Genesis 35:18
And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.
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(18) Ben-oni . . . Benjamin.—Rachel, in her dying moments, names her child the son of my sorrow; for though on has a double meaning, and is translated strength in Genesis 49:3, yet, doubtless, her feeling was that the life of her offspring was purchased by her own pain and death. Jacob’s name, “son of the right hand,” was probably given not merely that the child might-bear no ill-omened title, but to mark his sense of the value and preciousness of his last born son. Abravanel well remarks that earthly happiness is never perfect, and that the receiving of Divine revelations made no difference to Jacob’s earthly lot. God had just solemnly appeared to him, and he is on his last journey, within two days’ easy march of Hebron, when he loses the wife whom he so loved. For more than forty years he had been an exile from his home; he was now close to it, but may never welcome there the one for whom he had so deep and lasting an affection.

Genesis 35:18. As her soul was departing — בצאת נפשׁה, when her soul was going out, namely, of the body: an argument this of the soul’s immortality, especially if compared with Ecclesiastes 12:7; from which places collated, we learn both whence it goes, and whither it goes. She called his name Benoni — The Song of Solomon of my sorrow. Thus, by her own confession, the gaining her desire became her sorrow: a lively instance this of the folly of inordinately desiring any thing temporal: the object obtained generally becomes a source of sorrow to us. But his father called him Benjamin — The son of my right hand. As near, dear, and precious to him as his right hand, which is both more useful and more honourable than the left, Psalm 80:17; or, instead of his right hand, the staff, stay, and comfort of his old age. Jacob seems to have given him this name rather than the other, because he would not renew the sorrowful remembrance of his mother’s death every time he called his son by name. It may be observed, that both names were remarkably verified in his posterity; the tribe of Benjamin being remarkably brave and active, and yet involved in more sorrowful disasters than were experienced by any of the other tribes.

35:16-20 Rachel had passionately said, Give me children, or else I die; and now that she had children, she died! The death of the body is but the departure of the soul to the world of spirits. When shall we learn that it is God alone who really knows what is best for his people, and that in all worldly affairs the safest path for the Christian is to say from the heart, It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. Here alone is our safety and our comfort, to know no will but his. Her dying lips called her newborn son Ben-oni, the son of my sorrow; and many a son proves to be the heaviness of her that bare him. Children are enough the sorrow of their mothers; they should, therefore, when they grow up, study to be their joy, and so, if possible, to make them some amends. But Jacob, because he would not renew the sorrowful remembrance of the mother's death every time he called his son, changed his name to Benjamin, the son of my right hand: that is, very dear to me; the support of my age, like the staff in my right hand.God appears to Jacob again at Bethel, and renews the promise made to him there Genesis 28:13-14. Again. The writer here refers to the former meeting of God with Jacob at Bethel, and thereby proves himself cognizant of the fact, and of the record already made of it. "When he went out of Padan-aram." This corroborates the explanation of the clause, Genesis 35:6, "which is in the land of Kenaan." Bethel was the last point in this land that was noticed in his flight from Esau. His arrival at the same point indicates that he has now returned from Padan-aram to the land of Kenaan. "He called his name Israel." At Bethel he renews the change of name, to indicate that the meetings here were of equal moment in Jacob's spiritual life with that at Penuel. It implies also that this life had been declining in the interval between Penuel and Bethel, and had now been revived by the call of God to go to Bethel, and by the interview.

The renewal of the naming aptly expresses this renewal of spiritual life. "I am God Almighty." So he proclaimed himself before to Abraham Genesis 17:1. "Be fruitful, and multiply." Abraham and Isaac had each only one son of promise. But now the time of increase is come. Jacob has been blessed with eleven sons, and at least one daughter. And now he receives the long-promised blessing, "be fruitful and multiply." From this time forth the multiplication of Israel is rapid. In twenty-six years after this time he goes down into Egypt with seventy souls, besides the wives of his married descendants, and two hundred and ten years after that Israel goes out of Egypt numbering about one million eight hundred thousand. "A nation and a congregation of nations," such as were then known in the world, had at the last date come of him, and "kings" were to follow in due time. The land, as well as the seed, is again promised.

Jacob now, according to his wont, perpetuates the scene of divine manifestation with a monumental stone. "God went up;" as he went up from Abraham Genesis 17:22 after a similar conferencc with him. He had now spoken to Jacob face to face, as he communed with Abraham. "A pillar" in the place where he talked with him, a consecrated monument of this second interview, not in a dream as before, but in a waking vision. On this he pours a drink-offering of wine, and then anoints it with oil. Here, for the first time, we meet with the libation. It is possible there was such an offering when Melkizedec brought forth bread and wine, though it is not recorded. The drink-offering is the complement of the meat-offering, and both are accompaniments of the sacrifice which is offered on the altar. They are in themselves expressive of gratitude and devotion. Wine and oil are used to denote the quickening and sanctifying power of the Spirit of God. "Bethel." We are now familiar with the repetition of the naming of persons and places. This place was already called Bethel by Jacob himself; it is most likely that Abraham applied this name to it: and for aught we know, some servant of the true God, under the Noachic covenant, may have originated the name.

18. She called his name Ben-oni—The dying mother gave this name to her child, significant of her circumstances; but Jacob changed his name into Benjamin. This is thought by some to have been originally Benjamin, "a son of days," that is, of old age. But with its present ending it means "son of the right hand," that is, particularly dear and precious. In departing; or, in going out; namely, out of the body, as Psalm 146:4, which is an argument of the soul’s immortality, especially if compared with Ecclesiastes 12:7. From which places, laid together, we learn the two terms of the journey, whence it goes, and whither it goes.

Benjamin; either as near and dear and precious to him as his right hand, which is both more useful and more honourable than the left; see Psalm 80:17; or instead of his right hand, the staff, stay, and comfort of his old age.

And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, for she died,.... In childbirth; she had most passionately desired children, without which she could not live with ease and peace of mind, and now she dies by having one; see Genesis 30:1; and by this account of her death it appears, that death is the separation and disunion of soul and body; that at death the soul departs from the body; that the soul does not die with it, but goes elsewhere, and lives in a separate state, and never dies; it goes into another world, a world of spirits, even unto God that gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7,

that she called his name Benoni; which signifies "the son of my sorrow", having borne and brought him forth in sorrow, and now about to leave him as soon as born, which might increase her sorrow; or "the son, of my mourning"; as Aben Ezra and Ben Gersom interpret it; or "the son of my strength", all her strength being exhausted in bringing him forth:

but his father called him Benjamin; that is, "the son of the right hand", being as dear to him, and as beloved by him as his right hand; or who would be as the right hand to him, his staff and support in his old age; or else as being the son of her who was as his right hand, dear and assisting to him. Some render it, "the son of days", or years, that is, the son of his old age, as he is called, Genesis 44:20; Jarchi and Ben Gerson interpret it, "the son of the south"; the right hand being put for the south; and they think this son was so called, because he only was born in the land of Canaan, which lay, they say, to the south with respect to Mesopotamia, where the rest were born; but be the etymology of the word as it will, the change of the name seems to be made by Jacob, because that which Rachel gave her son would have perpetually put Jacob in mind of the sorrow of his beloved Rachel, and therefore gave him a name more pleasant and agreeable. The Jews say (c) he was born the eleventh of October, and lived one hundred and eleven years.

(c) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 4. 1.

And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.
18. her soul] The nephesh, or “soul,” the vital principle: cf. 1 Kings 17:21, “let this child’s soul come unto him again.”

Ben-oni] i.e. the son of my sorrow. Rachel, as she dies, names her son; but the father cannot acquiesce in a name of such sad memories.

Benjamin] i.e. the son of the right hand. Jacob refuses to give his child an ill-omened name. The right hand was regarded as the auspicious side. Cf. Genesis 48:13; Genesis 48:17-19; 1 Kings 2:19; Psalm 45:9; Psalm 89:13. The tribe of Benjamin occupied the southernmost territory of the sons of Rachel, viz. on the right of Ephraim, facing eastwards. According to Sayce (E.H.H., p. 79) this is the explanation of the name, which then might be rendered “southerner”; and the present story would imply the formation of the tribe after the occupation of Canaan.

The words of Rachel, as she dies, should be compared with the allusion in Jeremiah 31:15. The condensed account in this passage makes no reference to the grief of Jacob; but this is expressed in Genesis 48:7 by a pathetic sentence.

Verse 18. - And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, - literally, in the departing of her soul; not into annihilation, but into another (a disembodied) state of existence (vide Genesis 25:3) - for she died (a pathetic commentary on Genesis 30:1), that she called his name Ben-oni ("son of my sorrow," as a memorial of her anguish in bearing him, and of her death because of him): but his father called him Benjamin - "son of my right hand;" either "the son of my strength" (Clericus, Rosenmüller,. Murphy), or "the son of my happiness or good fortune" (Gesenius, Keil, Kalisch), with allusion to Jacob's now possessing twelve sons; or as expressive of Jacob's unwillingness to see a bad omen in the birth of Rachel's child (Candlish); or "the son of my days," i.e. of my old age (Samaritan), an interpretation which Lunge pasaes with a mere allusion, but which Kalisch justly pronounces not so absurd as is often asserted (cf. Genesis 44:20); or "the son of my affection" (Ainsworth; cf. Genesis 50:18) Genesis 35:18Birth of Benjamin and Death of Rachel. - Jacob's departure from Bethel was not in opposition to the divine command, "dwell there" (Genesis 35:1). For the word שׁב does not enjoin a permanent abode; but, when taken in connection with what follows, "make there an altar," it merely directs him to stay there and perform his vow. As they were travelling forward, Rachel was taken in labour not far from Ephratah. הארץ כּברת is a space, answering probably to the Persian parassang, though the real meaning of כּברה is unknown. The birth was a difficult one. בּלדתּהּ תּקשׁ: she had difficulty in her labour (instead of Piel we find Hiphil in Genesis 35:17 with the same signification). The midwife comforted her by saying: "Fear not, for this also is to thee a son," - a wish expressed by her when Joseph was born (Genesis 30:24). But she expired; and as she was dying, she called him Been-oni, "son of my pain." Jacob, however, called him Ben-jamin, probably son of good fortune, according to the meaning of the word jamin sustained by the Arabic, to indicate that his pain at the loss of his favourite wife was compensated by the birth of this son, who now completed the number twelve. Other explanations are less simple. He buried Rachel on the road to Ephratah, or Ephrath (probably the fertile, from פּרה), i.e., Bethlehem (bread-house), by which name it is better known, though the origin of it is obscure. He also erected a monument over her grave (מצּבה, στήλη), on which the historian observes, "This is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day:" a remark which does not necessarily point to a post-Mosaic period, but which could easily have been made even 10 or 20 years after its erection. For the fact that a grave-stone had been preserved upon the high road in a foreign land, the inhabitants of which had no interest whatever in it, might appear worthy of notice even though only a single decennary had passed away.

(Note: But even if this Mazzebah was really preserved till the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites, i.e., more than 450 years, and the remark referred to that time, it might be an interpolation by a later hand. The grave was certainly a well-known spot in Samuel's time (1 Samuel 10:2); but a monumentum ubi Rachel posita est uxor Jacob is first mentioned again by the Bordeaux pilgrims of a.d. 333 and Jerome. The Kubbet Rahil (Rachel's grave), which is now shown about half an hour's journey to the north of Bethlehem, to the right of the road from Jerusalem to Hebron, is merely "an ordinary Muslim wely, or tomb of a holy person, a small square building of stone with a dome, and within it a tomb in the ordinary Mohammedan form" (Rob. Pal. 1, p. 322). It has been recently enlarged by a square court with high walls and arches on the eastern side (Rob. Bibl. Researches. p. 357). Now although this grave is not ancient, the correctness of the tradition, which fixes upon this as the site of Rachel's grave, cannot on the whole be disputed. At any rate, the reasons assigned to the contrary by Thenius, Kurtz, and others are not conclusive.)

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