Benjamin - Name

Name

According to the Torah, Benjamin's (or in some countries, Biniam's) name arose when Jacob deliberately corrupted the name Benoni, the original name of Benjamin, since Benoni was an allusion to Rachel's dying just after she had given birth, as it means son of my pain. Textual scholars regard these two names as fragments of naming narratives coming from different sources - one being the Jahwist and the other being the Elohist.

The etymology of the name Benjamin is a matter of dispute, though most agree that it is composed of two parts - ben and jamin - the former meaning son of. The literal translation of Benjamin is son of right (as opposed to left), generally interpreted as meaning son of my right hand, though sometimes interpreted as son of the right side. Being associated with the right hand side was traditionally a reference to strength and virtue (cf sinister, which derives from the latin for left). This is, however, not the only literal translation, as the root for right is identical to that for south, hence Benjamin also literally translates as son of the south. This meaning is advocated by several classical rabbinical sources, which argue that it refers to the birth of Benjamin in Canaan, as compared with the birth of all the other sons of Jacob in Aram. Modern scholars have instead proposed that, with the eponymous Benjamin being just a metaphor, son of the south/son of the right are references to the tribe's being subordinate to the more dominant tribe of Ephraim.

In the Samaritan Pentateuch, the name is consistently written as בן ימים, with a terminal mem, making it Benjamim, and would literally translate as son of days. Some classical rabbinical literature argues that this was the original form of the name and was a reference to the advanced age of Jacob when Benjamin was born.

According to classical rabbinical sources, Benjamin was only born after Rachel had fasted for a long time, as a religious devotion with the hope of a new child as a reward. By then Jacob had become over 100 years old. Benjamin is treated as a young child in most of the Biblical narrative, but at one point is abruptly described as the father of ten sons. Textual scholars believe that this is the result of the genealogical passage, in which his children are named, being from a much later source than the Jahwist and Elohist narratives, which make up most of the Joseph narrative, and which consistently describe Benjamin as a child.

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Famous quotes containing the word name:

    Name any name and then remember everybody you ever knew who bore than name. Are they all alike. I think so.
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