Genesis 49:1-4 Reuben: You reap what you sow

1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.

2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.

3 Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

4 Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.

Jacob was preparing to die now he was calling his sons to his bedside in order to read the will, so to speak.  He tells them all to gather together so that he can tell them what will happen to the “in the last days.”  Many speculate just what jacob meant by this but every time it is used in the Old Testament, it means “In the last days of the earth.”

He speaks to Reuben first; his physical first-born, but not the spiritual first-born and in the next two verses, Jacob gives him his praise and a rebuke.

Reuben was the first born son.  Jacob called him his might, the beginning of his strength; the excellency of dignity and power.  Things seem to be looking well for Reuben, but…..

Jacob tells Ruben, “You  are unstable as water and you will not excel, because you defiled my bed.”


Genesis 35:

22 And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: and Israel heard it.


He had tried to take his place as the firstborn by lying with Bilhah.  This was a pagan custom that was commonplace at the time.

Jacob is telling him that he does not have the attributes to lead Israel and the blessings that come with the firstborn status would go to Joseph’s family.


His unstable ways would affect his future in three ways:


  1. He would lose the blessings of being the first born.

1 Chronicles 5:

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.


There were two components that one received being the firstborn.

  1. The firstborn received a double portion or more of the wealth of the family.
  2. The firstborn had the right to be the head of the family, both spiritually and physically.  If things had gone as normal, Reuben would have taken over as leader of Israel, but this was not going to happen.


Joseph had received the double portion through the adoption of his two sons into the tribe.  Jacob had taken them as his own.

Judah, on the other hand, who had taken over as leader in a way before the moving of the family to Egypt, would receive the right to have authority over the family:


1 Chronicles 5:

2 For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s:)


This came about through King David and the King of Kings, Jesus.


Reuben would be unstable as water and not have the right to rule:


  1. His tribe would decline spiritually:


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.

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.

  1. His tribe would decline physically:


Reuben does not produce any person with any leadership ability or significance.  His tribe evidently also begins to decline in number later on:


Deuteronomy 33:


6 Let Reuben live, and not die; and let not his men be few.


Yet his tribe will be gathered with his brethren in the last days:

Revelation 7:


5 Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.


What does this say to us?


The Lord can’t use a person with unstable ways:


Matthew 6:


24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.


Revelations 3:


14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Jesus is either Lord of all or not Lord at all


Hebrews 13:

9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.


Ephesians 4:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

You reap what you sow.


Galatians 6:


7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Our sins can follow us.  We can be saved, forgiven, and living a fruitful life in and through Christ but that doesn’t take away the consequences that we might face because of sin and this can follow us and affect our lives and the lives of our families.


About Clint Rodgers

I am a father of 2 wonderful children and the husband of a beautiful woman who has taught me more about compassion for goofballs than I could have ever learned. I have know Jesus for many years but about 5 years ago I truly met Him and now I do my best to follow Him as I walk in this world
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