Benjamin (Hebrew: בּנימין, Binyāmîn; "son of my right hand"), (b. 2266 AM or 1738 BC), was the youngest son of Jacob, and the second (and final) son of Rachel. He was the ancestor of the Tribe of Benjamin, one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Benjamin was born during the journey that Jacob and his family took from Padan-aram to Canaan. (Genesis 31 )
Rachel probably conceived Benjamin in the spring of 2265 AM (1739 BC). This was the year in which Jacob fled in secret from Laban. The Bible says that this took place at sheep-shearing time, which is always in the springtime. (Genesis 31:19-20 ) Jones records that the phrase "born to him in Padan-aram" that appears after the listing of Jacob's sons (Genesis 35:26 ) can also mean "engendered by him in Padan-aram." Benjamin was born on the road to Bethlehem, and therefore he must have been conceived in Padan-aram, though he was born in Canaan.
Ussher disputes the notion that Benjamin may be counted among the sons born or engendered in Padan-aram. He suggests that the Apostles were also numbered twelve, though Judas Iscariot was dead by that time, (John 20:24 ) and cites Saint Augustine to support him. However, the text of Genesis 35:9-15 is a narrative that begins with a recapitulation of an earlier incident: the second appearance of God to Jacob and the renaming of Jacob to Israel. (Genesis 32:24-30 ) The story of the birth of Benjamin and the death of Rachel follows this narrative directly and is continuous with it. Therefore, Benjamin must have been conceived shortly before the flight from Laban and born nine months later.
In any case, Benjamin cannot have been conceived earlier than the springtime. His mother stole some household idols (Hebrew teraphim) from Laban, hid them in her saddle bag, and sat on them. When Laban came to search her tent, Rachel asked him to excuse her for not rising, because she was menstruating. In point of fact, that was a lie. But had she been obviously pregnant, she would not have been able to lie convincingly.
Benjamin was ten years old when his older brother Joseph was kidnapped and sold into slavery (2276 AM, or 1728 BC). (Genesis 37 ) He probably did not participate in it because he was not yet an adult.
Twenty years later (2296 AM, or 1708 BC), he was a married man with an incredibly large family of ten sons: Belah, Becher, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim, and Ard. (Genesis 46:21 ) When the famine struck, Benjamin probably felt it more acutely than most.
At first his other brothers went to Egypt without him, because their father Jacob held him back. But the second time, Judah reported that the viceroy of Egypt insisted, and quite sternly, that Benjamin must accompany them, or they would not be allowed to buy grain again. Judah offered to guarantee Benjamin's personal safety, and subject to that condition, Jacob consented for him to go.
The viceroy of Egypt received them grandly, and paid special attention to Benjamin. A few days later, the viceroy loaded them with all the grain they could carry and let them leave. But then they were arrested and brought back before the viceroy, who accused them of stealing a silver cup from his house. The soldiers proceeded to search the eleven men. Not only did they find all the money that the brothers had brought with them, but also—and worse than that—Benjamin's sack held the missing cup!
The viceroy announced that Benjamin would remain as his personal slave. But Judah interceded and told an incredible story of family shame and betrayal. This story was, of course, that of the sale of Joseph. Whether Benjamin had ever heard the full particulars of this story, the Bible does not say.
The viceroy ordered everyone else out of the room, and broke down and wept in front of them. Then he told them his name. He was none other than Joseph! Moreover, Joseph assured his brothers that he held nothing against them, because he had to come to Egypt in order to become viceroy and save Egypt (and virtually the entire Middle East) from the famine, which then (2298 AM, 1706 BC) had five years to run.
Joseph then sent his brothers back to Jacob at the head of a wagon train, with an invitation to move to Egypt with all their households and take up residence in Goshen.
Entry into Egypt
On 2298 AM (1706 BC), Benjamin, his wife, and his ten sons entered Egypt to live. He was 32 years old.In Jacob's deathbed blessing, he said of Benjamin:
Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours his prey, in the evening he divides the plunder. Genesis 49:27
Benjamin in fiction
Benjamin has appeared in multiple dramatizations of the story of Joseph and his brothers, in motion pictures (including an animated project) and on television. But all of those stories are flawed in one fashion or another. The usual flaw is the implication that Benjamin was still a boy when he came to Egypt, and even too young for Joseph to have known. Yet the Bible clearly says that he was by then married and had a very large family of his own. Furthermore, the Bible says that Rachel died before Joseph was sold into slavery, not afterward, so that Joseph must have known Benjamin before he ever set foot in Egypt.
Similarly to many other biblical names, Benjamin is very popular. As a given name, Benjamin is most commonly found in English, Irish, Scottish, French, German, Dutch, Scandinavian, and Jewish languages and cultures.
- James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003, pgh. 125
- Schoenian, Susan. "Sheep 101: Shearing." Sheep 101, November 15, 2006. Accessed November 11, 2008.
- Jones, Floyd N. The Chronology of the New Testament. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004, pp. 64, 66, 68, 278, and Chart 3e
- Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 124