1 Chronicles 5:1 MEANING

1 Chronicles 5:1
I.--THE REUBENITES (1 Chronicles 5:1-10).

(1) Reuben the firstborn of Israel.--See Genesis 49:3 : "Reuben, my firstborn thou! my strength, and firstfruits of my manhood;" also Genesis 29:32.

For he was the firstborn.--The parenthesis is an assertion of the legitimacy of the Davidic monarchy, as against the fact that both Reuben and Joseph had claims prior to those of Judah.

He defiled his father's bed.--Genesis 49:4, Jacob's curse: "Bubbling like the waters, excel thou not! For thou wentest up thy father's couches. Then thou defiledst my bed" (See Genesis 35:22).

His birthright was given to the sons of Joseph.--The reading of some MSS., and the Syriac and Arabic, "to Joseph," is probably original. This transfer of the rights of primogeniture is not elsewhere mentioned. It is, however, a fair inference from Jacob's curse, and from the special blessing of Joseph (Genesis 49:22-26) and of his two sons (Genesis 48:15-20), considered in the light of historical fulfilment. Ephraim was always a leading tribe (Judges 2:9; Judges 4:5; Judges 5:14; Judges 8:1-2; Judges 12:1; Judges 12:15).

And the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.--Rather, though he was not to be registered as firstborn (literally, according to the primogeniture). The subject is Joseph or the sons of Joseph, who received the forfeited rights of Reuben, but not the first place in lists of the tribes. What those rights were is defined by Deuteronomy 21:15-17, which rules that the son of a hated wife--if he be firstborn (the case of Reuben, son of Leah), shall inherit a double portion, "for he is the firstfruits of his strength, the right of the firstborn is his;" words obviously referring to Genesis 49:4-5.

Verses 1-10. - THE SONS OF REUBEN. The tribe of Reuben is now taken third in order by the compiler, though Reuben was the first of all the sons of Israel. The distinct statements of vers. 1 and 2, respecting the degradation of Reuben and his loss of the rights of primogeniture, are not to be understood, however, as mentioned in any way to account for his standing third here. That Judah takes in any genealogy the first place needs no other apology than that contained in this passage, "Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler" (i.e. David, and in him "David's greater Son and Lord"). And that Simeon is taken immediately after Judah was natural enough, both because the second place belonged to him, and because his tribe, in journeying, in settlement, and in acknowledged friendship, was so nearly related to that of Judah. It is as an important historical fact, a lesson and stern memento of crime, that the tale of Reuben is here as elsewhere told. Indeed, in the remarkably exalting language applied to Reuben (Genesis 49:3) by the dying father in those "blessings" of his sons which were so marvellously living with prophecy, that "blessing" seemed weighted with hard reality, and may really carry this meaning: "O Reuben I though thou art my firstborn, though my might and the beginning of my strength, though the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power," yet, because of thy boiling lust (Genesis 35:22) "thou shall not excel." In that endowing charter of the patriarch's death-bed, the birthright of Reuben is not in so many words given to Joseph and his sons, but what is given to Joseph is so abundant above the lot of all the others, that we find no difficulty in accepting the formal statement of the fact here first found in this passage. The large measure of promise meted to Judah (Genesis 49:8-12) rests, no doubt, upon the title already referred to. There would seem to be also a righteous moral reason in Joseph after all becoming heir to the birthright, inasmuch as he was the eldest child of her who was Israel's real love, and who, but for deception and sharp practice, would have been his first wife. How he remembered her, and with what determined practical consequence, the affecting passage, Genesis 48:1-7, 16, 21, 22, sufficiently reveals; yet comp. Deuteronomy 21:15-17. The meaning of the last clause of ver. 1 is evidently that, though thus Reuben was the natural firstborn, and Joseph had really the birthright, the registration did not proceed in this instance (probably partly for the very reason of the ambiguity) by the order of birthright, but everything yielded to the special call for precedence on the part of Judah (ver. 2).

5:1-26 Genealogies. - This chapter gives some account of the two tribes and a half seated on the east side of Jordan. They were made captives by the king of Assyria, because they had forsaken the Lord. Only two things are here recorded concerning these tribes. 1. They all shared in a victory. Happy is that people who live in harmony together, who assist each other against the common enemies of their souls, trusting in the Lord, and calling upon him. 2. They shared in captivity. They would have the best land, not considering that it lay most exposed. The desire of earthly objects draws to a distance from God's ordinances, and prepares men for destruction.Now the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel,.... Are as follow in 1 Chronicles 5:3 where the account begins; for what comes between this and that is in a parenthesis:

for he was the firstborn; of Jacob by his wife Leah; that must be owned, and Jacob allows it, Genesis 49:3 and yet the genealogy in this book begins not with him, as might on that account be expected; the reason follows:

but forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed: by lying with Bilhah his concubine:

his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; his beloved son by his beloved wife Rachel and so had a double portion given him; his two sons being equally ranked with the other sons of Jacob, and became distinct tribes, and each had their lot in the land of Canaan, see Genesis 48:5 compared with Deuteronomy 21:17.

and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright; or, "but the genealogy", &c. (o); neither after the birthright of Reuben, which he had by nature, being Jacob's firstborn; nor after the birthright of Joseph, which be had by his father's gift, as it might be thought it should; the reason of which follows.

(o) "Nee tamen", Tigurine version.

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