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The oldest of Jacob's twelve sons (Genesis 29:32). The first incident recorded in Genesis involving Reuben was his immoral conduct with his father's concubine (Genesis 35:22). Even in his old age Jacob did not forgive this, for in the series of prophecies he made concerning his sons he described Reuben as "foremost in pride, foremost in strength, uncontrolled as a flood, you shall not be foremost, for you mounted your father's bed, and so defiled my couch to my hurt" (Genesis 49:3-4). But Reuben manifested redeeming qualities. When his jealous brothers proposed killing Joseph, it was he who dissuaded them, hoping to restore him to his father (Genesis 37:21-22). Years later he played the part of a responsible older brother in protecting Benjamin on the trip to Egypt (Genesis 42:37).
All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.