Monday, June 20, 2011

Reuben's Redemption

What was the name of Jacob’s first son? Reuben

Reuben was the firstborn of Jacob’s twelve sons (Genesis 29:32, 35:23; Exodus 6:14; Numbers 1:20, I Chronicles 5:1). These brothers are the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Israel and Jacob are synonymous - Genesis 32:28, 35:10.)

After conducting a long-term study Kevin Leman, author of Firstborn Advantage, The: Making Your Birth Order Work for You, identified the following firstborn characteristics: reliability, perfectionism, a propensity for list making and dichotomous thinking, some social introversion and strong leadership skills. Over half of United States presidents were firstborns (23 of 43). Does Reuben exhibit any qualities of a firstborn son (Genesis 30:14, 35:22, 37:20-30, 42:21-38)?

Despite being eldest, Reuben lost his birthright (Genesis 49:4; I Chronicles 5:1) due to having relations with his father’s concubine, Bilhah (Genesis 35:22). When we next see Reuben, he is interceding to stop his brothers from murdering their younger brother, Joseph (Genesis 37:21-22). Why is Reuben, the brother who has committed the heinous sin, the one of the ten who does not go for the kill?

Perhaps it is precisely because he knew what it was to commit a horrific transgression that Reuben interceded to stop his brothers from following suit. Reuben was a man in need of redemption.

Unfortunately, the scandal was never forgiven. On his death bed, Jacob doled out blessings to his twelve sons and limited Reuben’s portion citing the indiscretion with Bilhah (Genesis 49:2-4). Reuben’s redemption never came.

Reuben’s story personifies the need for a redeemer. Redemption is the theme that runs through the Bible and the thirst that Jesus quenches.

“At the heart of Christianity there is a mystery, but it is not the mystery of intellectual appreciation; it, the mystery of redemption.” - William Barclay (1907-1978)

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