Behold, a son! The eldest son of Jacob and Leah, so-called in reference to the sentiment of his mother, "The Lord hath looked on my affliction," Ge 29:32. Reuben, having defiled his father's concubine Bilhah, lost his birthright and all the privileges of primogeniture, the preeminence in the family being given to Judah, and the double portion to the two sons of Joseph, Ge 35:22; 8/5/type/nheb'>48:5; 49:3-4,8,10; 1Ch 5:1-2. He shared in his brother's jealousy of Joseph, and yet interposed to save his life at Dothan with the design of restoring him privately to his father, Ge 37:18-30. See also his well-meant proposal in Ge 42:27. His tribe was never numerous or powerful in Israel. Dathan, Abiram, and On were members of it. It was the ninth of the tribes in the order of population when they entered Canaan, Nu 1:21; 26:7. Their inheritance was the fine pastureland east of the Jordan, between the Arnon on the south and Gilead on the north; it is now called Belka, Nu 32; Jos 22. We afterwards find them reproved by Deborah for remissness, Jg 5:15-16. Their position on the frontier exposed them to many assaults from the east, 2Ki 10:33; and they were among the first captives to Assyria, 1Ch 5:26, B. C. 740.
behold a son!, the eldest son of Jacob and Leah (Ge 29:32). His sinful conduct, referred to in Ge 35:22, brought down upon him his dying father's malediction (Ge 48:4). He showed kindness to Joseph, and was the means of saving his life when his other brothers would have put him to death (Ge 37:21-22). It was he also who pledged his life and the life of his sons when Jacob was unwilling to let Benjamin go down into Egypt. After Jacob and his family went down into Egypt (Ge 46:8) no further mention is made of Reuben beyond what is recorded in ch. Ge 49:3-4.
Jacob's firstborn, Leah's son, born long after the marriage. The name expresses the parents' joy at the accomplishment of long deferred hope: "Behold ye a son" (Ge 29:32). He gathered mandrakes for his mother, in boyhood (Ge 30:14). (See MANDRAKES.) In a sudden gust of temptation he was guilty of foul incest with Bilhah, his father's secondary wife. Jacob on his deathbed (Ge 49:3-4) said: "boiling over (so pachaz means) like water (on a rapid fire), thou shalt not excel" (Ge 49:4). The effervescence of water symbolizes excited lust and insolent pride. By birthright Reuben was "the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power" (Ge 49:3), i.e. entitled to the chieftianship of the tribes and to a double portion; but because of incest (Ge 35:22; Le 18:8) "thou shalt not excel" or "have this excellency" (compare the margin of Le 4:7). (No great act, no great prophet, judge, or hero leader, springing from Reuben, appears on record (1Ch 5:1-2.)
The chieftainship was transferred to Judah, the double portion to Joseph; the firstborn of the beloved Rachel superseding the firstborn of slighted Leah, not however to gratify the father's preference (De 21:15-17), but to fulfill God's holy purpose. Impulses to good, as well as evil, were strong in Reuben. Impetuous, without due balance of mind, he was at the same time generous in disposition. He saved Joseph's life from the crafty and cruel brothers, Levi, Simeon, Judah, and the rest, by insisting that his blood should not be shed, but he be cast into a pit, Reuben secretly intending to deliver him out of their hands. These took advantage of his temporary absence to sell Joseph (Ge 37:20 ff). He probably had gone to seek means to rescue Joseph. The writer's omitting to explain Reuben's absence is just what a forger would not have omitted, and proves the simplicity and truthfulness of the narrative.
Reuben was deeply moved to find Joseph gone; he rent his clothes, crying, "the child is not, and I, where shall I go?" Years after he reminded them of his remonstrance (Ge 42:22): "spoke I not unto you saying, Do not sin against the child, and ye would not hear? Therefore behold also his blood is required." Again, his offer to Jacob (Ge 42:37) to stake his own two sons' lives for the safety of Benjamin, Joseph's surviving brother, is another trait of kindliness. But consistent resoluteness was wanting; putting Joseph in the pit was a compromise with the brothers' wickedness; decided, firm, unyielding resistance would have awed them and saved Joseph. Reuben had four sons at the migration into Egypt (Ge 46:9; 1Ch 5:3; Nu 26:5-11). The conspirators Dathan, Abiram, and On sprang through Eliab and Pallu from Reuben (Nu 16:1). At the Sinai census (Nu 1:20-21; 2:11) Reuben numbered 46,500 men above 20 years of age, fit for service, and was sixth on the list: at the borders of Canaan (Nu 26:7) - 43,730.
On march Reuben was S. of the tabernacle; Gad and Simeon were next Reuben on the same side (Nu 2:10-16). Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh still retained their forefathers' calling as tending flocks and herds (Nu 32:1). So, at their request, they were allowed to occupy Og's and Sihor's territories E. of Jordan, "the mishor" or even downs, the modern Belka; well watered, with smooth short turf, stretching away into the vast nomadic tracts eastward. Reuben, faithfully keeping their promise to Moses (Nu 32:16-33), left the wives, little ones, and flocks behind in this region, and marched W. of Jordan to help in the conquest of Canaan; subsequently they erected an altar shaped like the tabernacle altar, W. of Jordan, not for sacrifice but to attest their share in the national worship with their brethren on that side (Joshua 22). By a solemn protestation of their not intending political or religious schism in the name of 'Eel," the Strong One", Elohim "the Supreme Being" to be feared, and Jehovah "the covenant God", they disabused Israel's mind of suspicion.
Typical of there being only one sacrificial altar, Christ, above; our earthly communion with His sacrifice being commemorative, spiritual, and real, not carnal and literal (Heb 13:10; Re 8:3). Moses' blessing on Reuben (De 33:6-7), "let Reuben live and not die, and let (not) his men be few," implies a warning and a deprecation of evils deserved. Reuben held the S. of the land E. of Jordan. Occupation with their flocks made them dilatory and unwilling to join in the struggle for national independence against Jabin (Jg 5:15-16). Keil translated, "at the watercourses of Reuben were great resolutions (projects) of heart."
Reuben held meetings by their rural watercourses (pelagot), passed spirited resolutions, but after all preferred remaining quietly among the sheepfolds (hurdles) and hearing the bleating of the flocks (or else the piping of shepherds) rather than the blast of war trumpets. The same impulsive instability appears in them as in their forefather Reuben. (See RIVER.) Seeking pastures for their flocks they dissipated their strength in guerrilla marauding expeditions toward Euphrates against the Bedouin tribes Hagar, Jetur, Nephish (1Ch 5:9-10,18, etc.). The Dibon stone shows that Moab wrested from Reuben many cities assigned by Joshua to them. (See DIBON.) Finally going a whoring after the gods of the people of the land whom God destroyed before them, Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh were first cut short by Hazael (2Ki 10:32-33), then carried off by Pul and Tiglath Pileser, and placed about the river Khabour "in Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan" (1Ch 5:26).
The firstborn of Jacob by Leah, Ge 29:32 (Jahwist) Ge 35:23 (Priestly Narrative) Ge 46:8 (Redactor). The popular etymology connects the name with Leah's distress, because of Jacob's previous dislike of her. She called his name Reuben: for she said, because Jahweh hath looked upon my affliction (r
The firstborn of Jacob and of Leah, and head of one of the twelve tribes. The territory they possessed also bears his name. He saved the life of Joseph when his brothers thought to kill him, and when they went to buy corn in Egypt, he offered to be responsible for Benjamin's safety. Jacob, when blessing his sons, said, "Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it." Ge 49:3-4. This speaks of failure in the firstborn, and implies loss of his birthright. (Joseph, type of Christ separated from His brethren, had the birthright.) Moses, when he blessed the tribes (showing more their relationship with God according to His government) said, "Let Reuben live, and not die: and let not his men be few." De 33:6. Reuben entered Egypt with his four sons, Hanoch, Phallu, Hezron and Carmi. Ge 46:9.
At the Exodus the tribe numbered 46,500 men fit to go to war; and at the close of the wanderings they had decreased to 43,730. At their request, Reuben had their possession on the east of the Jordan, because it was 'a place for cattle.' It extended northward from the river Arnon about 25 miles, where it joined the possession of Gad.
The Reubenites do not appear to have taken any prominent part in the struggles under the Judges; they had 'great thoughts of heart,' but remained with their flocks. Jg 5:15-16. They made inroads upon the Bedouin tribes: being on the border of the wilderness doubtless this was unavoidable if they were to live in peace and safety. 1Ch 5:9-10,18; etc. The Reubenites, with the others on the east of the Jordan, went after the gods of the heathen, and Jehovah cut them short by Hazael, of Syria. 2Ki 10:32-33. Afterwards by Pul and Tiglath-pileser they were carried away captive unto Halah, Habor, Hara, and to the river Gozan. 1Ch 5:26.
The east of the Jordan was a place of danger. Remaining there was a type of a Christian stopping short of the place of nearness God has given him
(behold a son), Jacob's firstborn Child,
the son of Leah. (B.C. 1753.) The notices of the patriarch Reuben give, on the whole a favorable view of his disposition. To him and him alone the preservation of Joseph's life appears to have been due and afterward he becomes responsible for his safety.
Of the repulsive crime which mars his history, and which turned the blessing of his dying father into a curse --his adulterous connection with Bilhah-- we know from the Scriptures only the fact.
He was of an ardent, impetuous, unbalanced but not ungenerous nature; not crafty and cruel, as were Simeon and Levi, but rather, to use the metaphor of the dying patriarch, boiling up like a vessel of water over a rapid wood fire, and as quickly subsiding when the fuel was withdrawn. At the time of the migration into Egypt, Reuben's sons were four.
The census at Mount Sinai,
shows that at the exodus the men of the tribe above twenty years of age and fit for active warlike service numbered 46,600. The Reubenites maintained the ancient calling of their forefathers. Their cattle accompanied them in their flight from Egypt.
Territory of the tribe. --The portion of the promised land selected by Reuben had the special name of "the Mishor," with reference possibly to its evenness. Under its modern name of the Belka it is still esteemed beyond all others by the Arab sheep-masters. It was a fine pasture-land east of the Jordan, lying between the river Arnon on the south and Gilead on the north. Though the Israelites all aided the Reubenites in conquering the land, and they in return helped their brothers to secure their own possessions, still there was always afterward a bar, a difference in feeling and habits, between the eastern and western tribes. The pile of stones which they erected on the west bank of the Jordan to mark their boundary was erected in accordance with the unalterable habits of Bedouin tribes both before and since. This act was completely misunderstood and was construed into an attempt to set up a rival altar to that of the sacred tent. No Judge, no prophet, no hero of the tribe of Reuben is handed down to us. The Reubenites disliked war clinging to their fields and pastures even when their brethren were in great distress. Being remote from the seat of the national government and of the national religion, it is not to be wondered at that the Reubenites relinquished the faith of Jehovah. The last historical notice which we possess of them, while it records this fact, records also as its natural consequence that they and the Gadites and the half-tribe Manasseh were carried off by Pul and Tiglath-pileser.
REUBEN, TRIBE OF. This tribe, having much cattle, solicited and obtained from Moses possessions east of the Jordan; by which river it was separated from the main body of Israel: it was, in consequence, exposed to various inroads and oppressions from which the western tribes were free; and it was among the first carried into captivity by Tiglath-pileser, 1Ch 5:26.