Journey Through The Scriptures

The Twelve Tribes of Israel, Part I

Lesson 7: Rachel's Sons-Jacob's Favorites

(Scripture to Read: Genesis 30:22–24; 35:16–20; 37:1–36; 49:22–27)

We could almost draw a line through the family record of Jacob, and put Joseph and Benjamin on one side opposite their ten brothers. Their mother was Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel, and so these two became his favorite sons. Our next study book will explore the lives of Joseph and his own sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, whose families attained tribal status in Israel. The story many people are familiar with is Joseph and his special coat, a gift from Jacob to signal Joseph’s favored status – which soon cost him his freedom. But God was at work to save Jacob’s family, and actually the nation of Israel, from a deadly famine by Joseph’s exile to Egypt.

Benjamin’s birth cost Rachel her life, so it is understandable why Jacob’s youngest son was very dear to him. Rachel named him Ben-Oni, “son of my sorrow,” in her suffering. But Jacob renamed him Benjamin, “son of the right hand.” Benjamin’s birth was an answer to Rachel’s prayer for another son (Genesis 30:24). She made this prayer when Joseph was born, and his name indicated Rachel’s belief and hope in God’s answer: Joseph means “may the Lord add.”

Study Questions

  1. How did the birth of Joseph take away Rachel's "disgrace" (Genesis 30:23)?
  2. What is the significance of the meaning of Benjamin's name, "son of the right hand"?
  3. Jacob's prophecy concerning Joseph (Genesis 49:22–26) reveals the secret of Joseph's success. What was it that enabled Joseph to accomplish so much despite his trials?
  4. Benjamin's tribe would have a sordid and violent future. How did Jacob's prophecy (Genesis 49:27) foresee and predict that future?

Something to Think About

Joseph’s life in particular reminds us of the dangers of playing favorites, either in our families or in other important relationships. Joseph’s coat became the visible symbol of his status, arousing his brothers’ jealousy. Let us be careful not to send either subtle or overt signals that we are favoring one person over another.