Notes on the Tribe of Benjamin, the Left Hand of Israel
The ‘pagan tribe of Israel’, devotees of Great Baal and Asherah
Habiru, essentially ‘gypsies’, a generic term for Semitic nomads used by both the Egyptians and Canaanites, move into Palestine, and later Egypt, from Mesopotamia. One particularly dangerous ‘raiding band’ known as the Ben Yamin. Said to be nomadic ‘Baal worshippers’ whose territorial routes were blocked when land is enclosed by first city dwellers. This event is also the source of the Cain and Abel myth.
Even in biblical times : ‘Benjamin shall ravin [as] a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil’.
The wolf is regarded by some as the totemic animal of the tribe (just as the lion is for Judah).
Habiru settle in Palestine. Some become mercenaries of the Asiatic Hyksos army which invades Palestine from north.
Hyksos invade Egypt and become its new rulers. Habiru incorporated. Confederal State formed from several semi-autonomous local kingdoms (some Hyksos, and other Semites, some still native Egyptian, including Kingdom of Thebes).
Theban Egyptians, under ultra-nationalistic Priesthood of Amun, overthrow and expel Hyksos and all foreigners, particularly Semites. Reunify country under a traditional centralised Imperial State. Possibly other Egyptians support Hyksos against Thebans (including an Anti-Amunist ‘Atenist’ aristocrat called Moses?) and expelled with them.
The ‘Hebrews’ arrive in Palestine.
’Manetho, an Egyptian priest who lived around 250 BC, recounted that according to the Egyptian records, the Hebrews of the Exodus were known as Hyksos, and as Bernal noted, ever since late antiquity, writers have seen links between them and the Greek legends of the arrival of Cadmus and Danaus in Arcadia. To Heccataeus of Abdera, a Greek historian of the fourth century BC, the Egyptian expulsion of the Hyksos, the Israelite Exodus, and Danaus’ landing in Arcadia, were three parallel versions of the same story
. Referring to the Egyptians he says’:
‘The natives of the land surmised that unless they removed the foreigners their troubles would never be resolved. At once, therefore, the aliens were driven from the country but the most outstanding and active among them banded together and, as some say, were cast ashore in Greece and certain other regions; their teachers were notable men, among them being Danaus and Cadmus. But the greater number were driven into what is now called Judea, which is not far from Egypt and at that time was utterly uninhabited. The colony was headed by a man called Moses’.
The tribe of Benjamin gains territory – Jericho, Jerusalem, Bethhoglah, Zelah, Eleph, Gibeath and Kirjath. But not always violently it seems, unlike other tribes.
’Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, and Bethhoglah, and the valley of Keziz’. ’They also took Jebu (Jerusalem). And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the (pagan) Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day’.
"Zelah, Eleph and Jebusi, which is Jerusalem, Gibeath and Kirjath; fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families." - Joshua 18:28
Tribe of the Left Hand Path?
In Judaic mythology : ‘The Tribe of Benjamin stood unique among the Tribes of Israel in certain respects. The only son born within the borders of Canaan, Benjamin was also, therefore, the only son of Jacob not joining Jacob-Israel in making a symbolic, and perhaps prophetic, bow before Esau and his four-hundred warriors upon their return to the land of Canaan. Rachel had died giving birth to him. As she was dying she named him "Benoni", meaning "son of my sorrow", but this name was changed to "Benjamin", meaning "son of the right hand" by Jacob afterwards. This might have been as a result of Benjamin as a small boy lifting his left hand to Jacob's right hand when learning to walk. The left hand was not the one generally used for such contacts as it was, by convention, reserved to the less-sanitary requirements of life, and thus the act would be noted. Curiously, Scripture mentions of Benjamin's descendants, a number of these notable for the characteristic of being left-handed’.
The Benjaminites were believed to have introduced the orgiastic Golden Calf cult to Israel (a Baal or Asherah cult). Their tribal festival is believed to have been Dec 23rd
The Tribe of Benjamin (Benjaminites) was divided into three (or four) clans:
Belah (Belaites), ‘Destroyers’; Ahiram (Ahiramites), ‘Brothers of Craft’ (Freemasonry is packed with Benjaminite motifs); and Ashbel (Ashbelites), ‘People of the Ancient Fire’. A possible division of warrior, craftsman/farmer and priest specialisations?
Becher (Becherites), ‘the First Born’, seems to be a forth Clan that either died out or emigrated(?)
The Families of the Belah Clan were : Ard (Ardites), ‘the Fallen Ones’ and Naaman (Naamites), ‘the Beautiful Ones’.
The Families of the Ahiram Clan appear to be : Huppim (Huppimites), ‘Those of Seashore’, Muppim (Muppimites), ‘Those of the Mouth’, Shuppim (Shuppimites),?
The Families of the Ashbel Clan appear to be: Rosh (Roshites) ‘Those of the Head, Gera (Gerites), ‘Those of Enmity’, Ehi (Ehites), ‘Those Who Praise’.
Israel - Benjaminite War
When the Levites led a ‘revenge attack’ on the ‘children of Belial’, the Canaanite worshippers of Belial, an old name for Astarte, they were defended by their neighbours the Tribe of Benjamin, who were also suspected of goddess worship. A war began which Israel eventually won. Though the Benjaminites were saved from annihilation (900 out of 26,000) and allowed to take Canaanite wives to repopulate their cities.
As the Davidic record tells it:
‘Now therefore deliver up to us the men, the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel’
‘But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel’.
‘And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men’. ‘And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war’.
‘And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up first’.
‘And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah’.
‘And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men’.
'And the children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to smite of the people, and kill, as at other times, about thirty men of Israel'.
'And the children of Benjamin said, They are smitten down before us, as at the first. But the children of Israel said, Let us flee, and draw them from the city unto the highways'.
'And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword. And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of [every] city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to'.
'So the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten: for the men of Israel gave place to the Benjamites, because they trusted unto the ambushers which they had set beside Gibeah' . BOOK OF JUDGES
The Benjaminites were said to have been saved by the blessing of God on them.
’The Tribe of Benjamin had been singled out for a very special and exalted blessing, when in Deuteronomy 33:12, Moses pronounced blessings on the patriarchs of each of the twelve tribes. Of Benjamin, Moses said, "The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders." ‘ This last point was identified as a special ‘birthmark’ on members of the tribe, similar to that of Cain, it is given various forms in different accounts, one of which was a ‘red cross between the shoulders’.
The Tribe of Benjamin later produced the first elected King of Israel, Saul, a Judge from the smallest family, of the smallest clan, of the smallest tribe, to organise the tribes of Israel against the invading Aegean Philistines, but he battles against the priests of Yahweh. He is later deposed by the religious maniac King David and his private army of Philistine mercenaries, who founds the Dynasty of Judah and unites Israel into a Nation against all other local peoples. Later the tiny remnant of the Tribe of Benjamin together with the larger Tribe of Judah form the new Kingdom of Judah, the remaining ten tribes created the Kingdom of Israel which breaks away.
Even in Christian times, certain Jews, including Paul, were declaring themselves to be Israelites as well as Jews, principally through descent from the tribe of Benjamin, and were seeking unity with other ‘lost tribes’ of Israel (Gentiles). In some traditions Mary Magdalene was also said to be of the tribe of Benjamin and a goddess cultist.
Many tales exist of the ‘lost Tribes of Israel’ surviving amongst Gentiles and intermarrying with them. Most are spurious, but the tales connecting the Greeks and the Benjaminites are at least not as easy to dismiss. Apart from the fact that there is little reference to Benjamites leaving Palestine (though this may have occurred during the war) or directly from Egypt before they arrived.Robert Graves argued that the founder of the second dynasty of Argos, in Arcadia, Danaos the Libyan, son of Belos the Egyptian, was actually Danaiel the Phoenician, son of Beliel of the Hyksos, drawing on the sources mentioned earlier, and the Semitic origin of the names (as, os or ios and al, el or iel being the divine suffixes in Indo-European and Semitic languages respectively), supporting this with the facts that the Argives (people of Argos) introduced an ‘aggressive Aphrodite’ to Arcadia, who sounds very much like Astarte, and established the pre-eminence of a goddess cult there, and that Pan also became a popular deity in Arcadia around the same time (Graves identifies Pan with Baal). Another connection is also made by others(?) through the alleged totemic animal of the ‘Danaans’ (the Greek name for the Hellenic Argives descended from Danaos) and of the Benjaminites which is said to have been the wolf (linking in the obvious Hebraic connotations of the names Daniel and Belial). Circumstantially, Graves also pointed to the influence of the Phoenicians on Greek culture (most obviously their alphabet), a fact only just being acknowledged today
The most literal interpretation of this light evidence would be a migration of Semitic Hyksos from Egypt to North Africa (the original meaning of Libya) and from there to Argos in Greece, with perhaps Benjamites prominent in the immigration. However there seems to be no evidence of Hyksos entering North Africa or of North African influence in Arcadia in this period. A possible alternative is thus that Libya / North Africa actually refers to Carthage, the Phoenician colony in North Africa, or a similar place, the only prominent Semitic people in North Africa at the time, with which the ancient Greeks had more direct contact with than the Palestinian Phoenicians. The Phoenicians were an advanced ‘tribe’ of Canaanite Palestinians, and would thus have probably seen themselves as Canaanite first and Phoenician second (this would match other tribal structures elsewhere, such as people-‘nation’-tribe-clan-family). A similar attitude seems to have existed in the Benjaminite alliance with Canaan, both perhaps seeing themselves as primarily a Palestinian people, and Canaanite or Israelite Palestinian only secondly (unlike the other Israelite tribes who saw themselves as separate). And according to many contemporary sources nearly all Palestinians then were either of Hyksos-Habiru descent or ruled by people of Hyksos-Habiru descent. So the Libyan origin of Danaos might either be a mistake for a Phoenician origin made at a later telling of the story, or an indication that the Palestinian immigrants came via Phoenician colonies.
Even more controversially it was also argued from all this that the ‘Danaans’ formed a separate tribe in Greece and that one branch of it became the Celtic ‘Tuatha de Danaan’, which was why some Celts claimed to be of Greek or Trojan descent! Others associated Danaiel with a member of the tribe of Benjamin in exile and Beliel with his clan of Belah. It should be noted however that Heccataeus of Abdera did not claim this, but rather that the original Danaans and the Israelites were both descended from the Hyksos.
The mythos was later extended to the Merovingian Franks and others (said to be of part Celtic descent). These were said to have a taboo about cutting their hair (as did, allegedly, the ancient Arcadians and Nazarites of Israel) and to have had a strange birthmark, identified with the ‘red cross of Benjamin’. This ‘red cross’ has even been claimed as the origin of the Knights Templar symbol (with or without the Merovingians as carriers)!
‘Bernal indicated that, according to their own mythological accounts, the Greeks were descended in large part from Danaus and Cadmus, two legendary personages recognized as Phoenicians, that is, from the people of Palestine, that resulted from the extensive intermarriage between Canaanites and Hebrews, and who had established colonies throughout the ancient Mediterranean’.
Jewish Maccabean tradition also claimed that the Jews and certain Greeks were both sons of Abraham (though not necessarily of Israel). One text (Maccabees I) however states the Spartans were closely related to the Jews. The Spartans though were arch enemies of the Argives-Danaans, but they did intermarry with them and adopt some of their culture, such as a warlike Aphrodite (Astarte). An identification between the warlike nationalistic Maccabees and the warlike nationalistic Spartans may have had a political motive as well of course (strengthened by intense rivalry with Hellenism).
A Brief History of Argos
The first Argives were a community of Mycenaeans in eastern Arcadia. Their ruling house died out and was replaced by a foreign noble from North Africa (or a Phoenician colony there) called Danaos, who brought his clan with him. From these people came the Danaans, who repopelated and revitalised Arcadia, introducing Astarte - Asherah as an oriental Aphrodite (later as Artemis and Hera) as well as Baal - Pan and other Asiatic deities. With the fall of Mycenae Argos went into decline but was rejuvenated following the Dorian invasion and became a major Greek City. It developed an intense emnity towards Sparta.
'Argos, a city in the northern Peloponnesos, played an important role in early Greek legend and in the Classical period was famous for its sculptors. Argos may have issued coins from as early as the sixth century B.C., but it was not until after its expansion of c. 468 B.C. that its major coinage begins. The wolf is a frequent type on the smaller denominations of Argive coinage. It is a symbol of Apollo Lykeios, Apollo, as wolf god, who had long had a cult at Argos. On the reverse is the abbreviated name of the city, and beneath it a club, a reference to the pre-eminent Argive hero Herakles’.
‘Here the Spartans proved their martial ascendancy, defeating the Argives who were forced to withdraw and concede control of the plain. In their shame, the Argive priests decreed that no Argive should wear his hair long until Thyreae was recovered. According to Herodotus, the Spartans henceforth mocked the Argives by wearing their hair long’.
‘Another distinctive feature of Argives and Danaans may be fairly uniform use of white shields, possibly with a hydra (water-snake) symbol, which is associated with the Argos after Herakles killed a water-snake at Lerna. Argos is referred to in Homer's Illiad as the Kingdom of Diomedes and it gave Herakles, Perseus, Jason and the Argonauts and the Hydra to Greek myth’. The cult of Dionysos, which tended to absorb all orgiastic and shamanic rites, was also strong amongst the Argives in later centuries.
(*) 23rd December: Feast Date of Dagobert II
BTW, it is also the date on which fans of Seinfeld celebrate Festivus.