Friday, March 22, 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. 

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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, some teach that 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.
If the Apostles were indeed Benjamites, then 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. Adam Rutherford [11] wrote that Benjamin did 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/