WISDOM FROM THE BOOKS: REUBEN – UNSTABLE AS WATER!
Hey people of God! With this article we begin a new feature on the blog, a category, or more like an unending series captioned, ‘Wisdom from the Books’. The inspiration behind this caption is drawn from my intent, which is to serve us timeless wisdom from the Bible, which etymologically, means ‘the books’. Yes, our English word, ‘Bible’, has its breath from the Latin word, ‘Biblia’ – the books. I look forward to a swell time with you all on this journey.
Introduction done, let’s get on with this.
Let’s talk about him. You remember him, right, the firstborn son of the patriarch, Jacob? Turn with me to Genesis 49, the New Living Translation Bible:
Then Jacob called together all his sons and said, “Gather around me, and I will tell you what will happen to each of you in the days to come. Come and listen, you sons of Jacob; listen to Israel, your father. Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength, the child of my vigorous youth. You are first in rank and first in power. But you are as unruly as a flood, and you will be first no longer. For you went to bed with my wife; you defiled my marriage couch. (Verse 1 through 4.)
Permit me to resort to the King James Version’s wording of the beginning part of verse 4:
Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel…
Strong words those are, right? From what we read above, Reuben was an advantaged young man, being the first son of Jacob, but he had a black spot on his white shirt. He was, according to his daddy, unstable as water, or put another way, unruly as a flood, because he slept with his daddy’s wife. So, we get the idea that it was Reuben’s unstableness as water, or unruly nature as a flood that led him to go as far as sleeping with his step mum. Since this is rightly so, what did Jacob mean by his son being unstable as water?
You know, were we just left with the King James Version alone, it would have been pretty difficult to grapple with what Jacob was referring to here. I dare say that, the New Living Translation Bible is our best bet to illumination in this regard. Notwithstanding, there is still hope if only we can happily resort to checking the original Hebrew word translated as ‘unstable’ in Genesis 49 verse 4. The word is pachaz, and it appears just once in the whole of the Old Testament; it means: ebullition. Check out the word in your dictionary, and you will find a meaning around this zone: an unrestrained expression of emotion. The New Living Translation chose the word unruly – which in this context means: noisy and lacking in restraint or discipline.
In summary, we could term Mr. Reuben as an unrestrained young man, an indisciplined fellow; an ‘everything goes’ kind of dude. One who is unrestrained in the expression of his emotions; more like, an emotional one way traffic someone. He does as his emotions dictates. This is the reason he woke up one morning to love on the curves and looks of Bilhah, his dad’s mistress, and went on to satisfy his lust (Genesis 35: 22). This is the reason why Jacob prognosticated, ‘thou shalt not excel’. It’s not rocket science: a young man who’s unrestrained emotionally is headed for a life-crash. I have more to write, but all I can say right now is…
SELAH – PAUSE AND THINK.