He Was Jacob’s 12th Son

Jacob famously had 12 sons, who became the progenitors of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Eleven of those sons were born in Charan, where Jacob had been tending the flocks of his father-in-law Laban. 1

His Birth Was Blessed by G‑d

Shortly before Benjamin’s birth, G‑d appeared to Jacob and blessed him to “be fruitful and multiply … and kings shall come forth from your loins.” Since Benjamin was the only one born after this blessing, it referred to him. Indeed, kings would issue from Benjamin (more on that below).2

He Was Born When His Father Was 100

The name Benjamin can be broken into ben yaman (ימ”ן), which has the numeric value of 100, hinting at the fact that Benjamin was born when his father was 100 years old.3

His Mother, Rachel, Died in Childbirth

Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife, watched wistfully as her sister wife, Leah, and their two maids, Bilhah and Zilpah, gave birth to child after child. Finally she was blessed with a son of her own, whom she named Joseph.4

After Jacob moved his burgeoning family to the Holy Land, Rachel gave birth to a second son en route to Bethlehem. Tragically, she died shortly thereafter and was buried on the roadside.

Read: 12 Facts About Rachel Every Jew Should Know

Initially Named by His Mother, He Was Renamed by His Father

Rachel named her son “ben oni,” which Jacob modified to ben-yamin (Benjamin).5 Rashi explains that ben oni means “son of my suffering,” and ben yamin can be interpreted as either “son of the south,” since the Holy Land is south of Charan, or “son of old age,” reflecting the fact that he was born long after his brothers.6

Others, however, interpret ben oni as “son of my efforts,” implying suffering and loss. Jacob thus only slightly changed the name by calling his son ben yamin, which means “son of the right,” reflecting triumph and perseverance, since a person’s power is concentrated on their right side.7

He Resembled His Mother

Scripture tells us that Rachel “had beautiful features and a beautiful complexion.”8 According to the Zohar, Benjamin resembled her.9

He Sorely Missed His Elder Brother, Whose Fate Was Unknown

When Benjamin was a child, his elder brother Joseph was sold into slavery and eventually made his way down to Egypt. Meanwhile, Benjamin, who did not know his brother’s fate, started a family of his own. The names of each of his 10 sons reflected his longing for his brother and his sadness regarding their separation.10

His Father Fretted Over Him

When Jacob’s sons went to Egypt to secure foodstuffs, he did not send Benjamin, “lest misfortune befall him.”11 Joseph, however, who had become Pharaoh’s chief executive, compelled them to bring their youngest brother (and his only full brother) to prove that they were not spies.12

Jacob was hesitant to send his beloved Benjamin away, but seeing that there was no choice, and Judah had personally assured his safe return, he agreed.13

He Was Framed by Joseph

After Joseph invited his brothers to dine with him (giving Benjamin a heaping portion of food), he sent them off with full sacks of food. He also snuck his goblet into Benjamin’s sack, which he then used as a pretext to detain them.14

Tensions ran high as Judah valiantly opposed Joseph’s (bluffed) claim that Benjamin be made a slave. The scene reached its climax when Joseph finally revealed his identity and sobbed on Benjamin’s shoulder.15

His Father Compared Him to a Wolf

Before Jacob passed away, he blessed each of his sons. Benjamin’s blessing was: “Benjamin is a wolf, he will prey; in the morning he will devour plunder, and in the evening he will divide the spoils.”16

His Descendants Included King Saul

Jacob’s prophecies foretold the fierce warriors who would come from Benjamin’s family, notably King Saul.17 The reference to dividing spoils also hinted to Mordechai and Queen Esther, who would divide the spoils of Haman, enemy of the Jews.

He Was Untainted By Sin

The Talmud lists seven people whose deaths were not due to sin, but from G‑d Himself, and as such, their bodies do not rot in their graves.18 Elsewhere, we are told of four people whose deaths were solely due to the Primordial Sin and not to any shortcoming of their own.19 Benjamin is on both lists.