Wednesday, March 20, 2019

It's All About The Benjamins

A Short History of Israel's Smallest Tribe

As Rachel was dying after the birth of her second son (Jacob's twelfth son), she named him Benoni, "son of my sorrow", but his father Jacob named him Benjamin, "son of my right (hand)". Benjamin is the name he is known by in the Bible. Because Joseph and Benjamin were born to Rachel, they were Jacob's favorite sons, which caused some serious sibling rivalry, at least towards Joseph. Jacob was clearly protective of Benjamin after he thought he had lost Joseph, and the other ten sons of Jacob apparently felt bad about the way they treated Joseph, selling him into slavery, so they became protective of Benjamin as well. 

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

Judah Saves Benjamin

Benjamin and the Goblet
Joseph became powerful in Egypt, and his brothers came to him to buy food, but didn't recognize him. Joseph planted his goblet in Benjamin's pack so Benjamin would look guilty of theft. Judah steps up and offers to trade himself as a slave in Benjamin's place. In spite of Leah and her children (including Judah) being second class citizens in Jacob's eyes, Judah's plea was based on how much sorrow it would cause his father to lose Benjamin. Note in Genesis 44:27 that Judah quotes Jacob who only refers to the two sons of Rachel. The phrase "your servant my father" refers to Jacob. History turned on this speech by Judah, not because he changed Joseph's mind, but because he showed God his own character, willing to sacrifice for Benjamin.

Genesis 44:27 “Your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons; 28 and the one went out from me, and I said, “Surely he is torn in pieces,” and I have not seen him since. 29 ‘If you take this one also from me, and harm befalls him, you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.’ 30 “Now, therefore, when I come to your servant my father, and the lad is not with us, since his life is bound up in the lad’s life, 31 when he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die. 

The next thing we read about Benjamin is that he had sons while in Egypt - Gen 46:21.

"Blessings" Of the Twelve Tribes

The next thing we read about Benjamin is in a prophecy about the twelve sons of Jacob. Jacob introduces the prophecy by saying it is for the last days - "And Jacob called his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, and I will tell you what will befall you at the end of days." Gen 49:1, Darby Bible Translation. "End of days" is also translated as latter days, last days, days to come, in the future, etc. Historians use these prophecies to locate Israel's tribes throughout history and at the end time. Here is what Jacob said about Benjamin.

Gen 49:27 Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
In the morning he devours the prey,
And in the evening he divides the spoil.

I find that cryptic. In fact, most of the sons receive a cryptic saying. Some refer to this chapter as the "blessing of the twelve tribes" - Ellicott's Commentary [1], but most of them don't read like blessings to me. Commentaries agree that Benjamin's "blessing" means he would have a warlike character at some point in the future.


Benjamin is between
Ephraim and Judah
Time passes, Israel leaves Egypt, and a census is taken by Moses. The tribe of Benjamin is neither the largest nor the smallest tribe, for examples, Simeon 22,200, Benjamin 45,600, Judah 76,500 - Num 26. More time passes, and the Promised Land is divided among the tribes (except Levi the priestly tribe). Benjamin's territory is just north of Judah, and contains the city of Jerusalem - Josh 18:11-27.

After the land is divided, many of the tribes of Israel (Zebulun, Issachar, Napthali, Gad, Asher, Dan, Rueben, Simeon) fade from the pages of the Bible. Israel's history is mostly told through Ephraim, Manasseh, Judah, Levi, and Benjamin.

Benjamin Becomes the Smallest Tribe

Judges 19-21 tells a very dark story in Benjamin's history. The men of Gibeah, a Benjamite town, acted like the men of Sodom, wanting to have sex with a man who was spending the night in Gibeah. The man, a Levite, gave them his concubine instead, and they raped her to death. The Levite cut her body in twelve pieces and sent the pieces to each tribe. All Israel banded together for justice against the rapists, but Benjamin wouldn't give them up. Civil war ensued, and Benjamin was reduced to 600 men. Since then, Benjamin has been the smallest tribe. The Bible is silent about whether the rapists lived or died in the civil war. Twice the Bible records incidents of men demanding sex with strangers. Each ended in death and destruction. It may have been God's way or purging that evil from Israel.

Despite their few numbers, surprisingly a Benjamite, Saul, is chosen as king over all Israel. Unfortunately, Saul wasn't a righteous king, and the kingdom was taken from him and given to David, a Jew. While David too had his problems, his dynasty was established forever. But alas, the kingdom of Israel was split in two in the days of David's grandson Rehoboam, the northern ten tribes known as the kingdom of Israel ruled by Jeroboam, the southern three tribes known as the kingdom of Judah ruled by Rehoboam. Consider this verse suggesting that Benjamin would side with Rehoboam and the Jews.
(The prophet Ahijah is talking to Jeroboam about Solomon's son Rehoboam)
1 K 11:35 but I will take the kingdom from his son’s (Rehoboam's) hand and give it to you (Jeroboam), even ten tribes. 36 But to his son (Rehoboam) I will give one tribe, that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name.
Since Benjamin was so small, and already considered part of Judah, the "one tribe" could be talking about the tribe of Judah; OR Benjamin could be the "one tribe" added to Judah - Gill's Exposition [2].

However, this obscure prophecy in Jeremiah could mean that Benjamin is to split off from Judah at some point. Some teach that Benjamin did just that after the destruction of the second Temple - The Tribe of Benjamin are the Normans [3].
Jer 6:1 Flee for safety, O sons of Benjamin,
From the midst of Jerusalem!
For evil looks down from the north,
And a great destruction.
But that's getting ahead of the story.

Benjamin Saves Judah

Esther appears before the king
The northern ten tribes (known as Israel or Ephraim) are taken captive, and eventually the southern tribes (known as Judah, but includes Benjamin) are also taken captive. During this captivity (478BC) - Introduction to Esther [4], the book of Esther takes place, where Esther, a Benjamite, offers herself to save Judah, that is the ethnic Jews in Persia, repaying what Judah did for Benjamin back in Egypt - Esther Pays An Old Debt [5]. Note that Mordecai and Esther are identified as Jews AND Benjamites - Esther 2:5.

Return To the Land

Meanwhile, King Cyrus agreed to let the Jews rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Notice who responded to the call. One might say that Judah saved Benjamin again.
Ezra 1:2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah'.
5 Then the heads of fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites arose, even everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.
Josephus confirms that only Judah and Benjamin came back, but he also refers to the "immense multitude" of the ten tribes that stayed beyond the Euphrates - Antiquities of the Jews  [6].

Benjamin IS Galilee

Judah and Galilee
in Jesus's day

Centuries pass, Judah has taken over Jerusalem, and Benjamin lives north of Judah, in a region called Galilee. This is where Jesus grew up, and where the disciples came from, that is 11 of the 12 original disciples were Benjamites, the exception was Judas Iscariot, a Jew, who was replaced by a Benjamite.
"In this land nearly the whole life of Jesus was spent; and it is worthy of note that 11 of His 12 chosen were Galileans" - The Temple Dictionary of the Bible(Galilee) [7]. 

And the Apostle Paul self identified as both a Jew AND a Benjamite.
Acts 21:39 But Paul said, “I am a Jew of Tarsus
Romans 11:1 For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of  Benjamin.
So nearly all the books in the New Testament were written by Benjamites, the exceptions being Jude (Jesus's brother), Luke and Acts written by Luke (a Gentile companion of Paul), and maybe Hebrews (people argue about the authorship of Hebrews). According to some, Benjamin is fulfilling the prophecy of being a "lamp always before Me in Jerusalem" - 1 K 11:35. Through the Apostolic writings (the lamp), Benjamin will again save Judah, save them from the partial blindness that happened to Israel, including Judah - Rom 11:25.

Benjamin Separates From Judah

After the New Testament era, we follow the story of Benjamin through historical sources. We see Benjamin does indeed split from Judah at the time of the destruction of the Temple 70AD. Eusebius, an early church historian claims that Christians in Jerusalem were supernaturally warned before the siege to flee - Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History , book 3:5:2 , written in 264 A.D [8]. They fled to Pella, a city in northwest Jordan - Did All the Christians Flee to Pella? [9]. From there, they spread into Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. And these early Christians in Pella and Asia Minor were primarily Benjamites - Israel’s Wanderings [10], and many remained there for two centuries - Iceland's Great Inheritance [11].

The Bible can be confusing in its use of the word Jew, as in the case of Esther and Paul, and the rest of the tribe of Benjamin. Since Benjamin was part of Judah, they were also called Jews, but they were aware of their ancestry. Some even refer to Abraham as a Jew, but that is impossible since Judah was Abraham's great-grandson.
During the time that the people of Benjamin were attached to Judah they were often classified as Jews too, but they were not really Jews, because the term "Jews" is simply a contraction of "Judahites", i.e., descendants of Judah, whereas the Benjamites were not descended from Judah at all, but from Benjamin. The Tribe of Benjamin were never called Jews before they were joined to the Tribe of Judah, and they were never so called again after their separation from Judah. And the other ten tribes of Israel were never called Jews at any period of their history, but they were often called Israelites. So, although every Jew was also an Israelite, every Israelite was not a Jew, just as every Scotsman is a Briton, but every Briton is not a Scotsman - Iceland's Great Inheritance [11].

Go West (And North) Young Man

Dacia is Romain, Bulgaria
From Asia Minor, Benjamin traveled north and west to an area called Dacia, Romania and Bulgaria today - British Israel(Benjamin) [3]. Benjamin kept migrating north and west, and today can be found in Norway (Vikings), Normandy, Britain via the Norman Conquest, Iceland, and Quebec. Different authors have different opinions about the whereabouts of modern day Benjamin.  Steve Collins, author of Lost Ten Tribes Found [12] favors Norway - Benjamin: A Wolfpack From the North [13],  Adam Rutherford argues for Iceland - Iceland's Great Inheritance [11], and Peter Salemi includes all the places listed above - British Israel(Benjamin) [3]. All of these authors agree on the Asia Minor, Dacia, and Viking connections. Tracing Benjamin through history is done by looking for Benjamin's identifying characteristics. The historical details can be found in the links above.
  • A small tribe
  • A protected tribe
  • Associated with a wolf
  • Left handed warriors (ironically Benjamin means "Son of my Right Hand")
  • Associated with Judah

I know that some do not believe that the ten tribes of Israel survived to this day. But consider the "blessings" Jacob spoke over his sons in Gen 49. They can't all refer to the Jews in the modern nation of Israel. They refer to nations in the world at the time of the end.

Some say that the lives of the Patriarchs foreshadow events to happen at the end time. So there may be future fulfillments of Judah saving Benjamin, and Benjamin saving Judah. I don’t have any insights into what they may be, but I look forward to watching the future of Benjamin and Judah unfold.


2. http://gill%27s%20exposition/

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wrestling With Strangers

Another Tale Of Two Brothers

I've been puzzling over the story of Jacob wrestling God for a while.  It's a short story, a few verses in Genesis 32.  But it's the way it starts that puzzles me.

Gen 32:24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

Jacob wrestles a "man"

How exactly does one start a wrestling match with a stranger?  Who started it? If this were a fight for survival with a stranger, why would Jacob choose wrestling as the best form of combat? The next verses don't help clarify the story

Gen 32:25  When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.Gen 32:26  Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

One theory to explain this is that Jacob wrestled with himself, which fits with "Jacob was left alone". It could be seen as symbolic for when we wrestle with ourselves. That is, we each have a good side and an evil side, and Christians are supposed to wrestle with our evil thoughts and bring them into subjection. This battle takes place "Between The Ears". As much as I like the symbolism, the problem I see with that theory is that no one can dislocate their own thigh.

Another theory is that Jacob thought the man was Esau, and didn't know otherwise until the sun came up. That explains certain facts too, like why Jacob didn't use weapons. If a stranger came on you at night in the desert, you would be inclined to defend yourself in whatever way necessary. If you thought it was your brother, you would exercise restraint.

The Name Change

Focusing on how the wrestling match got started kept me from writing about a more important point in the story, perhaps the main point of the story. So I shelved this for a while because I didn't have a good explanation of how to start a wrestling match with a stranger. When I came back to it recently, I came up with a theory, but I'll get back to that.

Consider that someone gave Jacob the new name Israel.  If someone in a schizophrenic wrestling match renamed himself, would he choose a name that means "prevailed with God" or "prince of God"?  Note that afterwards, Jacob seems convinced he wrestled with God.

Why was it important for Jacob to get a new name?  That has a clearer answer.  It goes back to his birth with his twin brother Esau. The boys struggled [wrestled] so much in the womb that their mother Rebecca inquired of God.

Sibling Rivalry
Gen 25:23 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger.”
24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.
25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau.
26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.

Rebekah with Esau and Jacob
It's not apparent in translation, but notice that "THEY called his name Esau", then "his name was called Jacob". Hebrew scholars say that should be translated "HE called his name Jacob". In other words, Isaac AND Rebecca named Esau, but only Isaac named Jacob. Rebecca apparently didn't approve.

Jacob was named Heel Catcher, and he probably didn't like his name, though he fulfilled it.  Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright, and later tricked his father Isaac out of the blessing meant for Esau. Esau's response:

Gen 27:36  And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing.
Jacob tricks Isaac
There are interesting connections with English here.  We use the word heel as a derogatory term, usually male.  Also, a heel is crooked, we use the word crooked to describe a dishonest person.  Jacob was crooked in his dealings with his brother.  One might say Jacob "heeled" Esau these two times.  But Jacob learned his lesson at the hand of his father in law Laban, who tricked him like he tricked Isaac.  And Jacob wasn't crooked any more.  So he needed his name reset to reflect his new nature.

The Blessing

Right before his name change, Jacob insists on a blessing.  Did he receive some blessing other than the name change?  If he did, it's not in the text, here's all it says.
Gen 32:29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there.
But look at the major events in the rest of Jacob's life.
  • Jacob lost his wife Rachel and his father Isaac a short time later.
  • Jacob's daughter Dinah was raped, and his sons took vengeance.
  • Jacob's son Rueben slept with Jacob's concubine Bilhah.
  • He lost Joseph for 14 years, he thought Joseph was dead.
  • He almost lost Benjamin in Egypt.
  • He spends his last years in Egypt, a foreign land.
Indeed, Jacob himself characterized his life like this.
Gen 42:9 So Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and evil have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning.”

Few and evil.

The Name Change Is the Blessing

My assertion is the name change IS the blessing.  It is the central point of the wrestling story.  The wrestling story is a chiasm*, that is, verses arranged in a mirror image like a menorah.  One's attention is drawn to the central verse, meaning, it is the point of the story.  In this story, the central verse, which has no mirror image, is the name change.  No other blessings are mentioned.  Note the highlighted words mirrored around verse 28.

24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him,
he touched the socket of his thigh;
so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him.

    26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.”
    But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

         27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”
         28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, 

              but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.”

        29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.”
        But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?”

    And he blessed him there.

    30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said,
    “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”

31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel,
and he was limping on his thigh.

32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip
which is on the socket of the thigh,
because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.

I ❤ Chiasms ❤ I

Just to make it more obvious, this chiasm is arranged like this.

A. thigh
      B. bless
           C. name     
                 Jacob becomes Israel
           C'. name
      B'. bless
A'. thigh

Jacob's name change was confirmed in Gen 35:9-16, which is also a chiasm, this time unambiguously by God Himself. Some say Jacob's name was changed twice, but my theory is that chapter 35 is a retelling of chapter 32. Esau  (which means doer - Abarim(Esau)) also had another name, which was Edom (which means red).

Jacob became Israel, he reconciled with Esau, and the story should end there, but strife continued between Esau's descendants and Jacob's descendants, and continues to this day. Apparently, Esau's descendants didn't get the memo about reconciliation.  Relations Of Edom And Israel [1]

Back To Wrestling

Jacob wrestled with God (or an angelic representative), not Esau. I find it plausible that he thought he was wrestling with Esau at first. But why wrestling? I got hung up because I had been thinking of wrestling in modern terms, like Olympic wrestling with very specific rules. Biting and gouging the eyes are forbidden in nearly all types of wrestling, modern and ancient. Many styles don't  allow hitting, some don't even allow holds below the waist wiki(Greco-Roman_wrestling) [2], but it was not always so. In ancient times, wrestling was training for soldiers, and in combat, wrestling would have been a fight to the death. In ancient sport wrestling, submission was the goal. Submission wrestling still exists, one match in the 1912 Olympics lasted six hours without a decision - Britannica(Wrestling) [3]. Ancient wrestling was more akin to what we would call hand to hand combat, or mixed martial arts, where anything goes wiki(Pankration) [4].

The notion that Jacob thought it was Esau explains why he didn't use a knife or a rock to win. God (or angel) matched him move for move. The Hebrew word abaq translated here as wrestle Lexicon-Concordance [5] appears nowhere else in the Bible. It's root means dust.  They got dusty.  They wrestled in the dirt. We have an expression 'dust up', meaning a fight. Jacob's wrestling match appears to be more like submission wrestling, but less than a fight to the death.

I still don't know who started it.

The following is from Gotquestions(chiasm) [6]

*A chiasm (also called a chiasmus) is a literary device in which a sequence of ideas is presented and then repeated in reverse order. The result is a “mirror” effect as the ideas are “reflected” back in a passage. Each idea is connected to its “reflection” by a repeated word, often in a related form. The term chiasm comes from the Greek letter chi, which looks like our letter X. Chiastic pattern is also called “ring structure.”

The structure of a chiasm is usually expressed through a series of letters, each letter representing a new idea. For example, the structure ABBA refers to two ideas (A and B) repeated in reverse order (B and A). Often, a chiasm includes another idea in the middle of the repetition: ABXBA. In this structure, the two ideas (A and B) are repeated in reverse order, but a third idea is inserted before the repetition (X). By virtue of its position, the insertion is emphasized.

Is this a real chiasm?
Chiasmus Exchange [7] lists all known chiasms in the Bible. The list keeps growing, as of Jan 7 2019, they list 1929 chiasms! There are chiasms in every book of the Bible, Old and New Testament. Genesis for example has 92 chiasms. Some are small, some span several chapters. Chiasms are used as a literary device to focus attention on the center verse or phrase. They also can serve as a memory aid. Feel free to read my blog article Rhythm And Rhyme [8] where I discuss the chiastic structure of Psalm 67. The Bible has fantastic depth of structure that we are not always aware of. Chiasms are a surprisingly common type of structure to help us gain meaning beyond the words written. Nearly all the Biblical chiasms are visible in English too, occasionally a chiasm word will be translated two different ways, but rarely, and Chiasmus Exchange has found those as well.