Reuben (“He has seen my misery”; “he will love me”) was the first and eldest son of Jacob with Leah. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Reuben.
Reuben’s life is seen as a tragic tale of honor lost and never quite regained. Jacob summed up Reuben’s life when he said Reuben was “as turbulent as the waters”… dependable one moment, and treacherous the next.
Reuben had sexual activity with Bilhah, Rachel’s maid and Jacob’s concubine (Gen. 35:21,22). This would have been seen as a challenge to Jacob’s place as head of family.
Judah was the firstborn (Gen. 29:31,32), but was not honored as such by Jacob.
Why? On his deathbed, Jacob declared that Reuben “will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.” Reuben’s behavior angered Jacob to the extent that he gave Reuben’s birthright (as firstborn) to Joseph (Gen. 49:3,4).
Although part of the plot against Joseph, it is Reuben who persuaded the others not to kill Joseph, tried to rescue him, and later concluded that the trouble the brothers ran into in Egypt was divine punishment for the plot (Gen. 37; 42:21-23).
Spend some time evaluating your own life. How would those who know you best describe you? How would you – honestly – describe yourself?
* Unreliable people live unremarkable lives.
You can read Reuben’s story in Genesis 29; 35; 37; 42; 49.