The Adultery of Reuben with Bilhah
Bilhah was the maid of Rachel. Later on she became Jacob’s wife.
The Bible says, “When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die!’ Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’ Then she said, ‘Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, that she may bear upon my knees, and even I may have children through her.’ So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife; and Jacob went in to her. And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son” (Genesis 30:1-5).
Reuben was Jacob’s first son. He committed the tragedy of committing adultery with Bilhah. The Bible says, “While Israel dwelt in that land Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard of it” (Genesis 35:22).
Israel (Jacob) heard of it and said nothing about it, but the issue was not ended. Reuben had yielded to his passions at a moment of weakness and committed incest with his father’s wife. The consequences came later on!
When Jacob was about to die, he called his children and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in days to come. Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob, and hearken to Israel your father” (Genesis 49:1-2). Then he started with Reuben his first born and said, “Reuben, you are my first-born, my might, and the first fruits of my strength, pre-eminent in pride and pre-eminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have pre-eminence because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it - you went up to my couch!” (Genesis 49:3-4). He was the firstborn; he was his might; he was the first fruits of his strength; he was pre-eminent in pride; he was pre-eminent in power, but because of his adulterous act, he was not to have pre-eminence! He lost his birthright to adultery. That right passed over to Joseph who resisted the temptation to commit adultery. Of him Jacob said, “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. The archers fiercely attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him sorely; yet his bow remained unmoved, his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (by the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel), by the God of your father who will help you, by God Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that couches beneath, blessings of the breasts and the womb. The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was separate from his brothers” (Genesis 49:22-26).
The adultery that Reuben committed did not only affect him. It affected his children and grandchildren. When Moses the servant of the Lord was blessing the great, great- grandchildren of Jacob, he said of Reuben’s, “Let Reuben live, and not die, nor let his men be few” (Deuteronomy 33:6). Then of Joseph’s he said, “Blessed by the Lord be his land, with the choicest gifts of heaven above, and of the deep that couches beneath, with the choicest fruits of the sun and the rich yield of the months, with the finest produce of the ancient mountains, and the abundance of the everlasting hills, with the best gifts of the earth and its fulness, and the favour of him that dwelt in the bush. Let these come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of the head of him that is prince among his brothers. His firstling bull has majesty, and his horns are the horns of a wild ox; with them he shall push the peoples, all of them, to the ends of the earth; such are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and such are the thousands of Manasseh” (Deuteronomy 33:13-17).
As is immediately obvious, Moses blessed Reuben to the extent to which his father had blessed him. He more or less tolerated him. He also blessed Joseph to a most far-reaching degree - to the extent to which his father had blessed him and more! The tribe of Reuben settled on the wrong side of the Jordan. They did not cross over into the Promised Land! They settled for the second best. This was a part of the continuing consequence of Reuben’s sin of adultery with his father’s wife. He first went in for “forbidden” sex and, later on, he settled for “forbidden” property. Those who are distorted in sexual matters may soon be trapped by the love of money or the lust for power. One sin creates room for the next!
Reuben did his descendants far-reaching harm by his sexual immorality. They suffered very much because of his sin. He never repented of it and never pleaded with his father to forgive him. He, therefore, bore the consequence on himself and on his descendants.
No one commits sin just for himself. Each act of sin has repercussions on the individual and on his descendants. Think about this carefully and make sure that you are not digging a grave for your children, your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren. Gehazi tried to acquire wealth falsely and the leprosy of Naaman came upon him and his descendants for ever. The Bible says, “But he (Elisha) said to him (Gehazi), ‘Did I not go with you in spirit when the man turned his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, menservants and maidservants? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cleave to you, and to your descendants for ever.’ So he went out from his presence a leper, as white as snow” (2 Kings 5:26-27).
Again we exhort you to think carefully. The pleasure of a few minutes could be followed by a lifetime of sorrow for yourself and for your children. You do well to be wise! You do well to act wisely. Refrain from folly. The Bible says, “A foolish woman is noisy; she is wanton and knows no shame. She sits at the door of her house, she takes a seat on the high places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ And to him who is without sense, she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’ But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol!” (Proverbs 9:13-18).