BENJAMIN (behn' juh mihn) Personal name meaning, “son of the right hand” or “son of the south.” The second son Rachel bore to Jacob. He became the forefather of the tribe of Benjamin. His birth was difficult, and his mother named him Benoni, which means “son of my sorrow.” She died giving him birth. His father Jacob, however, did not let that name stand. He gave the child the name Benjamin, which means “son of the right hand.”
The tribe of Benjamin occupied the smallest territory of all the tribes. Yet, it played a significant role in Israelite history. Saul, Israel's first king, was a Benjamite. Furthermore, the city of Jerusalem was near the border between the territories of Benjamin and Judah and may have been in Benjamin originally (Joshua 18:16; Judges 1:21). Benjamin's appetite for territory may be seen in Jacob's blessing (Genesis 49:27). Moses' blessing highlights Benjamin's special place in God's care (Deuteronomy 33:12). Late in the period of the judges, Benjamin almost disappeared from history when they mistreated a Levite and his concubine (Judges 19-21).
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul proudly proclaimed his heritage in the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5). See Tribes of Israel; Patriarchs.
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.