It came about as her [Rachel’s] soul was departing (for she died), that she named him [her newborn son] Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.
This is part of a small aside in the story. Jacob/ Israel is traveling around and was — as far as the text tells me — walking in obedience to God at that time. Rachel’s death was not some sort of punishment for wrongdoing, but rather the natural consequence of a difficult childbirth in the ancient world. Rachel, in her final moments, names her newborn son Ben-oni which means ‘son of my sorrow.’ Jacob refuses to accept that name and calls his newest son Benjamin which means ‘son of the right hand.’
I love that the boy did not grow up with his name being a constant reminder of his mother’s grief. Instead, his father changes it around and makes his son the son of the right hand; the son of his strength. Too often, I hear of women who name their children based on some random thing about their own life. A woman is obsessed with the Twilight books and names her daughter Bella. Long after the glow is gone and Twilight has faded into night, these girls will bear the names their mothers gave them as a constant reminder of their mothers’ obsession. The same sort of thing happened with Game of Thrones and all manner of other cultural phenomena. People get caught up in the moment and do not think through the ramifications of what they are naming their children.
This name change for Benjamin takes place after God has already changed Jacob’s name to Israel … twice. These name changes tell me something: Change is always possible. Jacob could have let Rachel’s name choice stand — I am sure that Jacob had longer sorrow over Rachel’s passing than Rachel herself. Instead, Jacob chooses to see his son as the son of his strength. Things will not stay this laudable throughout the story. Jacob will grow excessively attached to Benjamin after Joseph is sold into slavery. But this part of the story is good. Jacob is framing things in the correct light.
The way that Benjamin is named tells me how Jacob chose to see his newest son and Jacob’s name change by God tells me how God sees Jacob. How do I choose to see things? The way I refer to them is telling.
Father, please help me to see things in the way that You do. While things may be birthed from trials or other difficult moments in my life, they may also be the product of blessing from Your hand in the midst of the trial. Help me to focus on the blessing and not the trial from which it came.