Benjamin, a Hebrew patriarch, the youngest son of Jacob, full brother of Joseph, these being the only children by Rachel. His mother, dying in childbed, called him Ben-oni, meaning "son of my torment" (cause of my misfortune), or "son of my wealth" (my treasure); but his father changed the name to Ben-yamin, "son of the right hand" (my support, or perhaps in reference to Rachel). The Samaritan code has Ben-yamim, "son of days," that is, "son of old age." Benjamin was an infant at the time of the abduction of his brother Joseph, and as he grew up became the favorite son of his aged father. Jacob, in his dying address to his children, says that "Benjamin will ravin as a wolf, devouring prey in the morning, and dividing spoil at night;" allusions to a fierce and ungovernable disposition, a characteristic which his tribe seems to have manifested during its whole existence. The sons of Benjamin outnumbered those of any of his brothers; but at the exodus the tribe was the smallest of all except that of Levi. The territory in Canaan assigned to the tribe of Benjamin, between Judah and Ephraim, and Dan and the Jordan, was comparatively small, but in ancient times noted for fertility.
It included the stronghold of Jehus, afterward Jerusalem, Jericho, Bethel, Gibeah, Ramah, and Mizpeh. The Benjamites became noted for their expertness in the use of arms, especially of the sling. During the period of the judges the tribe was almost exterminated in a reckless struggle with the others; but in time it recovered from the blow. Saul, the first king of Israel, was a Benjamite; and after his death the tribe adhered to his son Ishbosheth in opposition to David, who had become king of Judah. The assassination of Abner by Joab, and David's public disclaimer of all part in it, decided the Benjamites in his favor, and they thenceforward entered into the closest relations with Judah; and when the disruption of the kingdom took place, Benjamin and Judah alone adhered to the house of David, the other ten tribes going off with Jeroboam. From this time the general history of the tribe becomes merged in that of the kingdom of Judah, although it appears that some sort of tribal organization was ever maintained, for the tribe is separately mentioned wherever the statistics of the kingdom are given, down to the time of the return from the Babylonish captivity.