A Short History of the Tribe of Benjamin

Karl Vaters, church pastor and author of The Grasshopper Myth, calls small churches “the next big thing.” Vaters believes “small churches are uniquely poised to meet the needs of Millennials and perhaps turn the tide on the trend of the unchurched.”

Today’s passage focuses on the tribe of Benjamin, described as “little” in Psalm 68. This tribe was descended from Jacob’s youngest son. At the time of the first census it numbered 35,400 and by the second census had grown to 45,600 (Num. 1:37; 26:41). When Saul was chosen to be Israel’s first king, he noted that Benjamin was “the smallest tribe of Israel” and he was from least significant clan in that tribe (1 Sam. 9:21). Benjamin distinguished itself by siding with David when the Northern tribes revolted against him.

In chapter 8, the author mentions several locations within Benjamin, placing special emphasis on Gibeon and Jerusalem. Jerusalem shared a border with Judah and Benjamin. The chapter concludes with the family of Saul, setting the stage for the narratives that follow which describe the rise of David and the establishment of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The story of Benjamin is mixed. It includes tales of victory as cities were built and giants defeated, but there is an underlying note of warning. The original audience would have known that Saul’s reign began with promise but ended in tragedy.

An old hymn asks, “Does the place you’re called to labor seem too small and little known? / It is great if God is in it, And He’ll not forget His own.” God is not daunted by small size or limited resources. As the refrain of this song declares, “Little is much if God is in it.”

Apply the Word

Little is much if God is in it—but He must be in the method as well as the motive. As the stories of Saul and David demonstrate, small size is no obstacle, but our failure in the areas of faith and obedience will be. Ask God where and how He wants you to exercise your faith today. The sphere may be small, but the effect will be great.

BY John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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