Friday, January 26, 2007

Tribe of Benjamin

Map of the twelve tribes of IsraelThe Tribe of Benjamin (בִּנְיָמִין "son of my right hand" but in some rabbinical Judaism traditions "son of the south") is one of the Hebrew tribes of Israel, founded by Benjamin, son of Jacob.

The book of Judges 19-21 describes an episode in which all of the rest of Israel attacks and defeats the Benjamites in the battle at Gibeah, in retaliation following a disgraceful incident. To complete the defeat, all the civilians, including women and children, in the Benjamite towns and villages are then killed, and the other tribes vow that they will never allow their women to marry benjamites ever again. however, so as to not exterminate a tribe of Israel, they then provide four hundred virgins, spoil from another town they have massacred, as wives to the Benjamites, and also allow them to raid a festival and carry off some of the women.

Later, when the kingdom of Israel was divided, the Tribe of Benjamin joined with the Tribe of Judah to form the kingdom of Judah, while the other tribes formed the reduced kingdom of Israel which was subsequently conquered and the people exiled. Benjamin was very much the minor partner, as the ruling house of David came from the far more numerous and powerful Tribe of Judah. Thus it was the Tribe of Judah who in time became identified with the entire people of the southerly Israelite kingdom, and gave their name to the Jews.


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