The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

The good and bad in Reuben's character serves as a warning to us today. This 1-minute devotion explains. #BibleLoveNotes #Bible

In the story of Joseph, Reuben illustrates an important truth. 

He was Joseph's most honorable half-brother:
  • Reuben saved Joseph’s life. He suggested they throw Joseph in a pit because he planned to rescue him later. (Genesis 37:17-22; Genesis 42:22).
  • Reuben didn't participate in the decision to sell Joseph into slavery (Genesis 37:29-30).
God would use Joseph's mistreatment for good (Genesis 50:20), but Joseph's half-brothers were fully responsible for their sins against Joseph.(1)

And Reuben was also responsible.

He had good intentions, but he was more afraid of his brothers’ disapproval than God’s disapproval. He wanted to do the right thing, but he buckled under pressure. 

Later in his life, Reuben committed another serious sin, sleeping with his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22). Was this because he'd seared his conscience by allowing Joseph's mistreatment or was it simply another example of giving in to pressure, this time the pressure of lust?(2)

Reuben serves as a good bad-example for us.(3)

It's not enough to have good intentions. We must do what is right.(4)
(1) God can use the actions of evil men for good, but He never causes someone to sin (James 1:13). See God Uses Bad People.

(2) When we repeatedly do things against our conscience, we "sear" it, meaning we lose our ability to differentiate between good and evil. We don't know if Reuben ever genuinely repented. I hope he did, but there seems to be some questions about their repentance in Genesis. See I Doubt they Genuinely Repented.
(3) Did you know that these Old Testament stories have great importance in our understanding of sin and temptation? I encourage you to read this full passage: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. To read about two other "good bad-examples": Anatomy of an Insincere Repentance and An Example to Avoid.

(4) When we do something we know is wrong, we start down a path of self-deception. See 3 Paths to Self-Deception

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The good and bad in Reuben's character serves as a warning to us today. This 1-minute devotion explains. #BibleLoveNotes #Bible

Bible Love Notes


  1. I know "the road to hell" is just a saying, but I like to think Reuben got saved, despite his flaws. After all, he's mentioned in Revelation in a positive (albeit symbolic) light! Salvation isn't dependant upon us thankfully but upon the mercies of the Lord.

    1. Hi Robert,
      Yes, we don't know for sure the final destination of Reuben.

      The tribe of Reuben is mentioned in Revelation, so we know that it includes some believers.

      It's interesting that Judah, who was totally in favor of killing and selling Joseph is the tribe to which Jesus was born. Christ's linage came through Judah and it includes a former prostitute(Rahab)and a non-Jew (Ruth)and we know those two as well as many other descendants of Judah will be represented in heaven. And this shouldn't surprise us since Scripture tells us that God doesn't hold the sins of the fathers against the children (Ezekiel 18).

      Sadly, there's reason to believe that despite their words of repentance, the brothers never sincerely repented of what they'd done.

      I wrote about this aspect in the link in the footnotes "I Doubt they Genuinely Repented."

  2. I think my old pastor, Geoff Thomas, preached about them- his talks are available on I think he was more optimistic (except perhaps about Dan who's omitted in Revelation- maybe he was the Judas of the 12 brothers!). If David, the man after God's own heart, could genuinely repent after murder and adultery, I'm sure that motley crew could too. Joseph's words to them towards the end are almost a forerunner of Romans 8:28 which is certainly true of us new covenant believers.