Two of the questions raised by the Joseph story have attracted the attention of scholars for more than a century. Were Reuben and his brothers present or absent when Joseph was first acquired by traders? Was Joseph sold or stolen? Critics of all persuasions assert that the Joseph story gives contradictory answers to these (and other) questions. Such contradictions, they argue, necessitate a diachronic solution of some sort. The evidence presented in this study supports a different conclusion—namely, that the perception of contradiction in these two cases is an artifact of the cultural gap between modern readers and the ancient Israelites. It suggests that an ancient Israelite audience would have resolved these contradictions based on their knowledge of the cultural conventions of herding and human trafficking in their society—conventions that the narrative takes for granted but that are not always fully familiar to modern readers.