[b-hebrew] Fw: Re: Names of Rachel's Second-Born Son

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Thu Sep 29 11:20:25 EDT 2011

Dear Jim,

Your calendrical analysis was years (?) ago shown to be very faulty. Be that as
it may.

Dear George,

Below is an article from Dr. Claude Mariottini regarding the left-handedness of

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

Left-handedness in the Hebrew Bible
by Claude Mariottini

“The LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the
Benjaminite, a left-handed man” (Judges 3:15).

The statement that Ehud was a left-handed man and that he was from the tribe of
Benjamin, is very significant.  In fact, according to Judges 20:16, there were
seven hundred specially-trained men in the army of the tribe of Benjamin and all
of them were left-handed. The text also says that “each one could sling a stone
and hit even the smallest target.”

To explain this peculiarity and how left-handedness was seen not only in Israel,
but also in other nations, I would like to introduce you to a long quote from an
old commentary that seeks to explain the significance of left-handedness in the
tribe of Benjamin.

The following comments were taken from John Peter Lange, A Commentary on the
Holy Scriptures, vol. 4 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1871), 73-74.

He was a Ben-jemini, of the tribe of Benjamin, as the Targum expressly adds.
When the son of Jacob was born, his dying mother named him Benoni, “son of my
sorrow;” but his father, by way of euphemism, called him Ben-jamin, “son of good
fortune” (Gen. 35:18).

Jamin came to signify “good fortune,” only because it designated the right side.
The inhabitants of the Holy Land had the sea (yam) on the right, hence called
that side jamin, literally, “sea-side”; and the highlands of Aram on the left,
hence semol, “the left.” Different nations derived their expressions for right
and left from conceptions peculiar to themselves.

Thus δεξιός and dexter are based on the idea of showing, pointing, with the
right hand (δείκνυμι); sinister, from sinus, on the action of laying the right
hand on the side of the heart. The left hand has everywhere been regarded as the
weaker, which, properly speaking, did not wield arms.

When oriental custom placed the stranger on the left, it assigned him the seat
of honor in so far as the left side seemed to be the weaker and less protected
(cf. Xenoph. Cyrop. viii. 4). From the idea of weakness, sprang such terms as
λαιός, laevus [Eng. left], because that side is harmless, smooth, and gentle.

Hence also the custom among Asiatic nations of inclining toward the left side,
and resting on the left hand, when seated: the right hand was thus left free. It
was by a euphemism that the name of Jacob’s son was Ben-jamin. Among the Greeks
also the “left” was euphemistically called εὐὠνυμος, good-omened, because it was
wished to avoid the ominous ὰριστερός [“left”].

A similar custom must have obtained in Israel, since just in the tribe of
Benjamin there were, as we are informed (Judg. 20:16), large numbers of men who,
like Ehud, were  i. e. left-handed, — the sons of the right hand being thus most
addicted to the use of the left. But for the very reason that it seems to have
been a habit of the tribe to use the left hand, it cannot be supposed that
אִטֵּ֖ר יַד־יְמִינ֑וֹ is meant to indicate lameness of the right hand.

The LXX felt this when they rendered the phrase by ὰμφιδἐξιος, “double
right-handed.” The same consideration influenced those more recent scholars who
instanced the Homeric Asteropaeus, who fought with both hands. However, this
also contradicts the spirit of the narrative, and, as the peculiarity occurs
only in Benjamin, the name as well.

Those Ben-jemini, who, like Ehnd, use the left hand, do it in contrast with
others, who make use of the right without any lameness in the left. Thus, [it
might] be said of the Benjamites: that they are “good and for the most part
left-handed fighters, and do with the left hand whatever others do with the

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <JimStinehart at aol.com>
To: <yishalom at sbcglobal.net>; <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Cc: <George.Athas at moore.edu.au>
Sent: Thursday, September 29, 2011 6:44 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Fw: Re: Names of Rachel's Second-Born Son

> In trying to determine why Jacob called Rachel’s second-born son BN-YMYN,
> and whether chapter 37 of Genesis is a flashback that refers back to the time
> period right before the bloody Shechem incident and Benjamin’s birth, an
> important and highly informative source is the scholarly article written by
> our very own fine moderator, Prof. Yigal Levin, “Joseph, Judah and the ‘
> Benjamin Conundrum’”.  I urge everyone to read this article, especially p.
> on the Internet here:
> Prof. Levin makes the following key points at p. 237 of his article [I have
> placed my own numbering in brackets in order to correlate with my own
> comments below]:
> “The role of Benjamin, however, seems to be somewhat obscure.  [1] In the
> first place, there seems to be a question of whether he had been born when
> the story [chapter 37 of Genesis] begins.  [2] The story of Benjamin’s birth
> and the death of Rachel, while Jacob and family were still en-route from
> Bethel toward Bethlehem-Ephrathah, is told in Gen 35, 16-20.  [3] Joseph’s
> second dream (37, 9) seems to pre-suppose his having eleven brothers.  On the
> other hand, [4] verse 3 [of chapter 37 of Genesis] states that Joseph was
> ’s youngest, born in his old age (כִּֽי־בֶן־זְקֻנִים הוּא לֹו
> ), and [5] Jacob’s reaction to the second dream (verse 10) also seems to
> presuppose that Joseph’s mother was still alive.  [FN 78:]  Some of the
> commentators, in an attempt to harmonize these contradictions, [6]
> explained that the memory of Rachel’s death was the reason that Jacob did not
> his love on Benjamin (Hezkuni), and that [7] his understanding of Joseph’s
> dream as including Rachel was what caused Jacob’s anger (Rashi).  [8] Others
> assumed the dream to refer to Bilhah, the dead Rachel’s handmaiden who had
> raised Joseph from youth.”
> In my view, however, there are no “contradictions” at all.
> 1.  Benjamin is not born until shortly after Jacob is forcibly taken to
> Egypt.  Chapter 37 is a flashback.  That’s why the name “Benjamin” never
> appears in chapter 37 of Genesis.  When Benjamin is born in chapter 35 of
> Genesis, Joseph has already vanished from the family [and is in Egypt].
> 2.  Chapter 35 of Genesis physically appears before chapter 37 of Genesis,
> but chapter 35 of Genesis relates what happens in Year 13 tenfold [Year 130,
> being 130 years in 12-month years after Abraham’s birth], when Joseph was
> the equivalent of stated age 20 and was already in Egypt.  Chapter 37 of
> Genesis is a flashback, which starts when Joseph is stated age 17 [having
> witnessed 17 fall and spring New Years, and as such being a “boy”/nar per
> 37: 2, age 8½ in 12-month years], which is Year 128.5, and ends about 12
> months later in Year 129.5, shortly before the bloody Shechem incident in
> chapter 34 of Genesis, which occurs in Year 130 [Year 13 tenfold;
> Shechem’s ruler was indeed assassinated in Year 13].  [The contemporary
> Hebrew audience could follow these numbers, so they knew right away from the
> Genesis 37: 2 reference to Joseph being stated age 17 that chapter 37 of
> Genesis was a flashback, since Joseph is the equivalent of stated age 20 in
> 13 tenfold (and is in Egypt) when Benjamin is born in chapter 35 of Genesis.
>  Yes, Genesis 35: 22-26 lists the names of all 12 of Jacob’s sons, but it
> does not say that either Judah or Joseph were there at Shechem for the bloody
> Shechem incident, and they weren’t.  The narrator of course knows that
> Joseph is safe in Egypt, though Jacob did not know that.  Other than that
> listing of all 12 sons, the names “Judah” and “Joseph” do not appear in
> 34-35 of Genesis, because those two all-important sons had already left the
> family.]
> 3.  At the time of Joseph’s second dream regarding 11 stars, Rachel is
> visibly pregnant, but has not yet given birth [with the birth happening quite
> few weeks later].  Joseph’s dream understandably anticipates that his
> pregnant mother Rachel will give birth to a second son who will live to
> 4.  Joseph was Jacob’s youngest son for 10 years [in 12-month years] from
> Year 120 until Year 130, when Benjamin was born.  Jacob was age 40 at Joseph’
> s birth.  Joseph was always Jacob’s favorite son until Joseph disappeared.
> That was natural because Joseph was Jacob’s youngest son, and more
> importantly, Joseph during those 10 years was Jacob’s only son by Jacob’s
> main wife, Rachel.
> 5.  Rachel is definitely alive at the time Joseph has his dream of 11 stars
> and the sun and the moon all bowing down to Joseph.  Chapter 37 is told as
> a flashback, going back to the time period a month or so before Benjamin’s
> birth.  [In chapter 35 of Genesis, Jacob is age 50 in 12-month years at
> Benjamin’s birth, being the same age as Abraham at Isaac’s birth.]
> 6.  Jacob  d-i-d  lavish his love on Benjamin, for the first 15 years of
> Benjamin’s life [until all the Hebrews were forced to go to Egypt, when Jacob
> is age 65 in 12-month years, which is stated age 130 per Genesis 47: 9;
> note that  a-l-l  the stated ages in the Patriarchal narratives make perfect
> sense in all ways;  Joseph is age 25 in 12-month years when all the Hebrews
> move to Egypt].  Benjamin was born a month or so after Joseph disappeared.
> All the love that Jacob had lavished on Joseph for 10 years was now lavished
> on Benjamin for the next 15 years [in 12-month years].  That was natural
> because Benjamin was Jacob’s youngest son, and more importantly, Benjamin
> those 15 years was Jacob’s only son by Jacob’s [deceased] favorite main
> wife, Rachel, who, to the best of Jacob’s knowledge, was a son who was still
> alive.
> 7.  Jacob in fact was not particularly angry at Joseph’s dream, though such
> dream was presumptuous.  Rather, it was Joseph’s older half-brothers who
> understandably were outraged at Joseph’s dream, which definitely seemed to say
> that Joseph thought that Joseph would soon be ruling over all of them.  Why
> would such a dream be thought to make Jacob terribly mad?  Jacob in fact
> was unduly favoring Joseph at that point [the coat of many colors], and indeed
> was planning in due course at that point on eventually naming Joseph as
> Jacob’s successor.
> 8.  Bilhah had nothing to do with anything!  Joseph was raised by his birth
> mother, Rachel, who was pregnant with her second son when Joseph
> disappeared at age 9½ [in 12-month years, being the same age as Ishmael and
Dinah when
> they were involuntarily separated from their father’s family;  that’s the
> equivalent of stated age 19, and is why the Koran has that famous sura “19
> is over it”].  Joseph never saw his mother again.  Joseph is age 10 [in
> 12-month years, which is the equivalent of stated age 20] when he arrives in
> Egypt.  Joseph never got to see his only full-brother until the Hebrews came
> Egypt 15 years after Joseph had disappeared.  [Chapter 46 of Genesis records
> every grandson Jacob ever had, including those many grandsons who were born
> after the Hebrews moved to Egypt.  Benjamin moves to Egypt at age 15 in
> 12-month years, and sires all his sons after moving to Egypt.]
> Please note that there are no contradictions whatsoever here, once one
> realizes that chapter 37 of Genesis is told as a flashback.  With Joseph
> recently having disappeared and being presumed dead, it is not surprising that
> grieving Jacob spontaneously decided to call Rachel’s second-born son BN-YMYN,
> meaning that Jacob was planning in due course to put his “right hand”/YMYN
> on this one “son”/BN of Rachel to designate him as Jacob’s successor.
> That sequence makes perfect sense in all regards, once one realizes that
> is already gone, having recently vanished from the family.  It is Joseph’s
> recent absence, you see, that makes it sensible for Jacob to call Rachel’s
> second-born son BN-YMYN/“Son of my Right Hand”, that is, Jacob’s
> heir-apparent [whereas for the previous 10 years, prior to his recent
> Joseph had been Jacob’s favorite son and heir-apparent].
> There are  n-o  contradictions in chapters 37 and 35 of Genesis, which were
> composed in the Late Bronze Age by a single author who knew nothing about
> any later notion of an Exodus or a Conquest.  The Patriarchal narratives are
> much older, and more historically accurate, than university scholars realize.
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
> _______________________________________________
> b-hebrew mailing list
> b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew


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