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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Heb. Naphtali', נִפְתָּלַר , my wrestling, see Genesis 30:8; Sept. Νεφθαλί, but fourteen times Νεφθαλει, as Genesis 30:8; eight times Νεφθαλείμ , as Genesis 35:25; once Νεφδαλίμ, as 1 Kings 4:15; N.T. and Josephus, Νεφθαλείμ ; Vulg. O.T. Nephthali; but sometimes Nephtali, as Genesis 30:8; N.T. Nephthalinm; Auth. Ver. N.T. "Nephthalim"), the sixth son of Jacob, and his second by Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid, born B.C. 1915, in Padan-Aram. (In the following account of this patriarch and the tribe descended from him we bring together a general view of the whole subject.) At his birth, the origin of the name is thus explained (Genesis 30:8): "And Rachel said, With wrestlings of God have I wrestled" (נַפְתִּלְתַּי נִפְתּוּלֵי אֵֹלחַים, i.e., according to the Hebrew idiom, "immense wrestlings; ἀμηχάνητος οιον, "as if irresistible," is the explanation of the name given by Josephus, Ant. 1:19, 8) "with my sister; and I have prevailed; and she called his name Naphtali." Both the Septuagint and Latin versions mistake the meaning and spoil the force of this passage (Genesis 30:8). Onkelos and the Syriac version represent Rachel as having entreated God by prayer, and this seems to be the correct idea (see Kalisch, ad loc.). By his birth Naphtali was thus allied to Dan (Genesis 35:25); and he also belonged to the same portion of the family as Ephraim and Benjamin, the sons of Rachel; but, as we shall see, these connections appear to have been only imperfectly maintained by the tribe descended from him. At the migration to Egypt four sons are attributed to Naphtali (Genesis 46:24; Exodus 1:4; 1 Chronicles 7:13). Of the individual patriarch not a single trait is given in the Bible, as up to the time of Jacob's blessing the twelve patriarchs his name is only mentioned in two public lists (Genesis 35:25; Genesis 46:24); but in the Jewish traditions he is celebrated for his powers as a swift runner, and he is named as one of the five who were chosen by Joseph to represent the family before Pharaoh (Targ. Pseudojon. on Genesis 1:13; Genesis 47:2). In the Testament of the TwelvePatriarchs Naphtali dies in his one hundred and thirty-second year, in the seventh month, on the fourth day of the month. That work explains his name as given "because Rachel had dealt deceitfully" (ἐν πανουργίᾷ ἐποίησε). It also gives the genealogy of his mother: "Balla (Bilhah), the daughter of Routhaios, the brother of Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, was born the same day with Rachel. Routhaios was a Chaldaean of the kindred of Abraham, who, being taken captive, was bought as a slave by Laban. Laban gave him his maid Aina or Eva to wife, by whom he had Zelipha (Zilpah) so called from the place in which he had been captiveand Balla" (Fabricius, Cod. Pseudepigr. V.T. page 659, etc.).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Naphtali'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Naphtali, Mount
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