Reuben was the first born son of Jacob and Leah.
Reuben, not exempt from the emotions of his mother, received a name that means "He has seen my misery." When he was born, she said, "The LORD has seen my misery and now my husband will love me."
When little brother Joseph was annoying his big brothers enough for them to want to have him killed, it was Reuben who rescued him from death by standing up to the jealous and hurting brood. He had persuaded them to throw Joseph in a well instead of killing him. Reuben planned on sneaking back later to rescue his little brother, but before his plan could unfold, Joseph was sold, and Reuben was left mortified and sentenced to many years of guilt, shame, and regret.
(By the time this happened Joseph was 17 and so Reuben had to have been at least 28, maybe older. It took time for his mother and aunt to manipulate biology through other women and we don't know how far apart the children were in age).
By the time Benjamin was born and Rachel had died, Reuben was old enough to sleep with Bilhah, the mother of his younger brothers Dan and Naphtali. Jacob got back from burying his wife only to hear what his son had done.
Reuben, already having suffered a guilty conscience for years by the time the famine struck, made the journey with his brothers and half brothers to Egypt for food. By then Reuben would have been in his mid 50's.
That's a long time to carry the guilt and shame for the past.
Reuben may have been like some of us who suffer guilt and shame from the past. We think every bad thing that happens is because of the first bad thing we did. That's probably what he was thinking when the brothers faced their brother Joseph in Egypt. and Joseph insisted they go back to their father and fetch Joseph's full blooded brother Benjamin.
The guilt was still driving Reuben. The regret of the corporate lie ate at his soul all those years later as the brothers felt they were being punished for what they had done decades before. The turmoil in Reuben erupted as he said to them, "Didn't I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn't listen; that's why this distress has come upon us," he said to his brothers.
Oh, how we silly slugs try to connect the dots of why one thing happens because something else happened we claim as evidence. We think we know why bad things happen and why we deserve for bad things to happen to us and other people. We often get punishment mixed up with consequences and mistake one for the other.
Oh, the agony, Reuben suffered in his guilt ridden soul. A lifetime of regret for not speaking up louder, for not standing up against his younger brothers. He was the oldest but clearly Misery felt helpless and trapped in his own jealousy. His life couldn't make his father love his mother, how could his words have made himself or his brothers love Joseph?
When Jacob died he said, "Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power. Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father's bed, onto my couch and defiled it."
Ugh. Blessing and shame spilled out and over onto the boy called Misery.
Just as he may have felt some redemption in the first part of his father's words, he was knocked down again by the shameful reminder of his actions. Jacob's legacy to his son was one of "I will never forget what you have done."
Moses looked beyond the sins of Reuben and blessed the descendants of Misery by saying, "Let Reuben live and not die, nor his men be few."
When the Israelites went into the Promised land Misery's kin numbered 43, 730. As they marched in the desert his descendants changed birth order with Judah, marching fourth, camping on the south side of the Tabernacle. Ezekiel saw his gate on the north side in heaven.
God's forgiveness extended to Reuben, and thankfully it was not based on what his earthly father said. Reuben was not forgotten by God. His past sins hung on that cross right next to yours and mine. Forgiven and wiped clean. In the book of Revelation, there is a gate in heaven that has Reuben's name on it.
Maybe it uses the English antonym for misery -