Moses next blesses Benjamin in Deut. 33:12,
12 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.”
Benjamin was the younger brother of Joseph. When Joseph was born, they named him to prophesy that a second son would yet be born of Rachel, because Joseph means “He will add.” Gen. 30:24 says,
24 And she named him Joseph, saying, “May the Lord give me another son.”
In this case Joseph was a type of Christ, and Benjamin therefore represented the sons of God who were to come after him. Hence, Benjamin means “son of my right hand.” Benjamin is thus called by Moses “the beloved of the Lord,” picturing him as a child clinging to his father’s neck as he is held in his arms.
Benoni and Benjamin
Benjamin had two names, because his mother named him Ben-oni, “son of my sorrow,” while his father named him Ben-yamin, “son of my right hand” (Gen. 35:18). Both names proved to be prophetic, for they describe the two works of Christ. Jesus came first as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). But afterward, He ascended to the throne of heaven, where He sits on the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3).
The sons of God likewise are called to experience the “sorrow” of intercession, even as Christ, for we are all called to enter into His death, so that we may also enter into His resurrection life. Intercession results in spiritual authority, whereby we may be seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). In other words, Rachel prophesied that in order for us to reign with Christ as Benjamin, we must first become Benoni.
We read in Gen. 35:18-20 that Rachel died in childbirth, so Benjamin grew up without his natural mother. No doubt Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid, was the only mother he knew. It is perhaps significant, then, that Bilhah’s name means “troubled.”
The root word is the verb, balah, “to terrify, frighten, trouble.”
Benjamin Connects Judah to Israel
It seems likely that the picture of a frightened child clinging to his father’s neck is the picture that Moses had in mind while blessing Benjamin in Deut. 33:12. This also prophesied the location of Benjamin’s allotment as a tribe in the land of Canaan, for the tribe was located at the “neck” between Judah and Ephraim.
After the death of Solomon, when the ten tribes united to form the house of Israel, Benjamin was situated between Judah and Israel as a whole. Judah was the “head,” while Israel was the “body.” Judah had the king, while Israel was the kingdom. Benjamin was the neck that linked the two, for the tribe remained loyal to Judah but was a brother to Joseph (i.e., Ephraim and Manasseh).
The territory of Benjamin stretched 25 miles from Jericho in the east to Beth-horon in the west and 12 miles from Bethel in the north to Jerusalem in the south. Its southern border with Judah was the valley of the Ben-hinnom (or gehenna), which was located just outside of Jerusalem. According to Joshua 18:28, Benjamin’s territory included the city of Jerusalem itself, although it remained unconquered until the time of David. When David conquered it, it became “the city of David” and so, while technically a city of Benjamin, in practical terms it was a city of Judah.
Benjamin’s loyalty to Judah during the time of the Divided Kingdom ensured that Jerusalem’s status would not be disputed, as the tribal distinctions gave way to a broader national identity.
Benjamin was a Lamp for Judah
When the prophet Ahijah prophesied of the Divided Kingdom on account of Solomon’s sins, he says in 1 Kings 11:35, 36,
35 But I will take the kingdom from his [Solomon’s] son’s hand and give it to you [Jeroboam, an Ephraimite], even ten tribes. 36 But to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name.
Benjamin was God’s “lamp” to Jerusalem on account of the fact that God had chosen to put His name there. Of course, in later years, His name was removed from Jerusalem, even as it had been removed earlier from Shiloh (in Ephraim), as the prophet tells us in Jer. 7:12-15. When the glory of God departed from the temple in Ezekiel 11:23, it finally returned to the people of the New Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Thereafter, God chose to make us His temple and to put His name upon our foreheads (Rev. 22:4).
Hence, the “lamp” shifted from the old temple in Jerusalem to a new temple made of living stones. Benjamin thus became a lamp to light the way for the Church. It is interesting, then, that Jesus’ disciples, with the exception of Judas, were from Galilee. Galilee was the place where the tribe of Benjamin had settled after the Babylonian captivity. We see this in the census recorded in Neh. 11:31-35, which shows the cities to the north of Jerusalem where Benjamin settled.
Jesus’ disciples, then, represented the tribe of Benjamin and became the lamp to Judah—that is, to the true representatives of Judah, those who followed the King, the Son of David. Those who came to be known as Christians and the Church, though landless and exiled, were actually the nation of Judah, which included the tribe of Benjamin.
And so we see how Moses’ blessing upon Benjamin was fulfilled in later years. Even as Benjamin as a child clung to his father’s neck, and even as the tribe of Benjamin clung to the house of David during the Divided Kingdom, so also did the Galilean disciples cling to the Son of David. They remained loyal to the King, even though many others rejected Him and were expelled from the tribe and nation (from God’s perspective).
Speaking from the divine perspective, Paul tells us in Rom. 2:28, 29 who IS and who IS NOT of the nation of Judah.
28 For he is NOT a Jew [Ioudeos, Judean] who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he IS a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise [Judah means “praise”] is not from men, but from God.
In other words, one cannot claim outward fleshly descent from Judah or Benjamin to be considered a member of the tribe or nation. One must be a follower of the rightful Heir to the throne, Jesus Christ. Neither can one claim the Old Covenant with its sign of fleshly circumcision as proof of citizenship. Jesus Christ is the Mediator of a New Covenant, and its sign is heart circumcision. This is now the only basis of Kingdom citizenship, for the glory has departed from the old city and now rests upon a new temple (Eph. 2:19-22) in the New Jerusalem.
Yet the disciples of Christ, coming from Galilee-Benjamin, formed the bridge between the two covenants, lighting the path for men to see their way to the King and His Kingdom.
The persecution that followed (Acts 8:1) scattered the Christians into exile in foreign lands. The persecutors had no right to continue calling themselves Judeans, for in the eyes of God they had forfeited their citizenship rights according to the law. And so from that time on, they were usurpers of Christ’s throne and of the title “Jew” (i.e., Judean). The other nations, however, not knowing the mind of God, continued to believe that the usurpers were the lawful authority of Judea (or Judah), and so they continued to recognize them as Judeans.
With the true inheritors in exile, the Kingdom remains without territorial boundaries until the Stone arises to fill the whole earth (Dan. 2:35).
Meanwhile, during this conflict, Moses pronounces a blessing upon Benjamin, which now applies to the “son of my right hand,” or the “sons of God.” This blessing speaks of comfort and protection as their Father in heaven holds them in His arms, and as they cling to His neck.
Moses says, “May the beloved of the Lord dwell in security by Him.” God will indeed grant His people security in the midst of persecution, for we are not only Benjamin but also Benoni.
The Ravenous Wolf
A final word should be said about Benjamin. When Jacob blessed his sons, he said of Benjamin in Gen. 49:27,
27 Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, and in the evening he divides the spoil.
This strange prophecy can be interpreted either negatively or positively. Being compared to a wolf conjures up the thought of wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15) or as wolves among the sheep (Acts 20:29). This negative side of Benjamin comes out in the story of King Saul, who persecuted David, the overcomer. Saul’s coronation on the day of wheat harvest (1 Sam. 12:17) makes him a type of the church in the Pentecostal Age, and thus it speaks of their persecution of the overcomers.
On the positive side, Benjamin is pictured as being hungry for the meat of God’s word. Perhaps Jacob noticed that Benjamin had a hearty appetite and loved meat, and this may have been God’s way of revealing prophecy. Heb. 5:11-14 criticizes the believers who remain in the old way of Judaism, attempting to add Christ to Judaism. He says such people are “dull of hearing” (vs. 11). They ought to get off the milk of the word and eat solid food, or meat (vs. 14).
It is a characteristic of the overcomers that they have a love for the word and have ears to hear. In other words, they recognize truth when they hear it. Like David, they are willing to follow Christ even if it costs them everything.
The Pentecostal Age (between the two comings of Christ) is an age dominated by Saul, who was of the tribe of Benjamin. We see, then, that this has both a positive and a negative side to it. It speaks of the oppression of Saul, who persecuted David as a wolf eats sheep. But it also speaks of the true light of the word that comes through the overcomers, those who are like a “ravenous wolf” when it comes to eating the word of God.
Let us then be ravenous wolves in devouring the word, and let us avoid persecuting the overcomers as wolves among the sheep.