[b-hebrew] Benjamin

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Fri Jul 2 11:34:26 EDT 2004

Dear Yigal,

>At the risk of repeating some of the things already said in the thread on
>"Judah", certainly both meanings are used in different contexts. On one
>hand, Ben-Yamin was the most "southern-born" of all of Jacob's sons, since
>all the others were born in Haran. Assuming this story to be somewhat
>aetiological, the Benei Yamin were the southernmost of all the tribes of the
>origial "Israel" (that is, excluding Judah), sitting at the southern edge of
>Mount Ephraim (18th century Mari, by the way, supplies us with another tribe
>called "Benei Yamin", who lived south of the city). The "pre-monarchal"
>stories emphasize Benjamin's status as "Joseph's younger brother". And, as I
>said, at least some of the references to the Benjaminites' "left handedness"
>seem to me to be puns.
>On the other hand, the etymolgy given in Gen. 35:18 is quite clear: his
>mother called him Ben-oni and his father called him Ben-yamin. "On" means
>"strength", usually sexual: look at Jacob's blessing for Reuben: "you are my
>firstborn, my might (KoXiY) and the begining of my strength (ONi)".

HH:  The mother gave the son a good name, but it 
doubtless would have had bad associations for 
Jacob. Benjamin took all his mother's strength. 
It cost her her life to give birth to him. That 
name (Ben-Oni) would have been a constant 
reminder that Benjamin was involved with beloved 
Rachel's death. So Jacob preferred to give his 
son another name, and this surviving son of 
Rachel, Jacob's youngest, would have special 
meaning for Jacob, and that may have inspired the 

HH: I tend to favor the "right hand" sense for 
the meaning of Benjamin. While it could mean 
"south," the association of the right hand with 
closeness suggests the other idea of a precious 
son at his father's right hand. A son was 
supposed to serve his father:

Phil. 2:22 But you know that Timothy has proved 
himself, because as a son with his father he has 
served with me in the work of the gospel.

HH: And service was often something associated 
with being at a person's right hand:

1Chr. 6:39 and Heman's associate Asaph, who 
served at his right hand: Asaph son of Berekiah, 
the son of Shimea,

See the use of right hand in association with sonship elsewhere in the OT:

Psa. 80:15 the root your right hand has planted, 
the son you have raised up for yourself.
Psa. 80:17 Let your hand rest on the man at your 
right hand, the son of man you have raised up for 
Jer. 22:24 ¶  "As surely as I live," declares the 
LORD,  "even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim 
king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right 
hand, I would still pull you off.

(HH: I mention Jer 22:24 because of the 
description of the Davidic king elsewhere as 
God's son.)

HH: A couple of NT verses associate the idea of 
being at the right hand with sonship:

Matt. 26:64 ¶  "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus 
replied.  "But I say to all of you: In the future 
you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right 
hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds 
of heaven."

Rev. 3:21 ¶ To him who overcomes, I will give the 
right to sit with me on my throne, just as I 
overcame and sat down with my Father on his 

				Harold Holmyard

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