Firstborn son of Jacob and Leah and father of the tribe of Reuven, one of the twelve tribes of Israel. His name comes from the Hebrew meaning: “Look, a son.” He appears in the story of the mandrakes as the one giving them to his mother (Genesis 30:14). Reuven has relations with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah, angering Jacob and probably contributing to the curse of Reuven on Jacob’s deathbed (Genesis 49:4). He succeeded in convincing his brothers not to kill Joseph but to trap him inside of a pit instead, to which he intended to return and rescue Joseph (Genesis 37:22). Later, when the family journeys to Egypt during the famine, he attempts to persuade his father that he should take responsibility for Benjamin while in Egypt (Genesis 42:37).
The tribe of Reuven settled west of the Jordan River and agreed to join the other tribes in the war against the Philistines.
Sources: Bridger, David. Ed. The New Jewish Encyclopedia, NY: Behrman House, 1976; Navigating the Bible II