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Tribe of Reuben

This Israelite tribe consists of the descendants of Reuben, the son of Israel (Jacob). They are called Reubenites.

At the Exodus, this tribe numbered 46,500 male adults, from twenty years old and upwards (Numbers 1:20-21), and at the close of the wilderness wanderings they numbered only 43,730 (26:7).

This tribe united with that of Gad in asking permission to settle in the “land of Gilead,” “on the other side of Jordan” (32:1-5). The lot assigned to Reuben was the smallest of the lots given to the trans-Jordanic tribes.


Map of the tribal division of land—with Reuben marked in PALE GREEN, east of the Dead Sea

Map of the ancient Israelite tribal territories in the Promised Land. / License: CC BY-SA 3.0. File ID: 12 tribus de Israel.svg / 12 Tribes of Israel Map.svg
The approximate location and boundaries of the 12 landed Israelite tribes, based on records in the Book of Joshua. This, and more, was The Promised Land given by God to the descendants of Israel, the grandson of Abraham. The full extent of the Canaanite land promised was never acquired, due to the repeated disobedience of the Israelites during the their commanded conquest of this very idolatrous, heathen land, after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt and the following 40 years of Divine punishment wandering in the wilderness, before Joshua and the living descendants were allowed to enter the land, following the death of Moses.
License: CC BY-SA 3.0.

The land of the Tribe of Reuben extended from the Arnon, in the south along the coast of the Dead Sea to its northern end, where the Jordan flows into it (Josh. 13:15-21, 23). It thus embraced the original kingdom of Sihon. Reuben is “to the eastern tribes what Simeon is to the western.

“Unstable as water,” he vanishes away into a mere Arabian tribe. “His men are few;” it is all he can do “to live and not die.”

We hear of nothing beyond the multiplication of their cattle in the land of Gilead, their spoils of “camels fifty thousand, and of asses two thousand” (1 Chr. 5:9-10, 20-21). In the great struggles of the nation he never took part.

The complaint against him in the song of Deborah is the summary of his whole history. “By the streams of Reuben,” i.e., by the fresh streams which descend from the eastern hills into the Jordan and the Dead Sea, on whose banks the Bedouin chiefs met then as now to debate, in the ‘streams’ of Reuben great were the ‘desires’,” i.e., resolutions which were never carried out, the people idly resting among their flocks as if it were a time of peace (Judges 5:15-16). (Stanley's Sinai and Palestine)

All the 3 tribes on the east of Jordan at length fell into complete apostasy, and the time of retribution came. God “stirred up the spirit of Pul, king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria,” to carry them away, the first of the tribes, into captivity (1 Chronicles 5:25-26).

Tribes of Israel

  1. Asher
  2. Benjamin
  3. Dan
  4. Ephraim
  5. Gad
  6. Issachar
  7. Judah
  8. Levi
  9. Manasseh
  10. Naphtali
  11. Reuben
  12. Simeon
  13. Zebulun


Article Version: March 20, 2019