Looking at the Sources
Adapted with Changes and additions from:
Are you from Benjamin?
Use of the Left-Hand
The Tribe of Benjamin was noted for being able to use their left-hand with dexterity. This may mean that many were left-handed or they were both right- and left- handed but developed a left-handed faculty for military reasons.
Judges 3:15 But when the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for them: Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man. ...
Judges 20:15 And from their cities at that time the children of Benjamin numbered twenty-six thousand men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who numbered seven hundred select men. 16 Among all this people were seven hundred select men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair's breadth and not miss.
1-Chronicles 12:1 Now these were the men who came to David at Ziklag while he was still a fugitive from Saul the son of Kish; and they were among the mighty men, helpers in the war, 2 armed with bows, using both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows with the bow. They were of Benjamin, Saul's brethren.
Benjamin possibly had a higher than normal percentage of left-handed or ambidextrous people. This could mean a slight tendency to clumsiness, problems with physical coordination, alongside faster reflexes, greater sensitivity, and intelligence. [I too am left-handed so I know all about it].
Another possibility exists however: It could be that the percentage of left-handed peoples was not above the average but in training for the use of bow and sling an advantage was discovered in switching hands. i.e. right-handed people learned to use their left-hand?
We see from the above that the Benjamin were good at using their left and right hands at whatever weapon they used.
Can you use both hands reasonably well?
The Benjaminites were good shots both with sling and arrow. These two types of weaponry have different types of trajectory. The sling has a trajectory which goes straight for a good while then abruptly curves downward. The bow has a trajectory that looks more like a bow i.e. it goes up on a gradual curve, reaches a peak, then curves gradually downward.
Firing both weapons involves the ability to make mathematical calculations or their subconscious equivalent. It also requires an appreciation of distance and space.
Are you a good shot? Are you good at geometry? Are you able to calculate distances, etc? Engineers, architects, artists, etc, all make use of these faculties.
What about members of your family?
Valiant men who Specialized in Archery
1-Chronicles 8:40 The sons of Ulam were mighty men of valor, archers. They had many sons and grandsons, one hundred and fifty in all. These were all sons of Benjamin.
2-Chronicles 14: 8 And Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from Judah who carried shields and spears, and from Benjamin two hundred and eighty thousand men who carried shields and drew bows; all these were mighty men of valor.
They were valiant men.
The Tribe of Benjamin once went to war against all the other Tribes and came close to defeating them (Judges chapter 20).
Do you have fighting skills?
Are you reasonably courageous?
The Wolf Symptom
Benjamin was compared to a wolf:
27 Benjamin is a ravenous wolf, in the morning devouring the prey and at evening dividing the spoil.
A wolf appeared on the Tribal standard of Benjamin (Midrash BaMidbar Rabah 2:7).
The wolf usually travels in a pack. He is a social animal and relies on the good will of his fellow travelers. This produces a type sensitive to social appearances though "lone wolfs" also crop up from time to time.
The wolf is also brave, aggressive, resourceful, and in his own terms ruthless.
When a member of the pack is out of step with the others, or wounded, he is liable to be eaten by them.
The inhabitants of Gibeah gang raped the concubine of a travelling sojourner. The woman died as a result (Judges 19:27).
The rest of the Tribes of Israel demanded that the wrong-doers be handed over for punishment. The Tribe of Benjamin refused. There was a war in which Benjamin was initially victorious but later defeated and almost wiped out (Judges chs. 20, 21). This shows a stubborn clannish streak in which the whole Tribes places itself in danger to defend some of its members even though they are criminals and deserving of punishment.
This is the wolf pack instinct.
Source: Like A Pack Of Wolves
The Sages said that the Tribe of Benjamin have a grabbing, seizing tendency that may be used negatively or positively. This was why they were likened to a wolf. This grabbing tendency in the negative sense was seen when they seized the Concubine at Gibeah. This started a war in which their women were wiped out. Later, the other Tribes allowed the unmarried men of Benjamin to run out and grab the young girls who were dancing at Shiloh (Judges 21:21) . This grabbing guerrilla warfare type tendency was also noticed in Ehud from the Tribe of Benjamin and in King Saul and Jehonathan.
Benjamin the Conformist
"a stickler for the conventionally acceptable."
Michal daughter of the former King Saul from the Tribe of Benjamin was married to King David from the Tribe of Judah.
David participated in a religious dance before the Ark of the Covenant before all the people. Michal upbraided him since in her eyes such behavior was undignified.
2-Samuel (ESV) 6:
20 And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said,
‘How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants' female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!’
Michal reveals herself here as somewhat prudish and a stickler for the conventionally acceptable.
This is an example of the wolf pack and its social demands.
Mical is also described as learned and independently minded (Talmud, Eruvin 96;a).
Michal had other qualities of a more redeeming nature as shown below.
Michal was a daughter of Saul, King of Israel. Saul was from Benjamin.
Michal fell in love with David and let it be known.
20 Now Saul's daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.
28 But when Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal, Saul's daughter, loved him.
For a single woman to fall in love with a man and to let it be known in those times might not have been as easy as it might be in our own age.
This is the only occasion in the Bible where the love of a woman for a man is mentioned.
According to the Sages Michal was exceedingly physically attractive (Malmud, Megillah 15;a).
Michal became the wife of David (1-Samuel 18:20-27) after David had killed 200 Philistines and brought their foreskins to Saul.
Mical also saved the life of David and risked the wrath of her father in doing so (1-Samuel 19:17).
Do you too have strong romantic streak like Mical did? Would you risk your life for it?
Sex and Benjamin
The Benjamin inhabitants of Gibeah first attempted to rape a male sojourner from another Tribe who had stopped over for the night (Judges 19:22). The traveler pushed his concubine out to the Benjaminites. They raped her all night long. In the morning she died on the doorstep (Judges 19:27).
This shows EXAGGERATED sexual lust and perversion. It is also an example of the wolf pack instinct of Benjamin gone wrong.
When Benjamin was born he was actually given two names. The second name of Benjamin, "Ben-Oni," could be interpreted to indicate sexual prowess:
Genesis (ESV) 35:
16 Then they journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. 17 And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, ‘Do not fear, for you have another son.’ 18 And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.
"Ben-Oni" is usually understood to mean "Son of my Suffering" and the Hebrew fits this interpretation.
There is another possibility however. Rachel gave birth to Benjamin after hard labor and struggle. She died as a result but her son was born.
The word "ON" in Hebrew can also denote Power. In her struggle to give birth Rachel had put all her power into it and had succeeded. Benjamin was the reward.
There is still another meaning. In Biblical Hebrew when a name or word has several meanings they may be considered to complement each other.
The word "ON" in Hebrew can denote not only Power but also "sexual prowess."
This is not the meaning that Rachel had intended but it is an implication of the word "ON" in Hebrew. A well known Sex-therapy Clinic in Israel is named "MIRPAOT ON" i.e. The "ON Clinic."
This too fits the Tribe of Benjamin as depicted in the Bible.
Benjamin the Beloved of God
Alongside the sexual proclivities there is also (paradoxically perhaps) a prudish, modest streak with Benjamin.
The Sages described the Tribe of Benjamin as serene, modest and quiet and used to miracles happening.
In the same way as with the Concubine at Gibeah they had shown a liability to descend to the depths of depravity so too they had the opposite quality of being able to reach great heights of virtue.
Of Benjamin he said:
The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by Him,
Who shelters him all the day long;
And he shall dwell between His shoulders.
This verse from the Hebrew may also be read as saying:
# Concerning Binyamin,
The Friend of the ALMIGHTY,
He will dwell in surety,
He wraps himself over him all day long,
and between his shoulders shall he dwell #
The Sages explained the expression,
# He wraps himself over him all day long, and between his shoulders shall he dwell #
This was understood to mean that Benjamin would seek to always wrap himself around wherever the Presence of God (in the Tabernacle) was to be found.
Benjamin had at least a partial stake in all the Sanctuaries and Temples e.g. Gibeon, Shiloh, Nob, Jerusalem (Talmud, Yoma 12:a).
The Divine Presence made itself in three places, Shiloh, Nob, Gibeon, and [later] in the House of Eternity [i.e. the Temple]. In all of these the Sages says the Divine Presence was not felt except in the portion of Benjamin, as it says,
"Who shelters him all the day long" Deuteronomy 33:12 (Talmud, Zevachim 118;b).
It may be object that the Tabernacle was at Shiloh for about 300 years. Shiloh was right in the Middle of the Territory of Ephraim. Benjamin was to the south of Ephraim. The Sages explained that a thin strip of land went out from Benjamin up into the heart of Ephraim into Shiloh and encompassed the Tabernacle. [This is hinted at in Joshua 16:6 where it mentions the border of Ephraim skirting the fig tree of Shiloh].
Accept it or not the account may be understood as reflecting a need by Benjamin to always have some stake in the Tabernacle. So too though Jerusalem was not divided among the Tribes technically it was partly in the section of Benjamin and partly in that of Judah. The area of the Temple was split between the two Tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Part of the Altar was in the section of Benjamin and part in that of Judah. We have here another hint as to the character of Benjamin. He wants to belong and strives for the main point. Benjamin sees the big picture and puts subsidiary consideration aside.
Benjamin was described as the friend, or beloved, of the Almighty (Deuteronomy 33:12)!
Saul the Regal Ruler and Aristocracy
We saw above how Michal the daughter of Saul considered the behavior of David not suitable for a ruler.
Saul was from the Tribe of Benjamin. He was the first King of Israel. He was very tall and exceedingly handsome (1-Samuel 9:2). Saul looked the part he played.
Saul killed himself rather than suffer the indignity of being taken captive. The Sages spoke of the innate Royalty of Saul.
King Saul was a natural aristocrat.
Eventually Saul and his son Yehonatan with other sons of Saul and many Israelites were killed fighting against the Philistines.
David lamented their deaths:
2-Samuel (ESV) 1:
22 From the blood of the slain,
from the fat of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan turned not back,
and the sword of Saul returned not empty.
23 Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles;
they were stronger than lions.
24 You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
25 How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your high places.'
26 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
very pleasant have you been to me;
your love to me was extraordinary,
surpassing the love of women.
27 How the mighty have fallen,
and the weapons of war perished!
We learn from this that the People of Benjamin are likable and attractive. They have good qualities. They are spiritually inclined, possibly more than intellectual.
The Sages said that Saul was more suited to the will of God than David was but David had other merits.
Heroism. Second place is still a Winner!
When the messengers of Saul were searching for David in order to kill him, Michal secretly sent him away while pretending he was ill and laid up in bed. She let David down through a window and made his bed look like he was sleeping in it (1-Samuel 19:11-17).
Jonathan (in Hebrew “Yehonatan”) , son of Saul and the brother of Michal, was a hero from the Tribe of Benjamin. In Biblical Literature Yehonatan is the Classical Hero type par excellence.
Jonathan with the help of his attendant had almost single-handedly defeated a whole garrison of Philistines and in the process he brought about the defeat of the Philistine army (1 Samuel 14:24).
Jonathan risked his life for the sake of Israel. He was second in command to King Saul his father and the heir apparent. Nevertheless, he acknowledged the right of David to be king instead of him.
Jonathan took an instant liking to David.
1 Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
Yehonathan was prepared to take second place after David, but second place is what he wanted.
14 And you shall not only show me the kindness of the LORD while I still live, that I may not die; 15 but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the LORD has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth. 16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the LORD require it at the hand of David's enemies.
16 Then Jonathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. 17 And he said to him,' Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that. 18 So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. And David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house.
Benjamin, in the figure of Yehonatan, was prepared to take second place to David.
Much later when the Other Tribes separated from Judah, Benjamin remained (1-Kings 12:21, 23). The Ten Tribes were headed by Jeroboam from the Tribe of Ephraim son of Joseph. They set up their own kingdom. Benjamin according to his family origins was closer to Joseph than he was to Judah. Both Joseph and Benjamin were sons of Jacob and Rachel. Judah was a son of Jacob and Leah. Nevertheless Benjamin stayed with Judah.
Perhaps Benjamin figured that second place to Judah was better than tenth place in the rest of Israel?
Several of the Heroes of the entourage of David also came from Benjamin (1-Chronicles ch.11).
Something is better than nothing. Second place is quite respectable.
The major portion of Benjamin stayed with Judah.
[Actually a small contingent from Benjamin was already located in Northern Syria. They are mentioned in the texts of Ugarit, but that is another topic].
Do you have this quality? Are you prepared to surrender part of what you have in order to retain some of it?
Can you adapt from one extreme to the other quite well?
The Land of Benjamin was a small area but it encompassed a great variety of climate and vegetation patterns.
So too, the Stone of Benjamin in Breastplate of the High Priest was the Jasper. This gem was described as containing all the different colors (Midrash BaMidbar Rabah 2:7).
Source: Jasper - Wikipedia
This could be reflected in their character, i.e. able to make drastic changes if necessary.
"Benjamin is a ravenous wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil" (Genesis 49:27).
The Benjaminite tendency of being prepared to settle for second place and second best also shows the same idea, i.e. grab what you can, like a wolf.
The Sages also said that this blessing reflected a physical phenomenon in the Tribe of Benjamin, their elderly were often physically as active in the evening of their lives as in their youth, i.e. the morning.
The blessing comparing Benjamin to a wolf mentions him devouring the prey in the morning and in the evening dividing the spoil. The evening of one's life is when we get old. Benjaminites may feel an increased burst of vigor at this time.
Benjamin had ten sons (Genesis 46:21). This too could represent a multi-faceted aspect to the character of Benjamin.
Each one of the names of each one of these sons, according to the Sages represented another aspect of Benjamin yearning for his brother Joseph.