Genesis 49:3
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
"Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power.

New Living Translation
"Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength, the child of my vigorous youth. You are first in rank and first in power.

English Standard Version
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.

New American Standard Bible
"Reuben, you are my firstborn; My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.

King James Bible
Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Reuben, you are my firstborn, my strength and the firstfruits of my virility, excelling in prominence, excelling in power.

International Standard Version
"Reuben, you're my firstborn, my strength, and the first fruit of my vitality. You excel in rank and excel in power.

NET Bible
Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength, outstanding in dignity, outstanding in power.

New Heart English Bible
"Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength; excelling in dignity, and excelling in power.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
"[Reuben], you are my firstborn, my strength, the very first son I had, first in majesty and first in power.

JPS Tanakh 1917
Reuben, thou art my first-born, My might, and the first-fruits of my strength; The excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power.

New American Standard 1977
“Reuben, you are my first-born;
            My might and the beginning of my strength,
            Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.

Jubilee Bible 2000
Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, principal in dignity, and the principal in power.

King James 2000 Bible
Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

American King James Version
Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

American Standard Version
Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength; The pre-eminence of dignity, and the pre-eminence of power.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Ruben, my firstborn, thou art my strength, and the beginning of my sorrow: excelling in gifts, greater in command.

Darby Bible Translation
Reuben, thou art my firstborn, My might, and the firstfruits of my vigour: Excellency of dignity, and excellency of strength.

English Revised Version
Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength; The excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power.

Webster's Bible Translation
Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellence of dignity, and the excellence of power:

World English Bible
"Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength; excelling in dignity, and excelling in power.

Young's Literal Translation
Reuben! my first-born thou, My power, and beginning of my strength, The abundance of exaltation, And the abundance of strength;
Study Bible
Jacob Blesses his Sons
2"Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; And listen to Israel your father. 3"Reuben, you are my firstborn; My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. 4"Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, Because you went up to your father's bed; Then you defiled it-- he went up to my couch.…
Cross References
Revelation 3:14
To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God's creation.

Deuteronomy 21:17
"But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn.

Deuteronomy 33:6
"May Reuben live and not die, Nor his men be few."

Psalm 78:51
And smote all the firstborn in Egypt, The first issue of their virility in the tents of Ham.

Psalm 105:36
He also struck down all the firstborn in their land, The first fruits of all their vigor.
Treasury of Scripture

Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

my firstborn.

Genesis 29:32 And Leah conceived, and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben: …

Genesis 46:8 And these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into …

Genesis 48:18 And Joseph said to his father, Not so, my father: for this is the …

Numbers 1:20 And the children of Reuben, Israel's oldest son, by their generations, …

Numbers 26:5 Reuben, the oldest son of Israel: the children of Reuben; Hanoch, …

1 Chronicles 2:1 These are the sons of Israel; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Issachar, …

1 Chronicles 5:1,3 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; …

my might.

Deuteronomy 21:17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, …

Psalm 78:51 And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength …

Psalm 105:36 He smote also all the firstborn in their land, the chief of all their strength.

(3) The beginning of my strength.--In Genesis 35:18, the word oni means "my sorrow," and it is so translated here by the Vulg., Aquila, and Symmachus. But in this verse Jacob magnifies the prerogatives of the firstborn, and our version is undoubtedly right in deriving oni from a different and not uncommon word signifying strength. It occurs in Deuteronomy 21:17; Job 40:16; Psalm 78:51; Psalm 105:36, &c.

The excellency . . . --We must here supply, "And therefore to thee as the firstborn belonged," first, the excellency of dignity, that is, the priesthood; and secondly, the excellency of power, that is, the kingly office. As a matter of history no king, judge, or prophet is recorded as having sprung from the tribe of Reuben.

Verses 3, 4. - Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: - Jacob's patriarchal benediction takes the form of an elevated poem, or sublime religious hymn, exhibiting the well-known classes of parallelism, the synthetic the antithetic, and the synonymous, not alone in its separate clauses, but sometimes also in its stanzas or verses. As was perhaps to be expected, it begins with Reuben, who is characterized by a threefold designation, viz.,

(1) by his position in the family, as Jacob's firstborn;

(2) by his relation to Jacob, as the patriarch's "might," כּחַ, or robur virile, and "the beginning" of his "strength," not "of his sorrow" (Vulgate, Aquila, Symmachus), though און might be so translated (cf. Genesis 35:18), and the sense would sufficiently accord with the allusion of ver. 4, but, as required by the parallelism, "of his vigor," און being here equivalent to כּחַ (Rosenmuller, Kalisch, Keil, 'Speaker's Commentary,' et alii); and

(3) by the natural prominence which as Jacob's eldest son belonged to him, "the excellency of dignity" or "elevation," i.e. the dignity of the chieftainship, and "the excellency of power," or authority, which the first born claimed and received as his prerogative. Yet the natural advantages enjoyed by Reuben as Jacob's firstborn were to be taken from him, as the patriarch proceeded to announce - Unstable as water, - literally, boiling over like water, the import of which is not effusus es sicut aqua (Vulgate), but either ἐξύβρισας ὡς ὑδωρ (LXX.), or lasciviousness (sc. was to thee) as the boiling of water (Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, etc.), the same root in Arabic conveying the notion of pride, and in Syriac that of wantonness - thou shalt not excel; - literally, thou shalt not have the ישׂנךללךשׂצך רו יֶרֶת (ver. 3), i.e. the pre-eminence belonging to the firstborn, a sense which the versions have more or less successfully expressed: μὴ περισσεύσης (Aquila), οὐκ ἔση περισσότερος (Symmachus), μὴ ἐκζέσης (LXX.), non crescas (Vulgate) - because thou wentest up to thy father's bed (vide Genesis 35:22; 1 Chronicles 5:1); then defiledst thou it: - the verb is used absolutely, as meaning that Reuben had desecrated what ought to have been regarded by him as sacred (cf. Deuteronomy 27:20) - he went up to my couch - literally, my couch he ascends; the order of the words and the change from the second to the third person helping to give expression to the horror and indignation with which, even at that distance of time, the venerable patriarch contemplated the shameful deed. Reuben, thou art my firstborn,.... Jacob addressed himself to Reuben first, in the presence of his brethren, owned him as his firstborn, as he was, Genesis 29:31 did not cashier him from his family, nor disinherit him, though he had greatly disobliged him, for which the birthright, and the privileges of it, were taken from him, 1 Chronicles 5:1.

my might, and the beginning of my strength; begotten by him when in his full strength (z), as well as the first of his family, in which his strength and glory lay; so the Septuagint, "the beginning of my children"; and because he was so, of right the double portion belonged to him, had he not forfeited it, Deuteronomy 21:17. Some versions render the words, "the beginning of my grief", or "sorrow" (a), the word "Oni" sometimes so signifying, as Rachel called her youngest son "Benoni", the son of my sorrow; but this is not true of Reuben, he was not the beginning of Jacob's sorrow, for the ravishing of Dinah, and the slaughter and spoil of the Shechemites, by his sons, which gave him great sorrow and grief, were before the affair of Reuben's lying with Bilhah:

the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power; that is, to him of right belonged excellent dignity, power, and authority in the family, a preeminence over his brethren, a double portion of goods, succession in government, and, as is commonly understood, the exercise of the priesthood; and so the Targums interpret it, that he should, had he not sinned, took three parts or portions above his brethren, the birthright, priesthood, and kingdom. Jacob observes this to him, that he might know what he had lost by sinning, and from what excellency and dignity, grandeur and power, he was fallen.

(z) "Nate. meae vires. --------" Virgil. (a) , Aquila; , Symmachus apud Drusium; "principium doloris mei", V. L. Tigurine version. Ge 49:3, 4. Reuben forfeited by his crime the rights and honors of primogeniture. His posterity never made any figure; no judge, prophet, nor ruler, sprang from this tribe.49:3-7 Reuben was the first-born; but by gross sin, he forfeited the birthright. The character of Reuben is, that he was unstable as water. Men do not thrive, because they do not fix. Reuben's sin left a lasting infamy upon his family. Let us never do evil, then we need not fear being told of it. Simeon and Levi were passionate and revengeful. The murder of the Shechemites is a proof of this. Jacob protested against that barbarous act. Our soul is our honour; by its powers we are distinguished from, and raised above, the beasts that perish. We ought, from our hearts, to abhor all bloody and mischievous men. Cursed be their anger. Jacob does not curse their persons, but their lusts. I will divide them. The sentence as it respects Levi was turned into a blessing. This tribe performed an acceptable service in their zeal against the worshippers of the golden calf, Ex 32. Being set apart to God as priests, they were in that character scattered through the nation of Israel.
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