Bilhah was the maid of Rachel. Later on she became Jacob’s wife. The Bible says, “When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die!’ Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’ Then she said, ‘Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, that she may bear upon my knees, and even I may have children through her.’ So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife; and Jacob went in to her. And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son” (Genesis 30:1-5).
Reuben was Jacob’s first son. He committed the tragedy of committing adultery with Bilhah. The Bible says, “While Israel dwelt in that land Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard of it” (Genesis 35:22).
Israel (Jacob) heard of it and said nothing about it, but the issue was not ended. Reuben had yielded to his passions at a moment of weakness and committed incest with his father’s wife. The consequences came later on!
When Jacob was about to die, he called his children and said, “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in days to come. Assemble and hear, O sons of Jacob, and hearken to Israel your father” (Genesis 49:1-2). Then he started with Reuben his first born and said, “Reuben, you are my first-born, my might, and the first fruits of my strength, pre-eminent in pride and pre-eminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have pre-eminence because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it - you went up to my couch!” (Genesis 49:3-4). He was the firstborn; he was his might; he was the first fruits of his strength; he was pre-eminent in pride; he was pre-eminent in power, but because of his adulterous act, he was not to have pre-eminence! He lost his birthright to adultery. That right passed over to Joseph who resisted the temptation to commit adultery. Of him Jacob said, “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. The archers fiercely attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him sorely; yet his bow remained unmoved, his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (by the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel), by the God of your father who will help you, by God Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that couches beneath, blessings of the breasts and the womb. The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was separate from his brothers” (Genesis 49:22-26).