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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Zebulun

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ZEBULUN . According to OT tradition, Zebulun was the tenth son of Jacob, and the sixth of Leah ( Genesis 30:20 E [Note: Elohist.] ).

The original form of the name is uncertain, there being some evidence in favour of Zebulon , and even Zebul . The meaning of the name is likewise doubtful. Genesis 30:20 presents a double explanation. One of these (apparently E [Note: Elohist.] ’s) connects it with the verb zâbad ‘to endow’; the other (J [Note: Jahwist.] ’s) derives it from zâbal ‘to dwell,’ because Leah said, ‘Now will my husband dwell with me’ (so AV [Note: Authorized Version.] and RV [Note: Revised Version.] following the Vulg. [Note: Vulgate.] habitabit ). The Assyr. [Note: Assyrian.] meaning of zabâlu , however, ‘carry,’ ‘exalt,’ affords a more suitable rendering for this isolated use of the Hebrew verb, for the remark, ‘Now will my husband dwell with me,’ appears rather gratuitous and pointless after she had borne him six sons. The phrase bçth zebul , 1 Kings 8:13 , moreover, implies a connotation of zbl different from that of ‘dwell,’ for the context immediately defines its purpose as a ‘place for thee to dwell in.’ Zebul is here used of the dwelling of God, elsewhere of the sun and moon, and, therefore, probably designated originally, in harmony with the Assyrian, a lofty abode, a bçth-har , or mountain sanctuary, such as is referred to in Deuteronomy 33:19 as being in the territory of Zebulun and Issachar. If so, the name Zebulun, while etymologically related to zbl , is rather of geographical import in its historic application to the tribe.

According to Genesis 46:14 , Zebulun is the progenitor of three tribal families through his three sons Sered, Elon, and Jahleel, who went down into Egypt with the other sons and grandsons of Jacob. The first and last of these names are notably like the town names Sarid and Nahalal, which were allotted to Zebulun according to Joshua 19:10 f. There is no name corresponding to Elon in this passage, but the names of seven of the twelve cities spoken of have been lost.

At the time of the Sinai census the male Zebulunites from 20 years old and upwards numbered 57,400, and their lot on the march was cast on the east of the Tabernacle, with Judah and Issachar ( Numbers 1:31 f. P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ). All of these, as in the case of the men of the other tribes, died before the next census in the plains of Moab, where, nevertheless, the total reached 60,500 ( Numbers 26:27 ; Numbers 26:64 P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ).

The boundary line marked off by lot in Joshua 19:10-24 gives only the southern and eastern borders, and is difficult to follow. Starting on the south with Sarid ( Tell Shadud ?), about five miles S.W. of Nazareth, it reached Jokneam, eight miles due W., on the farther side of the plain of Esdraelon. It extended about the same distance eastwards, reaching, at the west of Mt. Tabor, Daberath (which, however, in Joshua 21:28 fell to Issachar), and then, if the text and identifications are correct, which is improbable, turned sharply west again to Japhia. Thence it continued in a north-easterly direction, passing Gath-hepher and Rimmon, and across the plain until it reached Hannathon, known to Babylonians, c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 1400, as Hinnatuni , which at that time was held by Amen-hotep. The remaining statement, ‘and the goings out thereof were at the valley of Iphtael,’ would indicate that the line turned at Hannathon in a south-westerly direction, perhaps towards Jefat . There would thus be no distinctly northern border, but only a north-western. The western is left undefined; but as Asher is made to reach to Carmel, and its S.E. point to join Zebulun at the valley of Iphtah-el ( Joshua 19:26-27 ), there is no room left for the access of Zebulun to the sea. Jacob’s Song, however, uses the same expression ( Genesis 49:13 ) as is used of Asher in Judges 5:17 , and apparently extends the border to Sidon. In the ‘Blessing of Moses’ it is said that ‘Zebulun and Issachar shall suck the abundance of the seas’ ( Deuteronomy 33:18 ). This, as is clear from the inclusion of Issachar, implies only that their position will be such as to enable them to obtain the mercantile and other advantages of the sea traffic. The delimitations of the tribal boundaries in Joshua are very indefinite, and often in conflict with one another and with other data. Of the five cities mentioned in Deuteronomy 19:15 Bethlehem is the only one whose site is identified with certainty. The modern Ma‘lul may represent Nahalal, one of the four cities which, according to Joshua 21:34 f. (P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ), was given by the Zebulunites to the sons of Merarl (Levites). Roughly speaking, Zebulun lay to the N.E. of Carmel, between Issachar on the S.E. and Asher on the N.W.

Zebulun shared in the natural richness and fertility of the rest of Galilee, and the great ‘way of the sea’ (the via maris of the Crusaders) which ran through its territory, and from Acco to Damascus, brought it into touch with the outer world and its products.

In the war against Jabin 10,000 men of Zebulun and Naphtali went with Barak against Sisera, and in the battle, whose issues were of decisive importance to the tribes of Israel, they immortalized themselves by their bravery (Judges 4:10 ). They, like the other tribes, failed, however, to drive out the Canaanites from some of their city strongholds. One of the minor ‘judges’ came from this tribe, viz. Elon, who headed the tribes in the anarchic and troublous time preceding the kingdom ( Judges 12:11 ). In later history, Zebulun, like the other northern tribes, played an unimportant rôle. According to 2 Kings 15:29 , it would appear that the fate of the other tribes of Galilee overtook this tribe in the days of Pekah, when the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser carried them captive to Assyria. See also art. Tribes.

James A. Craig.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Zebulun'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/z/zebulun.html. 1909.

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