Foundational Themes in Genesis – Study 105

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Foundational themes in Genesis – Study 105 (Key verses: Genesis 48:21-22; Genesis 49:1-4)

In the final section of the book of Genesis we see that Jacob is brought back into focus as Jacob lived with Joseph and the whole family in the country of Goshen in Egypt before his death (Gen 41:54-57):

Gen 47:28 And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years.

Jacob was in the process of dying, and it was the time to tell his sons “that which shall befall [them] in the last days”:

Gen 49:1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.
Gen 49:2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.

Jacob’s words shall be applicable “in the last days”, and this concept of the “last days” is very important throughout the scriptures. The theme of the “last days” is also very appropriate as this concludes the final section of the book of Genesis. Here are a few scriptural references about this concept of “last days” which will help us to gain a better understanding of how God want us to see this:

Isa 2:2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

Act 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
Act 2:18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
Act 2:19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:
Act 2:20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:
Act 2:21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

The “last days” therefore relate to the process of the establishment of the Lord’s spiritual house in our lives when our own house of flesh will be removed through His fiery judgment (Isa 26:9; Mat 7:24-27; Mat 24:1-51; 1Pe 4:12-13). These “last days” indicate the perilous times which will come unto the flesh because the end of the fleshly age has come, especially for those who can receive this even in this age (1Pe 4:17):

2Ti 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

God’s Word has a primary spiritual meaning which is the inward application for those who can see that the application of this Word of God is “at hand” (Mat 4:4; Luk 17:20-21; Joh 6:63; Rev 1:3). This is the time of judgment when it is revealed to us that we have stored up corrupt treasures in the wrong place as a witness against us:

Mat 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
Mat 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
Mat 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Jas 5:3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.

Everything written in the scriptures has therefore both a physical and spiritual application, even the words of Jacob to his sons. But the physical applications of Jacob’s words are all but earthly shadows and spiritual types of what the church of God, the true “Israel of God”, is experiencing (Rom 2:28-29; Rom 3:1-2; Gal 6:15-16). These sons of Jacob therefore are all types of the spiritual “Israel of God”, His elected few, on whom the “last days” or the end of this physical age has come. All things, present, past and things to come are applicable now in the lives of the elected “generation” of God (Mat 23:36; Mat 24:34):

1Co 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples [Greek: tupos = figures/a resemblance]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world [Greek: aiōn = age] are come.

1Co 3:21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;
1Co 3:22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours.

What Jacob said to each son has spiritual meaning for us “upon whom the ends of the world” have come. This means we can see how these words of Jacob concerning his sons connect with our own spiritual development. In this discussion we will look only at the eldest son Reuben and what he typifies in our lives, even through the words of Jacob.


Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn from his wife Leah who was not the wife he loved as much as he loved Rachel, who was his second wife. In this sense Leah and Reuben spiritually connects with our firstborn, our own flesh (1Co 15:45-49):

Gen 29:31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

The name “Reuben” means “behold a son” or “the vision of the son”:

Gen 29:32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.

The fleshly Adam is a son of God but only in terms of him being a type of the spiritual Adam, Jesus Christ, who is the true Son of God with whom only the Father is well pleased:

Luk 3:38 Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.

Mat 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

These are Jacob’s words to his eldest son Reuben when Jacob was dying:

Gen 49:3 Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

Reuben had the “might” of the firstborn of the flesh of Jacob. It was Reuben who preserved the life of Joseph when Joseph’s life was in danger of the other brothers who wanted to kill him. Reuben used the might of his status as the firstborn to change the plans of the other nine brothers:

Gen 37:19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
Gen 37:20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
Gen 37:21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
Gen 37:22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.

But these efforts from Reuben could not prevent the trials which Joseph had to endure. In Reuben’s absence the nine brothers sold Joseph to slave traders (Gen 37:23-28):

Gen 37:29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
Gen 37:30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?

Reuben was extremely upset and saddened by this as he also reminded his brothers years later about their sin against Joseph when they were judged by the very Joseph whom they could not recognise at this time of torment in Egypt:

Gen 42:22 And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.

Reuben even used this position of might to guarantee the safety of Benjamin when Jacob did not want to send Benjamin to Egypt:

Gen 42:37 And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.

Our Reuben and all his firstborn glory and might cannot give proper protection. We also learn from this that the best protection which the flesh can give should always be seen as a temporary and insecure shelter:

1Pe 1:24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away.

God will bring us to our appointed time of tribulation no matter how safe we think we are from His terrors. All will fear the Lord in due time (Rev 6:12-17):

Job 6:4 For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.

Psa 139:7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
Psa 139:8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

Isa 2:10 Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty.
Isa 2:11 The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.
Isa 2:12 For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low.

The second attribute connected to Reuben as being the firstborn of Jacob was that he was “the beginning of…strength”. The firstborn in our lives is this earthy man and he is indeed the beginning of our earthly strength. However this earthly strength is connected to all that relate to vanity and futility in our first man:

Rom 8:20 For the [earthly/physical] creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

The firstborn in our Egypt (our flesh) and “the chief of [our earthly] strength in the tabernacles of Ham” will be smitten as God will remove him (Exo 12:12):

Psa 78:51 And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:

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

The firstborn of the spirit is the true Son of God, and He rules in strength and in power, even in earth as it is ordained first in heaven (Luk 3:38; Mat 6:10; Mat 18:18):

Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them [His disciples – those who can receive these words], saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

The third attribute connected to Reuben as the firstborn of Jacob was that he had “the excellency of dignity”, according to Jacob. The Hebrew word for “excellency” is “yether”, which connects with the idea of having an excess, superiority or abundance. The word “dignity” is translated from the Hebrew word “śe’êth” which means “elevation” or “exaltation”. Our Reubenite flesh is given a delusion of elevation, and we all are captivated by his influence for an appointed period of time. But the true elevated One will appear with the brightness of the glory of God which we see and experience through the fiery trials and destruction of this false earthly “excellency of dignity” in us:

2Th 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
2Th 2:4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God [deluding itself with attributes only linked to God, e.g. having a free will].

2Th 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.
2Th 2:8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

The fourth attribute Jacob connected to Reuben as his firstborn was that he had “the excellency of power”. This position of strength is so distorted and twisted when the flesh has dominion over us, as Jesus also indicated:

Mat 20:25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

There is no humility or mercy in our fleshly rulership as it will even send its enemies to an eternal hellfire…and have no problem with that while claiming moral high ground. With God’s true “ministers…of fire” there is a spirit of servanthood and impartiality, because they serve and fulfil God’s “royal law…of liberty”, even as they love their worse enemies (Mat 5:38-48; 1Co 13; Jas 1:25; Jas 2:8-13; 1Jn 5:1-4). They have received mercy from God and they can therefore give love and mercy even when judgment must be executed (Mat 18:15-17; Rom 11:30-36; 1Co 6:1-2; Tit 3:9-11; 2Jn 1:9-11; Rev 20:11-15.). Judgment is temporary and has a love-filled purpose to fulfill – to teach God’s righteousness:

Mat 20:26 But it [ruling over others with no love and mercy] shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
Mat 20:27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Isa 26:9 With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

Jacob was also given the insight to see that his physical firstborn will never realise these roles within his fleshly limitations, as we also see in the words of Jacob what the physical firstborn in us symbolizes:

Gen 49:4 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.

This instability of water gives the negative application of water in the scriptures, which applies to the flesh. We are all first “born of [unstable] water” having the restless and unfulfilled spirit of the world before we will be born “of the spirit” of God, which brings stability and the peace with God in our lives (Gen 2:7; 1Jn 2:16):

Joh 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
Joh 3:2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
Joh 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Joh 3:4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

The corrupt flesh shall not excel as it has never been in the spiritual kingdom of God and will never enter into “the glory [of the spirit of God] that excels” (2Co 3:10; Php 1:10-11):

1Co 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

All of this instability and restlessness were in Reuben from his birth as he could not even resist sleeping with his father’s concubine:

Gen 35:22 And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: and Israel heard it…

Due to this act of Reuben it was clear why he could not have the birthright of the firstborn – it was reserved for Joseph and his offspring who typify the true firstborn Jesus Christ and His spiritual offspring:

1Ch 5:1 Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.

Flesh and all its instability is what we are all defiled with, even as we spiritually are in bed with the worldly concubine and her mind-set. We naturally believe and follow the teachings and philosophies of this world, and we all, like Reuben, live in disobedience to the commandments of God, even under the influence of the spiritual whore Babylon:

Rev 17:1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters [all flesh]:
Rev 17:2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
Rev 17:3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
Rev 17:4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:

The false church system is part of this world system, which is an outward representative of this spiritual harlot. These false churches are the spiritual equivalent of Jerusalem “which now is”, even part of the rejected bride of our Head, Jesus Christ, with whom we all sleep at our appointed time (Jer 3:8; 1Co 5:1-7; Gal 4:22-25). This harlot incorporates the symbolic “seven women” or “seven churches in Asia” which use Christ’s name (Christ-ian) but eat her own bread and wear her own apparel (Mat 24:4-5; Rev 1:4, 7, 18):

Isa 4:1 And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.

This spirit of this harlot cannot submit to God’s order and authority, as designed and ordained by God for our learning to see what is in our unstable flesh with its deceitful heart (Jer 17:9; 1Jn 2:16). This unsubmissive Babylonian spirit was evident also when some of the offspring of Reuben took part in the revolt which was led by Korah against the God-ordained leadership of Moses:

Num 16:1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men:
Num 16:2 And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:
Num 16:3 And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?

This is again a witness how the natural spirit in these Reubenites still thought of themselves in terms of their “might…strength…the excellency of dignity….and the excellency of power”. The old man’s ideas die very hard, and this also shows that flesh always opposes God’s true leadership in His church here on earth, even disputing the many scriptural references in this regard (Mat 20:25-27; Act 20:28; 1Co 12:28-31; Eph 4:11; 1Pe 5:1-6; 1Ti 1:19-20; 2Ti 4:14-18; 3Jn 1:9-10). Reuben and these offspring typify the flesh,which is like a child that is indeed unstable and easily “tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine”:

Eph 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.

Again this distant aloofness and indifference of the tribe of Reuben is seen during the time of settlement in Canaan. Reuben’s tribe chose a settlement on the east side of the Jordan with the tribe of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh after their entry and victories in Canaan (Num 32:1-33):

Jos 13:7 Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance unto the nine tribes, and the half tribe of Manasseh,
Jos 13:8 With whom the Reubenites and the Gadites have received their inheritance, which Moses gave them, beyond Jordan eastward, even as Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.

During the war against the king of Canaan, Jabin, and his general, Sisera, the tribe of Reuben also refused to join Barak and Deborah in battle but rather “stay among the sheepfolds to hear the bleating of the flocks”:

Jdg 5:16 Why did you stay among the sheepfolds to hear the bleating of the flocks? For in the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.

The “divisions of Reuben” are symptomatic of the ongoing schisms in the world. The world is rather obsessed with its own “sheepfolds … [and] to hear the bleatings of [their] flocks” bringing them honour and accolades. This spirit of the Reubenites is the spirit of the world which also occupies the mind of the carnal babe in Christ, who thrives on creating factions and focussing on schisms (1Co 11:19; 1Co 12:25; Gal 5:20; Tit 3:10). This is the spirit which Paul also endured in the churches like those in Corinth:

1Co 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
1Co 3:4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

The tribe of Reuben also joined the other nine northern tribes after the death of Solomon under the leadership of Jeroboam, after the counsel of God’s will:

1Ki 11:31 And he [the prophet Ahijah] said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee:

But Moses prophesied of the life that will be given even to the Reubenites in the resurrection from the dead, as Ezekiel and John also see this tribe in spiritual terms being part of the new temple of God (Eze 48:6; Rev 7:5):

Deu 33:4 Moses commanded us a law, even the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.
Deu 33:5 And he was king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together.
Deu 33:6 Let Reuben live, and not die; and let not his men be few.

Reuben also spiritually represents those who are part of God’s elect who can give a righteous account of their own time of living in rebellion and disobedience before they repent of that by dying daily to that spirit of Reuben in them (Psa 139:23-24; 1Co 15:31; Eph 2:1-3; Col 3:6-7; Rom 12:1-3). This is when the meaning of the name of Reuben refers to us beholding the true Son, and being part of the new city of God build on the spiritual foundations of truth (Rev 7:5):

Rev 21:10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
Rev 21:11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
Rev 21:12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.


Detailed studies and emails relating to these foundational themes in Scripture are available on the website, including these topics and links:

The Meaning of “The Time Is At Hand”
When Did The New Testment Apostasy Begin?
When Will Matthew 24 Be Fulfilled?
Living by Every Word of God
What Becomes of Our Flesh? – Part 1
Numbers – The Number 12

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