The Tribe of Benjamin Genesis 49:27

Dr. Jerry A. Collins


Jacob Blesses Benjamin 

"Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he devours the prey, and in the evening he divides the spoil" (Genesis 49:27)


Verse 27Benjamin is a ravenous wolf—Like Judah’s lion, the wolf is no less ferocious an animal than the lion but usually kills far more than it eats. Benjamin would be characterized by a vicious and warlike attitude. He would be ravenous by nature and his would be a mighty warrior tribe.

·      In the morning he devours the prey, and in the evening he divides the spoil."—The history of this tribe would be filled with examples of powerful ferocity. Benjamin’s reputation would be its warlike character and actions.


Application—Gods people need to learn to become warriors. Not so that we fight people, but so that we fight sin. Not that we fight Satan, but that we fight against our sin nature. We take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13). The point is to walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). 


A Review of the History of the Tribe of Benjamin 

Jacob’s prophecy that Benjamin would be a ravenous wolf [who] devours the prey found graphic fulfillment throughout the history of that tribe.


A Review of Joshua 18: Benjamite Allotment

Benjamin’s strategic location contributed to its fighting spirit. According to Joshua 18, Benjamin became a buffer zone between the two dominant tribes of Ephraim and Judah.


Verses 3-5So Joshua said to the sons of Israel, "How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you? Provide for yourselves three men from each tribe that I may send them, and that they may arise and walk through the land and write a description of it according to their inheritance; then they shall return to me. They shall divide it into seven portions; Judah shall stay in its territory on the south, and the house of Joseph shall stay in their territory on the north. —After the tribe of Judah and the House of Joseph (Ephraim) received their territory (Joshua 15-17), the leadership of Israel gathered at Shiloh (in Ephraim) in order to decide on the distribution of land among the other tribes. In these remarks there is a hint of potential trouble between the stronger power centers of Judah and the House of Joseph.


Verses 9-10So the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities in seven divisions in a book; and they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh. And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the Lord, and there Joshua divided the land to the sons of Israel according to their divisions. —The important question was which remaining tribe would receive the strategic territory between these two larger units. When a survey was completed, Joshua cast lots to determine the next land allotment for the tribes. The results of that moment were to affect all later history in the region. The die was cast in the very first decision of our record.


Verse 11Now the lot of the tribe of the sons of Benjamin came up according to their families, and the territory of their lot lay between the sons of Judah and the sons of Joseph. —Benjamin’s northern line was the same as Ephraim’s southern border. Its southern line was the same as Judah’s northern boundary. This placed the tribe in a precarious position between the two double blessed tribes who both had aspirations in the region. Benjamin would be played against these two tribes throughout its history, and thus developed a strong warrior constitution that helped it survive throughout the tribal intrigue that eventually played out between Ephraim and Judah.


Verses 12-18Their border on the north side was from the Jordan, then the border went up to the side of Jericho on the north, and went up through the hill country westward, and it ended at the wilderness of Beth-aven… Moreover, the Jordan was its border on the east side. —This section is a rather detailed description of the territory of the tribe of Benjamin, including its cities (vv. 21-28). The Ephraim-Benjamin border was most likely never meant to be entirely clear-cut. Ephraim had strong ties to some of Benjamin’s northern border (the city of Bethel, Judges 1:22-26), and Judah had strong ties to some of Benjamin’s southern border (the city of Jerusalem, Judges 1:8, 21). Both of these tribes would chip away at Benjamin’s border lines whenever it was politically or militarily convenient for them. In order for Benjamin to maintain its borders, they had to become a stealth fighting machine, especially as one of the smaller tribes in Israel. 

PT—Benjamite territory included many cities important in biblical history (i.e., Jericho, Bethel, Gibeon, Ramah, and Mizpah). Jerusalem was also in Benjamin and Zelah, Haeleph and the Jebusite (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah, Kiriath; fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the sons of Benjamin according to their families (Joshua 18:28).


Application—God sometimes deliberately places us in tight situations that require tact, strategy, ingenuity, creativity, and forthrightness just as Benjamin. In the process, we can learn how to negotiate our way through to a successful conclusion. All of this is designed to not only increase our dependence upon the Lord, but also to test our faith, and shape our character. So wherever God places you geographically, socially, employment, ministry, family that’s where you are to bloom.


A Review of Judges 3: Judge Ehud 

The first evidence of the ferocity of the tribe of Benjamin as predicted in Jacob’s blessing, was the judgeship of Ehud, the second judge of Israel.


Verses 12-14Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord. And he gathered to himself the sons of Ammon and Amalek; and he went and defeated Israel, and they possessed the city of the palm trees. The sons of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years. —Because of the strategic importance of Benjamin, its territory was often the scene of conflict from internal tribal disputes or from invasions by surrounding nations. One of these attacks came from Moab, a nation in Transjordan which had enlisted the support of the Ammonites and Amalekites. The oasis of Jericho the city of the palm trees served as the back door to Benjamin, to Ephraim/Manasseh, and to Judah. The question of tribal control of this area faded, however, during the Moabite occupation of the city of palms. This Moabite presence along the routes of the hill country became a difficult hardship for the sons of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years (v. 14).


The Moabites knew the strategic value of Jericho, for it served them well as a main base for the exploitation of Israel. Centuries later Israel would gain control of the city and region and would use this same base in her exploitation of Moab (2 Samuel 8; 2 Kings 3). In the meantime, God raised up a champion to fight against the Moabite suppression and free the Israelites from their control.


Verse 15But when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for them, Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man. And the sons of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. —It was Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man, who finally made a move. This fearless warrior developed a well-thought-out plan of action to address the problem of Moabite oppression of 18 years. The bible goes out of the way to note that Ehud was a left-handed man. As part of his plan he decided to send tribute to Eglon king of Moab.


Verses 16-22Ehud made himself a sword which had two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his cloak. He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man… Ehud came to him while he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, "I have a message from God for you." And he arose from his seat. Ehud stretched out his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh and thrust it into his belly. The handle also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the refuse came out. —Ehud single-handedly assassinated Eglon, the king of the Moabites. Concealing his weapon under his garments undetected on his right thigh (Ehud was left-handed) he gained entrance to the king and thrust his dagger in Eglon’s belly. The resulting confusion led to a great Israelite victory over the Moabites and resulted in an 80-year period of peace in the region they struck down at that time about ten thousand Moabites, all robust and valiant men; and no one escaped. So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land was undisturbed for eighty years (vv. 29-30).


Application—What we must sometimes do is take action when it comes to championing righteousness. It is not sufficient to just take a stand about God’s will and Word. Like Ehud, we must also do something about the application of that righteousness. Otherwise, the stand we take is nothing but a bunch of words. It is one thing to take a stand against, say, homosexuality or cohabitation. It’s another thing to do something by addressing it, confronting it, and taking appropriate action to change it. We’re not to be at war with the people of the world but the ways of the world.


A Review of Judges 19-21: Benjamin Beating 

One of the most tragic episodes in the history of the region of Benjamin was the tribal civil war which reduced the tribe of Benjamin to a mere six hundred fighting men.


Verse 19:1Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah. —Unlike most accounts in Judges, the story is entirely an internal problem. There are no Philistines, no Moabites nor any Canaanites mentioned. No famous deliverer like Samson or Deborah emerges. The person who precipitates the drama is known only as a certain Levite. The closing phrase of the entire episode underscores the cavalier spirit that prevailed in Israel at the time due to a lack of central authority in the country when in those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).


Verses 14-15So they passed along and went their way, and the sun set on them near Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin. They turned aside there in order to enter and lodge in Gibeah. When they entered, they sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night. Traveling back home to Ephraim the Levite and his entourage found no immediate hospitality at nightfall in this city. 


Verses 17-18, 21And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city; and the old man said, … I am now going to my house, and no man will take me into his house... So he took him into his house and gave the donkeys fodder, and they washed their feet and ate and drank. One of the main causes of moral decadence in Israel at this time was a self-centered attitude resulting in a complete lack of concern for others. The warm hospitality seen in Bethlehem (verses 4-9) of Judah is contrasted with the indifference of the Benjamites to the needs of a stranger in their midst. The words of the Levite who lived in Ephraim, spoken to another Ephramite in the open square of Gibeah, present a clear testimony against the city of Benjamin and its inhabitants.


Verses 25-26While they were celebrating, behold, the men of the city, certain worthless fellows, surrounded the house, pounding the door; and they spoke to the owner of the house, the old man, saying, "Bring out the man who came into your house that we may have relations with him." —The “worthless” men repeated the request of the Sodomites in Lot’s day (Genesis 19:4-5; cf. 1 Samuel 2:12). What had previously characterized the Canaanites now marked the Israelites.


But the men would not listen to him. So the man (Levite) seized his concubine and brought her out to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn. As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man's house where her master was, until full daylight. —Benjamite men brutally, savagely, and sadistically raped the concubine of this certain Levite all night long while he was being entertained for the night. The next morning the Levite took his deceased concubine back to his home and he took a knife and laid hold of his concubine and cut her in twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout the territory of Israel (v. 29).


Judges 20:1-2Then all the sons of Israel from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, came out, and the congregation assembled as one man to the Lord at Mizpah. The chiefs of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, took their stand in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 foot soldiers who drew the sword. —This ‘Gibeah affair’ sparked a confrontation between a number of the tribes of Israel and Benjamin. The Levite’s rather crass report that precipitated such a united tribal front against Benjamin was rarely seen in Israelite history. It appears that no tribe wanted to be missing at this most important moment in Israel’s geopolitical history. It could be said that the ‘Gibeah affair’ was a convenient excuse to get the real issue out on the table—who would ultimately control the strategic territory of Benjamin. Furthermore, the whole tribe of Benjamin refused to punish them (20:13-14). This points to the Benjamites’ sympathy for the perpetrators of this atrocity who lived in Gibeah.


Verses 16-48Out of all these (Benjamite) people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss. Then the men of Israel besides Benjamin were numbered, 400,000 men who draw the sword; all these were men of war… So all of Benjamin who fell that day were 25,000 men who draw the sword; all these were valiant warriors. But 600 men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, and they remained at the rock of Rimmon four months. The men of Israel then turned back against the sons of Benjamin and struck them with the edge of the sword, both the entire city with the cattle and all that they found; they also set on fire all the cities which they found. —When the tribal leaders of Benjamin refused to relinquish the guilty offenders, a major military confrontation resulted. Benjamin had been seriously weakened as a tribe after this battle over the “Gibeah affair’. Only 600 Benjamites warriors survived the onslaught and were holed up for months in the wilderness until a peace could be negotiated with the rest of the tribes. Before that could be accomplished, the anger and rage of the remaining tribes was carried out in the destruction of the cities of Benjamin. The wolf had fought valiantly, but had been torn in the end.


PT—Why did thousands of people die in this conflict? (1) Instead of dealing with this problem as a spiritual problem, the Benjamites dealt with it as a physical problem. (2) Instead of dealing with their sin, they tried to destroy the ones pointing out their sin. (3) Instead of dealing with it internally, they dealt with it externally. (4) Instead of dealing with it individually (the specific men who committed the act), they dealt with it corporately, with the whole tribe. (5) Instead of realizing they were spiritually and morally weak, they believed they were physically strong, they thought they could win. They believed they had better warriors.


Judges 21:2-3So the people came to Bethel and sat there before God until evening, and lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. They said, "Why, O Lord, God of Israel, has this come about in Israel, so that one tribe should be missing today in Israel?"—The tribes of Israel appeared to wake up to the fact that the conflict in which they had just participated had been costly. Benjamin had been seriously weakened, and tribal energies had been depleted. Now they were faced with a greater peril. If Benjamin were allowed to disappear altogether, a vacuum would be created in the region. This could trigger a civil war on a much greater scale than anyone wanted to imagine. It would pit Ephraim against Judah for the control of the region and its strategic crossroads. Some sort of an arrangement would have to be worked out to avoid such an eventuality.


Verses 13-23Then the whole congregation sent word and spoke to the sons of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon, and proclaimed peace to them. Benjamin returned at that time, and they gave them the women whom they had kept alive from the women of Jabesh-gilead; yet they were not enough for them… The sons of Benjamin did so, and took wives according to their number from those who danced, whom they carried away. And they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the cities and lived in them. —To replenish the tribe of Benjamin, wives were sought for the six hundred men who survived the conflict. When the first solution did not provide enough wives to go around, a second was devised. It centered around Shiloh in Ephraim. Shiloh was a central and secure place in which the Ark of the Covenant was usually kept. It was in these hills of Ephraim, in the midst of their own family (the House of Joseph), that the remaining Benjamites found wives to repopulate their tribal inheritance.

PT—Paul dealt with one of the main issues of his letter to the Romans—the relationship between the growing Gentile church and its original Jewish stock (Romans 9-11). In the discussion the Apostle, a well-trained and former zealous Pharisee, made the following statement regarding God’s grace. Could he have had in mind the sad events of the ‘Gibeah affair’ as he gave us details of his own personal background? But as for Israel He said, "All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 10:21-11:1). 


Observations from the Tribe of Benjamin

·      Moses’ blessing of the tribe of Benjamin noted that of Benjamin he said, "May the beloved of the Lord dwell in security by Him, who shields him all the day, and he dwells between His shoulders" (Deuteronomy 33:12). The point was that Benjamin was to enjoy God’s protection continually since God would carry this tribe on His back between His shoulders. As the warrior tribe, Benjamin would enjoy God’s protection.

·      Saul was a Benjamite and his rule as king over Israel was ferocious. When the Ammonites besieged Jabesh-Gilead, Saul mustered the armies of Israel and attacked them by night so that those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together (1 Samuel 11:11). This victory helped the Israelites perceive Saul as their king with result that they committed themselves to him.

·      Saul’s son, Jonathan, was also a great Benjamite warrior. First Samuel 14 records a brilliant maneuver of Jonathan and his armor-bearer in climbing a sheer cliff and slaughtering a Philistine garrison of 20 soldiers. Contrasted with his father’s selfish zeal, Jonathan acted in faith in God’s promise in spite of the odds then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, "Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few"that first slaughter which Jonathan and his armor bearer made was about twenty men within about half a furrow in an acre of land (1 Samuel 14:6, 14).

·      Other ferocious Benjamites were— (1) Abner, Saul’s cousin and commander of his army, who mercilessly killed Asahel and was himself murdered by Joab (2 Samuel 2:23; 3:30); (2) Shimei, who cursed David during his flight from Absalom and was himself killed by Solomon in return (16:5-13; 1 Kings 2:44-46), and (3) Sheba, who led a rebellion against David and was himself beheaded by the citizens of Abel Beth-maacah (2 Samuel 20:1-22). They serve as examples of how selfish and misguided zeal received its own punishment.

·      Esther and Mordecai were stellar examples of Benjamite zeal for the glory of God. They were cousins in the Persian town of Shushan, and were boldly instrumental in saving their own people by turning the tables on Haman and other Jew haters (Esther 7 and 9). The Jewish festival of Purim commemorates their brave zeal.

·      The Apostle Paul graphically portrayed the wolf-like viciousness of his ancestors. Summarizing his zeal, he described his former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it (Galatians 1:13). Furthermore, he stated I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons (Acts 22:4). He testified so then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them (Acts 26:9-10). Luke, the early church historian, described this son of Benjamin thus but Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison (Acts 8:3).


Just before his conversion Luke indicated Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-2). Paul, the ‘wolf’ tore in pieces the followers of Jesus until he was finally converted. His zeal did not abate, however; it was just channeled in a different direction. For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:10-12).


Application—Fully resolve to live your life in such a way that God is pleased. Paul said it this way therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him (2 Corinthians 5:9). Ambition is a good thing when it is directed toward eternal outcomes.


Verse 28All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to himIn his twelve sons, Jacob blessed all the future tribes of Israel. This is only the second mention of the 12 tribes in the Bible, the previous reference being in verse 16, where we read the tribes of Israel. This editorial note concludes this section being about the 12 tribes of Israel and Jacob’s blessing of each of them. They shared in the richest blessings in accordance with their faithfulness and their characteristics. 

An Application—Our actions as believers will also determine our future portion in eternity. Our lives are preparation for our eternal life where, based on our faithfulness and the eternal rewards from Christ,

we, too, will live and serve with differing capacities in the eternal realm. We should live in such a way that we are preparing ourselves for our eternal life promised to all who believe Christ for that gift.