A Project Benjamin Article
In a previous lesson (Saul as Prototype) we saw that in many ways the figure of Saul exemplifies the Tribe of Benjamin.
We are first introduced to Saul by name in the 1st Book of Samuel when he went searching for asses (she-donkeys) that belonged to his father and had got lost. [Some translations render the Hebrew word "atonot" as "donkeys" but it means female donkeys, i.e. asses. and not male ones].
1-Samuel (NIV) 9:
1 There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. 2 Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.
:"a man of standing" also translated as "A MIGHTY MAN OF POWER": In Hebrew "Gibor Chayal".
In the Bible the root GBR is found in GABRIEL (Daniel 8:16) who was an angel. Gabriel in the Midrash (Numbers Rabah 2;10) was considered the guiding angel of the forces led by Ephraim who were the
Tribes marching to the west of the Tabernacle: Ephraim, Menasseh, and Benjamin. The personal name "GEBER" is also derived from the "GBR" word-root. The name "Geber" occurs twice and then in connection with the twelve princes King Solomon set to govern the Twelve Tribes of Israel:
"And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel....The son of Geber, in Ramoth Gilead; to him pertained the towns of Jair the son of Menasseh , which are in Gilead; to him also pertained the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, threescore great cities with walls and brasen bars.....
"Geber the son of Uri was in the country of Gilead, in the country of Sihon king of the Amorites, and of Og king of Bashan; and he was the only officer which was in the land." (1-Kings 4:7,13,19).
The use above of the form "Son of Geber" without any preceding appellation is unusual and perhaps indicates the beginning of a clan of which GEBER was to be considered the founder and namesake. It is well to note the connections of these personages, Geber son of Uri, and (his son?) "the son of Geber", with the territories of Gilead and Yair (Jair). Gilead gave his name to the Galatae (Galadi) in Gaul and to the Caledonians in Scotland within whose area the township of Gabrosentas was located and place names recalling Iar (i.e. Yair) an eponymous ancestor are also found in Scotland as well as in Ireland.
On Ptolemy's Map of "Arabia" are listed numerous place and historical ethnic names proving that Israelite tribes once ruled over all the area of northern Syria reaching at least to the Euphrates. Examples are the areas called RAHABENI (i.e. Reuben), MASANI (Menasseh), CAUCHABENI (i.e. Sons of Chauchi, i.e. of Haggi son of Gad), BATHANAEI (Bashan in Aramaic), CHALYBONITIS (Chalybes of Judah), and the cities of Belginaea and Belagaea (Belgae from Bela-g-h) [possibly pertaining to Benjamin], and GABARA from Geber in the region of Bashan (Bathanaei) close to Masani (Menasseh ). The "House of Gabbar" were the ruling dynasty of "Yadi." Yadi was a Judaean enclave in northwest Syria ("Hamath which belonged to Judah" 2-Kings 14:28) known as "Yadi" (i.e. "Judah" in Assyrian) and also garrisoned by the "Dananu" from the Tribe of Dan.It was also associated with the neighbouring Tribe of Gad since its other name "Smal" is synonymous with Zephion a clan of Gad. The Assyrians report the "Zephuni" as being in that area. The people of Yadi were taken into
exile to an area of Armenia whereto exiles from the Ten Tribes were also taken.
In the Land of Israel, there was at least one additional town named GABARA recalled in an Assyrian inscription in what later became the Assyrian province of Magidu (i.e. Megido) in the northern Galilee in the Land of Israel.
The term "Gibor" is also found as part of the personal and ethnic names among the "Celts" including those of the British isles:
GEBER= Gabar of Menasseh.
In Celtic Britain To the northeast of Eboracum (York) and the Parissi were the GABRANTOVICES. Further north in the North Scottish Caledonian region of the Gadeni (Otadeni) was the settlement of Gabrosentas. These names bear the HEBREW ROOT "GEVER" or "GEBER" (GVR interchanges with GBR) from which are derived Hebrew words meaning male (gever); hero (gibor); important, usually rich, public benefactor (gavir); and as a verb the root GBR denotes "to overcome." The Anglo-Saxons called an independent peasant a "gavir": (In Hebrew-Yiddish, "gavir" came to denote "rich benefactor"). The English word GOVERN said to be derived from the Latin Gubernare (to steer, direct, guide, govern) ultimately comes from the same root. The English usage is actually closer to the Hebrew original than it is to the supposed Latin source. Similar cases, in which the English have adopted a word of ultimate Hebrew (or Semitic) origin and used it in a manner closer to its original employment than the intermediary did, occur quite frequently.
Pliny (N.H.6.7) reports the Gabri from Asiatic Sarmatia (Scythia), Ptolemy recalled the GABRETA in Baiern (Bavaria) whom ZEUSS identified as a Celtic people and recalls the city of Gabromagus and Vergobretus (in territory of the Aedui of Gaul, Caesar, G.W.1;16). There was also a Celtic group called Guberni (Pliny N.H.4;17) between the Ubii and Batavi in Holland.
In ancient Ireland there was a tribe called Gabraige, and a place named Gabran (mod. Gowran in County Kilkenny) and a king of the Picts in northern Scotland had the same name. The Lagin people gave their name to Leinster in east Ireland. They were also known as GABAIR. After being conquered by the Milesian Goidels, the Lagin Gabair joined forces with them and participated in raids on, and settlement in, Scotland. They have been equated with the Gailian or Galioin which names may well derive from the Golan in the Land of Israel since GEBER or GABAR appears to have once been an important family name in that general area. Amongst the southern Angles in Germany prior to the invasion of Britain were the GIRVII who gave their name to a region (Girviorum) in England near Peterborough.
Saul is referred to as a "Gobor Chayil" translated as "MIGHTY MAN OF VALOUR" or "a man of standing."
Yehudah Kiel ("Daat Mikra") says that this description applied to members of a special class amongst the
people apparently of known heroes who had earned the right to bear the title and receive special consideration.
Cf. "ALL THE MIGHTY MEN OF VALOUR" [2-Kings 24:14].
The word translated as "Mighty Man" from the Hebrew is "Gibor." In Hebrew this word connotes masculinity, the power to overcome adversity, heroism. This referred to Kish the father of Saul. Saul himself, as we shall see, was also the equivalent of a war-hero, a local commander, someone known for his valor. He was tall and handsome and, as shown shortly, instantly admired by women. At this time, he was not a young man but alredy in his fifties.
A MIGHTY MAN OF POWER: In Hebrew "Gibor Chayal." The second part of this expression is "Chayil" which may also be transcribed as "hail" for example as pronounced in Yemenite and Eastern Hebrew. This word "hail" in Hebrew means "strength" and it also can mean "soldier." The English word "hale" was also once written as "hail" and connotes "strength" as in the expression "Hale and Hearty." In addition in Old English this very same word "hale" or "hail" could mean "soldier." We thus find the same word in both Old English and Hebrew pronounced almost the very same way having the very same two meanings in both languages.
Saul was tall and handsome. This was an attribute he possessed and it was important to him and his family. It was to be of service to him. All human beings appreciate beauty. The Tribe of Benjamin is not exceptional in this regard. It may be (as we shall see) that Benjaminites place an emphasis on external appearance and on formalities. Tall people, all other things being equal, statistically have more chance of fulfilling managerial positions. This corresponds with a certain degree of class consciousness, of what is proper, that existed in the family of Saul as seen in Michal the daughter of Saul.
Saul was physically tall and also strong and handsome. He may also have been dark.
David in the Book of Psalms referred to King Saul.
FROM DAVID IN ANSWER TO A MISCONCEPTION (S.R. Hirsch) THAT HE SANG TO THE ALMIGHTY CONCERNING THE WORD OF KUSH THE SON OF YAMINI (Benjamin).
KUSH THE SON OF YAMINI: Traditionally this is referring to Saul who came from the Tribe of Benjamin. Why he is called "KUSH"? We do not really know BUT it may be that Saul was a bit darker than the average Hebrew of that time.
In Hebrew "Cush" or "Cushi" can mean someone from Africa or India. It could also have been used as a nickname for someone of dark appearance. Just as blonds and red-heads existed amongst the Ancient Israelites so did darker individuals.
3 Now the donkeys belonging to Saul's father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, 'Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.'
"Saul went to seek the asses and became king." This became a common folk saying and later a famous literary expression describing someone who sets out to do a minor chore and stumbles into something larger than what they expected.
4 So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them.
They covered quite a wide area in their searches. Yehudah Kiel ("Daat Mikra") does a geographical analysis of the line of search and reaches the conclusion that the "Territory of Benjamin" (more literally, LAND OF THE BENJAMITES) spoken of here was not in the territory of Benjamin but rather in that of Ephraim. He suggests that it was named after of group of Benjaminites that had settled in the territory of Ephraim just as we find elsewhere enclaves of one Tribe in the area of another. In this and other ways groups from Benjamin were to be together with the Ten Tribes when they went into Exile. The main body of Bengali was to remain with Judah as Jews but we also find them among part of the the NORMANS and part of the BELGAE who were in Belgium, France, southeast England, and Ireland.
5 When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, 'Come, let's go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.'
Saul was searching on behalf of his father. He was concerned for the property of his father. We find among people we tentatively identify with Benjamin (e.g. some Eastern European Jews and Sephardic Jews) a certain sense of propriety and concern for their property and what is correct and the rights of their family. We will discuss this later.
Here Saul takes consideration of his father and wishes not to cause him worry.
Saul included his servant with himself. As the son of his father then his father would obvioulsy have been worried more about him. Saul however speaks of himself and his servant as equal in the eyes of their father.
The Sages saw this as an additional sign of the good qualities of Saul. Traditionally Saul was revered (despite his later failings) as initially a very great man of high quality, natural modesty, humility, combined with an innate nobility of character. He is considered to have been the first real king of Israel though previously Joshua and some of the other Judges had enjoyed a similar status.
6 But the servant replied, 'Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let's go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.'
7 Saul said to his servant, 'If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?'
They had taken provisions with them and made a search over a wide area until their supplies had given out and the relative importance of what they were searching for had diminished. There are some who say that
Samuel did not accept presents but Saul and his companion were not to know that. They wrongly assumed that he did take gifts like other holy men. At all events the idea is that by giving something to a "Man of God" you enable him to enter into your sphere: Through your gift it is as if you yourself open to him. This facilitates he being able to answer your personal questions.
8 The servant answered him again. 'Look,' he said, 'I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.' 9 (Formerly in Israel, if someone went to inquire of God, they would say, 'Come, let us go to the Seer,' because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.)
Yehudah Kiel says this was about 2.5 gram of silver. That is worth about $10 in current currency. That is not a large amount by our standards but maybe at that time it was worth more.
10 'Good,' Saul said to his servant. 'Come, let's go.' So they set out for the town where the man of God was.
11 As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some young women coming out to draw water, and they asked them, 'Is the Seer here?'
12 'He is,' they answered. 'He's ahead of you. Hurry now; he has just come to our town today, for the people have a sacrifice at the high place. 13 As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not begin eating until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. Go up now; you should find him about this time.'
The Sages said that the young women were smitten by the masculine extremely handsome visage of Saul so they all answered together speaking at length and in detail. Each of the several maidens was vieing with the others to perhaps gain an appreciative glance from the very tall, broad-shouldered aristocratic and handsome stranger. Women like tall men. The Bible above (9:2) describes Saul as being the most handsome man on Israel!
14 They went up to the town, and as they were entering it, there was Samuel, coming toward them on his way up to the high place.
15 Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: 16 'About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.'
17 When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, 'This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.'
At first when the Israelites requested a king God had been angry (1-Samuel ch.8). So too, the Almighty later again reproves the people for choosing a King instead of being governed by Samuel the Prophet (1-Samuel 8:18-19).
Despite that, the Almighty here says He is sending a Savior because He has pitied His people. The two situations are not contradictory. It happens that we may have done something wrong or gained something through wrong means or for wrong intentions. That is not the end of the road. We may have had a genuine legitimate need but went about satisfying it in the wrong way. The Almighty still cares for us. HE may still hear us and help us.
18 Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, 'Would you please tell me where the Seer's house is?'
SEER in Hebrew "Ha-Ro-eh" i.e. "the One Who Sees." This is another term for Prophet.
19 'I am the Seer,' Samuel replied. 'Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will send you on your way and will tell you all that is in your heart. 20 As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?'
21 Saul answered, 'But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest Tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the Tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?'
This was not long after the war of all the other Tribes against Benjamin (Judges chapter 20) in which Benjamin had almost been exterminated. In addition, the Matri Clan of Benjamin to which Saul belonged was a new clan that had only recently emerged as an entity in its own right. It is interesting that here Saul does not say he is intrinsically unworthy of the appointment. He merely points out that he has no significant Tribal backing of his own.
22 Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and seated them at the head of those who were invited, about thirty in number. 23 Samuel said to the cook, 'Bring the piece of meat I gave you, the one I told you to lay aside.'
24 So the cook took up the thigh with what was on it and set it in front of Saul. Samuel said, 'Here is what has been kept for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion from the time I said, 'I have invited guests.'' And Saul dined with Samuel that day.
There is something very basic about eating together. Samuel eat with Saul just before he was about to impart unto him a message and task from the Almighty. Eating together allows for a communality of feeling.
25 After they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house.
In those days most houses had flat roofs.There was a wall around the edges of the roof (Deuteronomy 22:8). This was a safety precaution and a COMMANDMENT.
People used the roof-space for various chores and for communing with each other. The Israelites had a unique housing design of their own known as the "Four-Roomed House." Archaeologists identify Israelite households by this design. The Israelite-Hyksos (Shephered-Kings) had used the same tye of dwelling while in Egypt.
26 They rose about daybreak, and Samuel called to Saul on the roof, 'Get ready, and I will send you on your way.' When Saul got ready, he and Samuel went outside together.
27 As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, 'Tell the servant to go on ahead of us,' and the servant did so, 'but you stay here for a while, so that I may give you a message from God.'
Note: If you are interested in the Rabbis Quoted short biographical sketches are to be found at: