The Benefactors are an alien species appearing in Greg Bear's The Forge of God and Anvil of Stars. They save species from hostile von Neumann probes and destroy those responsible for sending them. In this way, they enforce the Law, a policy of deterrence against the creation of such machines.
The appearance and biology of the Benefactors is not known. They seem to interact with other species only through robotic intermediaries. During the Earth's final months, they interacted with humans only as mechanical spiders, which they used to preserve selected cultural and biological samples as well as humans. When transporting survivors of destroyed worlds, they present themselves as simplistic, bronze-colored, robotic versions of the species in question. For instance, they appeared to humans as limbless, faceless humanoids, while they interacted with the Brothers as long chains of metallic spheres.
The Benefactors deliberately do not mention much about their history, but are known to have had a violent civil war at some point. Due largely to this experience, they subscribe to and enforce the Law, which states that any civilization that produces self-replicating planet killers must be hunted down and destroyed by their victims.
The Benefactors encountered the Red Tree Runners around 2,000 BCE and set up a peaceful relationship. When the Killers attacked the Red Tree Runners, the Benefactors assisted them in fending off the attack and preserving their home worlds, although the Red Tree Runners still suffered enormous casualties. Afterward, the Benefactors constructed a Ship of the Law for the Red Tree Runners and sent them on an ultimately fruitless mission to find and destroy the Killers.
In 1996, the Benefactors entered the Sol System not long after the Killers did. They consumed Europa in order to use its remains for building and terraforming. They launched large fragments of Europa at Mars and Venus in order to terraform them in the aftermath of Earth's destruction. They then deployed millions of spider-like probes to Earth, where they tried to save humans, along with biologically and culturally significant samples, from Earth's impending destruction. The Benefactors created spacefaring arks to take several thousand selected humans into space, and on 27 March 1997, they evacuated these chosen people onto the arks, while defeating the Killers' attempt to stop the evacuation.
Once those on the ark were safe, the Benefactors had many of the survivors observe the destruction of Earth, in accordance with the Law. Afterward, they created a Ship of the Law from some of Earth's remains in order to help human volunteers hunt down the Killers.
At some point after the destruction of Earth, the Benefactors saved the Brothers, though not their home planets, from a Killer attack.