Thursday, February 17, 2011

Genesis 35:21-22 Reuben's Sin

"Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder.  While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father's concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it." (Genesis 35:21-22 NIV)

The notes on this verse in the NIV Study Bible (Zondervan, 2008, pg. 61) explain the significance of this act of Reuben in a succinct way:  "Reuben's act was an arrogant and premature claim to the rights of the firstborn.  For this he would lose his legal status as firstborn."

Jacob still had plenty of living to do.  He has many more years of adventure in front of him, including a trip to Egypt.  Reuben, however, cannot seem to wait for the proper time for his father to bestow the blessing of the firstborn upon him.  Although Jacob may regretfully look back upon his own scheme of tricking his own father into giving him the blessing, he cannot just let this incident slide.  Chapter 35 of Genesis will conclude with a summary listing of Jacob's descendants and an account of the death of Isaac, without mentioning any punishment coming upon Reuben.  However, in Genesis Chapter 49, an account of Jacob giving his final blessing to his sons, we will see that Reuben's decision has momentous consequences for his own life.

Unfortunately, this type of sin echoes in later generations of the family.  In King David's day, Absalom, one of his sons, will sleep with some of David's concubines during an attempt to usurp his father's kingship.  When David's son Solomon is appointed king, his half-brother Adonijah attempts to do the same by requesting to be given one of David's former wives as his own.  Since Adonijah had already made known his desire to obtain the kingdom for himself, the request is seen as the treasonous grab for power that it is, and Adonijah is executed.

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