Easton's Bible Dictionary
behold a son!, The eldest son of Jacob and Leah ( Genesis
29:32 ). His sinful conduct, referred to in Genesis 35:22 , brought down upon
him his dying father's malediction ( Genesis 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 ( Genesis 37:21 , 37:22 ). 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 ( Genesis 46:8 ) no further mention
is made of Reuben beyond what is recorded in chapters Genesis 49:3 , 49:4 .
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
who sees the son; the vision of the son
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(behold a son), Jacobs firstborn Child, ( Genesis 29:32
) 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. ( Genesis 37:18 - 30 ; 42:37 ) 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.
( Genesis 35:22 ) 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wood fire, and as quickly subsiding when the fuel was withdrawn.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, Reubens sons were four. ( Genesis 46:9 ; 1 Chronicles
5:3 ) The census at Mount Sinai, ( Numbers 1:20 , 1:21 ; 2:11 ) 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. ( Exodus
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.
( 1 Chronicles 5:26 )
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
roo'-ben, ru'-ben (re'ubhen; Rhouben):
The eldest son of Jacob, born to him by Leah in Paddan-aram (Genesis 29:32).
1. Jacob's Oldest Son:
This verse seems to suggest two derivations of the name. As it stands in Massoretic
Text it means "behold a son"; but the reason given for so calling him is "The
Lord hath looked upon my affliction," which in Hebrew is ra'ah be`onyi, literally,
"He hath seen my affliction." Of his boyhood we have only the story of the mandrakes
(Genesis 30:14). As the firstborn he should really have been leader among his
father's sons. His birthright was forfeited by a deed of peculiar infamy (Genesis
35:22), and as far as we know his tribe never took the lead in Israel. It is named
first, indeed, in Numbers 1:5,20, but thereafter it falls to the fourth place,
Judah taking the first (Numbers 2:10, etc.). To Reuben's intervention Joseph owed
his escape from the fate proposed by his other brethren (Genesis 37:29). Some
have thought Reuben designed to set him free, from a desire to rehabilitate himself
with his father. But there is no need to deny to Reuben certain noble and chivalrous
qualities. Jacob seems to have appreciated these, and, perhaps, therefore all
the more deeply lamented the lapse that spoiled his life (Genesis 49:3). It was
Reuben who felt that their perils and anxieties in Egypt were a fit recompense
for the unbrotherly conduct (Genesis 42:22). To assure his father of Benjamin's
safe return from Egypt, whither Joseph required him to be taken, Reuben was ready
to pledge his own two sons (Genesis 42:37). Four sons born to him in Canaan went
down with Reuben at the descent of Israel into Egypt (Genesis 46:8).
The incidents recorded are regarded by a certain school of Old Testament scholars
as the vague and fragmentary traditions of the tribe, wrought into the form of
a biography of the supposed ancestor of the tribe. This interpretation raises
more difficulties than it solves, and depends for coherence upon too many assumptions
and conjectures. The narrative as it stands is quite intelligible and self-consistent.
There is no good reason to doubt that, as far as it goes, it is an authentic record
of the life of Jacob's son.
2. Tribal History:
At the first census in the wilderness Reuben numbered 46,500 men of war (Numbers
1:21); at the second they had fallen to 43,730; see NUMBERS. The standard of the
camp of Reuben was on the south side of the tabernacle; and with him were Simeon
and Gad; the total number of fighting men in this division being 151,450. Targum
Pseudo-Jonathan says that the standard was a deer, with the legend "Hear O Israel,
the Lord thy God is one Lord." On the march this division took the second place
(Numbers 2:10). The prince of the tribe was Elizur ben Shedeur, whose oblation
is described in Numbers 7:30. The Reubenite among the spies was Shammua ben Zaccur
(Numbers 13:4). It is possible that the conspiracy against Moses, organized by
the Reubenites Dathan and Abiram, with the assistance of Korah the Levite (Numbers
16), was an attempt on the part of the tribe to assert its rights as representing
the firstborn. It is significant that the children of Korah did not perish (Numbers
26:11). May not the influence of this incident on Moses' mind be traced in his
"blessing," wishing for the continuance of the tribe, indeed, but not in great
strength (Deuteronomy 33:6)? This was a true forecast of the tribal history.
When the high plateau East of the Dead Sea and the Jordan fell into the hands
of the Israelite invaders, these spacious pastoral uplands irresistibly attracted
the great flock-masters of Reuben and Gad, two tribes destined to be neighbors
during succeeding centuries. At their earnest request Moses allowed them their
tribal possessions here subject to one condition, which they loyally accepted.
They should not "sit here," and so discourage their brethren who went to war beyond
the Jordan. They should provide for the security of their cattle, fortify cities
to protect their little ones and their wives from the inhabitants of the land,
and their men of war should go before the host in the campaign of conquest until
the children of Israel should have inherited every man his inheritance (Numbers
32:1 - 27). Of the actual part they took in that warfare there is no record, but
perhaps "the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben" (Joshua 15:6 ; 18:17) marked some
memorable deed of valor by a member of the tribe. At the end of the campaign the
men of Reuben, having earned the gratitude of the western tribes, enriched by
their share of the spoils of the enemy, returned with honor to their new home.
Along with their brethren of Gad they felt the dangers attaching to their position
of isolation, cut off from the rest of their people by the great cleft of the
Jordan valley. They reared therefore the massive altar of Ed in the valley, so
that in the very throat of that instrument of severance there might be a perpetual
witness to themselves and to their children of the essential unity of Israel.
The western tribes misunderstood the action and, dreading religious schism, gathered
in force to stamp it out. Explanations followed which were entirely satisfactory,
and a threatening danger was averted (Joshua 22). But the instincts of the eastern
tribes were right, as subsequent history was to prove. The Jordan valley was but
one of many causes of sundering. The whole circumstances and conditions of life
on the East differed widely from those on the West of the river, pastoral pursuits
and life in the open being contrasted with agricultural and city life.
The land given by Moses to the tribe of Reuben reached from the Arnon, Wady el-Mojib,
in the South, to the border of Gad in the North. In Numbers 32:34 cities of Gad
are named which lay far South, Aroer being on the very lip of the Arnon; but these
are probably to be taken as an enclave in the territory of Reuben. From Joshua
13:15 it is clear that the northern border ran from some point North of the Dead
Sea in a direction East-Northeast, passing to the North of Heshbon. The Dead Sea
formed the western boundary, and it marched with the desert on the East. No doubt
many districts changed hands in the course of the history. At the invasion of
Tiglath-pileser, e.g., we read that Aroer was in the hands of the Reubenites,
"and eastward .... even unto the entrance of the wilderness from the river Euphrates"
(1 Chronicles 5:8). Bezer the city of refuge lay in Reuben's territory (Joshua
20:8, etc.). A general description of the country will be found under MOAB; while
the cities of Reuben are dealt with in separate articles.
Reuben and Gad, occupying contiguous districts, and even, as we have seen, to
some extent overlapping, are closely associated in the history. Neither took part
in the glorious struggle against Sisera (Judges 5:15). Already apparently the
sundering influences were taking effect. They are not excepted, however, from
"all the tribes of Israel" who sent contingents for the war against Benjamin (Judges
20:10 ; 21:5), and the reference in Judges 5:15 seems to show that Reuben might
have done great things had he been disposed. The tribe therefore was still powerful,
but perhaps absorbed by anxieties as to its relations with neighboring peoples.
In guarding their numerous flocks against attack from the South, and sudden incursions
from the desert, a warlike spirit and martial prowess were developed. They were
"valiant men, men able to bear buckler and sword, and to shoot with bow, and skillful
in war" (1 Chronicles 5:18). They overwhelmed the Hagrites with Jetur and Naphish
and Nodab, and greatly enriched themselves with the spoil. In recording the raid
the Chronicler pays a compliment to their religious loyalty: "They cried to God
in the battle, and he was entreated of them, because they put their trust in him"
(1 Chronicles 5:19). Along with Gad and Manasseh they sent a contingent of 120,000
men "with all manner of instruments of war for the battle, .... men of war, that
could order the battle array," men who "came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to
make David king" (1 Chronicles 12:37). Among David's mighty men was Adina, "a
chief of the Reubenites, and thirty with him" (1 Chronicles 11:42). In the 40th
year of David's reign overseers were set over the Reubenites "for every matter
pertaining to God, and for the affairs of the king" (1 Chronicles 26:32). Perhaps
in spite of the help given to David the Reubenites had never quite got over their
old loyalty to the house of Saul. At any rate, when disruption came they joined
the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 11:31).
The subsequent history of the tribe is left in much obscurity. Exposed as they
were to hostile influences of Moab and the East, and cut off from fellowship with
their brethren in worship, in their isolation they probably found the descent
into idolatry all too easy, and the once powerful tribe sank into comparative
insignificance. Of the immediate causes of this decline we have no knowledge.
Moab established its authority over the land that had belonged to Reuben; and
Mesha, in his inscription (M S), while he speaks of Gad, does not think Reuben
worthy of mention. They had probably become largely absorbed in the northern tribe.
They are named as suffering in the invasion of Hazael during the reign of Jehu
(2 Kings 10:32). That "they trespassed against the God of their fathers, and played
the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land" is given as the reason for
the fate that befell them at the hands of Pul, king of Assyria, who carried them
away, "and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river of Gozan"
(1 Chronicles 5:25).
The resemblance of Reuben's case to that of Simeon is striking, for Simeon also
appears to have been practically absorbed in the tribe of Judah. The prestige
that should have been Reuben's in virtue of his birthright is said to have passed
to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:1). And the place of Reuben and Simeon in Israel is
taken by the sons of Joseph, a fact referred to in the blessing of Jacob (Genesis
Ezekiel finds a place for Reuben in his picture of restored Israel (48:6). He
appears also--in this case preceded by Judah only--in Revelation 7:5.
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, committed adultry with bilhah, kind to joseph, lost birth right, mishor, oldest son of jacob and leah, reuben, rhouben