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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Naphtali (my wrestling), the sixth son of Jacob, and his second by Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid, born B.C. 1747, in Padan-Aram. Nothing of his personal history is recorded. The description given of Naphtali in the testamentary blessing of Jacob () has been variously rendered. In the Authorized Version it is translated 'a hind let loose, he giveth goodly words.' But, according to the reading in the Septuagint, the verse maybe rendered, 'Naphtali is a goodly tree [TEREBINTH or OAK] that puts forth lovely branches.' We certainly incline to this view of the text; the metaphor which it involves being well adapted to the residence of the tribe of Naphtali, which was a beautiful woodland country, extending to Mount Lebanon, and producing fruits of every sort. With this interpretation, better than with the other, agrees the blessing of Moses upon the same tribe: 'O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord, possess thou the west and the south' ().

When the Israelites departed from Egypt, the tribe of Naphtali numbered 53,400 adult males (), which made it the sixth in population among the tribes; but at the census taken in the plains of Moab it counted only 45,400 (), being a decrease of 8000 in one generation, whereby it became the seventh in point of numbers. The limits of the territory assigned to this tribe are stated in , which show that it possessed one of the finest and most fertile districts of Upper Galilee, extending from the Lake Gennesareth and the border of Zebulun, on the south, to the sources of the Jordan and the spurs of Lebanon on the north, and from the Jordan, on the east, to the borders of Asher on the west. But it was somewhat slow in acquiring possession of the assigned territory (). The chief towns of the tribe were Kedesh, Hazor, Harosheth, and Chinnereth, which last was also the name of the great lake afterwards called Gennesareth. In the Hebrew history Naphtali is distinguished for the alacrity with which it obeyed the call to arms against the oppressors of Israel when many other tribes held back (;;; ). In the time of David the tribe had on its rolls 37,000 men fit for military service, armed with shields and spears, under a thousand officers ().





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Naphtali'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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