The Tribe of Benjamin

The tribe of Benjamin was descended from the youngest son of Jacob (Genesis 35:16-26) and occupied one of the smallest allotments in the Promised Land (Joshua 15-16; 18:11-13), yet it proved to be a people of great consequence throughout the history of Israel. Benjamin’s allotment in the Promised Land fell between Ephraim to the north and Judah to the south, and it was bisected by the Central Ridge Route from north to south. The land west of the Central Ridge Route was occupied primarily by the Gibeonites, who deceived the Israelites during the early phases of their conquest of the Promised Land so that they were granted a peace treaty and allowed to remain in the land (Joshua 9; see map). The warriors of Benjamin were renowned for their skill as ambidextrous archers and slingers (Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 8:40; 12:2), and the Benjaminite judge Ehud was likewise left-handed (Judges 3:12-30). The judge Deborah was also from Benjamin and held court between Bethel and Ramah (Judges 4:1-5). Near the end of the time of the Judges the tribe of Benjamin was involved in a tragic war against the rest of the tribes of Israel but were spared complete annihilation (Judges 19-21). Later the prophet Samuel was born in Ramah and held court at Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah, and Ramah (1 Samuel 7:15-17), and he anointed Saul, another Benjaminite from Gibeah, as Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 9-10). Long after this the northern tribes of Israel rebelled against the rule of the Davidic dynasty, but Benjamin remained loyal to Judah (1 Kings 12:21; 2 Chronicles 11:1). Later, however, Benjamin’s territory was divided between the two kingdoms (1 Kings 15:16-22; 2 Chronicles 16:1-6). After the people of Judah returned from exile in Babylon, Benjamin’s territory was included in the minor Persian province of Judea (Ezra 2; Nehemiah 7; see map). Hundreds of years later the apostle Paul underscored the distinguished history of the tribe of Benjamin when he proudly declared himself to be a Benjaminite, a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5).

download hi-res file