseph secretly, for upon seeing the empty pit, he returned to his brothers: “The child is not there! And I—where, pray, am I going?” The brutal practical joke on Joseph turns into tragedy.

Instead of revealing to Jacob that their behavior indirectly caused Joseph’s death, the brothers made his death appear to have been caused by a wild animal.
Joseph’s brothers neither sold him into slavery nor tried to kill him.

[The text supports the understanding that Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. In Genesis 37:27, Judah says, "Come, let [him] be sold by us to the Ishmaelites…” And 37:28: “And there passed by Midianites, merchantmen; and they [the brothers] drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites…” Reading they as brothers is supported by 37:36, “Midianites sold him into Egypt…” So the Midianites didn’t previously sell Joseph to Ishmaelites; Midianites and Ishmaelites are the same people; the brothers “sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites.”
This passage conflicts with Reuven’s surprise upon seeing the empty pit. It seems to be an editorial that explains Judah’s “what profit is it if we slay our brother?”
The twenty shekels the brothers received for Joseph is a greatly exaggerated sum. Only about a thousand years later did slaves become that expensive (Hosea 3:2). Thirty shekels for one’s ox goring a slave is a steep fine, not a cost.
The brothers decided against killing Joseph much earlier (in Genesis 37:21-23), on Reuven’s suggestion, so Judah’s argument against killing Joseph in 37:27 is superfluous. Also, there’s a stylistic difference between 37:27 and the surrounding verses, suggesting an editorial.
The existence of a few editorials in the Torah does not detract from its divinity. Even divine texts can be corrupted a bit.]