by Rev Joel Yong
Genesis 49:3-4 ESV
Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the first fruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. 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!
Firstborns are the recipients of their parents’ full attention and love. There are no other children existing in the family unit at that time to draw the parents’ attention away.
At the same time these firstborn infants are a novelty. Their parents have never had a child before and never done this whole childrearing thing till they entered their parents’ world!! Their parents are excited and energetic in taking care of them.
As such, researchers have found that firstborns display certain traits. Traits formed no doubt from the attention they received and due to the lack of initial competition from other children in the household.
We see how Israel speaks favorably initially of his firstborn Reuben here. But these favorable remarks turn into a withdrawal of blessing – the firstborn tended to get the majority of the inheritance in biblical times. And we note that the privileges are withdrawn because Reuben had sinned. He slept with his father’s concubine!!!
Though he was the firstborn and in line for great privilege- he took it for granted and by his actions showed his disregard for all that was promised to him by birth order.
Sound familiar? Esau did it too.
Sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup.
Israel as a nation – did it too.
Jesus came to them as His chosen people amongst the nations but they rejected Him and thus the Gentiles had the opportunity to receive God’s gospel for themselves.