|Lehite PN||1.||Son of MOSIAH I, prophet-king in ZARAHEMLA, ca. 200–121 BC (Omni 1:23, 24 (x2), 25; Words of Mormon 1:3 (x2), 10 (x2), 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18; Mosiah 1:1 (x2), 8, 9, 15; 2:1, 6, 7; 4:1, 3, 4; 5:1, 6; 6:1, 3, 5; 8:3; 26:1; 29:13; Helaman 5:9)|
For the etymology of BENJAMIN see the standard biblical commentaries, which usually suggest the meaning “son of the right (hand)” (Genesis 35:18). This interpretation is derived from the HEBREW for "son," bēn and from the usual word in HEBREW for “right,” yāmîn. However, because the Middle Bronze Age tribes attested in the archives of Mari, the Sim’al and Yamina (the former cognate with the HEBREW word for “left,” śĕmōʾl, and the latter cognate with the HEBREW word for “right,” yāmîn) occupied the land north and south of each other respectively in the Euphrates River valley, it has been popular to interpret HEBREW yāmîn as “south,” yielding the meaning "son of the south" for BENJAMIN. The fact that BENJAMIN was the only son of ISRAEL to be born in what became the land of ISRAEL, which is south of Aram-Naharaim, has been seized upon to support the idea that BENJAMIN means “son of the south.”
If the usual etymology of BENJAMIN (binyāmîn < bēn yāmîn), “son of the right (hand),” is accepted, and given the fact that the HEBREWS used many puns and plays on words (at least in parts of the Old Testament), then a possible play on words appears in King BENJAMIN’s speech: “Ye shall be called the children of CHRIST [the possible underlying word on the plates, bĕnê ham-māšîaḥ, contains a near homonym to MOSIAH’s name], his sons, and his daughters” (Mosiah 5:7); “whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand [possible underlying word, bîmīn] of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called” (Mosiah 5:9); “whosoever shall not . . . he findeth himself on the left hand of God” (Mosiah 5:10). In Ezekiel 21:22 (21:27 in the HEBREW text), “at his right hand” is bîmînô. However, in other passages in HEBREW Bible, “at the right hand” is rendered differently. In Psalms 109:31, “at the right hand” is written lîmîn, not bîmîn. And in Zechariah 3:1, “at his right hand” is ʿal-yĕmînô.
Deseret Alphabet: 𐐒𐐇𐐤𐐖𐐈𐐣𐐆𐐤 (bɛndʒæmɪn)
- LDS “Bible Dictionary,” Benjamin.
- For a dated but useful and succinct discussion of the biblical name BENJAMIN, see E. A. Speiser, Genesis, Anchor Bible 1 (Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1964), 273-74. For a discussion of the philologic evidence of the Yamina tribe in Mari, see Wolfgang Heimpel, Letters to the King of Mari (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 603-4.