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.
Judah Saves Benjamin
|Benjamin and the Goblet|
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
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 , 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
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
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)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 .
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.
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 .
Jer 6:1 Flee for safety, O sons of Benjamin,But that's getting ahead of the story.
From the midst of Jerusalem!
For evil looks down from the north,
And a great destruction.
Benjamin Saves Judah
|Esther appears before the king|
Return To the Land
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'.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 .
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.
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) .
And the Apostle Paul self identified as both a Jew AND a Benjamite.
Acts 21:39 But Paul said, “I am a Jew of TarsusIf 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.
Romans 11:1 For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
Benjamin Separates From Judah
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 .
Go West (And North) Young Man
|Dacia is Romain, Bulgaria|
- 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.