וישמע ישראל סיפר הכתוב ענותנותו כי שמע בחלל בנו יצועיו ולא צוה שיוציאוהו מביתו מכלל בניו ולא ינחל עמהם אבל ימנה עמהם ויהיו שנים עשר והוא ימנה ראשון ולכך עשה משתי הפרשיות פסוק אחד כי אף על פי שהוא תחלת ענין שבא למנות השבטים משנולדו כולם רמז כי ראובן לא נדחה במעשהו ועל דרך הפשט יתכן שבלבל ראובן יצועי בלהה מפחדו שלא תלד ליעקב עוד כי הוא הבכור וחשב לקחת שני חלקים ויפסיד יותר מכל האחים ולא פחד מאמו כי זקנה היתה ואולי מתה זלפה או חשש לכבוד אמו בעבור היותה שפחתה ולכן נטלה ממנו הבכורה מדה כנגד מדה וזהו טעם ויהיו בני יעקב שנים עשר כי לא הוליד אחרי כן: AND ISRAEL HEARD OF IT. Scripture relates Jacob’s humility. He heard that his son had profaned his couch, but yet he did not command them to remove him from his house and from inclusion among his sons so that he should not inherit with them. Instead, he is counted among them, as it is written, And the sons of Jacob, were twelve, and he is counted first. It is for this reason that Scripture has combined the two sections of the Torah236In the written Torah the upper section concludes with the words, And Israel heard of it. Then a new section begins, And the sons of Jacob were twelve. Ramban explains why the Masorah combines them into one verse. through one verse. For although this is the beginning of a subject wherein Scripture commences to count the tribes now that they were all born, it hints that Reuben was not rejected on account of his deed.
In line with the simple meaning of Scripture it is possible that Reuben disturbed the couch of Bilhah [Rachel’s handmaid] because he feared that she might give birth again from Jacob, for he, being the first-born and thinking of taking two portions of the inheritance, would thus lose more than all the brothers. He had no fear of his mother for she was elderly. Zilpah had perhaps died, or it may be that he had concern for his mother’s honor, and since Zilpah was her handmaid, he did not disturb her. It was for this reason that the right of the first-born was taken away from Reuben, measure for measure. And this is the purport of the verse, And the sons of Jacob were twelve, meaning that he did not beget children after that.