Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defilest thou it: he went up to my couch.
a. ASV: 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.
b. YLT: 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!
c. Amplified Bible Classic: But unstable and boiling over like water, you shall [c]not excel and have the preeminence [of the firstborn], because you went to your father’s bed; you defiled it—he went to my couch!
d. Septuagint: Thou wast insolent like water, burst not forth with violence, for thou wentest up to the bed of thy father; then thou defiledst the couch, whereupon thou wentest up.
e. Stone Edition Torah/Prophets/Writings: Water-like impetuosity, you cannot be foremost, because you mounted your father’s bed; then you desecrated Him Who ascended my couch.
1. “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel…”
a. Unstable [Strong: 6349 pachaz, pakh'-az; from H6348; ebullition, i.e. froth (figuratively, lust):—unstable.]
b. [as] water [Strong: 4325 mayim, mah'-yim; dual of a primitive noun (but used in a singular sense); water; figuratively, juice; by euphemism, urine, semen:— piss, wasting, water(-ing, (-course, -flood, -spring)).]
c. [you shall] not [Strong: 408 'al al a negative particle (akin to 3808); not (the qualified negation, used as a deprecative); once (Job 24:25) as a noun, nothing:--nay, neither, + never, no ,nor, not, nothing (worth), rather than.]
d. excel [Strong: 3498 yâthar, yaw-thar'; a primitive root; to jut over or exceed; by implication, to excel; (intransitively) to remain or be left; causatively to leave, cause to abound, preserve:—excel, leave (a remnant), left behind, too much, make plenteous, preserve, (be, let) remain(-der, -ing, -nant), reserve, residue, rest.]
1). A source of Reuben’s instability was of course he was double minded.
a). James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
2. “...because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defilest thou it: he went up to my couch.”
a. because [Strong: 3588 kiy kee a primitive particle (the full form of the prepositional prefix) indicating causal relations of all kinds, antecedent or consequent; (by implication) very widely used as a relative conjunction or adverb (as below); often largely modified by other particles annexed:--and, + (forasmuch, inasmuch, where-)as, assured(-ly), + but, certainly, doubtless, + else, even, + except, for, how, (because, in, so, than) that, + nevertheless, now, rightly, seeing, since, surely, then, therefore, + (al- )though, + till, truly, + until, when, whether, while, whom, yea, yet.]
b. [you] wentest up [Strong: 5927 ʻâlâh, aw-law'; a primitive root; to ascend, intransitively (be high) or actively (mount); used in a great variety of senses, primary and secondary, literal and figurative:—arise (up), (cause to) ascend up, at once, break (the day) (up), bring (up), (cause to) burn, carry up, cast up, shew, climb (up), (cause to, make to) come (up), cut off, dawn, depart, exalt, excel, fall, fetch up, get up, (make to) go (away, up); grow (over) increase, lay, leap, levy, lift (self) up, light, (make) up, × mention, mount up, offer, make to pay, perfect, prefer, put (on), raise, recover, restore, (make to) rise (up), scale, set (up), shoot forth (up), (begin to) spring (up), stir up, take away (up), work.]
c. [to thy] father’s [Strong: 1 ʼâb, awb; a primitive word; father, in a literal and immediate, or figurative and remote application:—chief, (fore-) father(-less), × patrimony, principal. Compare names in 'Abi-'.]
d. bed [Strong: 4904 mishkâb, mish-kawb'; from H7901; a bed (figuratively, a bier); abstractly, sleep; by euphemism, carnal intercourse:—bed(-chamber), couch, lieth (lying) with.]
e. then [Strong: 227 'az awz a demonstrative adverb; at that time or place; also as a conjunction, therefore:--beginning, for, from, hitherto, now, of old, once, since, then, at which time, yet.]
f. defilest thou it [Strong: 2490 châlal, khaw-lal'; a primitive root (compare H2470); also denominative (from H2485) properly, to bore, i.e. (by implication) to wound, to dissolve; figuratively, to profane (a person, place or thing), to break (one's word), to begin (as if by an 'opening wedge'); to play (the flute):—begin (× men began), defile, × break, defile, × eat (as common things), × first, × gather the grape thereof, × take inheritance, pipe, player on instruments, pollute, (cast as) profane (self), prostitute, slay (slain), sorrow, stain, wound.]
g. [he] went up [Strong: 5927 ʻâlâh, aw-law'; a primitive root; to ascend, intransitively (be high) or actively (mount); used in a great variety of senses, primary and secondary, literal and figurative:—arise (up), (cause to) ascend up, at once, break (the day) (up), bring (up), (cause to) burn, carry up, cast up, shew, climb (up), (cause to, make to) come (up), cut off, dawn, depart, exalt, excel, fall, fetch up, get up, (make to) go (away, up); grow (over) increase, lay, leap, levy, lift (self) up, light, (make) up, × mention, mount up, offer, make to pay, perfect, prefer, put (on), raise, recover, restore, (make to) rise (up), scale, set (up), shoot forth (up), (begin to) spring (up), stir up, take away (up), work.]
h. [to my] couch [Strong: 3326 yâtsûwaʻ, yaw-tsoo'-ah; passive participle of H3331; spread, i.e. a bed; (architecture) an extension, i.e. wing or lean-to (a single story or collectively):—bed, chamber, couch.]
1). Jacob’s Dozen, William Varner: In ancient Israel, a family’s firstborn son was accorded a special privilege, a double portion of the father’s inheritance. This meant that if a father had 12 sons, he divided his inheritance into 13 parts, and the firstborn received twice the amount received by each of his brothers. Such a double inheritance was Reuben’s by right of his status as firstborn son; but alas, he did not receive that which should have been his.
a). Deuteronomy 21:15-17 If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:
21:16 Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:
21:17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.
2). Jacob’s Dozen, William Varner: The firstborn son in ancient Israel was to be the natural leader of his brothers. Reuben did not enjoy this privilege and responsibility either.
a). 1 Chronicles 5:1-3 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.
5:2 For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph's:)
5:3 The sons, I say, of Reuben the firstborn of Israel were, Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi.
3). The reason Reuben lost his birthright was because of his adultery and incest with his father concubine.
a). Genesis 49:4 Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defilest thou it: he went up to my couch.
b). Genesis 35:21, 22 And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.
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. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve:
4). Two prominent persons from the tribe of Reuben named Dathan and Abriam joined the rebellion of Korah, questioning the leadership of Moses. (They all eventually lost their lives because of their rebellion Numbers 16:31-33).
a). Numbers 16: 1-3 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:
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:
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?
b). The rebellion became a proverb in Jewish history (Jude 11).
5). Another example of Reuben’s instability is recorded in Judges concerning the battle against the Canaanites that Israel won because of the intervention of the LORD.
a). Judges 5:15, 16 And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak: he was sent on foot into the valley. For the divisions of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart.
5:16 Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds, to hear the bleatings of the flocks? For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart.
6). Fornicators lose their birthright.
1). Hebrews 12:16, 17 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
12:17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.