I Chronicles – Chapter 8

We Been Jammin'

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Here, the text deals with the families of the Tribe of Benjamin. This chapter is far more straightforward than the previous one (especially if one assumes that the Benjamin discussed in chapter 7 is a family in the Tribe of Issachar). Benjamin the son of Israel had ten sons, though only five families are chronicled, as in Numbers chapter 26. (Rashi there, on verse 26:13, explains how some Benjaminite lines became extinct in the wilderness.)

Here we are told how the sons of Eichud were rulers in the city of Gevah, whose previous inhabitants they displaced to the city of Manachas, in the territory of Judah. We are also told of Briah and Shemah, leaders of those who lived in Ayalon; they routed the people of Gath.

Among the descendants of Benjamin is Eliyah, who may be the same as Eliyahu, the prophet Elijah. Another prominent member of Bejamin was Ner, the father of Kish, the father of King Saul. But we know from I Samuel chapter 9 that Saul’s grandfather was named Aviel! So why was he called Ner? The Talmud Yerusalmi (Sheviis 3:7) tells us that Aviel took personal responsibility to light the street lamps for the public’s safety. (Ner means lamp in Hebrew.) Because of his concern for the common good, he merited having a king descend from him.

The list of Saul’s descendants varies from the names given in the Book of Samuel, but it varies fairly consistently. Ishboshes is here called Eshbaal. Similarly, Jonathan’s son Mephiboshes is here called Meriv-baal. (Apparently, the suffix -baal appears to be interchangeable with -boshes. An example of this not from Chronicles involves the Judge Gideon. In Judges chapter 6, his nickname is given as Yerubaal, but in II Samuel chapter 11, it is Yeruboshes. Since Baal is also the name of an idol, the euphemism “boshes,” meaning shame, avoids saying the idol’s name.)

The genealogical chapters end here. It’s interesting to note that the Tribe of Zebulon is not listed. For that matter, Dan is only covered if we assume that he is Acher in 7:12. Even if that’s the case, it would mean that Dan and Naftali are covered in a single verse each. The bottom line is that certain records simply weren’t available to Ezra.

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