🔼The name Benjamin: Summary
- Son Of The Right Hand, Son Of The South
- From (1) the noun בן (ben), son, and (2) the noun ימין (yamin), right hand.
🔼The name Benjamin in the Bible
There are three men named Benjamin in the Bible, but the most famous one is the thirteenth and youngest child of Israel's patriarch Jacob (Genesis 35:18), who now has twelve sons and a daughter named Dinah. Benjamin is the second son of Rachel — the first being Joseph — and she dies giving birth to him. With her dying breath she names the boy Ben-oni, but father Jacob swiftly renames him Benjamin.
Our name comes in two Hebrew variants (בנימין and בנימן) and in Greek this name is spelled Βενιαμιν (see full New Testament concordance). Curiously, the ethnonym Benjaminite (either version of our name post-fixed with י, yod) occurs only once in the Hebrew Bible, in 1 Chronicles 27:12, where בנימיני is applied to Abiezer the Anathothite of the Benjaminite.
The much more common ethnonym associated with the tribe of Benjamin is בן־ימיני or בן־הימיני, "son of the Yemenite" (Judges 3:15, 19:16, 1 Samuel 9:21, 2 Samuel 16:11, 1 Kings 2:8, Psalm 7:1), בני ימיני, "sons of the Yemenite" (1 Samuel 22:7), or איש ימיני, "a Yemenite man" (1 Samuel 9:1, 2 Samuel 20:1, Esther 2:5). In 1 Samuel 9:4 occurs the phrase ארץ־ימיני, "land of the Yemenite".
An often neglected curiosity is the disproportionally important role of the tribe of Benjamin in the development of Israel, or even the very pattern of redemption displayed by the Bible:
The city of Jerusalem was originally assigned to Benjamin (Joshua 18:28, Judges 1:21). The tribe of Benjamin was decimated after the atrocities committed in Gibeah (Judges 19-21) but still, a generation later Israel's first king was from the surviving remnant of Benjamin (1 Samuel 9:1). Mordecai, whose adopted daughter Esther helped to avoid Israel's annihilation, was a Benjaminite (Esther 2:5). And the apostle Paul, who authored half the New Testament, was from the tribe of Benjamin as well (Philippians 3:5).
The other men named Benjamin are:
🔼Etymology of the name Benjamin
The name Benjamin consists of two elements, the first one being the common Hebrew noun בן (ben), meaning son:
The noun בן (ben) means son, or more general: a member of one particular social or economic node — called a "house", which is built upon the instructions of one אב ('ab), or "father" — within in a larger economy (hence: the "sons of the prophet" are the members of the prophet-class; the prophets). This noun obviously resembles the verb בנה (bana), to build, and the noun אבן ('eben), stone.
Our noun's feminine version, namely בת (bat), means daughter, which resembles the noun בית (bayit), meaning house. Sometimes our noun is contracted into a single letter ב, whose name beth comes from בית (bayit) and means "house" as well. As a prefix, the letter ב (be) means "in." The word for mother, אם ('em), is highly similar to that of tribe or people, אמה ('umma).
The second part of the name Benjamin comes from the noun ימין (yamin), meaning right hand or right side, from the root ימן:
The root ימן (ymn) is of unclear pedigree and meaning but it has to do with both the right hand side and the southern direction, which are both decidedly positive (whereas left and north have negative connotations). This also indicates that one normally faces east, which corresponds to the past.
Noun ימין (yamin) means right, i.e. right hand, side or the right of other parts of the body. Adjective ימיני (yemini) meaning on the right. Verb ימן (yaman) means to go or choose the right or use the right hand. Adjective ימני (yemani) meaning right hand or right. Noun תימן (teman) meaning south.
Note that 2 Chronicles 3:7 speaks of the two pillars of Solomon's temple: שם־הימיני יכין means "the name of the one on the right was Jachin," which uses the word ימיני which is identical to our name Yemenite.
The name Benjamin means Son Of The Right Hand (meaning, Son Of Strength; Son Of The South).