And with her last breath--for she was dying--she named him Ben-oni. But his father called him Benjamin.
Genesis 35:16-29Genesis 35:16-29. These family records mingle well with the story of God's grace. The mothers "Ben-oni is the father's Benjamin." Out of the pain and the bereavement sometimes comes the consolation. A strange blending of joy and sorrow is the tale of human love. But there is a higher love which may draw out the pure stream of peace and calm delight from that impure fountain. Jacob and Esau were separated in their lives, but they met at their father's grave. Death is a terrible divider, but a uniter too. Under the shadow of the great mystery, on the borders of an eternal world, in the presence of those tears which human eyes weep for the dead, even when they can weep no other tears, the evil things of envy, hatred, revenge, alienation do often hide themselves, and the better things of love, lessee, brotherhood, amity come forth. Jacob was with Isaac when he died, and Esau came to the grave. - R.
I. The first mark of a Ben-oui — "a child of sorrow" — is ILL-TEMPER. Suppose you had to walk four or five miles with a pebble in your shoe; or suppose you had to wear a coat or dress with a pin sticking in it; or suppose you had to lie all night in bed with a porcupine by your side, sticking you with his sharp-pointed quills — what an uncomfortable thing it would be! But none of these things are so uncomfortable as to be connected with an ill-temper. All peevish, cross, ill-natured children are Ben-onies — children of sorrow to their parents and the families where they dwell. There was a rich nobleman in England who had a little daughter named Anne. They were very fond of her; for she was a fine little creature, very lively, and merry, and affectionate, and exceedingly beautiful. But she had a very ill temper. When anything vexed her she would fly into a rage, and turn and strike any one that provoked her. After every fit of anger she would be ashamed and sorry, and resolve never to do so again. But the next time she was provoked it was all forgotten, and she was as angry as ever. When she was between four and five years of age, her mother had a little son, a sweet little tender baby. Anne's nurse, who was thoughtless and wicked, loved to tease her, because she was so easily irritated, and so she told her that her father and mother would not care for her now, because all their love and pleasure would be in this little brother, and they would not mind her. Poor Anne burst into a flood of tears, and cried bitterly, saying, "You are a naughty woman to say so! Mamma will always love me; I know she will, and I'll go this very moment and ask her." And she ran out of the nursery and hastened to her mother's room. The servant called after her: "Come, miss, you needn't go to your mother's room; she won't see you now." Anne burst open the door, but was instantly caught hold of by a strange woman she had never seen before. "My dear," said this woman, "you cannot see your mother just now"; and she was going on to tell that it was because she was very sick, and could not be disturbed. But she was too angry to listen; and she screamed and kicked at the woman, who was obliged to take her by force and carry her back to the nursery. When she put her down she gave the servant a charge not to let her go to her mother's room. This added to her rage. But the thoughtless, wicked servant, instead of trying to soothe and quiet her, burst out into a laugh, and said, "I told you that, miss. You see your mamma does not love you now." Then the poor child became mad with fury. She seized a smoothing-iron, and, darting forward, threw it upon the baby's head as it lay in the cradle. The child gave one struggle, and breathed no more. Anne's mother died that night of grief, Anne grew up in the possession of great riches. She had every outward comfort about her that money could procure; but she was a very unhappy and miserable woman. She was never known to smile. The thought of the terrible consequences of that one outburst of passion pressed upon her like a heavy burden all her days. Ah! what a Ben-oni this girl became! She was a child of sorrow to her parents. Her ill-temper made her so. If you give way to such tempers, my dear young friends, you will certainly be Ben-onies; but if you strive and pray against such feelings, and try to be gentle, kind, and pleasant to those around you, then you will be Benjamins — children of the right hand to your parenta. See, now, how differently such children will act. A gentleman was walking on the Battery, in the city of New York, one day, and, as he passed a little girl who was cheerfully rolling her hoop, he said to her, "You are a nice little girl"; to which she replied, patting her little brother on the head, "And Bobble is a nice little brother too." Here was a good-temper, which would make this dear child " a child of the right hand" to her parents, and cause her to be loved by all who were about her.
II. The second mark of a Ben-oni is IDLENESS. Idle children love to lie in bed in the morning; they love to do nothing all day, if they can help it, but play. It is a great trouble to get them to study, to read, or to work. Now, idle children always make idle men; for the habits which children form while they are children will surely remain with them when they grow up to be men and women. Now, we are to remember, dear children, that God is busy at all times, and almost everything that God has made is busy. Look at the sun; it is always at work, shining and shining and shining from one Fear's end to the other. In the daytime it is shining in our part of the world, and when it is night to us it is shining in the opposite part of the world. And so it is with the moon — always shining in one part of the world or the other. So it is with the sea; its waves are rising, and falling, and rolling, and flowing continually. So it is with the rivers; they are continually running, from the fountains where they spring, on, on to the ocean. And so it is with the little birds, and little fishes, and the bees, and the ants — none of these are idle. A gentleman in England had an estate which was worth over two hundred pounds a year. For a while he kept his farm in his own hands, but at length found himself so much in debt that he was obliged to sell one-half of his place to pay up. The rest he let out to a farmer for several years. Towards the end of that time, the farmer, on coming to pay his rent, asked him whether he would sell his farm. The gentleman was surprised that the farmer should be able to make him an offer for his place. "Pray, tell me," said he, "how it happens that, while I could not live upon twice as much land, for which I paid no rent, you are regularly paying me about one hundred pounds a year for the farm, and able in a few years to purchase it?" "The reason is plain," answered the farmer; "it lies in the difference between 'go' and 'come.'" "I do not understand you," said the gentleman. "I mean," said the farmer, "that you sat still and said, 'Go'; I get up and say 'Come.' You lie in bed, and enjoy your ease; I rise early in the morning, and attend to my business." In other words, this was an industrious man; there was no love of idleness about him, and this led to his success in life.
III. The third mark of a Ben-oni is PRIDE. Some children are proud of their clothes. This is very silly indeed; for the butterflies have much more beautiful clothes than we, and yet they are never proud of their dress. Some children are proud of their families. This also is very silly, for we have all sprung at first from one father. Some children are proud about their houses. This, too, is very silly, for, by-and-by, they will all crumble into the dust, from which they have been taken, while the grave is the one house to which we must all come at last. Proud children feel and think themselves better than others, and are often unwilling to engage in honest and honourable employments. Listen to what I am going to tell you. Chief-Justice Marshall was a great man; but great men are never proud. He was not too proud to wait upon himself. He was in the habit of going to market himself, and carrying home his purchases. Often he would be seen returning at sunrise with poultry in one hand and vegetables in the other. On one of these occasions a fashionable young man from the North, who had removed to Richmond, was swearing violently because he could find no one to carry home his turkey. Judge Marshall stepped up and asked him where he lived. When he heard, he said, "That is in my way, and I will take your turkey home for you." When they came to the house the young man inquired, "What shall I pay you?" "Oh, nothing," said the Judge; "you are welcome; it was all in the way, and it was no trouble to me." "Who is that polite old gentleman who brought home my turkey for me? " asked the young man of a by-stander. "Oh," said he, "that was Judge Marshall, Chief-Justice of the United States." "Why did he bring home my turkey?" "He did it," said the by-stander, "to give you a rebuke, and teach you to attend to your own business." True greatness never feels above doing anything that is useful; but especially the truly great man will never feel above helping himself; his own independence of character depends upon his being able to help himself. The great Dr. Franklin, when he first established himself in business in Philadelphia, wheeled home the paper which he purchased for his printing-office upon a wheelbarrow with his own hands.
IV. The fourth and only other mark that we shall speak of is DISOBEDIENCE. There is nothing on which the comfort and happiness of parents and families depend more than on the obedience of children. My dear children, if you want to plant thorns on the pillows of you parents, and plunge daggers into their bosoms, be disobedient. If you want to make them as uncomfortable as they possibly can be in this world, then be disobedient. This is the chief mark of a Ben-oni. I remember reading not long ago of a gentleman in England who had two sons. He was a kind, excellent, pious man, and did everything for the comfort of his children that he thought it right to do. But sometimes the boys were anxious to do things which their parents were not willing that they should do. One Sunday, the eldest boy went to his father and asked permission to take the carriage and go riding in the afternoon, instead of going to church. His father told him he could not, because it would be breaking the Sabbath. The boy was very much displeased because his father would not let him go riding, as some of the boys in the neighbourhood had been allowed by their parents to do. He was so wicked about this that he determined no longer to stay at home, because his father would not let him do just what he wanted. So the next day he persuaded his brother to go with him, and they went down to Portsmouth, a town by the seaside, intending to go to sea. Before going, however, they called on the Rev. Mr. Griffin, to assist them to get a situation on board a man-of-war. This good man, perceiving that they were not accustomed to the mode of life in which they were about to enter, inquired of them their object in going to sea. The eldest boy frankly told him they were going in order to spite their parents! Then he told him the story of what had taken place at home — of his father's unwillingness to allow him to ride on Sunday — and said he was going to sea in order to make his father feel sorry for refusing to gratify him. The good clergyman tried to show them the guilt and folly of the course they were about to pursue, and to set before them the unavoidable consequences that would result from it. The younger son was impressed by the counsels and advice of the clergyman, and went home; but the elder son resolved to go on in his evil course. Some twelve or fifteen years after this had taken place, this same clergyman was called to the prison in the town of Portsmouth to see a sailor who was condemned to be executed, and who was going to be hung in a few days. When he entered the cell of the prison he saw a wretched, miserable, squalid-looking creature sitting by a table in the cell, who looked up to him as he entered, and said, "Do you not remember me, sir?" "No," said the clergyman; "I do not recollect that I ever saw you before." Then the poor man recalled to him the story of the boy who went from home in order to spite his parents. "And are you the miserable man," said the clergyman, "who did this?" "Yes," said the poor culprit; "I followed out my own plan; I went on the course which I had chosen, contrary to your advice and to my own convictions; I plunged into all sorts of wickedness and sin, and finally became involved in a robbery and murder, for which I am now about to suffer the penalty. And all this in consequence of my disobedience to my parents!" The clergyman wrote to the father of this unhappy man, who came to visit his son in his last hours, and who had the unspeakable anguish of standing by and seeing him suffer the penalty of the law, and reap the bitter fruits of his disobedience. What a Ben-oni that son was to his father! Let us look, now, at one or two examples of an opposite character. William Hale was an obedient son. He was spending some time with his mother at the Saratoga Springs, and had become acquainted with a number of boys of his own age there. One day some half-dozen of the children were playing on the piazza, and one of them was heard exclaiming — "Oh, yes, that's capital! So we will; come on, now! Where's William Hale? Come on, Will! We are going to have a ride on the circular railroad. Come with us." "Yes, if my mother is willing," said William. "I will run and ask her." "Ah, ah! so you must run and ask your ma! — great baby-boy! — run along to your ma! Ain't you ashamed?" "I don't ask my mother," said one. "Neither do I," said another. "Neither do I," said a third. "Be a man, Will, and come along," said the first boy, "if you don't wish to be called a coward as long as you live; don't you see we are all waiting?" William was standing with one foot advanced, and his hand firmly clenched, in the midst of the group. His brow was flushed, his eye was flashing, his lip was compressed, his cheek was changing — all showing how the epithet "coward" rankled in his bosom. It was doubtful for a moment whether he would have the true bravery to be called a coward rather than to do wrong; but, with a voice trembling with emotion, he replied: — "I will not go without I ask my mother; and I am no coward, either. I promised her I would not go from the house without her permission; and I should be a base coward if I were to tell my mother a lie." When Wiliam returned to his mother to ask her permission to go, and told her of what had taken place, she threw her arms around his neck, and exclaimed: "God bless you, my dear child, and give you grace always to act in this way." Ah, my dear children, he was a Benjamin — a child of comfort — to his dear mother; and doubtless he grew up to be her support and comfort all her days. After the surrender of Cornwallis, and the victory achieved by the American arms, George Washington, when the war was over, returned in triumph to his mother's home. Everybody was homouring him and praising him as the saviour of his country and the greatest man of the age. When he reached the place of his mother's abode a large concourse of the people had met to greet him and welcome him to his home. In the centre of the assembled crowd stood his mother, and, pushing his way through the crowd around him, he hastened to pay her his respects; and, as she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him, she said to some who were congratulating her upon having so noble a son: "George always was an obedient child." He was indeed a Benjamin — a son of comfort — to his mother, and a blessing to the country and to the world; and the spirit of obedience early learned and early practised was that which went to make him what he was. And now, in conclusion, my dear children, let me ask you, Which of these two do you desire to be? Will you be Ben-onies — children of sorrow and grief — to your parents? or will you be Benjamins — children of joy and comfort and blessing — to them? If you would be the latter — Benjamins indeed — then you must watch and strive and pray against all the evils of which we have been speaking. Watch against these four marks of a Ben-oni; watch against ill-temper, watch against idleness, watch against pride, watch against disobedience; and pray God to enable you each to overcome all these evils — to erase these marks of a Ben-oni as they are beginning to fasten themselves on your character, and to earn for yourself the character of a Benjamin indeed.
(H. Newton, D. D.)
PeopleAllon, Aram, Arba, Asher, Benjamin, Benoni, Bilhah, Dan, Deborah, Eder, Ephrath, Esau, Gad, Isaac, Issachar, Jacob, Joseph, Leah, Levi, Mamre, Naphtali, Rachel, Rebekah, Reuben, Simeon, Zebulun, Zilpah
PlacesAllon-bacuth, Bethel, Bethlehem, Canaan, Eder, El-bethel, Ephrath, Hebron, Kiriath-arba, Luz, Mamre, Paddan-aram, Shechem
TopicsBenjamin, Benoni, Ben-oni, Ben-o'ni, Calleth, Child, Death, Departing, Died, Dying, Hour, Named, Pass, Soul
Outline1. God commands Jacob to go to Bethel.
2. He purges his house of idols.
6. He builds an altar at Bethel.
8. Deborah dies at Allon Bacuth.
9. God blesses Jacob at Bethel.
10. Jacob Named Israel.
16. Rachel travails of Benjamin, and dies in the way to Edar.
22. Reuben lies with Bilhah.
23. The sons of Jacob.
27. Jacob comes to Isaac at Hebron.
28. The age, death, and burial of Isaac.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesGenesis 35:18
5044 names, giving of
5095 Jacob, life
LibraryFebruary the Eighth Revisiting Old Altars
"I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress." --GENESIS xxxv. 1-7. It is a blessed thing to revisit our early altars. It is good to return to the haunts of early vision. Places and things have their sanctifying influences, and can recall us to lost experiences. I know a man to whom the scent of a white, wild rose is always a call to prayer. I know another to whom Grasmere is always the window of holy vision. Sometimes a particular pew in a particular church …
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year
Our Last ChapterConcluded with the Words, "For Childhood and Youth are Vanity"...
The Death of Abraham
The Trials and visions of Devout Youth
The National Oath at Shechem
And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, too little to be among the thousands of Judah
Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
The Birth of Jesus.
Gen. xxxi. 11
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