From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

REUBEN . The firstborn of Jacob by Leah,   Genesis 29:32 (J [Note: Jahwist.] )   Genesis 35:23 (P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] )   Genesis 46:8 (R [Note: Redactor.] ). The popular etymology connects the name with Leah’s distress, because of Jacob’s previous dislike of her. She called his name Reuben: for she said, because Jahweh hath looked upon my affliction ( râ’âh be‘onyi ). This, however, is clearly a paronomasia, though evidently intended seriously; otherwise the passage has no meaning. The Hebrew word = ‘Behold ye a son.’ In Josephus the form is Rubel , and in Syriac it is Rûbîl . Lengthy discussions have been given of the name, and numerous theories advanced by way of solution of the problems it raises, but no conclusion that can he accepted has been reached. Cheyne regards Reubel as the correct form, and makes both it and Reuel corruptions of Jerahme’el , but this conclusion is based upon his own peculiar theories of the history of Israel and of the Hebrew text.

The remarkable thing about Reuben is that he was of so little importance in the history of Israel, and yet in all the traditions he is represented as the firstborn. He, however, lost his birthright, the reason for which is apparently given by J [Note: Jahwist.] ( Genesis 35:22 ), viz., because he had lain with his father’s concubine, Bilhah. Unfortunately, the remainder of the story, which probably told what Israel did when ‘he heard of it,’ has been dropped. The Blessing of Jacob (  Genesis 49:3-4 ) attributes his decadence to the curse pronounced upon him for the act:

‘Reuben, thou wast my firstborn,

My strength, and the first of my virility;

Over-impetuous, exceedingly passionate,

Seething like water, thou shalt not excel;

For thou didst ascend thy father’s bed,

Then cursed I my couch thou didst ascend .’

[Reading the first part of the last line with Gunkel (p. 434) and the second part with LXX. [Note: Septuagint.] ]

In the ‘Blessing of Moses’ ( Deuteronomy 33:6 ) the curse has sealed his doom, and a pitiful remnant depleted in strength is all that remains:

‘Let Reuben live, and let him not die,

Yet, let his men be very few.’

The meaning of this alleged incest, stated in the language of tribal history, seems to be that the Reubenites committed some outrage upon the Bilhah clans, which was resented and punished by Israel, Dan, and Naphtali and perhaps other tribes. As Dan and Naphtali were settled together in the north, it is not improbable (and there are some indications of this) that at an earlier time they may have been neighbours in the south, and there have come into conflict with Reuben.

It is worth noticing in this connexion that two of the descendants of Reuben given in the genealogy of Reuben ( Genesis 46:9 etc.), viz. Hezron and Carmi, reappear as Judahites; Hezron as the grandson of Judah (  Genesis 46:12 etc.) and Carmi in   Joshua 7:1;   Joshua 7:18 . Moreover, Shimei is a Reubenite   1 Chronicles 5:4 , a Simeonite   1 Chronicles 4:27 , and a Levite   Exodus 6:17 . In   Joshua 15:6 P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] , in describing the lot of Judah, makes the north border’ go up by the stone of Bohan, the son of Reuben.’ Either, then, as it would seem, Reuben must have first settled in the West, or else Reubenite clans migrated thither from the East. These facts are not conclusive, but they support the theory that Reuben was first settled in the West. Another explanation is given, e.g. by Stade ( GVI [Note: VI Geschichte des Volkes Israel.] , p. 151), to the effect that the Reuben-Bilhah story may refer to the custom in vogue among the heathen Arabs of inheriting the father’s concubines with his other possessions, and that the tribe of Reuben may have held to it, being less advanced culturally than the others. In this way, therefore, it is implied, they may have brought upon themselves the displeasure of the other tribes who stood upon a higher moral plane. This is not in harmony with the tradition which makes Reuben’s offence one against Israel. Besides, it is an illustration of OT writing in which the virtues of a later age are ascribed to the earlier. Bathsheba did not scruple to ask Abishag for Adonijah, and Solomon did not object on moral grounds (  1 Kings 2:1-46 ).

P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] in his Sinai census ( Numbers 1:21;   Numbers 2:11 ) enumerates the tribe at 46,500 fighting men. At Moab it had decreased to 43,730 (26:7).

Reuhen is linked with Gad ( Numbers 32:1-42 ) in connexion with the conquest. The inviting pasturage of the East Jordan is said to have determined these pastoral tribes to settle on the east. Moses, however, requires of them that they shall first cross over and aid the other tribes in getting possession of their respective lots. When this was effected, we are told in   Joshua 22:7 ff. that Joshua sent them back with great riches of spoils to their tents (see Gad). Nothing is said, however, of the previous settlement of Judah; nor, indeed, are we told of that anywhere.

The territory of the tribe is said in  Numbers 32:37-38 (P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ) to have included six cities, which appear to have formed a sort of enclave within Gadite territory. ‘The children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kiriathaim; and Nebo, and Baal-meon (their names being changed), and Sibmah: and gave other names unto the cities which they builded.’ The names given here must be the original names, as it is improbable that the author would allow the worshippers of Jahweh to couple with the names of their cities the gods Nebo and Baal. But we nowhere read of the new names. Their list of cities is increased in   Joshua 13:15 ff. without regard to the above list, Kiriathaim and Sibmah being the only ones in it that are mentioned. Three cities elsewhere assigned to Gad and four assigned elsewhere to Moab are here given to Reuben.

Reuben is rebuked hi the Song of Deborah, because it did not participate in the war against Sisera, in words that reflect the pastoral occupation of its people. It is there followed by Gilead (Gad). In the Mesha inscription (9th cent.), though the ‘men of Gad’ are referred to as having dwelt in Ataroth ‘from of old,’ the name of Reuben is omitted, though some of the cities ascribed to the tribe in the genealogies are said to have been taken or rebuilt. As we have seen in the above reference to the Blessing of Moses (probably about the first half of the 8th cent.), the tribe was apparently reduced at that time to an inconsiderable remnant ‘men of number,’ i.e. so few that they might easily be counted. It is, however, still mentioned in   2 Kings 10:32 as though it maintained its separate organization when Hazael of Damascus overran and smote the eastern Israelites. Its name appears more than one hundred years later, when Tiglath-pileser iii. deported the tribes to Assyria in 734 (  1 Chronicles 5:26 ). In all probability, however, it had long before ceased to exist as an independent unit (see Gad). See also Tribes.

James A. Craig.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Jacob's firstborn, Leah's son, born long after the marriage. The name expresses the parents' joy at the accomplishment of long deferred hope: "Behold ye a son" ( Genesis 29:32). He gathered mandrakes for his mother, in boyhood ( Genesis 30:14). (See Mandrakes .) In a sudden gust of temptation he was guilty of foul incest with Bilhah, his father's secondary wife. Jacob on his deathbed ( Genesis 49:3-4) said: "boiling over (So Pachaz Means) like water (On A Rapid Fire) , thou shalt not excel" ( Genesis 49:4). The effervescence of water symbolizes excited lust and insolent pride. By birthright Reuben was "the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power" ( Genesis 49:3), i.e. entitled to the chieftianship of the tribes and to a double portion; but because of incest ( Genesis 35:22;  Leviticus 18:8) "thou shalt not excel" or "have this excellency" (Compare The Margin Of  Leviticus 4:7 ) . (No Great Act, No Great Prophet, Judge, Or Hero Leader, Springing From Reuben, Appears On Record (  1 Chronicles 5:1-2 .)

The chieftainship was transferred to Judah, the double portion to Joseph; the firstborn of the beloved Rachel superseding the firstborn of slighted Leah, not however to gratify the father's preference ( Deuteronomy 21:15-17), but to fulfill God's holy purpose. Impulses to good, as well as evil, were strong in Reuben. Impetuous, without due balance of mind, he was at the same time generous in disposition. He saved Joseph's life from the crafty and cruel brothers, Levi, Simeon, Judah, and the rest, by insisting that his blood should not be shed, but he be cast into a pit, Reuben secretly intending to deliver him out of their hands. These took advantage of his temporary absence to sell Joseph ( Genesis 37:20 ff). He probably had gone to seek means to rescue Joseph. The writer's omitting to explain Reuben's absence is just what a forger would not have omitted, and proves the simplicity and truthfulness of the narrative.

Reuben was deeply moved to find Joseph gone; he rent his clothes, crying, "the child is not, and I, where shall I go?" Years after he reminded them of his remonstrance ( Genesis 42:22): "spoke I not unto you saying, Do not sin against the child, and ye would not hear? Therefore behold also his blood is required." Again, his offer to Jacob ( Genesis 42:37) to stake his own two sons' lives for the safety of Benjamin, Joseph's surviving brother, is another trait of kindliness. But consistent resoluteness was wanting; putting Joseph in the pit was a compromise with the brothers' wickedness; decided, firm, unyielding resistance would have awed them and saved Joseph. Reuben had four sons at the migration into Egypt ( Genesis 46:9;  1 Chronicles 5:3;  Numbers 26:5-11). The conspirators Dathan, Abiram, and On sprang through Eliab and Pallu from Reuben ( Numbers 16:1). At the Sinai census ( Numbers 1:20-21;  Numbers 2:11) Reuben numbered 46,500 men above 20 years of age, fit for service, and was sixth on the list: at the borders of Canaan ( Numbers 26:7) - 43,730.

On march Reuben was S. of the tabernacle; Gad and Simeon were next Reuben on the same side ( Numbers 2:10-16). Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh still retained their forefathers' calling as tending flocks and herds ( Numbers 32:1). So, at their request, they were allowed to occupy Og's and Sihor's territories E. of Jordan, "the mishor" or even downs, the modern Belka; well watered, with smooth short turf, stretching away into the vast nomadic tracts eastward. Reuben, faithfully keeping their promise to Moses ( Numbers 32:16-33), left the wives, little ones, and flocks behind in this region, and marched W. of Jordan to help in the conquest of Canaan; subsequently they erected an altar shaped like the tabernacle altar, W. of Jordan, not for sacrifice but to attest their share in the national worship with their brethren on that side (Joshua 22). By a solemn protestation of their not intending political or religious schism in the name of 'Εel ," the Strong One", Εlohim "the Supreme Being" to be feared, and Jehovah "the covenant God", they disabused Israel's mind of suspicion.

Typical of there being only one sacrificial altar, Christ, above; our earthly communion with His sacrifice being commemorative, spiritual, and real, not carnal and literal ( Hebrews 13:10;  Revelation 8:3). Moses' blessing on Reuben ( Deuteronomy 33:6-7), "let Reuben live and not die, and let (Not) his men be few," implies a warning and a deprecation of evils deserved. Reuben held the S. of the land E. of Jordan. Occupation with their flocks made them dilatory and unwilling to join in the struggle for national independence against Jabin ( Judges 5:15-16). Keil translated, "at the watercourses of Reuben were great resolutions (Projects) of heart."

Reuben held meetings by their rural watercourses ( Pelagot ), passed spirited resolutions, but after all preferred remaining quietly among the sheepfolds (Hurdles) and hearing the bleating of the flocks (Or Else The Piping Of Shepherds) rather than the blast of war trumpets. The same impulsive instability appears in them as in their forefather Reuben. (See River .) Seeking pastures for their flocks they dissipated their strength in guerrilla marauding expeditions toward Euphrates against the Bedouin tribes Hagar, Jetur, Nephish ( 1 Chronicles 5:9-10;  1 Chronicles 5:18, etc.). The Dibon stone shows that Moab wrested from Reuben many cities assigned by Joshua to them. (See Dibon .) Finally going a whoring after the gods of the people of the land whom God destroyed before them, Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh were first cut short by Hazael ( 2 Kings 10:32-33), then carried off by Pul and Tiglath Pileser, and placed about the river Khabour "in Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan" ( 1 Chronicles 5:26).

Smith's Bible Dictionary [3]

Reu'ben. (Behold A Son). Jacob's 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;  Genesis 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, Reuben's sons were four.  Genesis 46:9;  1 Chronicles 5:3. The census at Mount Sinai,  Numbers 1:20-21;  Numbers 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 12:38.

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.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

As the eldest of Jacob’s twelve sons, Reuben had the right to the blessing of the firstborn ( Genesis 35:23;  Genesis 46:8). At times he showed qualities of character and leadership ( Genesis 37:21-30;  Genesis 42:22;  Genesis 42:37), but he lost the firstborn’s rights because of his immorality with one of his father’s concubines. As a result the civil leadership of Israel went to the tribe of Judah, the religious leadership to Levi, and the double portion of the inheritance to Joseph. This meant that Joseph received the right to have two tribes (which were descended from his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh) ( Genesis 35:22;  Genesis 49:3-4;  1 Chronicles 5:1-2).

In the time of Moses, certain Reubenites were jealous that a man from the tribe of Levi (Moses), rather than one from the tribe of Reuben, was overall leader in Israel ( Numbers 16:1-3;  Numbers 16:12-14). God punished their rebellion in a dramatic judgment ( Numbers 16:25-33).

When the Israelites conquered and divided Canaan in the time of Joshua, the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh settled east of the Jordan River in territory taken from the Amorites ( Numbers 21:11-35;  Joshua 13:8-12). This entire eastern territory was often called Gilead, though strictly speaking Gilead was only one part of it ( Judges 10:8;  Judges 20:1). (For map and other details see Gilead .) Reuben was the most southern of the eastern tribes, occupying land that originally belonged to Moab (that is, before Moab lost it to the Amorites) ( Numbers 21:26;  Joshua 13:15-23). (For the physical features of the region see Moab .)

The reason the two and a half tribes asked for this area was that it had good pasture lands and they had large flocks and herds ( Numbers 32:1-5;  Numbers 32:33). But their situation east of Jordan separated them from the other tribes, and at times led to tension and misunderstanding (Joshua 22;  Judges 5:16-17).


Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

The firstborn of Jacob and of Leah, and head of one of the twelve tribes. The territory they possessed also bears his name. He saved the life of Joseph when his brothers thought to kill him, and when they went to buy corn in Egypt, he offered to be responsible for Benjamin's safety. Jacob, when blessing his sons, said, "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."  Genesis 49:3,4 . This speaks of failure in the firstborn, and implies loss of his birthright. (Joseph, type of Christ separated from His brethren, had the birthright.) Moses, when he blessed the tribes (showing more their relationship with God according to His government) said, "Let Reuben live, and not die: and let not his men be few."  Deuteronomy 33:6 . Reuben entered Egypt with his four sons, Hanoch, Phallu, Hezron and Carmi.  Genesis 46:9 .

At the Exodus the tribe numbered 46,500 men fit to go to war; and at the close of the wanderings they had decreased to 43,730. At their request, Reuben had their possession on the east of the Jordan, because it was 'a place for cattle.' It extended northward from the river Arnon about 25 miles, where it joined the possession of Gad.

The Reubenites do not appear to have taken any prominent part in the struggles under the Judges; they had 'great thoughts of heart,' but remained with their flocks.  Judges 5:15,16 . They made inroads upon the Bedouin tribes: being on the border of the wilderness doubtless this was unavoidable if they were to live in peace and safety.  1 Chronicles 5:9,10,18; etc. The Reubenites, with the others on the east of the Jordan, went after the gods of the heathen, and Jehovah cut them short by Hazael, of Syria.  2 Kings 10:32,33 . Afterwards by Pul and Tiglath-pileser they were carried away captive unto Halah, Habor, Hara, and to the river Gozan.  1 Chronicles 5:26 .

The east of the Jordan was a place of danger. Remaining there was a type of a Christian stopping short of the place of nearness God has given him — not realising his death and resurrection with Christ, and his true place in the heavenlies.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [6]

Behold, a son! The eldest son of Jacob and Leah, so-called in reference to the sentiment of his mother, "The Lord hath looked on my affliction,"  Genesis 29:32 . Reuben, having defiled his father's concubine Bilhah, lost his birthright and all the privileges of primogeniture, the preeminence in the family being given to Judah, and the double portion to the two sons of Joseph,  Genesis 35:22   48:5   49:3,4,8,10   1 Chronicles 5:1,2 . He shared in his brother's jealousy of Joseph, and yet interposed to save his life at Dothan with the design of restoring him privately to his father,  Genesis 37:18-30 . See also his well-meant proposal in  Genesis 42:27 . His tribe was never numerous or powerful in Israel. Dathan, Abiram, and On were members of it. It was the ninth of the tribes in the order of population when they entered Canaan,  Numbers 1:21   26:7 . Their inheritance was the fine pastureland east of the Jordan, between the Arnon on the south and Gilead on the north; it is now called Belka,  Numbers 32:1-42   Joshua 22:1-34 . We afterwards find them reproved by Deborah for remissness,  Judges 5:15,16 . Their position on the frontier exposed them to many assaults from the east,  2 Kings 10:33; and they were among the first captives to Assyria,  1 Chronicles 5:26 , B. C. 740.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Reuben ( Reu'Ben ), Behold A Son: The eldest son of Jacob and Leah.  Genesis 29:32;  Deuteronomy 33:6. He was deprived of the privileges of his birthright, in consequence of his improper intercourse with Bilhah, his father's concubine.  Genesis 35:22;  Genesis 49:3-4. The portion of the Promised Land assigned to the tribe of Reuben lay on the east of the Jordan, in the district now called the Belka, and is still famous for its fine pasture lands, as in ancient times.  Numbers 32:1-38;  Numbers 34:14;  Joshua 1:12-18;  Deuteronomy 3:12-16.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [8]

Tribe Of This tribe, having much cattle, solicited and obtained from Moses possessions east of the Jordan; by which river it was separated from the main body of Israel: it was, in consequence, exposed to various inroads and oppressions from which the western tribes were free; and it was among the first carried into captivity by Tiglath-pileser,  1 Chronicles 5:26 .

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [9]

Eldest son of Jacob by Leah. We have his history from ( Genesis 29:32) through the relation of the patriarchs. His name is derived from Rahah, to see—and Ben, son; so that the compound may be, the son of vision.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

 Genesis 29:32 Genesis 35:22

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [11]

See Tribes.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

rōō´ben , rū´ben ( ראוּבן , re'ūbhēn  ; Ῥουβήν , Rhoubḗn ): 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 rā'āh be‛onyı̄ , 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 ,  Numbers 1:20 , 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 f). 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 f).

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 I]] srael, the Lord thy God is one Lord." On the march this division took the second place ( Numbers 2:10 ff). The prince of the tribe was Elizur ben Shedeur, whose oblation is described in   Numbers 7:30 ff. 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 (Nu 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;  Joshua 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 (Josh 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, Wâdy el - Mōjib , 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 ff 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 f). 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 ff). 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;  Judges 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 ff). 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 f). 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 f). 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 f).

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 48:5 ).

Ezekiel finds a place for Reuben in his picture of restored Israel ( Ezekiel 48:6 ). He appears also - in this case preceded by Judah only - in  Revelation 7:5 .

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

Reu´ben (Behold a son), eldest son of Jacob by Leah (;; ). His improper intercourse with Bilhah, his father's concubine wife, was an enormity too great for Jacob ever to forget, and he spoke of it with abhorrence even on his dying bed . For his conduct in this matter, Jacob, in his last blessing, deprived him of the pre-eminence and double portion which belonged to his birth-right, assigning the former to Judah, and the latter to Joseph (; comp.; ). The doom, 'Thou shalt not excel,' was exactly fulfilled in the destinies of the tribe descended from Reuben, which makes no figure in the Hebrew history, and never produced any eminent person. At the time of the Exodus, this tribe numbered 46,500 adult males, which ranked it as the seventh in population; but at the later census before entering Canaan, its numbers had decreased to 43,730, which rendered it the ninth, in population . The Reubenites received for their inheritance the fine pasture-land (the present Belka) on the east of the Jordan, which to a cattle-breeding people, as they were, must have been very desirable ( sq.; 34:14;; ). This lay south of the territories of Gad , and north of the River Arnon. Although thus settled earlier than the other tribes, excepting Gad and half Manasseh, who shared with them the territory beyond the Jordan, the Reubenites willingly assisted their brethren in the wars of Canaan (;; ); after which they returned to their own lands and we hear little more of them till the time of Hazael, king of Syria, who ravaged and for a time held possession of their country . The Reubenites, and the other tribes beyond the river, were naturally the first to give way before the invaders from the East, and were the first of all the Israelites sent into exile by Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, B.C. 773 .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [14]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Reuben'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.