The youngest son of Jacob, by Rachel; Joseph's full brother; and the ancestor of the tribe of Benjamin. The name means literally “son of the right hand,” and should be understood geographically, in the sense of “southern”; the same name is used of a different group in the Mari texts. Though the smallest of the tribes (Map 3:X5), it had an importance disproportionate to its size (see Ps. 68.27). The narratives in Joshua 3–9 are all set in Benjaminite territory, and members of the tribe were reputated to be fierce warriors (Gen. 49.27; Judg. 5.14; 19–20; 1 Chron. 8.40; 12.1–2). Notable Benjaminites include Ehud the judge; Saul, the first king of Israel; Jeremiah the prophet; and Paul.

See also Tribes of Israel

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Michael D. Coogan