tribe of reuben

The Tribe of Reuben in the Bible

Although the different texts speak of Ruben and the Tribe of Reuben in the Bible in different ways, the differences do not indicate a separation between the individual and the tribe but correspond to the context: Reuben ( רְאוּבֵן rə’ûven ) is the first-born son of → Jacob and → Leas ( Gen 29.32; Gen 46.8 ) and, at the same time the hero eponymous of the tribe of Reuben. The naming is interpreted in Gen 29:32 narratively as a connection of the verb ראה ‘re “see” with the noun בֵּן ben “son.” YHWH saw Leah’s sorrow, so she said, “Behold, a son.” 

As an individual, Reuben is the one who gives his mother love apples, enabling her to spend a night of love with Jacob and thus give birth to her fifth son, Issachar ( Gen 30:14-18 ). Ruben is also presented in the → Joseph story as an ethically exemplary leader of the brothers who prevent Joseph from being killed ( Gen 37,18-22; Gen 42,22 ). After his brothers had sold it, he looked for Joseph and, seeing the empty cistern, tore his robes in grief ( Gen 37:29 ).

History of the tribe of Reuben in the Bible

As a result of Jehovah’s continued favor toward his mother, Reuben and his five full brothers (Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun) made up half of the original tribal heads of Israel; the other six (Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher) were his father’s brothers. (Genesis 35:23-26) Some of Reuben’s good qualities were shown when he persuaded his nine brothers to throw Joseph into a dry pit instead of putting him to death, with the idea of ​​re-releasing him to hide. (Genesis 37: 18-30.) More than twenty years later, famine was great in the land, and Reuben and his brothers were forced to travel to Egypt, where there was food.

In Egypt, they were accused of being spies, accusations made from the mouth of his brother of Josep, whom they did not know, and they reviewed in their minds the lack of compassion with which they had treated José, which is why all these things were happening to them. Rubén reminded them he had not participated in the plot against José’s life. (Genesis 42:9-14, 21, 22.)

Then, when Jacob would not let Benjamin accompany his brothers on their second trip to Egypt in anticipation of their father dying of such disgust, Reuben agrees to go to Egypt with his own two sons as surety and says: “You can [give them] death. if I don’t bring him [Benjamin] back to you.” (Genesis 42:37.)

Symbol of the tribe of Reuben

Do you remember Reuben picking and delivering flowers to his mother? Those flowers were from the mandrake, a plant that produced lavender-colored flowers and was thought to help with fertility. This became the symbol of Reuben’s tribe, probably due to their history with Reuben’s mother, Leah. However, Leah had no trouble conceiving and having children with Jacob. Her sister and one of Jacob’s other wives, Rachel, were barren. When Reuben brought his mother the mandrake flowers. Leah gave the flowers that symbolized fertility to Rachel, who gave birth to two sons.

This symbol could also have been chosen simply because Reuben was the firstborn. He embodies the fertility of both of his parents. This is also evident in the stone associated with Ruby: the ruby. For English speakers, we might think that linking “Reuben” with “ruby” is just common sense since the names sound similar. But the Israelites thought that specific stones or jewels had unique properties. Unsurprisingly, the ruby ​​is typically associated with fertility and pregnancy, referring to Reuben as the firstborn and how he indirectly helped his aunt Rachel conceive through mandrakes.

The tribe of Reuben is also known to have the ruby symbol ​​as a stone. And she was carrying a red banner. The banner symbolized the shape of some fruits called mandrakes. (It is a fruit that is shaped like the human body).

tribe of reuben in the bible

Representation of the tribe of Reuben in the Bible

Descendants of Reuben

This tribe was formed from the descendants of the eldest son of Jacob, Reuben, who had four sons: Hanok, Palu, Hezron, and Carmi, the heads of the families of the tribe of Reuben. (Genesis 46:8, 9; Exodus 6:14; 1 Chronicles 5:3.)

A year after leaving Egypt behind, Elizur, the son of Seder, was chosen as chief to represent the entire tribe of Reuben. (Numbers 1:1, 4, 5; 10:18) According to a census taken in their second year of wandering in the wilderness, there were 46,500 eligible Reubenites over the age of twenty. Reuben’s tribe was always one of the least numerous of the twelve. Some thirty-nine years later, the military strength was somewhat lower, at 43,730. (Numbers 1:2, 3, 20, 21; 26:5-7.)

In the camp of Israel, the tribe of Reuben camped on the south side of the tabernacle, flanked by the successors of Simeon and Gad. As the nation got underway, this three-tribe division led by Reuben followed the three-tribe division of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. (Numbers 2:10-16; 10:14-20) This was also the order in which the tribes presented their offerings on the opening day of the tabernacle. (Numbers 7:1, 2, 10-47.)

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The tribe of Reuben goes back to Reuben, the eldest of the 12 sons of Jacob. However, Reuben was typically a righteous person, his indiscretion with Bilhah. His father’s concubine cost Reuben and his tribe their inheritance. The tribe of Reuben is considered one of the ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Which were supposed to be the northern tribes of Israel, a kingdom separate from southern Judah where Jerusalem was, as there is little evidence of it. 

The mandrake, a plant that produces lavender flowers and is believed to be the symbol of fertility, became the symbol of the tribe. This was perhaps because Reuben was the firstborn or because he gave mandrake flowers to her mother, Leah, who then gave them to her sister Rachel, ultimately resulting in her becoming pregnant. For the same reason, the ruby ​​became the stone associated with the Reubenites, representing fertility.

Cities Rebuilt by the Reubenites

Those of the tribe of Reuben rebuilt the following cities:

1. Heshbon

2. Elle

3. Kiriataim

4. Nebo

5. Baal-meon

6. Sibma

Some of those cities had their names changed, especially the ones they rebuilt.


The firstborn male child inherited money in most ancient and even modern civilizations. And also rank and authority from his father. However, although he is the eldest of Jacob’s twelve sons, Reuben does not inherit this from his father. Since the critical role of the ruler is given to his younger brother Judah. So why did Rubén lose this inheritance?

In most of Reuben’s stories in the Hebrew Bible, he is a kind and caring man, collecting flowers for his mother and saving his brother Joseph from death. However, Genesis briefly mentions that Reuben slept with Bilhah. One of his father’s concubines and the mother of his brothers, Dan and Naphtali. Sleeping with his father’s wife was a severe offense. According to Leviticus, this act cost Reuben the inheritance he would have received from Jacob. From this young man, the tribe of Reuben was born.