And Reuben answered them
Being the eldest, and who had been most concerned for the life of Joseph, and most tender and careful of him: saying, spake I not unto you, saying, do not sin against the child,
and ye would not hear?
it seems by this that Reuben endeavoured to dissuade his brethren from selling Joseph, when they first proposed it, to which they would not attend; since it is certain they did hearken to him as not to kill him directly, as they first consulted, and they hearkened to him to cast him into a pit, where he did not intend he should continue, but till he had an opportunity of taking him out, and returning him to his father: but it seems probable that Reuben was with them when they first spied the Ishmaelites, and proposed to sell Joseph to them, which he objected to, and entreated they would not do it; and perhaps he went out from them, and took a circuit, with a view to get to the pit and take Joseph out, but before he got thither his brethren had taken him out, and sold him: or this may refer to the general advice he always gave them, to do nothing that might endanger the life of Joseph, or be the means of his death, which selling him for a slave he supposed had been: therefore, behold, also, his blood is required;
the Targum of Jonathan adds, "of us"; they were accessary to his death, and guilty of it; for Reuben supposed he was dead, and now they must suffer for it, as a just retaliation, being threatened with death unless they could clear themselves.