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benjamin Summary and Overview

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benjamin in Easton's Bible Dictionary

son of my right hand. (1.) The younger son of Jacob by Rachel (Gen. 35:18). His birth took place at Ephrath, on the road between Bethel and Bethlehem, at a short distance from the latter place. His mother died in giving him birth, and with her last breath named him Ben-oni, son of my pain, a name which was changed by his father into Benjamin. His posterity are called Benjamites (Gen. 49:27; Deut. 33:12; Josh. 18:21). The tribe of Benjamin at the Exodus was the smallest but one (Num. 1:36, 37; Ps. 68:27). During the march its place was along with Manasseh and Ephraim on the west of the tabernacle. At the entrance into Canaan it counted 45,600 warriors. It has been inferred by some from the words of Jacob (Gen. 49:27) that the figure of a wolf was on the tribal standard. This tribe is mentioned in Rom. 11:1; Phil. 3:5. The inheritance of this tribe lay immediately to the south of that of Ephraim, and was about 26 miles in length and 12 in breadth. Its eastern boundary was the Jordan. Dan intervened between it and the Philistines. Its chief towns are named in Josh. 18:21-28. The history of the tribe contains a sad record of a desolating civil war in which they were engaged with the other eleven tribes. By it they were almost exterminated (Judg. 20:20, 21; 21:10). (See GIBEAH T0001476.) The first king of the Jews was Saul, a Benjamite. A close alliance was formed between this tribe and that of Judah in the time of David (2 Sam. 19:16, 17), which continued after his death (1 Kings 11:13; 12:20). After the Exile these two tribes formed the great body of the Jewish nation (Ezra 1:5; 10:9). The tribe of Benjamin was famous for its archers (1 Sam. 20:20, 36; 2 Sam. 1:22; 1 Chr. 8:40; 12:2) and slingers (Judge. 20:6). The gate of Benjamin, on the north side of Jerusalem (Jer. 37:13; 38:7; Zech. 14:10), was so called because it led in the direction of the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. It is called by Jeremiah (20:2) "the high gate of Benjamin;" also "the gate of the children of the people" (17:19). (Compare 2 Kings 14:13.)

benjamin in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(son of the right hand, fortunate). 1. The youngest of the children of Jacob. His birth took place on the road between Bethel and Bethlehem, near the latter, B.C. 1729. His mother, Rachel, died in the act of giving him birth, naming him with her last breath Ben-oni (son of my sorrow). This was by Jacob changed into Benjamin. #Ge 35:16,18| Until the journeys of Jacob's sons and Jacob himself into Egypt we hear nothing of Benjamin. Nothing personal is known of him. Henceforward the history of Benjamin is the history of the tribe. 2. A man of the tribe of Benjamin, son of bilhan, and the head of a family of warriors. #1Ch 7:10| 3. One of the "sons of Harim," an Israelite in the time of Ezra who had married a foreign wife. #Ezr 10:32|

benjamin in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

BEN'JAMIN (son of the right hand, i. e. of fortune). 1. The youngest son of Jacob and Rachel. His mother died immediately after his birth, which took place near Bethlehem when the family were on their journey from Padan-aram to Canaan, With her dying breath she called him Ben-oni (the son of my sorrow), but his father gave him the name he bore. Gen 35:16-18. The relation between him and Jacob was ever most tender, particularly after Joseph's supposed death. We know, however, nothing about him personally. The tribe formed from his descendants exhibited the traits of courage, cunning, and ambition foretold by the dying Jacob. Gen 49:27. It had its portion of the Promised Land adjoining Judah; and when ten of the tribes revolted, Benjamin continued steadfast in its attachment to Judah, and formed a part of that kingdom. 1 Kgs 12:17, Heb 12:23. Saul, the first king, and Paul were descendants of this tribe. 1 Sam 10:21; Phil 3:5. 1. A Benjamite chief. Phil 1 Chr, 7:10. 2. One who had a foreign wife. Ezr 10:32.

benjamin in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

("son of my right hand"), as Jacob named him; first called by his dying mother Rachel Benoni, son of my sorrow (compare Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:17-18). Jesus the antitype was first "a man of sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3), the mother's sorrows attending tits birth also at Bethlehem; afterward "the man of God's right hand," on whom God's hand was laid strengthening Him (Revelation 1:17; Psalm 80:17; Psalm 89:21; Acts 5:31).

1. Rachel's second son, the only son of Jacob born in Israel (Genesis 35:16-19), on the road between Betheland Bethlehem Ephrath, near the latter (Genesis 48:7) (probably "the fertile", from parah, corresponding to the town's other name, Bethlehem, "bread-house.") The Arabic jamin means "fortunate". And in the expression "sons of Benjamin" or a "man of Benjamin, ... land of Benjamin," the first syllable is suppressed Benee Ha-Jemini, Ish Jemini, Erets Jemini, compare Genesis 46:10. Benjamin was his father's favorite after Joseph's supposed death (Genesis 44:30); as the youngest, the child of his old age, and the child of his beloved Rachel. Joseph's gifts to him exceeded far those to each of his elder brothers (Genesis 43:34; Genesis 45:22).

Benjamin was only 23 or 24 years old when Jacob went down to Egypt. He clearly could not then have had ten sons already (Genesis 46:6-21), or eight sons and two grandsons (Numbers 26:38-40). It is plain that the list in Genesis 46 includes those grandsons and great grandsons of Jacob born afterward in Egypt, and who in the Israelite mode of thought came into Egypt "in the loins" of their fathers (compare Hebrews 7:9-10). Hence, arises the correspondence in the main between the list given in connection with Jacob's descent to Egypt in Genesis 46, and the list taken by Moses ages afterward in Numbers 26. Benjamin's sons, Becher, Gera, Rosh, are missing in Moses' list, because they either died childless, or did not leave a sufficient number of children to form independent families.

After the Exodus the tribe was the smallest but one (Numbers 1:1; Numbers 1:36-37; 1 Samuel 9:21; Psalm 68:27). On march it held the post between Manasseh and Ephraim, its brother tribes, W. of the tabernacle, which it followed (Psalm 80:2) under its captain Abidan, son of Gideoni (Numbers 2:18-24). Palti, son of Raphu, was the spy representing it (Numbers 13:9). In the division of the land Elidad, son of Chislon, represented it (Numbers 34:21). Its predominant characteristic of warlike tastes is foretold by Jacob (Genesis 49:27); "Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf, in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night shall divide the spoil." How truly is attested by the war waged them alone (and victoriously at against all the tribes, rather give up the wicked men of Gibeah (Judges 19; 20; compare Matthew 26:52). Their number was reduced thereby to 600, who took refuge in the cliff Rimmon, and were provided with wives partly from Jabesh, partly from Shiloh (Judges 21).

The period of the judges must have been a long one to admit of the increase to Benjamin's subsequent large numbers (1 Chronicles 7:6-12; 1 Chronicles 7:8; 1 Chronicles 12:1-8). The same determined spirit, but in a better cause, appears in their resisting Saul, their own kinsman's, appeal to them to betray David's movements (1 Samuel 22:7-18). Moreover Ehud, judge and deliverer of Israel from Eglon of Moab, was of Benjamin; also Saul and Jonathan, whose prowess was famed (2 Samuel 1:18-19; 2 Samuel 1:23). Also Baanah and Rechab, captains of marauding bands and murderers of Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4). Archers and slingers, generally left handed (as also Ehud was), were the chief force of the "sons of Jacob's right hand" (Judges 3:15, etc.; Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 12:2; 2 Chronicles 14:8; 2 Chronicles 17:17).

The "morning" and "night" in Jacob's prophecy mark that Benjamin, as he was in the beginning, so he should continue to the end of the Jewish state. Similarly in Moses' prophecy (Deuteronomy 33:12), "Benjamin, the beloved of the Lord (attached to David = beloved after Saul's dynasty fell), shall dwell in safety by Him; the Lord shall cover him all the day long;" implying a longer continuance to Benjamin than to the other tribes. So Benjamin alone survived with Judah, after the deportation of the ten tribes to Assyria, arid accompanied Judah to and front the Babylonian captivity, and lasted until Shiloh came and until Jerusalem was destroyed. As on the march, so in the promised land, Benjamin's position was near that of Ephraim, between it on the N. and Judah on the S., a small but rich territory, advantageously placed in commanding the approach to the valley of the Jordan, and having Dan between it and the Philistines (Joshua 18:11, etc.); a parallelogram, 26 miles long, 12 broad, extending from the Jordan to the region of Kirjath Jearim eight miles W. of Jerusalem, and from the valley of Hinnom S. to Bethel N.

When the Lord rejected the tabernacle of Joseph at Shiloh He chose mount Zion, Jerusalem which chiefly belonged to Benjamin (the of the Jebusite, "Jebusi, which Jerusalem" (Joshua 18:28), and all the land N. of the valley of Hinnom), and only in part to Judah, God's chosen tribe (Psalm 78:60; Psalm 78:67-68). In this sense Benjamin fulfilled Moses' prophecy in "dwelling between" Judah's (the Lord's representative) "shoulders," or ridges of the ravines which on the W., S., and E. environ the holy city. Primarily, however, the idea is, Benjamin as "the beloved of Jehovah shall dwell in safety with Him (literally, founded upon Him), and he (Benjamin) shall dwell between His (Jehovah's) shoulders," as a son borne upon his father's back (Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 32:11; Exodus 19:4; Isaiah 46:3-4; Isaiah 63:9).

This choice of Jerusalem as the seat of the ark and David's place of residence formed a strong He between Judah and Benjamin, though Saul's connection with the latter had previously made the Benjamites, as a tribe, slow to recognize David as king (1 Chronicles 12:29; 2 Samuel 2:8-9). Hence at the severance of the ten tribes Benjamin remained with Judah (1 Kings 12:23; 2 Chronicles 11:1). The two coalesced into one, under the common name Jews, whence they are called "one tribe" (1 Kings 11:13; 1 Kings 11:32; 1 Kings 12:20-21). Moreover, a part of Benjamin including Bethel, the seat of Jeroboam's calf worship, went with the ten tribes. Possibly Jeroboam's having appropriated it for the calf worship may have helped to alienate Benjamin from him and attach Benjamin to Judah. They two alone were the royal tribes.

David was connected with Saul of Benjamin by marriage with his daughter, and therefore, feeling the political importance of the connection, made it a preliminary of his league with Abner that Michal should be restored to him, though Phaltiel had her heart (2 Samuel 3:13-16). Above all, what knit together Benjamin and Judah most was the position fixed by God for the great national temple, which deprived Ephraim of its former glory (Psalm 78:60-68); not in Judah only, or in Benjamin only, but on part of the confines of both, so that one text places it in Judah and the parallel text in Benjamin; compare Joshua 15:63 with Joshua 18:28. These elements of union between Benjamin and Judah are not obviously put forward in the sacred writings, but are found in them on close observation, just such seeds as would produce the ultimate union which the history records.

Such undesigned coincidences agree best with the belief that the narrative is minutely true, not forged. Benjamin occupied a plateau generally about 2,000 feet above the Mediterranean plain, and 3,000 feet above the valley of the Jordan. The hilly nature of the country is marked by the names Gibeon, Gibeah, Geba, Ramah, Mizpeh (watchtower), "the ascent of Bethhoron," the cliff Rimmon, the pass of Michmash. Torrent beds and ravines are the only avenues from the Philistian and Sharon plains on the W., and from the deep Jordan valley on the E. These ravines were frequented once by many wild beasts, as the names of places testify: Zeboim, "hyaenas" (1 Samuel 13:17-18); Shual and Shaalbim (Judges 1:35), "foxes" or "jackals"; Ajalon, "gazelle." Up these western passes the Philistines advanced against Saul in the beginning of his reign, and drove him to Gilgal in the Arabah, occupying from Michmash to Ajalon. Down them they were driven again by Saul and Jonathan. Joshua chased the Canaanites down the long slopes of Bethhoron.

The regular road between Jericho and Jerusalem was another of these passes, the scene of the parable of the good Samaritan. Lod, Ono, Aijalon were westward extensions of Benjamin's bounds beyond the original limit (Nehemiah 11:35). The presence of the ark at Kirjath Jearim in Benjamin, the prophet Samuel's residence in the sanctuary Ramah (1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 9:12), the great assemblies of "all Israel" at Mizpeh (1 Samuel 7:5), and the sanctity attached of old to Bethel, "the great high place" at Gibeon (1 Kings 3:4; 2 Chronicles 1:3), all tended to raise B. high in the nation, and to lead them to acquiesce in the choice of Saul as king, though belonging to "the smallest of the tribes of Israel" (1 Samuel 9:21). After Saul's and then Ishbosheth's death, Benjamin sent 3,000 men to Hebron to confirm the kingdom to David (1 Chronicles 12:23; 1 Chronicles 12:29; 2 Samuel 5:3), Abner having declared for him. But the Benjamite Shimei's curses and Sheba's rebel. lion indicate that Saul's party among the Benjamites, even after his dynasty had ceased, cherished the old grudge against David.

Besides the causes mentioned before, which finally united Benjamin and Judah, there was Jeroboam's setting up the calf worship in Bethel (a Benjamite city) in rivalry of the temple of Jehovah in the joint city of Benjamin and Judah, Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:29); also Rehoboam's wise policy in dispersing his children through all Judah and Benjamin, into every" fenced city" (2 Chronicles 11:12; 2 Chronicles 11:23); also Asa's covenant with Jehovah, in which Benjamin took part (2 Chronicles 15); also the advancement of Benjamites to high posts in the army (2 Chronicles 17:17). "The high gate of Benjamin" (Jeremiah 20:2) marked the tribe's individuality even in the joint metropolis of Benjamin and Judah; compare Ezra 2; Ezra 10:9; Nehemiah 7; Nehemiah 11:31-35 in proof of this individuality even after the return from Babylon. The genealogy of Kish and Saul, traced to a late date, brings us down to a Kish, father of Mordecai, the savior of the Jewish nation from Haman's intended destruction (Esther 2:5).

The royal name reappears in Saul of Tarsus, whose glory was that he belonged to "the tribe of Benjamin" (Romans 11:1; Philemon 3:5.) His full sense of that honor appears in his reference to his forefather," Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin" (Acts 13:21.) In his own person he realized some of the prominent characteristics of his tribe: fierce obstinacy when be was "exceedingly mad against Christians, and persecuted them even unto strange cities" (Acts 26:11), equally persistent firmness when he declares, in spite of friends' entreaties, "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13). Thus Benjamin had the distinction of producing one of Israel's first judges, her first king, and the great apostle of the uncircumcision.

2. A Benjamite, head of a family of giant men; son of Bilhan (1 Chronicles 7:10).

3. One who married a foreign wife ((Ezra 10:32).