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Tribe of Naphtali

This tribe is the descendants of Naphtali, a son of Jacob (Israel). On this tribe, Jacob pronounced the patriarchal blessing,

Naphtali is a deer let loose;
He uses beautiful words.” —Genesis 49:21 NKJV

It was intended thus to set forth under poetic imagery the future character and history of the tribe.

At the time of the Exodus, this tribe numbered 53,400 adult males (Numbers 1:43), but, at the close of the wanderings, they numbered only 45,400 (26:48-50). Along with Dan and Asher, they formed “the camp of Dan,” under a common standard (2:25-31), occupying a place during the march on the north side of the tabernacle.

Map of the tribal division of land

Map of the ancient Israelite tribal territories in the Promised Land. CC BY-SA 3.0 / 12 tribus de Israel.svg / 12 Tribes of Israel Map.svg
The approximate location and boundaries of the 12 landed Israelite tribes, based on records in the Book of Joshua. This, and more, was The Promised Land given by God to the descendants of Israel, the grandson of Abraham. The full extent of the Canaanite land promised was never acquired, due to the repeated disobedience of the Israelites during the their commanded conquest of this very idolatrous, heathen land, after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt and the following 40 years of Divine punishment wandering in the wilderness, before Joshua and the living descendants were allowed to enter the land, following the death of Moses.

The possession assigned to this tribe is set forth in Josh. 19:32-39. It lay in the northeastern corner of the land, bounded on the east by the Jordan and the lakes of Merom and Galilee, and on the north it extended far into Coele-syria, the valley between the two Lebanon ranges. It comprehended a greater variety of rich and beautiful scenery and of soil and climate than fell to the lot of any other tribe. The territory of Naphtali extended to about 800 square miles, being double of that of Issachar. The region around Kedesh, one of its towns, was originally called Galil, a name afterwards given to the whole northern division of Canaan.

A large number of foreigners settled here among the mountains, and hence it was called “Galilee of the Gentiles”, Matthew 4:15-16. The southern portion of Naphtali has been called the “Garden of Palestine.” It was of unrivalled fertility. It was the principal scene of our Lord's public ministry. Here most of his parables were spoken and his miracles wrought.

Invasions

This tribe was the first to suffer from the invasion of Benhadad, king of Syria, in the reigns of Baasha, king of Israel, and Asa, king of Judah (1 Kings 15:20; 2 Chronicles 16:4).

In the reign of Pekah, king of Israel, the Assyrians under Tiglath-pileser swept over the whole north of Israel, and carried the people into captivity (2 Kings 15:29). Thus the kingdom of Israel came to an end (B.C. 722).

Later, Naphtali became almost wholly a desert, the towns of Tiberias, on the shore of the Lake of Galilee, and Safed being the only places in it of any importance.

Other tribes of Israel

  1. Asher
  2. Benjamin
  3. Dan
  4. Ephraim
  5. Gad
  6. Issachar
  7. Judah
  8. Levi
  9. Manasseh
  10. Reuben
  11. Simeon
  12. Zebulun

ALSO SEE

Article Version: March 19, 2019