For years when I have been studying or listening to discussions about the Old Testament, the Twelve Tribes of Israel and other related matters, Reuben has been first and foremost known for losing his birthright.


That is how we came to have the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh because the birthright to Joseph and he received a double portion that was given to his two sons born in Egypt.

For the record, Reuben did sleep with his Father’s concubine Bilhah who was the handmaid of Rachel, his mother’s sister who was also married to Jacob before Jacob was renamed Israel.

But Reuben was still in the family and the protective older brother of Joseph and the rest of his brothers.

When Joseph’s brother sought to kill him, Reuben persuaded them to cast Joseph into a pit rather than kill him with the intent of bringing Joseph back to Israel.  (Gen. 37:22)  When Reuben came back to rescue Joseph he found out that Joseph was sold as a slave and “rent his clothes”  (v. 29) as a token of despair and mourning.

Years later when the brothers were in Egypt to buy grain and they were discussing their troubles amongst themselves, Reuben was still quietly railing against his brothers for what they did to Joseph.  (Gen. 42:22)

When the brother return to Israel to ask to take Benjamin with them to Egypt, Reuben offers two of his own sons to be in the place of Benjamin if they cannot return with Benjamin.  “Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver  him into my hand, and I will bring  him to thee again.”  (Gen. 42:37).  That is real dedication.

It seems that Reuben felt quite sorry that he was not successful in protecting Joseph and wanted to make doubly sure he would take care of Benjamin.

Reuben still lost his birthright for defiling his father’s bed with his father’s concubine.  (Gen. 49:3-4)

It seems to me that Reuben was an imperfect person still seeking to be honorable and to take care of his family.

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