- Tribe of Reuben
The Tribe of Reuben (Hebrew Name|שֵׁבֶט רְאוּבֵן|Shevet Re'uven|Šēḇeṭ Rəʼûḇēn) was one of the Tribes of Israel. At its height, the territory it occupied was on the immediate east of the
Dead Sea, reaching from the Arnonriver in the south, and as far north as the Dead Sea stretched, ["Jewish Encyclopedia"] with an eastern border vaguely defined by the land dissolving into desert; the territory included the plain of Madaba. The exact border between Reuben and the Tribe of Gad, generally considered to have been situated to the south of Reuben, is somewhat vague in the Bible, with Dibonand Aroerbeing part of Gad according to the Book of Numbers, [Numbers 32:34] but part of Reuben according to the Book of Joshua; [Joshua 13:15+] this seems to suggest that the territory of Reuben was an enclave in the territory of Gad. ["Jewish Encyclopedia"]
According to the
Torah, the tribe was founded by an individual, Reuben, the first son of Jacob, and a son of Leah, from whom it took its name; however some Biblical scholars view this as a postdiction, an eponymous metaphorproviding an aetiologyof the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite confederation. [" Peake's commentary on the Bible"] With Leah as a matriarch, Biblical scholars regard the tribe as having been believed by the text's authors to have been part of the original Israelite confederation.
In the biblical account, Reuben are portrayed as having arrived east of the Jordan after leaving Egypt, but rather than taking land on the west of the Jordan, after conquering it under
Joshua, instead took land on the east, as they owned a large number of cattle, and the territory seemed suitable for pasture. Israel Finkelstein et al., however, have claimed that lack of evidence for a systematic conquest or the abrupt appearance of a new culture indicates that the Israelites simply arose as a subculture within Canaanite society. [ Israel Finkelstein, "The Bible Unearthed"] The territory of Reuben encapsulated the territory of the earlier kingdom of Sihon.
According to the ancient
Song of Deborah, Reuben declined to take part in the war against Sisera, the people instead idly resting among their flocks as if it were a time of peace, though the decision to do so was taken with a heavy heart. [Judges 5:15-16] On the other hand, according to the Book of Chronicles, Reuben instigated a war with the Hagarites, and was victorious; [1 Chronicles 5:10] in another portion of the same text, Reuben are said to have been assisted in this war by Gad and the eastern half of Manasseh. [1 Chronicles 5:18+] In the Blessing of Jacob, which some textual scholars date substantially later than these events, [ Richard Elliott Friedman, "Who wrote the Bible?"] the tribe is characterised as fickle - "unstable as water", and condemned to dwindle in power and size due to the incestof its eponymous founder; [Genesis 49:4] this incest is abruptly mentioned in the poem, without explaining the circumstances or the identity of the other party, nor are these details given elsewhere in the surviving text of the Bible, from which the episode appears to have been excised by the redactor.: : "Reuben" The mandrakes in Reuben's coat -of-arms are based on the story where young Reuben brought his mother Leah mandrakes from the field.
As part of the
Kingdom of Israel, the territory of Reuben was conquered by the Assyrians, and the tribe exiled; the manner of their exile lead to their further history being lost.
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