Tribe of Benjamin

Bible References: Genesis 35.18,24; Genesis 49.27; Deuteronomy 33.12; Numbers 1.36-37; Judges chapter 20, 21.

Heart of the Story: The tribe of Benjamin in the Bible was survivalists.

Story: Benjamin was the youngest son of Jacob and the only son born in Canaan. His mother was Rachel. Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin near the Canaanite town that is today known as Bethlehem. Rachel named Benjamin “Benoni” which means son of sorrow. Jacob changed his name to Benjamin which means son of right hand.

Jacob’s blessing to Benjamin was: “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey and at evening dividing the spoil” (Genesis 49.27 ESV).

When the Israelites left Egypt, Benjamin was the smallest tribe but for one. When Israel entered Canaan, 45,600 warriors were counted in Benjamin, an increase of about 10,000 warriors as the time the Israelites traversed the wilderness.

Moses’s blessing on Benjamin was “The beloved of the LORD dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long, and dwells between his shoulders” (Deuteronomy 33.12, ESV).

In Canaan, Benjamin received land (about 26 miles in length and 12 miles in breadth) that abutted the Jordan River on the east. Dan was given land west of Benjamin and the Philistine homelands.  Judah protected Benjamin on the south and Ephriam (Joseph’s son) on the north.

Benjaminites were skilled as archers and slingers (I suspect slingers means Benjaminites used a sling shot similar to the one young David used to kill Goliath).

The history Benjamin includes a war in which 11 Israelite tribes were aligned against Benjamin in the time of the Judges. In this civil war, Benjamin was almost exterminated. Possibly, fewer than 1,000 Benjaminite fighting men remained at the end of the war.  All Benjaminite women and children were killed. Because 11 tribes mourned their loss of Benjaminites, the remaining Benjaminite  men were given Israelite women mostly from other tribes to rebuild themselves as a tribe in Israel.

Diverse and notable individuals came from the line of Jacob: Ehud was the second judge in the Promised Land. King Saul, the first monarch over Israel, was a Benjaminite. Saul of Tarsus, the notable early church evangelist and author of many books in the New Testament, was a Benjaminite. At the time of the Jewish Restoration from the Babylonian captivity, Benjaminites, Judahites, and Levites were part Jews who returned to Jerusalem and Judea.

Pondering Relationships: Moses’s blessing on Jacob’s youngest son (Benjamin) was more favorable than that of his father. Sometimes fathers have insight into son’s character that even leaders don’t have. At first look, readers wonder why Jacob named his youngest and arguably  dearest son a “roaring lion;” but contemplating the history of the tribe of Benjamin, we can conclude that the tribe had its up and down side. Some men and actions of the tribe showed a blessed group while other actions demonstrated ravishing behavior.

Reflection: Do you think that Benjamin’s decision to go to war with the 11 other tribes of Israel was in anyway related to his being the youngest son of Jacob?

Copyright: May 10, 2019

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2 thoughts on “Tribe of Benjamin

  1. The other tribes didn’t realize how indeed a ravenous wolf Benjamin and his men were.It is interesting how Benjamin’s property is in the middle of the rest. Blended families are reality! Even though Benjamin is being judged and sentenced for something he may have nothing to do with,it is interesting how after all this killing that the tribes unite even stronger than before. ( a sort of ethnic cleansing)

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