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All my life I've been told that the tribe of Benjamin remained with the faithful tribe of Judah. And I've read the passage in 1 Kings 11:29-35 where the kingdom is split in two many times before, but never noticed this before today.

31 Then he told Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces, for this is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘Look, I am about to tear the kingdom from Solomon’s hand and I will give ten tribes to you. 11:32 He will retain one tribe, for my servant David’s sake and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel. (1 Kings 11:31, 32)

Ten tribes go to Jeroboam. One tribe remains with the descendant of David (for David's sake). The passage repeats several times these numbers.

(I note that the numbers also only add up to 11. I am inferring that the tribe of Levi was out of the question here as they had not inherited a division of land upon entry. They were to serve throughout the area.)

Why has Benjamin been so often said to remain with Judah? Where did this tradition come from?

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Inspired by looking at Hammer's answer to this question. – Frank Luke Mar 22 '13 at 19:54
2 Chronicles 11 tells us that Rehoboam consolidated his kingdom in the fortified towns of Judah and Benjamin. 1 Kings 12 is parallel and also shows an alliance between Judah and Benjamin. Is that what you are looking for? – Jon Ericson Mar 22 '13 at 20:57
Look at the Book of Esther 2:5 which describes Mordechai as someone from the nation of Judea and the tribe of Benjamin. – Bruce James Aug 11 '14 at 14:47

3 Answers 3

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In 1 Kings 12:20, it is written, "...there was none who followed the house of David except the tribe of Yehuda only." Regarding this phrase, Rabbi David Kimchi (RaDaK) wrote,

כבר כתבנו כי שבט בנימין בכלל שבט יהודה, כי ירושלם בין שניהם היתה ומי שימלוך בירושלם בודאי ימלוך על שניהם, לפיכך נכלל שבט בנימין בכלל שבט יהודה

which is translated as,

We have already written [that phrase] since the tribe of Binyamin ("Benjamin") was among the tribe of Yehuda ("Judah"), for Yerushalaim ("Jerusalem") was between the two of them. And whoever reigned as king in Yerushalaim definitely reigned over both of them. Therefore, the tribe of Binyamin is included with the tribe of Yehuda.

Shortly after 1 Kings 12:20 wherein it is written that only the tribe of Yehuda followed the house of David (i.e., the dynasty of kings descended from David), we find mention of the tribe of Binyamin in 1 Kings 12:21, 

And when Rechav'am came to Yerushalaim, he assembled all the house of Yehuda, with the tribe of Binyamin, a 180,000 chosen men, who were warriors, to fight against the house of Yisra'el, to bring the kingdom again to Rechav'am, the son of Shlomo.

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Interestingly, close study suggests, not a matter of difficulty due to too few tribes for Judah, but too many. Consider:

  1. Judah (obviously)
  2. Benjamin
  3. Levi (probably not counted, because while they did serve in the temple at Jerusalem, most of the Levites were scattered throughout both north and south)
  4. Simeon (probably not counted, because they were dispersed within the territories of Judah)

The math for Jeroboam still works because of how Joseph's offspring are divided:

  1. Ephraim
  2. Manasseh
  3. Dan
  4. Asher
  5. Gad
  6. Naphtali
  7. Issachar
  8. Zebulun
  9. Reuben
  10. Levi or Manasseh II (Manasseh possibly could have been counted twice, once for each half-tribe)
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My thoughts on the Two Houses

When the Disciples asked Jesus, saying, 'Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?' (Acts 1:6). In other words, 'wilt thou at this time bring the 10 tribes back to the land Israel?' Fact is, the exact opposite was about to take place. In Matthew 21:43, Jesus, speaking to Judah, said: 'Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.'

That's 'nation' not Church! Christianity does not represent the kingdom of God; it's the national religion of the kingdom of God. In the OT Israel's national religion was The Law of Moses. After Calvary it was replaced with the New Covenant. (Jer. 31:31.)

The nation Jesus was speaking of was Israel, the northern tribes. 'The kingdom' Jesus was referring to was the tribe of Benjamin who was a part of the kingdom, who were the Galileans in the north, but were kept with Judah for David's sake. Now they would be removed and given back to the northern kingdom and Judah would be alone.

God made an oath to David that he would never want for a man to sit on his throne ruling over the house of Israel.

'Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.' I Kings 9:5. (Jer. 33:17)

However, after the death of Solomon, the northern kingdom broke away from Judah and God's promise to David was in jeopardy of being broken so the tribe of Benjamin was annexed to Judah. (1 Kings 11:34) Benjamin became Judah's 'Israel' and represented the kingdom. After the throne of David was removed back in Jeremiah's day via Nebuchadnezzar's invasion, Benjamin was no longer needed, their purpose had been served.

'Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe [Benjamin] to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen.'

I Kings 11:11-13.

Benjamin was a kingdom tribe and was given to Judah on a 'temporary loan' basis for David's sake. This is the same kingdom Jesus was referring to in Matt. 21:43. Jesus was speaking of the 'one tribe' that was annexed to Judah. If you paraphrase what Jesus said it would read something like this:

'Therefore say I unto you, Judah, the tribe of Benjamin shall be taken from you, and given back to the northern kingdom, a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.'

That's how it would have been understood by the Jews in the first century. The 'kingdom of God' in the OT was Israel; 'Judah was his sanctuary and Israel his dominion.' (Psa. 114:2) Benjamin was not a 'sanctuary' tribe, but a 'kingdom' tribe. The tribe of Benjamin could not share 'sanctuary' status with Judah, the sharing of birthrights was strictly forbidden in the Law of Moses, it was not their birthright. The union between Judah and Benjamin was an 'arranged marriage' for David's sake. Albeit, an 'arranged marriage' doomed to end in divorce as Jesus foretold.

'And of all my sons, (for the LORD hath given me many sons,) he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.' (I Chron. 28:5.)

The 'kingdom of God' or the 'kingdom of the Lord' are one and the same. Benjamin was a part of the 'kingdom of God' and thats what Jesus was referring to in Matt. 21:43.

These verses make it clear that when Jesus said that the 'kingdom of God' would be taken away from Judah He was referring to the tribe of Benjamin. This was the last tribe Judah had contact with. And yet there're many Christians who still claim that the Jews represent all 12 tribes! A complete contradiction of what Jesus said. If the kingdom of God is represented by the 10 tribes, now 11 with the return of Benjamin, and Jesus told the Jews that the kingdom would be taken from them how can the Jews represent all 12 tribes? Answer: It's impossible! Judah (with an add-mixture of Levites) is alone today. Many claim that the Jews of today are made up of Judah and Benjamin, but that also contradicts what Jesus said.

In closing let me say this, if you research this issue on your computer you'll find 1000's of articles debating how many members or how many tribes of the northern kingdom returned with Ezra. In the end, it doesn't matter if one Israelite or one million Israelites or if every Israelite on the face of the planet returned with Ezra - according to Matthew 21:43, they would all be removed and separated from Judah. Matthew 21:43 renders all these arguments null, void and moot. According to Matthew 21:43, the 'kingdom of God' was removed from Judah.

(The above was written by Jeff Booth - since deceased)

I would like to add Psalm 80:3, which I read just the other day... it made me think of the above article which I recently studied:

80:1Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. 2Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us!

3Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved! ESV

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