Joseph & Brothers • Devotion #5: Reuben Taking a Stand
Mary Jane Johns
Firstborns are an interesting group of people. Eldest children set the standard. They are reliable, conscientious, strong-willed, controlling, and overachievers. The greatest quality of firstborns is that of loyalty. I am the youngest of seven kids, so I do not fully understand this whole thing. However, I do know my sister Gail. She is eighteen years older than me. Gail was a senior in high school when my mom carefully broke the news to her. She was ecstatic! Out of all of us seven kids, Gail is the best at caring that we stay connected. She is steady, full of integrity, makes lists, and most of all has character; she is full of truth. Gail has seen adversity through suffering from multiple sclerosis yet, she remains faithful, strong, and really works at communicating with her siblings. My mom would say that she was really tough on her because my parents really did not know what they were doing! Gail tends to be a rule follower, a wonderful leader, a bit bossy, and direct (I love her anyway!). She is just like my mom. Someone has to lead this messy Strader family of seven kids. She calls herself the matriarch.
There is a guy in the Bible whom I feel might display many of the same characteristics as a typical oldest child. Reuben, the son of Jacob and Leah, is the eldest sibling in the band of twelve brothers. However, Jacob (who had many wives) was partial to his wife, Rachel. Apparently, he loved her more. Okay, so this is wrong on so many levels. Anyway, I will continue on with our story. Rachel gave birth to two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Unlike our family (for real), Jacob showed favoritism to Joseph by giving him a coat with brilliant colors. All of the brothers were extremely jealous of Joseph. Reuben (who was a bit cocky) and his ten brothers decided to attack their brother.
Genesis 37:21-22 records, “But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, ‘Let us not take his life.’ And Reuben said to them, ‘Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him’ –that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father.”
Joseph’s brothers hated him with a jealous passion. It was pretty ugly. They wanted to kill him through starvation and thirst by throwing him in the deep pit in the middle of nowhere. Reuben was not a big fan of Joseph but, he did not want him dead, and felt the weight of displeasing his father. I believe Reuben was still trying to honor his father and follow the rules even with his dysfunctional family. In his mind, killing Joseph was not an option. Completely losing him was definitely not what he had planned.
Genesis 37:29-30 adds, “When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes and returned to his brothers and said, ‘The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?’”
Reuben completely freaked out when Joseph was gone from the pit when he got there to set him free. It was never his intention to have Joseph die. I can only speculate why he went back. That is where he showed family loyalty. Reuben was responsible for his younger brothers, and he had let his father down. He tore his clothes, which is a sign of remorse and grieving. He panicked and lied to cover it all up to his father. Meanwhile, Joseph was picked up out of the pit and sold into slavery in Egypt. However, we will leave the story there.
There is much about this story that is questionable, and I can not be sure of Reuben’s ulterior motives. His commitment to his father and younger brothers were completely changed after this account. I would like to think he was a broken man, but seriously, who knows? Maybe he was a bit less self-righteous and cocky. He was more diligent in his protection of Benjamin after Joseph was sold into slavery.
Loyalty, strength, and concern for parents’ approval are huge to firstborn children. My sister Gail would lay down her life for her siblings. In fact, we are all that way. I cannot even fathom being so jealous of my brother that I wanted him to die. It is a foreign concept to me, yet this is the case with Reuben and his ugly and uncompassionate brothers. Jealousy brings about ruin in the lives of families. Do not let it rule yours.