Benjamin had a rather poor start in life. The story is briefly told in Genesis 35: 16 – 18, “And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed and she had hard labour. And it came to pass when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not, thou shalt have this son also. And it came to pass as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benomi: but his father called him Benjamin.” Now, Benomi means, Son-of-my-Anguish, but the name Benjamin means, Son-of-my-Right Hand. So, Benjamin began his life without knowing his mother but he was dearly loved by his father, being the second son of his first love, Rachel.
Now Benjamin, a child of Jacob’s old age, was loved and favoured, and the first time Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy corn, Benjamin remained at home with his father. But Joseph insisted that Benjamin come on the next trip, or he would not deal with the brothers. Then, you recall how he planted the silver cup in Benjamin’s grain sack so that he had a reason to detain him. He was testing his brothers and Judah begged to stand in for Benjamin, because he knew that returning to Jacob without Benjamin would bring about great sorrow for his father and probably death. After Judah’s eloquent appeal, Joseph identified himself to his brothers and there was much hugging and weeping. After that incident, Joseph invited his father with all his household to come to Egypt to live in the land of Goshen, because the famine would continue for another five years.
So, in the years following, Benjamin’s posterity developed into one of the tribes of Israel and at the time of Jacob’s death, he blessed his children and Benjamin’s blessing is found in Genesis 49: 27, “Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning, he shall devour the prey, and at night, he shall divide the spoil.”
The next incident, regarding the tribe of Benjamin, is found in the book of Judges, chapters 19, 20 and 21. I shall indicate some highlights, but you may read the whole story if you are interested. A Levite was traveling with his concubine and man servant and decided to stay over in Gibeah, a town in Israel populated by the tribe of Benjamin. After a man had invited him to stay at his house for the night, the sons of Belial surrounded the house and demanded to see the Levite so that they might abuse him. (This is reminiscent of Lot’s visitors when he lived in Sodom!) In his stead, his concubine was offered and abused all night long and died in the morning on the householder’s threshold. The Levite therefore cut her body into twelve pieces and sent them to the twelve tribes.
The tribes were incensed and demanded that the sons of Belial be turned over to be put to death. The tribesmen of Benjamin would not agree, and civil war ensued. On the first two battles, Benjamin was successful; for the record, he fielded 26,700 men of battle. There is an interesting verse, (16) contained in Chapter 20, which states that among that total army, “there were 700 chosen men left-handed; every one could sling stones at a hair breath and not miss!” The third encounter had a different outcome, however, when the men of Israel employed the same tactic that was used to subdue the men of Ai; namely, an ambush. When the men of Benjamin saw the smoke rising from Gibeah, they turned and fled but they were surrounded. A blood bath ensued and only 600 men escaped.
There were regrets that the tribe had been decimated, and two different strategies were followed to provide the men with wives. After that, the men of Benjamin returned to their cities and rebuilt them. And so the tribe was purged of evil and prepared for the role that would be assigned to them by the Lord in the time of King Rehoboam. As he prepared to fight the ten tribes to re-establish his kingdom, Shemaiah, a man of God, gave him the following message, 1st Kings, 12: 23, “Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, the king of Judah and unto all the House of Judah and Benjamin and to the remnant of the people (some members of the other tribes lived in Judah where Jehovah was worshipped), saying, Thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. 1st Kings 11: 13,36, “Howbeit I will not rend away all the Kingdom; but I will give one tribe to thy son for David, my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before him in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen to put my name there.” So, civil war was averted, and Benjamin was confirmed as a part of Judah, so that there may be a light always before God’s servant, David.
Next came Sennacarib from Assyria and captured all the fenced cities of Judah (2nd Kings 18:13) and deported about 200,000 citizens to join the ten tribes deported about eight years earlier. You remember he was defeated trying to take Jerusalem, by the Angel of the Lord and that conquest was left to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. As we know, the twelve tribes never returned to the holy land, but some of those deported to Babylon did return to rebuild the city and the temple, making it ready to receive the Messiah. The Benjamites, within that group, settled in Galilee enabling Jesus to select eleven Galileans to be disciples.
After the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, the apostles felt that one should be appointed in his place and they chose Mattias. To my knowledge, his name never appears again in the Bible and we do not know how he participated. But Jesus chose the twelfth apostle, as Saul made his way on the road to Damascus. In his letter to the Romans, Paul professes to be a Benjamite. Romans 11: 1, “1 say then, has God cast away His people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” So, there we have it; the light bearing tribe! Twelve Benjamite apostles, men who had seen the risen Christ and carried His Gospel to all the twelve tribes scattered abroad, throughout Asia minor and into Europe. But there is more! Luke 22: 29 & 30, “And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” And I will suggest that that is the glory of Benjamin!