27 Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them.
We receive a quick pronouncement for Benjamin’s future where he is described as a devouring wolf, taking a great spoil. Admittedly, this description is quite different from the image I had concocted for Benjamin. I suppose this is because his main involvement in the story thus far has been his father’s fear of losing “the lad” when the sons went down to Egypt. That sort of concern for his safety created an image of Benjamin as a delicate and quiet sort, but that was merely an assumption. We never have been shown exactly what Benjamin was really like.
Or, even if Benjamin was a gentler man, there’s no reason that his posterity would have to remain so. As it is, the tribe of Benjamin would be known as a tribe of warriors, frequently filling the ranks of the Israelite army. Notable descendants that would display this fiery spirit include Ehud, an assassin who would slay Eglon, the king of Moab, and Saul, who would be the first king of Israel and lead the nation into battle. Paul would also be a descendant of Benjamin, and though not a warrior in earthly terms, he would be a veritable lion in proclaiming the gospel to the broader world.
And now the blessing of the twelve sons is concluded. Each has received according to the quality of man they have shown themselves to be, and according to the foreknowledge of what their descendants would become. Admittedly, the biblical record doesn’t spell out the fulfillment of each prophecy, but the details we do get consistently show Jacob’s prognoses coming to pass.
1 And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man’s money in his sack’s mouth.
2 And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack’s mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.
Joseph moves directly into the next phase of his plan. First, he continues his gracious streak by instructing the steward to stuff his brothers’ sacks with as much grain as they can possibly carry. But then two barbs are also hidden inside the great bounty.
First, he repeats the trick of putting their money back in the mouth of the sack. Once again, they will likely be afraid to see it there. After Joseph had shown them such graciousness, how would they expect him to react if they once again appeared to be thieves?
Then, he also has his own personal cup hidden in the sack of Benjamin. Here will be the real test. When the men find themselves in trouble, and Benjamin especially so, will they try to shift blame to the youth? Will they say that he must be the one guilty party, the sole thief among them, just to save their skins? They had sold Joseph off once before with far less motivation!
33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth: and the men marvelled one at another.
34 And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him.
Joseph sends portions of food to his brothers, but the portion to Benjamin is vastly larger than what is given to all the other brothers. It is so much more that I feel it could not have gone overlooked. What did Benjamin and the others think by this clear display of favoritism?
And for Joseph’s part, was this really just favoritism towards his blood brother, or was he conducting a calculated experiment on his older brothers? Showing preference towards a son of Rachel may have been meant as a callback to the preference Jacob had had for Joseph. Would the other brothers be made jealous of Benjamin just as they had been of Joseph? And when Joseph moved into the next part of his plan, in which there would be an opportunity for the other brothers to get rid of this “golden child,” would they happily take it?
16 And they journeyed from Beth-el; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.
17 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.
18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin.
19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Beth-lehem.
20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.
A very somber end to the story of Rachel. It is particularly sobering how childbearing, usually a source of great joy for a mother, was such a source of travail in Rachel’s life. First, she was unable to have any children for several years, causing her to envy her sister Leah. Then she miraculously had one child, Joseph, but then ceased again for a while. Here, at last, she was able to give birth to a second…but that proved to be the death of her. Her grief is apparent in how she named the child Ben-oni, which translates to “son of my sorrow.”
That is a very heavy title for an innocent child to bear, but Jacob set for him another title: Benjamin, which means “son of the right hand.” I cannot help but wonder what sort of special companionship Joseph and Benjamin shared, the only two half-orphaned brothers born of Rachel. It seems a difficult situation for starting one’s life, but perhaps it was necessary for their development. Each of them grew to be the most faithful of sons.
I wonder also how her death affected Jacob, who still had many years to go without his most beloved companion. We do not know exactly how long she and Jacob had together before the end. It is clear that they were married after Jacob had served Laban seven years, and that Jacob served Laban twenty years in all, but we aren’t sure how long Jacob was in Shalem before travelling to Beth-el, and how long he was in Beth-el before this fatal delivery occurred. Still, it seems likely that their earthly union was somewhere in the range of fifteen-to-twenty years. He likely had many years yet to go, but he would always see a living reminder of her in their two sons.