[b-hebrew] : .. benjaminites before there was a benjamin

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sat Jun 24 19:21:23 EDT 2006

Dear J. Anna,

"Benjamin" literally means "Son(s) of the Right". "Right" in this context 
can refer to the right, or strong, hand (which is the explanation hinted at 
in Gen. 35:18), or to "the south", since in the ANE, "front" was east, 
"back" was west, "left" was north and "right" was south. Most scholars 
assume that the Israelite tribe of Benjamin was called that because it was 
the southernmost tribe of the original "Israel" (excluding Judah). If so, 
then the story in Gen. 35 is etiological.
In the archives found in the eastern Syrian city of Mari from the 18th 
century BCE, there are documents mentioning a "tribe" of semi-nomads called 
"sons of the right" - a linguistic cognate of "Benjamin". They were called 
this because they lived to the south of Mari. There was also a tribe called 
"sons of the left/north". In the past, there were scholars who suggested 
that these "Benjaminites" were the ancestors of the biblical tribe - the 
chronological and geographical distance is much to large for this to be 
taken seriously. All the similarity does show, is the way in which some 
tribes were named in the ANE, and that Israel was no different.
It is very unlikely that the Bible actually refered to people who lived in 
the 18th century in eastern Syria.

Now, the question of there ever having been a "historical" PERSON named 
"Benjamin", that's one for a separate discussion.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: <C60605 at aol.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Saturday, June 24, 2006 11:55 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] : .. benjaminites before there was a benjamin

> .
>    J     Anna....     _c60605 at aol.com_ (mailto:c60605 at aol.com)  ... in my
> internet ramblings,  i'm getting snippets of data re  existence of a 
> ''tribe  of
>  benjamin''  before benjamin  { or jacob ) ever lived.    Do  ''we'' give
> any credence to this concept ?
> urls  such
> as   _https://listhost.uchicago.edu/pipermail/ane/2002-March/001077.html_
> (https://listhost.uchicago.edu/pipermail/ane/2002-March/001077.html) 
> ...  AND
>   _http://www.antiqillum.com/texts/bg/Legacy/Legacy008.htm_
> (http://www.antiqillum.com/texts/bg/Legacy/Legacy008.htm)     AND
> _http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/2000-January/006355.html_
> (http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/b-hebrew/2000-January/006355.html) 
> _http://arethuse1.free.fr/recherche-manuelle.php?mot=Hammurabi_
> (http://arethuse1.free.fr/recherche-manuelle.php?mot=Hammurabi)
> FROM  what i can gather from these sites,    the   PURPORTED  script goes
> something like this .....  A  group of       pre-jacob          amorites
> {or at least folks gathered around  city of mari } were known as bini 
> jaminu or
> similar  spellings.   One of the above web-pages even uses the term 
> ''race
> of  benjamin.''     As centuries wore  on, jacob and his progeny came 
> along,
> and the tribe jews and christians  know as  ''benjaminites''  eventually
> intermarried with the  pre-jacob  bini  jaminu.    Indeed, it seems to moi 
> that
> the tanakh often uses 'benjaminite' to refer to an     AMALGAM   of mixed
> ethnic groups -- including the descendents of THE  benjamin.
> ..
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