Genesis (Part 222)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 49:27-33

27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
    in the morning devouring the prey
    and at evening dividing the spoil.”

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. 29 Then he commanded them and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. 31 There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah— 32 the field and the cave that is in it were bought from the Hittites.” 33 When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.


This section finishes the blessings of Jacob’s sons, with Benjamin, then Jacob gives commands about his burial before dying. From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 49:27

Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf (literally, a wolf, he shall tear in pieces): in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil. The prediction alludes to the warlike character of the tribe of Benjamin, which was manifested in Ehud the judge (Judges 3:15), and Saul the king of Israel (1 Samuel 11:6-11; 1Sa 14:13, 1 Samuel 14:151 Samuel 14:471 Samuel 14:48), who both sprang from Rachel’s younger son.

Ellicott’s Bible Commentary adds the following note about the same verse:

(27) Benjamin.—With this description of their ancestor agrees the character of his race, which was the most spirited and warlike of all the tribes of Israel.

It would be interesting to compare the notices of the several tribes in the subsequent history with Jacob’s blessing of their progenitors, and with that also given by Moses. The fathers, moreover, found in the words of the patriarch faint foreshadowings of the spiritual truths of Christianity. But such discussions exceed the limits of a commentary, and it has seemed best to give only the primary explanation of Jacob’s words, in accordance, as far as possible, with the standpoint of the patriarch himself.

Both commentaries agree that the blessing described what would become a warlike trait for the tribe. More on the tribe from wiki:

According to the Torah, the Tribe of Benjamin (Hebrew: בִּנְיָמִן‎, Modern: BīnyamīnTiberian: Bīnyāmīn) was one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The tribe was descended from Benjamin, the youngest son of the patriarch Jacob (later given the name Israel) and his wife Rachel. In the Samaritan Pentateuch the name appears as Binyamīm (Hebrew: בנימים).

The Tribe of Benjamin, located to the north of Judah but to the south of the Kingdom of Israel, is significant in biblical narratives as a source of various Israelite leaders, including the first Israelite king, Saul, as well as earlier tribal leaders in the period of the Judges. In the period of the judges, they feature in an episode in which a civil war results in their near-extinction as a tribe. After the brief period of the united kingdom of Israel, Benjamin became part of the southern Kingdom of Judah following the split into two kingdoms. After the destruction of the northern kingdom, Benjamin was fully absorbed into the southern kingdom. After the destruction of Judah by the Babylonians in the early sixth century BCE and its population was deported, Benjamin as an organized tribe faded from history.

An account in Genesis explains the name of Benjamin as a result of the birth of the tribe’s founder, Benjamin. According to Genesis, Benjamin was the result of a painful birth in which his mother died, naming him Ben-Oni, “son of my pain,” immediately before her death. Instead, Jacob, his father, preferred to call him Benjamin, which can be read in Hebrew as meaning, “son of my right [hand]” (Genesis 35:16-18). In geographical terms, the term Benjamin can be read as “son of the south” from the perspective of the northern Kingdom of Israel, as the Benjamite territory was at the southern edge of the northern kingdom.[1]

Several passages in the Bible describe tribe of Benjamin as being pugnacious,[7] for example in the Song of Deborah, and in descriptions where they are described as being taught to fight left handed, so as to be able to wrong foot their enemies (Judges 3:15–2120:161 Chronicles 12:2) and where they are portrayed as being brave and skilled archers (1 Chronicles 8:402 Chronicles 14:8).

In the Blessing of Jacob, Benjamin is referred to as “a ravenous wolf“;[8] traditional interpretations often considered this to refer to the might of a specific member of the tribe, either the champion Ehud, king Saul, or Mordecai of the Esther narrative, or in Christian circles, the apostle Paul. The Temple in Jerusalem was traditionally said to be partly in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin (but mostly in that of Judah), and some traditional interpretations of the Blessing consider the ravenous wolf to refer to the Temple’s altar which devoured biblical sacrifices.


Continuing in verse 28 with Ellicott:

(28) These are the twelve tribes.—As we have seen in the case of Dan, Jacob had the further object of forming his descendants into twelve separate communities, which were, like the States in America, each to be independent, and have its own tribal government. From this position Levi naturally was excluded, when selected for the priesthood, and room was thus made for the bestowal of two of these communities upon the descendants of Joseph. Only in case of war they were to combine under the chieftainship of Judah. In the Book of Judges, however, we find the tribes as separate in matters of war as of peace, and by the time of Saul the need of a closer union had been felt, and tribal independence had been found to lead only to anarchy.

The note here indicates that the blessing was not entirely for individual men, but for the tribes they would someday lead. Continuing in verse 29 with the Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 49:29Genesis 49:30

And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people (vide on Genesis 15:15): bury me with my fathers—thus laying on them the injunction he had previously, with the super-added solemnity of an oath, laid on Joseph (Genesis 47:29-31)—in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mature, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a burying-place (vide Genesis 23:16-20). Jacob had learnt from his father and had carefully preserved all the details relating to the purchase of their family sepulcher. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah. From this it would appear that Leah had not descended into Egypt.

Jacob instructs his sons about his burial and we learn officially that Leah has died and that she is buried where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebekah are buried. Ascertaining the location of this tomb, and possessing it, has been a hotly contested issue – particularly in the 20th century after the reformation of the nation of Israel. From wiki:

The Cave of the Patriarchs or Tomb of the Patriarchs, known to Jews by its Biblical name Cave of Machpelah (Biblical Hebrew: מְעָרַת הַמַּכְפֵּלָה, Me’arat HaMakhpela (help·info), lit. ’Cave of the Double’) and to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque (Arabic: ٱلْمَسْجِد ٱلْإِبْرَاهِيمِيّ, al-Masjid al-Ibrahimi (help·info) lit. ‘Mosque of Abraham’), is a series of caves situated 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of Jerusalem in the heart of the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank. According to the Abrahamic religions, the cave and adjoining field were purchased by Abraham as a burial plot, although most historians believe the Abraham-Isaac-Jacob narrative to be primarily mythological.

Over the cave stands a large rectangular enclosure dating from the Herodian era. During Byzantine rule of the region, a basilica was built on the site; the structure was converted into the Ibrahimi Mosque following the Muslim conquest of the Levant. By the 12th century, the mosque and its surrounding regions had fallen under Crusader-state control, but were retaken in 1188 by the Ayyubid sultan Saladin, who again converted the structure into a mosque.

During the Six-Day War of 1967, the entire Jordanian-occupied West Bank was seized and occupied by the State of Israel, after which the mosque was divided, with half of it repurposed as a synagogue. In 1968, special Jewish services were authorized outside the usual permitted hours on the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement, leading to a hand-grenade attack on 9 October which injured 47 Israelis; and a second bombing on 4 November, which wounded 6 people.[8] In 1972, the Israeli government increased the Jewish prayer area. New change to the “status quo” were made by Israeli authorities in 1975, which again led to protests by Muslims. In 1976, a scuffle took place between Jewish and Muslim worshippers, during which a Quran was torn. Muslim and Arab figures went to Hebron the next day to protest what was called a “profanation of the Quran”. The Tomb was closed and a curfew was imposed on the whole city. A few days later, about two hundred Arab youths entered the Tomb and destroyed Torah scrolls and prayer books. In May 1980, an attack on Jewish worshippers returning from prayers at the tomb left 6 dead and 17 wounded. In 1994, the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre occurred at the Ibrahimi Mosque, in which an armed Israeli settler entered the complex during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and opened fire on Palestinian Muslims who had gathered to pray at the site, killing 29 people, including children, and wounding over 125.

The site is considered a holy place in Judaism and Islam.

Finishing the chapter with The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 49:32

The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth. Kalisch connects the present verse with the 30th, and reads Genesis 49:31 as a parenthesis.

Genesis 49:33

And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed (having on the arrival of Joseph strengthened himself and sat up upon the bed, probably with his feet overhanging its edge), and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people (vide on Genesis 25:8Genesis 35:29).

Jacob dies as the chapter ends. The next chapter, 50, is the final chapter in Genesis. It concerns the burial of Jacob and the death of Joseph.