Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Naphtali, Tribe of

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According to the two enumerations of the Israelites given in the Book of Numbers (-, ), the adult males of Naphtali, when at Sinai, numbered 53,400. In the march from Sinai the place of Naphtali was with Dan and Asher on the north side of the tent of meeting, as the rear-guard of the host (ib. 2:25-31).

Territory.

In the division of the land, according to Joshua 19, the lot of this tribe fell near the last, but it received, nevertheless, one of the fairest portions of Canaan. Bounded on the east by the Jordan and its lakes, on the south by Zebulun, and on the west by Asher, its country extended indefinitely northward toward the valley of Lebanon. It had nineteen fenced cities, of which only sixteen are named. The most famous of these in the early history was Hazor, chief city of that region in pre-Israelitish times (ib. 11:10).

Its Fertility.

Fully justified are the words of the blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33): "O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord, possess thou the west [or rather "the lake"] and the south." The last clause has reference to the parts bordering on the Lake of Gennesaret. Josephus eulogizes this region as the very "ambition of nature," an earthly paradise ("B. J." 3:10, § 8). It is probably significant of its wealth and productiveness that the prefect of Naphtali under Solomon was the king's son-in-law (1 Kings 4:15). The district fell naturally into two main divisions: the upper or highland plateau, covering by far the larger portion and known as the "hill country of Naphtali" (Joshua 20:7), and the lower or southern region, including the plain of Gennesaret, bordering on the lake. It would seem as if the expression "land of Naphtali" was used also in a broader sense for the whole of northern Galilee (see 1 Kings 15:20; 2 Kings 15:29). Through this country ran several great roads leading from Damascus and the east to Tyre and Acre, Philistia and Egypt (see G. A. Smith, "The Historical Geography of the Holy Land," 2d ed., pp. 425-431).

Historic Incidents.

The proximity of Naphtali to Phenicia led to constant intercourse with the people of that country. Hiram, the famous worker in brass whom Solomon brought from Tyre, was the son of a woman of Naphtali and a man of Tyre (1 Kings 7:13-14; comp. 2 Chronicles 2:14; there may have been a fusion of the northern Danites with the Naphtalites). Josephus describes the country in his time as very populous and the people as hardy, diligent, and courageous. The history of the tribe is not without thrilling and heroic incidents. Barak, son of Abinoam, of Kedesh-naphtali, was the chosen leader of Israel in the war against Jabin (apparently the second king of that name) of Hazor and his captain Sisera. Urged by the prophetess Deborah, he assembled 10,000 men of Naphtali and Zebulun at Kedesh and marched to Mount Tabor (Judges 4:10 et seq.). Of their conduct in the battle that followed, the Song of Deborah says: "Zebulun was a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death, and Naphtali upon the high places of the field" (ib. 5:18). Equally ready were they to rally at the call of Gideon and do valiant service against the Midianites(ib. 6:35, 7:23). According to 1 Chronicles 12:34, Naphtali sent "a thousand captains, and with them with shield and spear thirty and seven thousand" to David at Hebron.

During the war between Asa of Judah and Baasha of Israel, Ben-hadad of Syria, at the instigation of Asa, invaded and laid waste this district. Again, in the reign of Pekah this tribe was among the first to feel the iron hand of Assyria and to suffer the deportation of many captives (1 Kings 15:20; 2 Kings 15:20). In a reference to this incident (Isaiah 9:2-3) the prophet Isaiah anticipates that the same region will see the dawn of the Messianic deliverance. One of the famous battles of the Maccabean war was fought near Kedesh-naphtali about B.C. 150, when Jonathan defeated Demetrius, King of Syria (I Macc. 11:63-73; Josephus, "Ant." 13:5, § 6).

E. C.
J. F. McL.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Naphtali, Tribe of'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/n/naphtali-tribe-of.html. 1901.

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