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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
2. Circumstances of His Birth
3. Historical and Traditional Details
1. Its Relative Position
2. Its Location in Palestine
3. Physical Features
4. Distinction of the Tribe
5. Sites and Inhabitants
6. Labors of Jesus in This District
I. The Patriarch.
The 5th son of Jacob, and the 2nd born to him by Rachel's handmaid, Bilhah. He was full brother of Dan (Genesis 30:7 ff).
At his birth Rachel is said to have exclaimed,
2. Circumstances of His Birth:
Her sister's fruitfulness was a sore trial to the barren Rachel. By her artifice she had obtained children, the offspring of her maid ranking as her own; and thus her reproach of childlessness was removed. The name Naphtali given to this son was a monument of her victory. She had won the favor and blessing of God as made manifest in the way yearned for by the oriental heart, the birth of sons.
3. Historical and Traditional Details:
Personal details regarding the patriarch North are entirely wanting in Scripture; and the traditions have not much to say about him. According to Targum Pseudo-Jonathan , he was a swift runner. It also tells us that he was one of the 5 brethren whom Joseph chose to represent the family of Jacob in the presence of Pharaoh. He is said to have been 132 years old at his death ( Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs , viii, 1,1). When Jacob and his family moved to Egypt, Naphtali had 4 sons ( Genesis 46:24 ). In Egypt, he died and was buried.
II. Tribe of Naphtali.
1. Its Relative Position:
When the first census was taken in the wilderness, the tribe numbered 53,400 fighting men (Numbers 1:43; Numbers 2:30 ). At the second census, the numbers had shrunk to 45,400 (Numbers 26:48 ff); but see
2. Its Location in Palestine:
In the allocation of the land, the lot of Naphtali was the last but one to be drawn (Joshua 19:32-39 ). The boundaries are stated with great fullness. While it is yet impossible to trace them with certainty, the identification of sites in recent years, for which we are mainly indebted to the late Col. Conder, makes possible an approximation. The territory was bounded on the East by the Sea of Galilee and the upper reaches of the Jordan. Josephus makes it extend to Damascus ( Ant. , V, i, 22); but there is nothing to support this. The southern boundary probably ran from the point where
The land lying around the springs of the Jordan was included in the lot of Naphtali. It is clear that from this part, as well as from the cities named in Judges 1:33 , Naphtali did not drive out the Canaanites. These the Danites found in possession at the time of their raid. There is no indication that Naphtali resented in any way this incursion of their kindred tribe into their territory (Jdg 18).
3. Physical Features:
The district thus indicated includes much excellent land, both pastoral and arable. There are the broad, rich terraces that rise away to the North and Northwest of the Sea of Galilee, with the fertile plain of Gennesaret on the seashore. The mountains immediately North of the sea are rocky and barren; but when this tract is passed, we enter the lofty and spacious lands of upper Galilee, which from time immemorial have been the joy of the peasant farmer. Great breadths there are which in season yield golden harvests. The richly diversified scenery, mountain, hill and valley, is marked by a finer growth of trees than is common in Palestine. The terebinth and pine, the olive, mulberry, apricot, fig, pomegranate, orange, lemon and vine are cultivated to good purpose. Water is comparatively plentiful, supplied by many copious springs. It was one of the districts from which Solomon drew provisions, the officer in charge being the king's son-in-law, Ahimaaz (1 Kings 4:15 ).
4. Distinction of the Tribe:
The free life of these spacious uplands, which yielded so liberally to the touch of the hand of industry, developed a robust manhood and a wholesome spirit of independence among its inhabitants. According to Josephus, who knew them well (
5. Sites and Inhabitants:
The largest town in Mt. Naphtali today (in 1915) is
6. Labors of Jesus in This District:
In the land of Naphtali Jesus spent a great part of his public life, the land of Gennesaret, Bethsaida, Capernaum and Chorazin all lying within its boundaries (compare Matthew 4:15 ).
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Naphtali'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​isb/​n/naphtali.html. 1915.