Genesis 49:27-28 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:51 mins 50 secs

Jacob's Blessing: Benjamin; Genesis 49:27, 28

Gen 49:27 NASB "Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he devours the prey, And in the evening he divides the spoil. [28] All 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 him." The word blessing is used three times in the space of a verse, and the point is that these statements of Jacob, this prophecy, is in a sense a blessing. It is a statement of how God is going to work through the twelve sons. Even though everything that is said is not positive it still comes under the category of a patriarchal blessing.

When we look at verse 27 we see the focus of this last prophetic word is related to Benjamin who is describes as a ravenous wolf. This is the fifth time in this section that Jacob has described the future of one of his sons or a tribe that has come from his sons as an animal. Benjamin was the youngest son of Jacob and Rachel. We are told the story of his birth in Genesis 3516 NASB "Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor." Ephrath is the Canaanite name for the village that is later known as Bethlehem. We see those two names linked together in Micah 5:2 where we have one of the most precise prophecies related to the coming of the Messiah, that He would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah. [18] "It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni [son of my pain]; but his father called him Benjamin [son of my right hand]." He has a special place in the heart of Jacob. [20] "Jacob set up a pillar over her grave; that is the pillar of Rachel's grave to this day." The irony here is that Jacob calls him son of my right hand and the tribe of Benjamin was known because the vast majority of Benjamites were left handed.

Next to Joseph, Benjamin was the favourite of Jacob and when Joseph disappears Benjamin became the centre of his father's attention. Whenever the brothers were to go on any kind of mission Benjamin always had to stay home. Jacob wasn't going to allow to happen to Benjamin what had happened to Joseph.

When we come to this prophecy it doesn't focus on Benjamin himself but on the characteristics of the tribe that will comes from Benjamin. It emphasizes their military ferocity. They are pictured as ravenous wolves. You get this sense of brutality, of violence, of strength that is going to be present in those who come from Benjamin. They are going to be known for their ferocity in battle, their military prowess. When Jacob refers to him as a ravenous wolf he is comparing him to a wolf that is hungry. It is wild and can be quite vicious, and if it is hungry it can be even more so and be quite dangerous. "In the morning he shall devour the prey, and in the evening he shall divide the spoil." So there is this contrast between morning and night. In language, when you want to talk about the totality of something you use two opposites—like meditate on God's Word "day and night." In the morning would indicate also, in the early stages of the history of the tribe; in the evening, the latter stages of the history of the tribe. In other words, the tribe from beginning to end. So there is this violence, ferocity, and brutality that will characterize the Benjamites.

When the tribe of Benjamin left Egypt at the exodus there is no mention of Benjamin other than just a list of the tribes in the early part of Exodus. The next time anything significant I said about Benjamin is in the first chapter of Numbers, verse 37: NASB "their numbered men of the tribe of Benjamin {were} 35,400." But at the end of the forty years in the wilderness, as they prepared to enter the promised land, we see that God has blessed Benjamin. They don't seem to be a tribe that has been characterized by rebelliousness that brought about the death of so many because their numbers increased to 45,600.

In Deuteronomy 33:12 Moses gives a prophecy related to Benjamin that seems just the opposite of what Jacob says. NASB "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'." That seems to contradict the statement of Jacob. So what does this mean?

Benjamin was allotted the territory that was just north of the tribal allotment of Judah and just south of the tribal allotment of Ephraim. That puts Benjamin in an extremely important area. It had various key cities within their territory—Jericho, Bethel, Gibeon, Ramah, Mizpah. Jerusalem is also within Benjamin's tribal allotment, and Jerusalem is the prized possession of God, the city on which God has set His affection and said will be His dwelling place. So when we look at the prophecy in Deuteronomy 33:12 we think of that in terms of the proximity of Jerusalem and the temple mount. "May the beloved of the LORD dwell in security," Benjamin is going to be specially blessed because he is going to have control of the territory where God will dwell in Jerusalem. The words "by Him," includes a preposition of proximity; "who shields him all the day." God will specially protect Benjamin because of the proximity to the temple mount. So this is a prophecy related to Benjamin's geographical proximity to the dwelling of God on the temple mount.

Jerusalem itself was within the territory of Benjamin, according to Joshua 18:28.

In Exodus we have the exit from Egypt; Numbers focuses on their wanderings in the wilderness, then at the end of the book they are about to enter into the land. Then we have the conquest where we see the united tribes are successful. Once they take out the major military powers among the Canaanites that doesn't mean they have taken control of all the territory. We see from the end of Joshua, as well as the first couple of chapters in Judges, that as time went by they began to compromise with the Canaanites. Rather than complete annihilation of every man, woman and child, as well as all of their animals, they enter into spiritual compromise with the religious systems and the idolatry of the Canaanites, which begins to affect them and they are no longer able to compete the Canaanites. This is what happened to the Benjamites. In Judges 1:21 we see that the Benjamites initially capture Jerusalem but they are not able to drive out and completely defeat the Jebusites. There is enough of a conquest where they are able to live in Jerusalem but alongside the Jebusites. As a result they begin to assimilate pagan values.  

Remember, the prophecy had to do with Benjamin's ferocity, their brutality and violence, and we see this in several of the key Benjamites in history. The first example we have is Ehud in Judges 3 and he is pictured as crafty, one who adopts pagan strategies in order to accomplish his ends. It is not too bad, it is just subtle things that are said in the text about the way he handles the situation. He has a particular ability that he has to exploit and that has to do with his ability, and it indicates that he is from the tribe of Benjamin. Israel came under the dominion of the Moabites for eighteen years and they cried out to the Lord. They haven't truly repented, changed their mind and quit assimilating with the pagan culture around them. There is no change that takes place but they do cry out to the Lord, and God in His grace, just like He does with us, and raised up a deliverer named Ehud. He uses some rather deceptive tactics in his assassination of Eglon, and there is nothing wrong with that militarily, but the way this is handled in the text has a little bit of a negative nuance to it in the way he is handling the tribute and being somewhat secretive in the whole process and yet he is a tremendous judge and is honoured as such.

The next episode with the Benjamites comes at the end of the period of the judges, in Judges 19 & 20. At this point Benjamin shows his spiritual apostasy and they come under attack by the rest of the tribes. In chapter 19 is the story about a Levite who is staying in the mountains of Ephraim. He takes himself a concubine and then goes down to his father's house in Bethlehem. Finally he needs to go back home and on the way back he is travelling by Jebus, which is the Jebusite city often known as Jerusalem. He won't go into Jerusalem because of the pagans that are there. At this time the Benjamites no longer had control over Jerusalem. They go on to Gibea and there is a story told that is very similar to Sodom. He is with his concubine and is warned that they must not spend the night in the open square. The men of the town are going to come and want to have perverted sex with the concubine and the Levite priest demonstrates his lack of masculinity. They have been welcomed in to a home and the man tries to bargain with these perverts to not be so wicked. In fact, the man tries to buy them off by offering them his virgin daughter. So we see how pagan the Jews had become at this time. Finally the Levite gives his concubine to them and they abuse her all night long and end up killing her. The next morning he finds her dead and is outraged by this, so he cuts her body up into twelve pieces and as a call to arms to the rest of the tribes he sends one of the pieces to each so they will see what a terrible thing has taken place in Benjamin. So the eleven tribes now are going to execute vengeance on the tribe of Benjamin because they become so perverse at this particular time. All of this speaks of their brutality. There is a four-day battle, Benjamin has seven hundred stone-slingers, and in the first two days of battle they inflict 40,000 casualties on the other tribes. But on the third day the tide of battle turns and the Benjamites are almost annihilated. Only six hundred of the 45,000 who came into the land under Joshua were left. So they become an extremely weakened tribe and are almost completely obliterated from history by the other Jews because of their perversity.

The third major event related to Benjamin has to do with the first king that God has anointed over Israel, and that is Saul. Saul defeated the Amalekites. Saul is a powerful man and is engaged in a number of military campaigns that defeat the enemies of Israel. He is a great warrior. It is only later in life after the event of rebellion in which he failed to destroy all the Amalekites that his carnality begins to destroy his moral courage and he becomes the coward that we see at the end of 1 Samuel. Jonathan his son is also of the tribe of Benjamin and is a tremendous warrior.

There were also other brutal, violent Benjamites such as Abner who was Saul's cousin, and also as a general of the army he brutally killed Asahel and then Joab has to murder Abner. Esther and Mordecai are also from the tribe of Benjamin. At the end of the book of Esther in the story there is the spoil of the anti-Semites that are destroyed by the Jews and divided among the Jews. So in the evening they will divide the spoils.

Then we come to the New testament and there is one key figure who is a violent murderer, a vicious, brutal son of Benjamin: Saul of Tarsus, before he became a believer. We read various passages in the New Testament that describe him. In Romans 11:1 he talks about the fact that he is an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin. He reinforces that again in Philippians 3:5. He was called Saul because he was in the lineage, most likely, of king Saul. That name was a tribal name that was passed on from generation to generation. We know from Galatians 1:13 that he tells in his testimony how he persecuted the church of God before he became a believer. He did everything he could in his self-righteous zeal to eradicate the Christians. Acts 22:4 NASB "persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons." Acts 26:9, 10 NASB "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." After his conversion on the road to Damascus his zeal was still evident. Acts 9:29 NASB "And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic {Jews;} but they were attempting to put him to death." He is still stirring the pot. This is the zeal of a brand new believer without any information, and he is causing such a ruckus. [30] "But when the brethren learned {of it,} they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus." Then [31] "… the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up." He was a bull in a china closet but once they got him out of there and sent him to Tarsus he could calm down and learn a little bit and get past this zeal of the brand new believer.