Benjamin Is Born
16Jacob and his family had left Bethel and were still a long way from Ephrath, when the time came for Rachel's baby to be born. 17She was having a rough time, but the woman who was helping her said, “Don't worry! It's a boy.” 18Rachel was at the point of death, and right before dying, she said, “I'll name him Benoni.” But Jacob called him Benjamin.
19Rachel was buried beside the road to Ephrath, which is also called Bethlehem. 20Jacob set up a tombstone over her grave, and it is still there. 21Jacob, also known as Israel, traveled to the south of Eder Tower, where he set up camp.
22 During their time there, Jacob's oldest son Reuben slept with Bilhah, who was one of Jacob's other wives. And Jacob found out about it.
Jacob's Twelve Sons
23-26Jacob had twelve sons while living in northern Syria. His first-born Reuben was the son of Leah, who later gave birth to Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. Leah's servant Zilpah had two sons: Gad and Asher.
Jacob and his wife Rachel had Joseph and Benjamin. Rachel's servant woman Bilhah had two more sons: Dan and Naphtali.
27 Jacob went to his father Isaac at Hebron, also called Mamre or Kiriath-Arba, where Isaac's father Abraham had lived as a foreigner. 28-29Isaac died at the ripe old age of 180, then his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
The poignant, bittersweet love story of Jacob and Rachel is the kind where you feel compelled to flip to the last chapter of the book for the assurance that they lived happily ever after. But they didn’t. Jacob’s beautiful, beloved Rachel dies giving birth to their son.
Before Rachel breathed her last breath, she named her son Ben-Oni, which means: “The son of my sorrow.” Rachel had experienced much sorrow in her family. It started when Jacob deceived Esau. The tables were turned when Jacob’s uncle Laban deceived Jacob by switching his daughters the night before Jacob’s wedding. Sorrow included endless jealousy between the sisters. Jacob sleeping with maidservants. Dinah being raped. Incessant grief.
We vocalize the idiom: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Nothing can be further from the truth. Names have the power to evoke deep pain. “Hey Skinny”; “Stupid”; “Pimple Face”! When we hear the ugly chant, we feel raw with sorrow and pain as remembrance is brought to the surface of our soul.
Jacob did not want to associate his son Ben-Oni with his sorrowful past, so he changed his son’s name to Benjamin: “Son of the right hand.” By naming him Benjamin, Jacob took a deliberate step to reverse his sorrow. Now every time he called out the name of Benjamin it would be dear to him. Instead of the name evoking grief, it would be a powerful reminder that his son would be like a shepherd’s staff of support to him in his old age.
For many of us, a degrading name can evoke a painful past. We can reverse our sorrow by placing God in the middle of that memory and being reminded that you and I are his beloved, his masterpiece and his perfect creation.
Dear Father God,
I am so grateful that I am not defined by what I do in this world. I thank you that I was designed by the creator of heaven and earth, and I know that everything you make is very good. Thank you that I am your beloved. Amen.