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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Hebrew Names

Benjamin

By Jeff A. Benner

And it came to pass, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin. (ASV, Genesis 35:18)

The twelfth son of Ya'akov was first named בן אוני (ben oni, Strong's #1126) by his mother Rahheyl (Rachel). The name Ben-Oni is the word בן (ben, Strong's #1121) meaning son and the word אוני which is the word און (ohn or avon, Strong's #205) meaning vanity, or more literally, effort that is put out with no results, with the suffix י (i) meaning "of me" or "my." The name בן אוני then means "son of my vanity" and appears to be Rahheyl's final words which imply that her son, who is brought forth through much effort, would bring her life to an end.

Ya'akov gave a different name to his son - בנימין (binyamin, Strong's #1144). This is again, the word בן (ben, Strong's #1121) meaning son but combined with the word ימין (yamin, Strong's #3225) meaning "right hand." The name בנימין then means "son of the right hand." When a father blessed the eldest son, he would place his right hand upon his head when giving him his blessing (see Genesis 48:18). As Binyamin is Ya'akov's youngest son, it would seem strange to call him the "son of the right hand," unless he is to be treated as the firstborn son. When it came to time to divide up the family estate among the sons, the father would give a "double portion" to the firstborn. In Genesis 43:34 we see Yoseph giving Binyamin a portion "five" times as much as his brothers.




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