For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough


Ge 35:16-20 records the death of Rachel and the birth of  Ben-oni/Benjamin, the former name being given him by his mother Rachel, and meaning son of my sorrow; the latter being given by his father Jacob, and meaning son of the right hand.  But woven into the fabric of this literal history is a typological picture of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, for in the birth of this child who was the son of Rachel’s sorrow, God bids us see an OT foreshadowing of the birth of Him Who is associated with the meanings of these names.  In Ben-oni, meaning son of my sorrow,  we are reminded that the Lord Jesus Christ is described by the prophet as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” and as the One Who “hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows,” Isa 53:3-4.

The picture is further enhanced by the fact that the Lord’s preincarnate eternal existence is portrayed in that, before coming to Ephrath, Ben-oni/Benjamin was in Rachel’s womb, and came from Bethel, meaning house of God.  He Who was born that night two thousand years ago in Bethlehem-Judah, and Whose birth fulfilled the type, had come from the place of which Bethel speaks: His Father’s house in heaven. 

We should note too, that Ephrath meaning ashiness, fruitfulness was the ancient name of Bethlehem-Judah which means house of bread and praise.  The two place-names continue to declare truth relative to the Lord, for as ashiness is associated with the fire’s work, so does Ephrath remind us of the fruitfulness that has resulted from Christ’s willingness to submit to the consuming fire of God’s wrath at Calvary, see e.g., La 1:13 and Ps 102:3 where the ultimate application is to Christ, “From above hath he sent fire into my bones.... My bones are burned as an hearth.”  Who can number the fruit of Calvary’s agony?  The harvest resulting from the sowing of that one “corn of wheat” can be measured only by God.

But Bethlehem-Judah meaning house of bread and praise, the other name of the place, reminds us not only that it was the place where Christ was born, but that His presence there fulfilled the significance of its name.  He was the true bread Who came down from heaven; and as for praise, that of the angels and the shepherds on the night of His birth, was only the first note of the ever swelling anthem that will fill the universe eternally.

The dying Rachel portrays the godly remnant of Israel which was in a sense His “mother,” Mary being the representative of that believing remnant which looked for salvation in Israel.  That godly remnant was also dying.  It had but a few more years to exist as the Jewish remnant, before passing away as such, and becoming instead the beginning of the Christian Church.

Relative to Rachel’s sorrow expressed in the name she gave her son, it is significant that we encounter her name again in the NT, and also in association with sorrow, and also in connection with the birth of the true Ben-oni.  Relative to Herod’s slaughter of the children from two years and under, we read in Mt 2:18 “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they were not.”

We might note incidentally that the nameless midwife, who assisted at the birth of Rachel’s son, is a figure of the Holy Spirit, through whose power the Lord was brought into this world.

But his name was not to remain Ben-oni.  His father called him Benjamin son of the right hand, and so also with Christ.  He Who on earth was the man of sorrows called Jesus, and Who went to Calvary to experience sorrow human minds can’t measure, now sits at the Father’s right hand crowned with glory and honor, having been given a name that is above every name, as the prophet has written, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall  be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” Isa 9:6.



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough