Reuven is the firstborn son of Jacob and Leah and father of the tribe of Reuven, one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
The name Reuven 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 east 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