Back for more genealogy! This time it is Reuben who lays his family out for our inspection. Here is to hoping it is easier to follow than our two previous.
At some point I’m going to stop hoping for ‘easier’. And at some point we are going to be done with genealogy, for a while. I’m certainly looking forward to that day!
Ok; here we go again. It takes us a bit to get to the line of Reuben because our author covers Reuben’s great sin first. But when we do get there, we are thrown a name right away that I don’t know how to connect. I think one of the biggest problems is that the names are often altered through the ages. First names, middle names, different spellings, aliases all seem to creep into the works. We saw that in Kings several times. Joram/Jehoram, Joash/Jehoash, Azariah/Uzziah, Eliakin/Jehoikim, Jehoiachin/Jeconiah, Mattaniah/Zedekiah to name a few. So which of Reuben’s sons was also called Joel?
The interesting thing about Joel is that it appears as though he is listed top down and bottom up. I can’t be certain in this assumption because the names branch out and/or follow the above listed variations rather soon. I feel safe saying that the first generation in the two lists is the same man, even though the spellings have changed. “The sons of Joel: Shemaiah” (verse 4a) and “Shema, son of Joel” (verse 8b) are most likely the same person. The names change branch from there, most likely meaning that two different sons of Shema/Shemaiah are traced from there. Gog in the top down and Azaz in the bottom up. Both lines resulted in a chief. Beerah for the top down and possibly two chiefs Jeiel and Zechariah. I’m not sure if Bela was also a chief but he could have been, thanks to syntax. Or is it possible that Jeiel, Zacheriah and Bela were brothers of a chief?
Looking even a little deeper is getting dangerous. I counted generations to the “chiefs” from Joel. Top down has eight while the bottom up has either four or five. It could still be the same starting point for these two lines as the tribe of Reuben most likely had chiefs for some time. But would they have been so prolific that they would have needed one after only four or five generations? Are the other two names listed after the chief two more generations? That would make the chief seven or eight generations from Joel.
I give up on trying to make more sense of Reuben. What I want to look at instead is what was covered in the first two verses and the last two. Reuben, by birth should have been the one to receive a double portion from his father. But his actions were so abhorrent to Israel that he stripped him of his birthright. I find it interesting that it didn’t go to the next son in line but to the next “first born” son of his wives. Reuben was Leah’s first born while Joseph was Rachel’s. Reuben’s sin made it legitimate for Israel to favor Joseph over Reuben.
It might have been legal but it wasn’t kind. It was, however, how God set it up. I don’t know if Israel initially intended to give Joseph a double portion but when Joseph saved the family from starvation it set up this opportunity. And having had two sons while living in Egypt gave grandpa Israel a perfect way to pass that double portion on to Joseph. God’s fingerprints were all over this!
Something else that the first verses brings to mind is that, even when a sin is forgiven it still has consequences. I honestly don’t know if Israel ever truly forgave Reuben but he NEVER forgot it. Reuben’s sin colored how his father treated him the rest of his life. We know Reuben was repentant because we see him trying to get back into the good graces of his father but it never works. Reuben’s sin was never far from Israel’s mind or at least never far enough to heal their relationship. Does this then become Israel’s sin; harboring a root of bitterness?
Even though Reuben was never fully forgiven by his father his Father still provided for him. The people of Reuben were blessed beyond the Jordan. They received their territory separated from most of their relatives. They didn’t cross over the Jordan to settle there but only to help take the land for the remaining tribes. Reuben actually received his inheritance first even if it wasn’t as big or as grand as Joseph’s children got. It was enough for him and his tribe prospered there. God blessed them and they increased in number and in wealth.
Sin has consequences. God has mercifully taken the biggest consequence for us and placed it on Jesus; death. But there still remains consequences for our actions. God can show even greater mercy and remove even more of them but is it worth the risk to find out if He will? I have been MORE than blessed in the area of God not laying on me what I have rightly earned. Thinking back over my actions throughout my life makes me shudder at what could have been. It also scares me for what lies ahead in the areas I still struggle with. I PRAY He continues to shield me from my own stupidity.
Father God, thank You for loving me in spite of all my failings. I am SO grateful for the mercy and protection You have given me over my life. I trust You to continue to love me the rest of my life too. You have said that You would never leave me or forsake me. I don’t take that for granted. I take You at Your word, and I LOVE You for it. Hold me in Your hands and protect me from my own stupidity.