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What Is the "Benjamin of the Family"?

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  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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The "Benjamin of the Family" is an idiomatic expression referring to the youngest son in the family. In modern usage, "Benjamin of the Family" may also be used to refer to female children as well. The expression, like the name Benjamin, has its origins in the biblical tale of Jacob. "Benjamin of the family" is a common saying in cultures that have been influenced by the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religions.

Benjamin is a biblical name, and is therefore common among the Abrahamic religions. While the name Benjamin has a religious origin, it is not used exclusively by religious individuals and remains a popular name in secular families. In addition to its use as a given name, Benjamin is also a common surname.

The Book of Genesis tells the story of Jacob and Esau, two brothers who fought for their Father's inheritance. Jacob, the younger and weaker brother, used wit and cunning to trick first his brother and then his father into surrendering what would ordinarily have gone to his older brother Esau. Later in life, Jacob was a wealthy man with many flocks and tents as well as a large family. He has twelve sons and names the youngest one Benjamin, which means "right hand son" in Hebrew. Some believe that this means that Benjamin was Jacob's favorite son, or at least that Jacob thought so when Benjamin was born.

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Muslim accounts of Benjamin's life also say that he was a compassionate son and was the only son to stay by his father's side in the most difficult times. This may be because of their shared status as youngest brothers, or because he was simply a very righteous. This behavior may also contribute to the belief that Benjamin was Jacob's favorite son.

Although Benjamin was the youngest child in his family, he was also very important. During his lifetime, Benjamin traveled from the land of Canaan to Egypt, and eventually founded the Israelite tribe of Benjamin. Many years later when the Tribes of Israel chose to have a king, that king was selected from the Tribe of Benjamin, although that was the least populous tribe at the time.

The idiom "the Benjamin of the family" is a reference to these biblical tales about younger brothers and small tribes. It does not hold a negative connotation. Benjamin, like his father before him and his descendants to follow, was younger and weaker than his brothers but also important and accomplished many things.

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NathanG
Post 9

@hamje32 - It’s interesting to read about the Muslim account of Benjamin. We sometimes forget that Muslims have access to some of the Old Testament writings as well.

Of course they interpret some things differently. They may view Ishmael as the child of promise to Abraham instead of Isaac, for example. But they do acknowledge many Biblical characters, with Benjamin being one of them.

hamje32
Post 8

Benjamin’s place in the family of Jacob was unique, I think. He was the youngest, yet he received favor, just like Joseph did. For example when the brothers of Joseph went to seek food in Egypt during the time of famine, Joseph was second in command to Pharaoh at the time.

They didn’t recognize him, but Joseph did something amazing. He had them all sit around the table to dine, and he arranged their spots at the table according to their chronology! It would be like if you knew the family history of someone and then had them sit together according to where they appeared in the genealogy.

Then, after everyone was served, Benjamin received five times more

than anyone else. That’s why I say he was favored, in a similar way to Joseph. That extra portion to me signifies that he was the “right hand son” to Jacob. I think if you are ever called the Benjamin of the family it means that you will be favored.

SarahSon
Post 7

@myharley - From my personal standpoint, it would have been nice to be the "Benjamin of the Family". I am the oldest and I always felt like my dad was harder on me.

There were 3 girls born after me, and then my youngest brother. This was always hard for me, because I felt like he got away with things my dad would have never let me do.

Those are feelings that don't go away, and I still feel like my younger brother was the spoiled one of the family who always got his own way.

Because I was so much older, I have been out of the house a long time, but we still aren't close. My brother still lives close to my dad, and I live across the country from both of them.

golf07
Post 6

I always thought that Joseph was the favored son of Jacob, but also remember that he was very close to Benjamin. Joseph is the one who had the coat of many colors and his brothers were very jealous of.

At one point, all of his sons were gone when Joseph told him brothers to bring his brother Benjamin to see him. I am sure this was a very hard time for Jacob when both of his favored sons were gone.

This story has probably been the reason that many people named their son Benjamin. This is one of those names that really has a rich history behind it.

honeybees
Post 5

I have always found the story of Jacob and his sons in the Bible to be fascinating. Another interesting thing about Benjamin is that his mother, Rachel, died while giving birth to him.

She knew she was giving birth to a boy, and named him a different name that meant "son of my mourning". Jacob is the one who changed his name to Benjamin.

Since he was the youngest son, and only a half-brother to all of Jacob's other sons, (except for Joseph), I can understand why there was such a close relationship between father and son.

myharley
Post 4

I find it interesting that the name for the youngest son in the family also means "right hand son".

I have seen this in so many families, where the youngest son seems to be looked on very favorably.

It seems like more is expected from the older children. By the time the younger son comes along, it is easier to cater to them and treat them a little differently.

Just like in the Biblical story of Benjamin and his brothers, this can cause a lot of jealousy and dissension in the family. Sometimes these hurts stay with someone their whole life.

Even if this was done unconsciously by the parents, it can still cause some hurt feelings and resentment from the older children.

irontoenail
Post 3

@pleonasm - The name Benjamin is supposed to mean something like "The child of my old age" as well, so that makes sense.

I know my grandmother always referred to my youngest uncle as the Benjamin of the family, and he was born several years after the others, after she thought she wouldn't have any more.

It's actually quite dangerous when that happens, since every pregnancy can wear a woman out. If she's already had several and then has one in her older age as well, she might well think of the wee one as a miracle.

pleonasm
Post 2

@croydon - I've actually got a friend called Benjamin who is the youngest of six, and I never realized that was why they might have called him that.

His father is quite religious too so maybe that's why he insisted on having that name for his youngest son. His mother actually preferred the name "Thomas" and that was his middle name, but she always called him Thomas at home, until everyone called him that.

When he went to university he took the name "Ben" back though.

I've got a feeling a Benjamin is not just the youngest but maybe a youngest son who is born quite a bit later than the others, perhaps unexpectedly. That would suit the story of Benjamin in the bible too, because as I understand it he was born quite late to the family, when they had given up on having any other children.

croydon
Post 1

I've always liked the biblical stories surrounding Jacob and his family. Benjamin was the younger brother of Joseph of the techni-colored coat and because of the musical about the "dream coat" his is one of the most famous of all biblical stories.

Benjamin was his only full brother (possibly his only full sibling, although often the girls don't get mentioned in these stories).

Their mother, Rachel, didn't think she could have children for a long time, and was jealous of her sister (who was also married to Jacob) so she gave her maid to Joseph to bear children.

But, eventually, Rachel had two boys, Joseph and Benjamin. So, all of the older brothers are actually half brothers.

Rachel was Jacob's

favorite wife, so his sons by her were his favorite as well, and according to the stories they were also the kindest and most intelligent of the brothers.

I've never heard of someone being referred to as the Benjamin of the family, but I imagine this is one of the biggest families most people have heard of (and can name) so it makes sense.

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