In this series of studies, we will be studying the 12 tribes of Israel. What is the importance of studying this?
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
What happen to our fellow brethren back then is for our example so we will learn from them especially that we are in the last days and approaching the end. The sealing of the 12 tribes for the heavenly Canaan is going on and let us see how we may be able to be found among the 12 tribes that are going to be named in heaven. These 12 tribes are composed the 144,000 living saints who will go through the time of trouble and will never taste death. Oh, how I love to be part of this number, what about you dear brethren?
So, let us start our study with the first son of Jacob. The eldest son of Jacob was from his wife Leah. Remember how the Lord shut the womb of Rachel, but He opened the womb of Leah.
Genesis 29:32 “And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me).”
Reuben’s family grew and he had four sons whose descendants formed the tribe which bore his name. His four sons as we read from 1 Chronicles 5:3 were:
1 Chron. 5:3 The sons, [I say], of Reuben the firstborn of Israel [were], Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi.
If you are a first-born back then in the ancient Israelite family, you will inherit the birthright of the family whether be it temporal or spiritual. Financially, you will inherit the double portion of the property and to officiate as the priest in the house. Reuben was the first-born of Israel or Jacob, and he was supposed to receive these birthrights, but like his uncle Esau, he lightly esteemed his birthright.
(Genesis 25:34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised [his] birthright…
Hebrews 12:16 Lest there [be] any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.)
And being unwatchful, he committed a sin that forever disqualifies him from all spiritual and temporal birthrights of the firstborn.
Question: What was Reuben’s sin that caused him to be forever debarred from his birthright?
Genesis 49:4 “…because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou [it]: he went up to my couch.”
Reuben committed adultery with his father’s wife and as a result his birthrights were transferred. Let us see who received these specific birthrights.
Temporal birthright was transferred to Joseph his younger brother.
(1 Chronicles 5:1 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he [was] the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.)
The birthright of Priesthood was being transferred to Levi (Deuteronomy 33:8-11).
Birthright of being the Progenitor of Christ was transferred to Judah.
(1 Chronicles 5:2 “For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler.”
So we can see that because of his sin, his birthrights were transferred to another tribe. It is the same with us brethren. If we cannot prove ourselves faithful, God will transfer His blessings to others who can prove themselves faithful.
So moving on, let us check the character of Reuben and how it is to be an ensample for us who are striving to be among the 144,000.
Kindness — (Gen 30:14 And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah.)
Trying to save the life of his brother Joseph when his brethren determined to kill him — Gen. 37:21, 22, 29 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, [but] cast him into this pit that [is] in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
Genesis 42:22 “And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.”
If you remember the story of Joseph, his brethren who were jealous of him tried to end his life but ended up selling him to the Ishmaelites who then brought him to Egypt. When his brethren tried to kill him, it was Reuben who tried to save his life by persuading his brethren to not shed blood to his brother instead just cast him into a pit in the wilderness. Reuben tried to save Joseph’s life, and this is one positive character that he has that is commendable unto God.
"Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." Gen. 49:3,
What makes Reuben unstable and water?
His unstableness means he sways with his mind. His father Jacob has no confidence in his word for when his brethren wished to take Benjamin down to Egypt, Jacob did not regard Reuben’s pledge to return Benjamin safely to his father, but when Judah promised to stand as security for the lad, Jacob accepted the offer.
Gen 42:37, 38 And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again. And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.
Genesis 43:8, 9 And Judah said unto Israel his father, Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go; that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, [and] also our little ones. I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:
So you can see that even if Reuben was the firstborn yet Jacob had no confidence in his words. He rather was confident with Judah than with Reuben. When Judah promised to stand as security for Benjamin, Jacob accepted the offer.
Now, every negative character if left uncheck has the tendency to be passed on to the next generation. The unstable character of Reuben seems to have been passed to his descendants. The tribe of Reuben shows selfishness when they wish to take possession of the first land that was conquered when they came out of Egypt.
Numbers 32:1-33 tells the story of how the tribe of Reuben wanted to possess certain portion or territory of the land. They have requested Moses if they can please get this specific area and their request was granted and because of their desire to occupy this part of the land, they were among the first ones to be taken captive into Assyria.
1 Chronicles 5:26 And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day.
What about his character which says “Thou shalt not excel?”
This character was fulfilled in the history of the tribe of Reuben. According to the Bible, Reuben’s tribe had no judge, no prophet, no hero except it be Adina and the 30 men with him who were reckoned among the valiant men of David’s army.
1 Chron 11:42 Adina the son of Shiza the Reubenite, a captain of the Reubenites, and thirty with him.
Adina and the 30 valiant men went with the tribe of Gad and Manasseh to Hebron to make David king over Israel. They did not join Saul in his pursuit to kill David, but instead, they supported for David to be king over Israel.
1 Chronicles 12:37-38 And on the other side of Jordan, of the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and of the half tribe of Manasseh, with all manner of instruments of war for the battle, an hundred and twenty thousand. All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel [were] of one heart to make David king.
On the other hand, Dathan and Abiram of the tribe of Reuben, with Korah the Levite, were noted for the rebellion they instigated in the camp of Israel and what happened as a result of this was an object lesson for those who will pursue the same course as them.
Num. 16:1-3 tells the story of how they gathered along with certain children of Israel to complain against Moses and Aaron. And let us see the result of their course.
Deut. 11:6. And what he did unto Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben: how the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and their tents, and all the substance that [was] in their possession, in the midst of all Israel:
We can see that those who rebelled against God’s chosen ones to do a great work of leading His people to the promised land were destroyed by God Himself. It is a fearful thing to go against God’s anointed. God chose Moses and Aaron to help lead the Israelites in their journeying to the Promised Land, Canaan, yet Dathan and Abiram, who were from the tribe of Reuben, instigated a rebellion in the camp of Israel and rose up against Moses and Aaron. As the Scriptures said:
Psalms 105:15 Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.
We cannot be successful in overthrowing God’s anointed ones. If we do try, we know who we are against with. Not man, but God and those who continue to do a similar course will receive the same end result as did Dathan and Abiram and those who went with them to rise up against Moses and Aaron.
Another thing is that the choice of Reuben’s tribe as the place to dwell near the borders of Moab made them to go after the gods of the people. They were too close to the heathen nation, and they were led to idolatry and transgress the law of God.
1 Chronicles 5:25 And they transgressed against the God of their fathers, and went a whoring after the gods of the people of the land, whom God destroyed before them.
But even as a tribe, they failed to do the work which God intended for them to do in their own land. The Lord permitted the enemy to carry them into another place where they remained until 70 years in captivity and after the end of the 70 years, there were several people remained from the tribe of Reuben who were gathered along with the other 11 tribes into the land of promise.
Regardless of where the tribe of Reuben was situated, he could have stood as a leader and might have proved true to God and could have been a channel of light to lead the heathen to the true God, but like their father Reuben, they were not able to do this because of their unstableness as water.
Just like us brethren, wherever we may be stationed in life, we are to stand for the Lord. We have not the least excuse oh because I’m not educated, oh because of this and that and all kinds of excuses. We have to stand for the Lord no matter what. We have to separate ourselves and touch not the unclean thing, and God will receive us. 2 Corinthians 6:17
But even though they failed to carry out God’s purpose, yet their name will be found in heaven written in one of the pearly gates in Jerusalem.
Question: If the tribe of Reuben failed to carry out the purposes of God, why then they be found in heaven? This question is like why will the thief in the cross be found in heaven? Let us see.
Deuteronomy 33:6 Let Reuben live, and not die; and let [not] his men be few.
So you would ask why a character that is unstable as waters would live and not die? There is a secret of this matter. Do you know the secret? Just like what the thief of the cross did. SEARCHING OF HEARTS. During a great crisis in Israel, the tribe of Reuben did a searching of their hearts.
Judges 5:16 For the divisions of Reuben [there were] great searchings of heart.
Brethren, there are lots of men and women today in the world who have the same character as Reuben. Unstable as waters, they do not possess in themselves the power to do any good thing, but if they earnestly search their hearts, they will find out their own weaknesses and if with humbleness of hearts they turn to God, He will come to help them and rescue them from the condition they are in, and God will pronounce over them like He did with Reuben in Deuteronomy 33:6 “let him live and not die.” Just like the thief on the cross. He saw his nothingness and his need of a Saviour. He was not self-sufficient. There is danger in self-sufficiency. When we think we are doing good and lacking nothing, then we know we are in great danger.
Dear brethren, are we searching out our hearts as what the tribe of Reuben did? Or we lay in content and confidence that everything is okay with us and our neighbor and with God? If we want to be part of the Gideon band, we have to search our hearts. Don’t wait for tomorrow or the next day but start it today.
Let our prayers be like David’s:
Psalms 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if [there be any] wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
May the tribe of Reuben be in our thoughts in what we should do in these last days. It’s never too late for anybody. God is waiting for you and me. If you come to Him, He will receive us. May this be our prayer.
Kindness, trying to save Joseph’s life
Unstable as water thou shall not excel
The tribe has no judge, no prophet, no hero
Why they be found in heaven?
There was a great searching of hearts