Rashi (Bereshit 43:30), quoting the Talmud (Sotah 36B), tells us that Binyamin named each of his 10 sons in honor of Yosef.

Many of the names indicate that Binyamin knew that Yosef was alive, in exile, and in captivity. He even knew that Yosef was married. From that Rashi:

  • [My first son was named] Bela because he (my brother) was swallowed up (נִבְלַע) among the nations.
  • [My third son was named] Ashbel because God put him (my brother) into captivity (שְׁבָאו ֹאֵל).
  • [My ninth son was named] Huppim because he (my brother) did not see my wedding (חוּפָּתִי), neither did I see his wedding (חוּפָּתוֹ).
  • And [my tenth son was named] Ard because he (my brother) descended (יָרַד) among the nations.

Why didn't Binyamin think that Yosef was dead? The brothers had returned with a story that Yosef had been killed by a wild animal, and no one disputed the story. Binyamin wasn't present at the sale to know any differently (Rashi 45:12), so why should he think otherwise?

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    related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/4578/…
    – Menachem
    Dec 27, 2011 at 20:16
  • Why do you think Binyamin wasn't there with the rest, in on the slavery plot? Dec 27, 2011 at 20:35
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    @Monica: he was a lot younger than the rest of the brothers - at the time of the sale he was eight, while all of the other brothers were in their late teens or early twenties. It's not that likely that Yaakov would have sent him so far from home at that age.
    – Alex
    Dec 27, 2011 at 23:40
  • @Alex, oh, there's 9 years' difference between the youngest two? I hadn't realized (nor done the math, assuming the data's all there in the torah). Dec 28, 2011 at 2:07
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    @MonicaCellio: Also see Rashi 45:12, who explicitly says that Binyamin wasn't part of the sale: chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8240/showrashi/true#v12
    – Menachem
    Dec 28, 2011 at 2:52

1 Answer 1


We find that Yitzchak knew by Divine inspiration that Yosef was really alive, but didn't tell Yaakov (Bereishis Rabbah 84:21). Conceivably, then, Binyamin knew too. (In fact, I believe I've actually seen this stated explicitly someplace, but I can't recall where.)

It's also possible that he figured that since, as R. Yose comments in the Midrash there, "one is not consoled for the living," and Yaakov had been in mourning all these years, that indeed Yosef might still be alive.

I don't know, though, that these names really prove that he knew any details of what was happening with Yosef. It would have been logical for him to assume that if Yosef had disappeared but was still alive, that this meant that he had been captured by bandits or whatever, thus explaining Bela's, Ashbel's and Ard's names. As for Chuppim - saying "I never saw his wedding" doesn't necessarily imply that there was a wedding for him to have seen; on the contrary, it could mean "I never saw his wedding" because there wasn't one.

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    Why didn't Yaakov guess that Yosef was alive as he wasn't consoled after a year? Dec 28, 2011 at 0:26
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    @Shmuel: Sifsei Chachamim offers two possibilities. (a) We ourselves know this principle only by considering the whole story in retrospect; Yaakov wasn't aware of it. (b) citing Maharshal: the mourner himself doesn't have a sense of proportion about his grief - as deep as it is, he thinks it's not enough. [So Yaakov might have thought that he was getting consoled and his grief was lessening with time, when in fact it wasn't.]
    – Alex
    Dec 28, 2011 at 0:36

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