A Man of Two Minds

Reuben is perhaps best known as the oldest brother of Joseph, and the only one who tried to dissuade his other brothers from killing their father’s favorite. If you recall, Jacob didn’t hide his favoritism, gifting Joseph with a coat of many colors. Perhaps this lavish love made Joseph confident enough to relate the dreams he had in which his brothers bowed to him.

And [the brothers] said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.

Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.

And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again. – Genesis 37:19-22


But when Reuben returned to the pit to rescue his little brother, Joseph was already gone. Perhaps guessing Reuben’s true intentions, Judah had devised a plan to sell Joseph as a slave. That would not only give the brothers a healthy profit for their trouble, but free them from the guilt they would endure if they killed their younger brother.

In his despair, Reuben rent his clothes. (It seems his brothers never revealed to him that Joseph was not actually dead.) His brothers then doused the coat of many colors with the blood of a goat and brought it back to Jacob, their father, who mourned for Joseph for years.

In the meantime, Joseph suffered many trials in Egypt, but he eventually became the prime minister of Egypt. The role allowed him to manage the country’s food supply during seven years of abundant crops and prepare for the seven years of famine that would follow.


When the famine came, people of other nations came to buy food in Egypt. As Providence would have it, Reuben and his brothers were among those who went to buy food from Joseph. While Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him, and he used the opportunity to test their character. He accused them of telling lies and being spies, and asked that they bring their youngest brother, Benjamin, to him as proof of their story. In the mean time, Simeon was imprisoned.

And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required. – Genesis 42:22

Upon their return to Israel, Reuben told Jacob what had happened in Egypt, concluding with the Egyptian leader’s demand to see Benjamin, Joseph’s younger brother and the only other child of Jacob’s most beloved wife, Rachel.

And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring [Benjamin] not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again. – Genesis 42:37

This promise speaks volumes of the character growth Reuben experienced as an adult. in Genesis 37, he lacked the boldness to confront his brothers directly about killing Joseph. He reasoned with them and even tried to trick them, but his plan failed. But in Genesis 42, he laid both of his beloved sons’ lives on the line. Surely, he would not have done so unless he were fully committed to protecting Benjamin.


At the end of the story, everyone lived pretty much happily ever after. Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and forgave them of all.

But the last time we read of Reuben, he received a bitter blow. Because of his wishy-washy approach to saving Joseph and other poor decisions he made, Reuben was given a less-than-stellar deathbed blessing by Jacob.

Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel. – Genesis 49:3, 4a


In Reuben’s rather sad life story, I see a man with good intentions poorly carried out. He knew what was right and even said the right words, but his actions revealed that he was not fully committed to living for God.

Do we have a single-minded commitment to Christ and to living an impactful life? Coasting across the surface is easy, but it’s the bold (and sometimes unpopular) leaps of faith that strengthen our character.

What do you find interesting about Reuben’s story? What Bible characters would you like me to study next for Lives that Inspire? I always and appreciate welcome your input.

Lives That Inspire




3 thoughts on “A Man of Two Minds”

    1. Yes, exactly. I find myself being like Reuben more often than I should. If I commit to praying for someone or serving in some way, I need to do it, and forgetfulness is no excuse!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Amen!! This is a great take on Reuben!! You’re right, we do see growth when we see him later. Great post!! May we be bold and forward with our words, trusting God will help us find strength in Him. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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