Genesis 49:4
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father's bed, onto my couch and defiled it.

New Living Translation
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.

English Standard Version
Unstable 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!

New American Standard Bible
"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.

King James Bible
Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Turbulent as water, you will no longer excel, because you got into your father's bed and you defiled it--he got into my bed.

International Standard Version
But you're as undisciplined as a roaring river, so eventually you won't succeed, because you got in your father's bed, defiled it, and then approached my couch."

NET Bible
You are destructive like water and will not excel, for you got on your father's bed, then you defiled it--he got on my couch!

New Heart English Bible
Boiling over as water, you shall not excel; because you went up to your father's bed, then defiled it. He went up to my couch.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
You will no longer be first because you were out of control like a flood and you climbed into your father's bed. Then you dishonored it. He climbed up on my couch.

JPS Tanakh 1917
Unstable as water, have not thou the excellency; Because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; Then defiledst thou it--he went up to my couch.

New American Standard 1977
“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.

Jubilee Bible 2000
Unstable as water, thou shalt not be principal because thou didst go up to thy father's bed; then thou became defiled, going up to my couch.

King James 2000 Bible
Unstable as water, you shall not excel; because you went up to your father's bed; then you defiled it: he went up to my couch.

American King James Version
Unstable as water, you shall not excel; because you went up to your father's bed; then defiled you it: he went up to my couch.

American Standard Version
Boiling over as water, thou shalt not have the pre-eminence; Because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; Then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Thou art poured out as water, grow thou not: because thou wentest up to thy father's bed, and didst defile his couch.

Darby Bible Translation
Impetuous as the waters, thou shalt have no pre-eminence; Because thou wentest up to thy father's couch: Then defiledst thou [it]: he went up to my bed.

English Revised Version
Unstable as water, thou shalt not have the excellency; Because thou wentest up to thy father's bed: Then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.

Webster's Bible Translation
Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it; he went up to my couch.

World English Bible
Boiling over as water, you shall not excel; because you went up to your father's bed, then defiled it. He went up to my couch.

Young's Literal Translation
Unstable as water, thou art not abundant; For thou hast gone up thy father's bed; Then thou hast polluted: My couch he went up!
Study Bible
Jacob Blesses his Sons
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. 5"Simeon and Levi are brothers; Their swords are implements of violence.…
Cross References
Genesis 35:22
It came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine, and Israel heard of it. Now there were twelve sons of Jacob--

Deuteronomy 27:20
'Cursed is he who lies with his father's wife, because he has uncovered his father's skirt.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'

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

1 Chronicles 5:1
Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright.
Treasury of Scripture

Unstable as water, you shall not excel; because you went up to your father's bed; then defiled you it: he went up to my couch.

Unstable.

James 1:6-8 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is …

2 Peter 2:14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling …

2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things; in …

thou shall not excel. Heb. do not thou excel.

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

Numbers 32:1-42 Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great …

Deuteronomy 33:6 Let Reuben live, and not die; and let not his men be few.

because.

Genesis 35:22 And it came to pass, when Israel dwelled in that land, that Reuben …

Deuteronomy 5:21 Neither shall you desire your neighbor's wife, neither shall you …

Deuteronomy 27:20 Cursed be he that lies with his father's wife; because he uncovers …

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

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and …

he went up to my couch. or, my couch is gone.

(4) Unstable.--This translation is shown to be right by the use of the word in Judges 9:4; Zephaniah 3:4, in both which places it is translated light. Out of this sense of lightness and frivolity naturally arose the meaning which the word has in Syriac of wantonness. In Arabic it means boastful, another side of feebleness. With this sense the comparison with water well agrees; for it is its nature to seek a dull level, and while yielding to every impression to retain none. The other meaning given to it by many able critics is "boiling over like water," a description of the unrestrained violence of Reuben's passions.

Thou shalt not excel.--That is, thou shalt not have that excellency which was thine by right of birth.

Unstable as water,.... Which is not to be understood of the levity of his mind, and his disposition to hurt, and the impetuous force of that breaking forth like water, and carrying him into the commission of it; but rather of his fall from his excellency and dignity, like the fall of water from an high place; and of his being vile, mean, and contemptible, useless and unprofitable, like water spilled on the ground; and of his weak and strengthless condition and circumstances, being deprived of the prerogatives and privileges of his birthright, and having lost all his honour and grandeur, power and authority. The word in the Arabic language signifies (b) to be proud and haughty, to lift up one's self, to swell and rise like the turgent and swelling waters: but though he did thus lift himself, yet it follows:

thou shall not excel; not have the excellency of dignity and power which belonged to him as the firstborn; the birthright and the double portion were given to Joseph, who had two tribes descending from him, when Reuben had but one; the kingdom was given to Judah, and the priesthood to Levi, as both the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem observe: as he did not excel his brethren in honour and dignity, so neither in wealth and riches, nor in numbers; see Deuteronomy 33:6 where the word "not" is wrongly supplied; nor in his share in the land of Canaan, his posterity being seated on the other side of Jordan, at their request; nor did any persons of note and eminence spring from his tribe: because thou wentest up to thy father's bed, then defiledst thou it; referring to his incest with Bilhah, his father's concubine wife, Genesis 35:22 which, though done forty years ago, was now remembered, and left an indelible spot on Reuben's character, and his posterity:

he went up to my couch: turning himself to his other sons, to take notice of the crime, as very abominable and detestable; affirming the truth of it, and speaking of it with some vehemency, his affections being moved; and it may be could not bear to look at Reuben, but turned himself to his brethren; though he had forgiven the sin, and very probably Reuben had repented of it, and had forgiveness of God, which he might have, though in some sense vengeance was taken on this sinful invention of his, Psalm 99:8. There are various senses given of this phrase; some, as Aben Ezra, "my bed departed from me"; that is, he departed from his bed; or, as Kimchi (c), "it ceased to be my bed"; he left it, he abstained from the bed of Bilhah upon its being defiled by Reuben: and others separate these words, and read singly, "it went up" (d); either the excellency of Reuben went up, vanished and disappeared like smoke; or, as Ben Melech connects it with the beginning of the verse, "unstable as water", giving the sense, "it", the inundation of water, "ascended" and prevailed over thee; as waters ascend, meaning his lust ascended, and got the prevalence over him; but the accents will not admit of such a separation of the words; it is best to understand them in the first sense. As to the manner of the expression, of going up to a bed, it may be observed, that not only their beds in those times might be raised higher than ours, but that they were placed in an higher part of the room, and so there was an ascent to them: and Dr. Shaw (e) says this is the custom of the eastern people to this day,"at one end of each chamber there is a little gallery, raised three, four, or five feet above the floor, with a balustrade in the front of it, with a few steps likewise leading up to it, here they place their beds.''

(b) "superbivit, semet extulit gloria fastuque", Golius, col. 1767. so Castel. col. 2980. (c) Sepher Shorash. rad. (d) "ascendit", i.e. "abiit" "et evanuit", Vatablus. (e) Travels, p. 209. Ed. 2.49:3-7 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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