35:18 With her dying breath, 1 she named him Ben-Oni. 2 But his father called him Benjamin instead. 3
35:22 While Israel was living in that land, Reuben had sexual relations with 4 Bilhah, his father’s concubine, and Israel heard about it.
Jacob had twelve sons:
35:23 The sons of Leah were Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, as well as Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.
35:24 The sons of Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin.
35:25 The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant, were Dan and Naphtali.
35:26 The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant, were Gad and Asher.
These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan Aram.
1 tn Heb “in the going out of her life, for she was dying.” Rachel named the child with her dying breath.
2 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.
3 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 : 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.
4 tn Heb “and Reuben went and lay with.” The expression “lay with” is a euphemism for having sexual intercourse.
sn Reuben’s act of having sexual relations with Bilhah probably had other purposes than merely satisfying his sexual desire. By having sex with Bilhah, Reuben (Leah’s oldest son) would have prevented Bilhah from succeeding Rachel as the favorite wife, and by sleeping with his father’s concubine he would also be attempting to take over leadership of the clan – something Absalom foolishly attempted later on in Israel’s history (2 Sam 16:21-22).