The Curse of Reuben

by Team FOL

Wisdom must teach us to learn the taming of certain traits early in life lest they turn into fatal predators, later. There are four such poignant predators that, if not tamed, they tame us. While the first three are be Sleep, Speech, and Stomach, here we will consider the fourth predator, Sensuality or unbridled sexual obsession.

Sex and sensuality are not evil, provided they are harnessed and directed to one’s own spouse and enjoyed within marriage; but we forget the sanctity of its sacredness. The challenge is, either conquer or be conquered. History showcases fall of the great and the mighty; the scars these invisible killer traits left behind on some great people are greater than their greatness. David and Samson figure the tallest in this category. Their fall impacted their nation, their people and their families, almost immediately and in their own generations. Away from these two names, there is another person who is almost obscured by the weight of his sin: Reuben.

Reuben was Jacob’s first born. He occupied the lion’s share in Jacob’s heart and head even in Jacob’s fading years. Jacob spoke of no other son as he spoke of Reuben when he said that Reuben was his pride and strength and the excellence of his dignity and power. But the imagery fades away and a much larger picture looms before Jacob’s memory as he remembers the sin of Reuben’s in his youth. Reuben slept with Jacob’s concubine, [Genesis 49:4]. For this sin, Reuben was stripped of his birthright which was given to the sons of Joseph, [1 Chronicles 5:1]. Later, the mention of the Reubenites fades away in the memory of the nation. The tribe produced no notable leader, prophet, nor judge. Whatever remained of the Reubenites was due to a prayer by Moses in Deuteronomy 33:6, which only gave the tribe its posterity but not prosperity.

Oscar Wilde captured the condition of such Reubens in a letter from a prison.

“I took pleasure where it pleased…I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character…what one has done in the secret chamber, one has someday to cry aloud on house tops…I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in a horrible disgrace”.

For a long time, Reuben’s act seemed to have been forgotten among his brethren and family. However, the invisible seed sown in the throes of young passion gave its fruit in due season. True harvest gives no regret; only contentment. However, false harvest brings regret. The follwing poem by Rudyard Kipling explains the thought further.

And the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth. God help us, for we knew the worst too young! Our shame is clean repentance for the crime that brought the sentence, Our pride it is to know no spur of pride, And the Curse of Reuben holds us till an alien turf enfolds us And we die, and none can tell Them where we died. We’re poor little lambs who’ve lost our way, Baa! Baa! Baa! We’re little black sheep who’ve gone astray, Baa—aa—aa!

There are three types of people in the world: those who learn from others’ mistakes, those who learn from their own mistakes and those who never learn from anyone’s mistakes. May we reflect on what type we are.

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