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The Tribe of Reuben.
Census. According to the genealogical list (chap. 46) at the time of the migration into Egypt while Joseph was still ruling in Egypt Reuben had four sons: Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi (46:9), and from them sprang all the families of the tribe. The census of Mt. Sinai recorded in Num 1:20-21; 2:11 shows that the numbers of the tribe of Reuben at the Exodus was 46,500 men above twenty years of age and fit for military service. The tribe of Reuben ranked seventh in population. At the later census, taken thirty-eight years after and just before entering Canaan, its numbers had decreased to 43,730, which made it rank ninth in Num 26:7.
Position. The position of Reuben was on the south side of the tabernacle. The "camp" that went under his name was formed of the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad. The total number of fighting men in this division (3 tribes) were 151,450.
Standard. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan says that the standard was a deer, with the legend "Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord."
Journeying. "All who were numbered according to their armies of the forces with Reuben (Simeon and Gad), one hundred and fifty-one thousand four hundred and fifty-- they shall be the second to break camp. (Num 2:16).
Representatives. The prince of the tribe was Elizur ben Shedeur (Num 7:30). The Reubenite among the spies was Shammua ben Zaccur (Num13:4).
Interesting Notes. It is possible that in the conspiracy against Moses, organized by Dathan and Abiram who were Reubenites and also Korah who was a Levite (Num 16), was an attempt on the part of the tribe of Reuben to claim their right to represent the firstborn. It is interesting that the children of Korah did not perish (Num 26:11). Later, members of the tribe of Reuben refused to assist Deborah and Barak in fighting the Canaanite Sisera (Judg. 5:16), although the tribe apparently assisted the other tribes in their war against Benjamin (Judg. 20:11). During Saul's reign, Reuben joined Gad and Manasseh in fighting the Hagrites (1 Chr. 5:18-22). When the kingdom divided under Rehoboam, Reuben joined the Northern Kingdom under Jeroboam. Ezekiel remembered Reuben in his description of Israel (Ezek. 48:6). The tribe is also represented in the 144,000 sealed - 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev. 7:5).
The Land Division.
The Reubenites requested an early inheritance east of the Jordan River where the land was suitable for cattle (Num. 32:1-33) extending on the south to the river Arnon, on the east to the desert of Arabia; on the west were the Dead Sea and the Jordan, and the northern border was probably marked by a line running eastward from the Jordan.They helped the other tribes claim their land, however, and Joshua commended them for their efforts (Josh. 22:9-10). The tribe also built an altar - along with the tribe of Gad and the halftribe of Manasseh - in the Jordan Valley as a witness to their unity with the tribes west of the Jordan (Josh. 22:11-34).
The Man Reuben
Heb. Ruben; "see a son"). Reuben was the firstborn son of Jacob and Leah (Gen. 29:32).
Gen 29:32 So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, "The LORD has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me."
Very little is mentioned about Reuben's life. One incident that happened when Jacob dwelt in Eder was such an offense that Jacob spoke about it with abhorrence even upon his dying bed.
Gen 35:22 And it happened, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine; and Israel heard about it.
Reuben is commonly remembered as the brother that stood up for Joseph when his jealous brothers wanted to murder him in Dothan. Reuben, as the eldest son, voiced his advice and Joseph's life was spared.
Gen 37:20-22 "Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, 'Some wild beast has devoured him.' We shall see what will become of his dreams!" But Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands, and said, "Let us not kill him." And Reuben said to them, "Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit which is in the wilderness, and do not lay a hand on him"-- that he might deliver him out of their hands, and bring him back to his father.
Instead of killing him they cast him into a pit. In Reuben's absence Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelites. When Reuben returned with the intention of rescuing his brother, he found that Joseph was gone.
Later after Joseph had become grown and was ruling in Egypt by God's providence a terrible famine came and Reuben accompanied his brothers into Egypt in search of food. When they met up with Joseph Reuben accepted the ruler of Egypt's harsh treatment of himself and his brothers as a judgment upon them because of their sin:
Gen 42:21-22 Then they said to one another, "We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us." And Reuben answered them, saying, "Did I not speak to you, saying, 'Do not sin against the boy'; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us."
Reuben also delivered to Jacob Joseph's message demanding that Benjamin come to Egypt and offered his own two sons as pledges for his brother's safe return. Upon the removal of Jacob into Egypt, c. 1876 B.C., Reuben had four sons-- Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi (46:9).