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Genesis 35:16-18

Context

35:16 They traveled on from Bethel, and when Ephrath was still some distance away, 1  Rachel went into labor 2  – and her labor was hard. 35:17 When her labor was at its hardest, 3  the midwife said to her, “Don’t be afraid, for you are having another son.” 4  35:18 With her dying breath, 5  she named him Ben-Oni. 6  But his father called him Benjamin instead. 7 

1 tn Heb “and there was still a stretch of the land to go to Ephrath.”

2 tn Normally the verb would be translated “she gave birth,” but because that obviously had not happened yet, it is better to translate the verb as ingressive, “began to give birth” (cf. NIV) or “went into labor.”

3 tn The construction uses a Hiphil infinitive, which E. A. Speiser classifies as an elative Hiphil. The contrast is with the previous Piel: there “she had hard labor,” and here, “her labor was at its hardest.” Failure to see this, Speiser notes, has led to redundant translations and misunderstandings (Genesis [AB], 273).

4 sn Another son. The episode recalls and fulfills the prayer of Rachel at the birth of Joseph (Gen 30:24): “may he add” another son.

5 tn Heb “in the going out of her life, for she was dying.” Rachel named the child with her dying breath.

6 sn The name Ben-Oni means “son of my suffering.” It is ironic that Rachel’s words to Jacob in Gen 30:1, “Give me children or I’ll die,” take a different turn here, for it was having the child that brought about her death.

7 tn The disjunctive clause is contrastive.

sn His father called him Benjamin. There was a preference for giving children good or positive names in the ancient world, and “son of my suffering” would not do (see the incident in 1 Chr 4:9-10), because it would be a reminder of the death of Rachel (in this connection, see also D. Daube, “The Night of Death,” HTR 61 [1968]: 629-32). So Jacob named him Benjamin, which means “son of the [or “my”] right hand.” The name Benjamin appears in the Mari texts. There have been attempts to connect this name to the resident tribe listed at Mari, “sons of the south” (since the term “right hand” can also mean “south” in Hebrew), but this assumes a different reading of the story. See J. Muilenburg, “The Birth of Benjamin,” JBL 75 (1956): 194-201.



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