What Made Jacob and Benjamin So Close? (Genesis 42:4)

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It’s been a long time since Jacob has taken center stage in the narrative of Genesis. For several chapters, he was the principal character. God blessed Jacob, he had children, and he prospered wherever he went. Ever since Joseph and his dreams dominated the story, Jacob has been mostly in the background. 

But after the “death” of Joseph (in Jacob’s mind), it seems that Benjamin has taken the place of the privileged child. So much so that when the ten brothers head to Egypt to buy food, Jacob keeps Benjamin back in order to prevent his death. Why?

There are a few possible reasons for this, both equally plausible.

The first is the inherent risk that comes with a journey of this magnitude. Besides wild beasts (which presumably killed Joseph), you have the weather, dehydration/starvation, thieves, and a hostile land to contend with. In the event that all ten of the brothers are wiped out, keeping Benjamin home ensures the bloodline will live on.

The second reason is more emotional. Benjamin is the second – and last – son of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel. The circumstances of his birth were also incredibly tragic. In Genesis 35, we read about how Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin. Not only is he the last of Rachel’s kids, then, but he’s the last of all of Jacob’s children.

In reality, it’s probably a mixture of both. Benjamin is most likely in his early 20’s by this point, so it’s not as if he can’t take care of himself alongside his older brothers. But given how much grief came to Jacob when Joseph “died,” the idea of losing Rachel’s other son would be too great to bear.

Unfortunately, it won’t be long before he’s forced to watch Benjamin head to Egypt as well. At that point, he’ll be resigned to whatever fate befalls him (Genesis 43:14).