BENJAMIN (bĕn'ja-mĭn, Heb. binyāmîn, son of my right hand, Gen 35:17ff.). The youngest son of the patriarch Jacob whom his wife Rachel bore in her dying agony; named Ben-oni (“son of my sorrow”) by Rachel, his mother, but renamed Benjamin (“son of my right hand”) by his father Jacob. Of all the children of Jacob, he alone was born in Palestine, between Ephrathah and Bethel. Together with his elder brother Joseph, he appears as a special object of parental love and devotion, no doubt, in part at least, because of the sad circumstances surrounding his birth. He seems to have played no part in the sale of Joseph into Egypt. The intercession on the part of Judah in behalf of Benjamin (Gen.44.18-Gen.44.34) is one of the most moving speeches in all of literature. No doubt the brothers had been softened in their attitude as they had observed the continued suffering of their father over the fate of Joseph, whom he believed irrevocably lost.
2. A great-grandson of Benjamin, son of Jacob (1Chr.7.10).
3. One of those who had married a foreign wife (Ezra.10.32).
BENJAMIN bĕn já mĭn (בִנְיָמִֽין, or בִּנְיָמִ֑ן, LXX, Βενιαμιν, son of the right hand.
Jacob’s youngest son.
After Jacob’s meeting with Esau, when returning to the land of his father, Rachel gave birth to a son but died in childbirth. As she was dying she named the child Benoni (son of my sorrow) but Jacob named him Benjamin (Gen 35:18). He was a full brother of Joseph and half brother of the other ten sons of Jacob by his mother’s sister and the handmaids of the two women. Because he was the son of the woman for whom Jacob had served fourteen years, he and Joseph were Jacob’s favorite sons.
During the seven-year famine in Egypt and Pal. Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph, whom his brethren had sold into Egypt, was in charge of all the Egyp. storehouses, and recognized his brethren when they appeared. He sold them grain, but demanded to see their youngest brother before another purchase. Jacob was deeply distressed at this turn of events, but with no other choice he permitted Benjamin to make the journey into Egypt. After a bit of intrigue, Joseph revealed himself to his brethren and was reunited with Benjamin, whereupon Joseph sent for Jacob, and Israel’s descent into Egypt took place (45:4-46:7).
At the time of the descent Benjamin is reported to have had ten sons (46:21). Judging from Jacob’s blessing of his sons, Benjamin was to have a fruitful life (49:27).
One of Israel’s tribes.
According to the census taken by Moses on Israel’s entrance into Canaan, Benjamin could supply 35,400 men of the proper age for battle (Num 1:37). At the second census the number was raised to 45,600 (26:41). With Abidon as its prince, the tribe was assigned to the host with Ephraim and Manasseh taking their position on the W side of the Tabernacle (2:18-24). When the spies were sent into Canaan, Benjamin was represented by Palti (13:9).
In the territorial allotment the tribe received the land between Judah and Joseph (Josh 18:11) which included such notable places as Jerusalem, Gibeon, Bethel, the valley of Aijalon, and the Beth-horons.
In its history the tribe became both famous and infamous. It produced Ehud, the lefthanded judge, Saul, Israel’s first king (1 Sam 9:1), and took part in the defense of Israel under Deborah and Barak. But it was also the tribe that harbored the evil men attacking the Levite’s concubine, whose protection led to civil war in which the tribe almost perished (Judg 20:3-48).
A great-grandson of Benjamin, son of Jacob
(1 Chron 7:10).
One who had married a foreign wife in the time of Ezra
H. P. Smith, Old Testament History, 106, 107.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(binyamin, or binyamin; Beniaein, Beniamin):
1. The Patriarch:
The youngest of Jacob’s sons. His mother Rachel died in giving him birth. As she felt death approaching she called him Benoni, "son of my sorrow." Fearing, probably, that this might bode evil for the child--for names have always preserved a peculiar significance in the East--Jacob called him Benjamin, "son of the fight hand" (Ge 35:17 ff). He alone of Jacob’s sons was born in Palestine, between Bethel and Ephrath. Later in the chapter, in the general enumeration of the children born in Paddan-ar am, the writer fails to except Benjamin (Ge 35:24). Joseph was his full brother. In the history where Benjamin appears as an object of solicitude to his father and brothers, we must not forget that he was already a grown man. At the time of the descent of Israel to Egypt Joseph was about 40 years of age. Benjamin was not much younger, and was himself the father of a family. The phrase in Ge 44:20, "a little one," only describes in oriental fashion one much younger than the speaker. And as the youngest of the family no doubt he was made much of. Remorse over their heartless treatment of his brother Joseph may have made the other brothers especially tender toward Benjamin. The conduct of his brethren all through the trying experiences in Egypt places them in a more attractive light than we should have expected; and it must have been a gratification to their father (Ge 42 ff). Ten sons of Benjamin are named at the time of their settlement in Egypt (Ge 46:21).
2. The Tribe:
At the Exodus the number of men of war in the tribe is given as 35,400. At the second census it is 45,600 (Nu 1:37; 26:41). Their place in the host was with the standard of the camp of Ephraim on the west of the tabernacle, their prince being Abidan the son of Gideoni (Nu 2:22 f). Benjamin was represented among the spies by Palti the son of Raphu; and at the division of the land the prince of Benjamin was Elidad the son of Chislon (Nu 13:9; 34:21).
The boundaries of the lot that fell to Benjamin are pretty clearly indicated (Jos 18:11 ff). It lay between Ephraim on the North and Judah on the South. The northern frontier started from the Jordan over against Jericho, and ran to the north of that town up through the mountain westward past Bethaven, taking in Bethel. It then went down by Ataroth-addar to Beth- horon the nether. From this point the western frontier ran southward to Kiriath-jearim. The southern boundary ran from Kiriath-jearim eas tward to the fountain of the waters of Netophah, swept round by the south of Jerrus and passed down through the wilderness northern by shore of the Dead Sea at the mouth of the Jordan. The river formed the eastern boundary. The lot was comparatively small. This, according to Josephus, was owing to "the goodness of the land" (Ant., V, i, 22); a description that would apply mainly to the plans of Jericho. The uplands are stony, mountainous, and poor in water; but there is much good land on the western slopes.
4. Importance of Position:
It will be seen from the above that Benjamin held the main avenues of approach to the highlands from both East and West: that by which Joshua led Israel past Ai from Gilgal, and the longer and easier ascents from the West, notably that along which the tides of battle so often rolled, the Valley of Aijalon, by way of the Beth-horons. Benjamin also sat astride the great highway connecting North and South, which ran along the ridge of the western range, in the district where it was easiest of defense. It was a position calling for occupation by a brave and warlike tribe such as Benjamin proved to be. His warriors were skillful archers and slingers, and they seem to have cultivated the use of both hands, which gave them a great advantage in battle (Jud 20:16; 1Ch 8:40; 12:2, etc.). These characteristics are reflected in the Blessing of Jacob (Ge 49:27). The second deliverer of Israel in the period of the Judges was Ehud, the left-handed Benjamite (Jud 3:15).
(4) A great-grandson of Benjamin, son of Jacob (1Ch 7:10).
(5) One of those who had married a foreign wife (Ezr 10:32, and probably also Ne 3:23; 12:34).