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Reuben was the first son of Jacob and Leah. Reuben did the unthinkable and forfeited the double portion of the inheritance that should have been his by right as the firstborn of Jacob by his first wife, Leah. He was compelled to relinquish his prized position as the leader among the twelve tribes of Israel.
After Rachel died while giving birth to Jacob’s youngest son, Benjamin, the family moved south to Migdal Eder. There Reuben did the unthinkable: He slept with his father’s concubine, Bilhah. Bilhah had been Rachel’s servant. Years earlier Rachel had offered her to Jacob to be his concubine, in the hopes that Bilhah would bear the children that Rachel was unable to conceive. By sleeping with Bilhah after Rachel’s death, Reuben did more than commit an act of sexual immorality—he signaled his rejection of Jacob’s authority as family patriarch.
In the ancient world, one way to challenge a king’s rule was to sleep with one or more of his concubines. Such an insult—usually committed by another family member—communicated one’s own claim to the throne and invariably severed ties with the king. Reuben, perhaps sensing his father’s weakness, overstepped his bounds as firstborn and presumed to supplant his father as head of the family.
The other episodes from Reuben’s life reveal a more honorable character. When his brothers conspired to murder Joseph, it was Reuben who intervened, persuading them to throw Joseph in a cistern instead. Before Reuben could rescue Joseph as he had planned, his brothers sold the boy to a passing caravan of Midianite merchants.
Jacob never forgot his son’s betrayal. While commending him for his honor and strength, the aging patriarch told Reuben that he would no longer excel. The blessing of preeminence passed to Judah, while Joseph’s sons inherited the rights of the firstborn.
- This reply was modified 8 months, 3 weeks ago by Bukola.