Redeeming Benjamin

Redeeming Benjamin June 13, 2016

Paul the apostle was a Hebrew of the Hebrews from the tribe of Benjamin. That tribal association is significant, introducing a multi-layered typology of apostolic ministry.

Paul was originally Saul, the namesake of the first and fallen king of Israel. That a Benjamin Saul would become the leader of the new Israel represents the final redemption of Benjamin.

Saul’s son Jonathan, of course, befriended David, and Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth was brought to David’s table. Other Benjamites, though, had a harder time reconciling to the fall of their tribe. Shimei was a persecutor of David, then an abject penitent, finally executed by David’s son Solomon.

Paul is another Shimei, attacking the new David Jesus, leading a rear-guard movement to protect the status quo of Judaism. But he is Shimei with a twist, since David’s son Jesus doesn’t execute him but confronts him and calls him to apostleship. A Benjamite persecutor is brought into the house of David and becomes his emissary, announcing the enthronement of David to the Roman world.

Another thread of typology comes out of 1 Samuel 15, where Saul fails to carry on Yahweh’s war of utter destruction against the Amalekites (cf. Exodus 17). The conflict of Israel and Amalek runs throughout the Old Testament, but in Samuel is narrowed to a battle between Benjamin and Amalek. This is fulfilled in Esther, where the Benjamite Mordecai overcomes the “Agagite” Haman, apparently a descendant of the Amalekite king of 1 Samuel 15. Benjamin triumphs over Amalek and it looks as if Yahweh’s war is finished.

Perhaps, though, we can a continuation of this war in the New Testament. Take “Amalekites” are taken as representatives of hostile Gentiles, and then the apostolic ministry of the Benjamite Paul is the final stage of Yahweh’s war, but this a gracious war. Saul/Paul succeeds where his predecessor fails, as he carries on the holy war of evangelism that will finally eliminate “Amalekites” from the earth.

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