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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Ben´jamin, youngest son of Jacob, by Rachel (Genesis 35:18). His mother died immediately after he was born, and with her last breath named him Ben-Oni, 'Son of my pain,' which the father changed into Benjamin, a word of nearly the same sound, but portending comfort and consolation, 'Son of my right hand,' probably alluding to the support and protection he promised himself from this, his last child, in his old age.

The tribe of Benjamin, though the least numerous of Israel, became nevertheless a considerable race in process of time. In the desert it counted 35,400 warriors, all above twenty years of age (Numbers 1:36; Numbers 2:22); and, at the entrance of Israel into Canaan, even as many as 45,600. The portion allotted to this tribe was in proportion to its small number, and was encompassed by the districts of Ephraim, Dan and Judah, in central Palestine. The territory, though rather small, was highly-cultivated and naturally fertile, and contained thirty-six towns (with the villages appertaining to them), which are named in Joshua 18:21-28; and the principal of which were Jericho, Bethagla, Bethel, Gibeon, Ramah, and Jebus or Jerusalem. This latter place subsequently became the capital of the whole Jewish empire; but was, after the division of the land, still in possession of the Jebusites. The lower or less fortified part had been taken by Judah (Judges 1:8), who in this matter had almost a common interest with Benjamin; but Zion, the upper part, was not finally wrested from the Jebusites till the time of David (2 Samuel 5:6, sq.). In the time of the Judges, the tribe of Benjamin became involved in a civil war with the other eleven tribes, for having refused to give up to justice the miscreants of Gibeon who had publicly violated and caused the death of a concubine of a man of Ephraim, who had passed with her through Gibeon. This war terminated in the almost utter extinction of the tribe; leaving no hope for its regeneration from the circumstance, that, not only had nearly all the women of that tribe been previously slain by their foes, but the eleven other tribes had engaged themselves by a solemn oath not to marry their daughters to any man belonging to Benjamin. When the thirst of revenge, however, had abated, they found means to evade the letter of the oath, and to revive the tribe again by an alliance with them (Judges 21:20-21). This revival was so rapid, that in the time of David it already numbered 59,434 able warriors (1 Chronicles 7:6-12); in that of Asa, 280,000 (2 Chronicles 14:8); and in that of Jehoshaphat, 200,000 (2 Chronicles 17:17).

This tribe had also the honor of giving the, first king to the Jews, Saul being a Benjamite (1 Samuel 9:1-2). After his death, the Benjamites, as might have been expected, declared themselves for his son Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 2:8, sq.); until, after the assassination of that prince, David became king of all Israel. David having at last expelled the Jebusites from Zion, and made it his own residence, the close alliance that seems previously to have existed between the tribes of Benjamin and Judah (Judges 1:8) was cemented by the circumstance that, while Jerusalem actually belonged to the district of Benjamin, that of Judah was immediately contiguous to it. Thus it happened, that, at the division of the kingdom after the death of Solomon, Benjamin espoused the cause of Judah, and formed, together with it a kingdom by themselves. Indeed, the two tribes stood always in such a close connection, as often to be included under the single term Judah (1 Kings 11:13; 1 Kings 12:20). After the exile, also, these two tribes constituted the flower of the new Jewish colony in Palestine (comp. Ezra 4:1; Ezra 10:9).





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Benjamin'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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