Reuben (Hebrew- ראובן – Roo-ben – Behold a son). He was the first born of Jacob and Leah and the founder of the Reubenite Tribe.
He was born on the 14th day of Kislev (the 3rd month on the Hebrew Calendar) in 2192 since creation in the land of Paddan Aram, Mesopotamia (Book of Jubilees 28:11). His mother, Leah, prayed that the birth of Jacob’s first son would bring him to love her (Genesis 29:32). She rendered this prayer because her father Laban had previously broken his agreement with Jacob and instead of giving his youngest daughter Rachel to him for marriage, he gave his eldest daughter Leah.
The eldest of eleven siblings, Reuben was considered the next leader of his family after his father. However, it was later removed some time after he committed adultery with his father’s concubine and Leah’s maid Bilhah (Genesis 35:22). His birthright threatened, Reuben along with his other brothers could not erase the envy and the jealousy growing within their hearts towards their youngest brother Joseph whom Jacob favored more.
This envy and jealousy grew into his involvement of Joseph being sold into slavery. Although, Simeon and Levi were the forefront in the betrayal and horrid deed to their brother, Reuben went along with it until they wanted to kill him. This idea caused him great guilt and decided to help Joseph out of the pit they casted him into. But when he left to get rope and returned he was informed that they had sold him to a group of Midianites traveling by. Dismayed with grief, he rented his clothes and helped create a lie to their father (Genesis 37:21-30).
Between the time of the betrayal of Joseph and his reuniting with Joseph, Reuben had married a woman named Elluram (Book of Jasher) who bore him four sons. These sons would eventually form their own tribes within the Reubenite Tribe (Genesis 46:4-9). Hanock of the Hanochites, Pallu of the Palluites, Hezron of the Hezornites, and Carmi of the Carmites (Numbers 26:5-6).
When Reuben and his brothers were reunited with Joseph after a great famine fell upon the lands causing people from the land of Canaan to travel to Egypt for refuge, Reuben saw it his duty and for redemption’s sake to make a deal with his father. Jacob did not want to send his youngest son Benjamin to Egypt to meet the curious governor who kept Simeon for insurance of their obedience. So, Reuben offered to sacrifice two of his sons if he did not bring Benjamin back alive (Genesis 42:37). This Jacob agreed too eventually led to the reunion of Jacob and his family with the long-lost Joseph. Later in the scriptures, Reuben and his family followed Jacob from Canaan to Egypt to live under the prosperous loving care of Joseph.
Towards the end of Jacob’s life, Reuben’s birthright was taken away (Genesis 49:3-4). Jacob described and prophesied him and his people to come: “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: he went up to my couch.”
According to some Classical Rabbinical sources, Reuben died at the age of 125 and was placed in a coffin and taken back to Israel for burial.
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Written by: L.C. Harrison
Scriptures: Genesis 29:32 • Genesis 35:22 • Genesis 37:21-30 • Genesis 42:37 • Genesis 46:4-9 • Numbers 26:5-6
Other References Used: King James Holy Bible • Book of Jubilees • Book of Jasher • Classical Rabbinical Sources