The Tribe of Asher
As the forefathers of the tribes of Israel, the lives and personalities of each of the twelve sons of Jacob impacted on the history and behavior of the tribe members who descended from them.
Jacob’s deathbed blessing to Asher was that “His bread will have richness, and he will provide kingly delicacies (Genesis 49:20),” inferring that Asher was, and would continue to be, a wealthy man. Moses’ blessing to the Tribe of Asher similarly spoke of good fortune: “The most blessed of children is Asher; he shall be pleasing to his brothers and dip his feet in oil” (Deuteronomy 33:24).
“The most blessed of children is Asher…” The population of Asher surged by nearly 12,000 in the Wilderness (second only to Menashe). It is also interesting to note that Asher’s “most blessed children” seem to be daughters. In addition to his musical daughter Serach (click here for Serach’s bio), the Midrash notes that “Rabbi Levi said: It means that their daughters were beautiful and married to [High] priests who were anointed with the oil of the olive-tree. Rabbi Simon said: Their daughters were beautiful and married to kings who were anointed with olive oil” (Genesis Rabbah 71:10)
Perhaps these daughters used lotions of olive oil, for, just as Jacob predicted, Asher settled into a fertile territory that was particularly bountiful with olive trees. However, according to the Book of Judges 1:31-32, the Asherites did not drive out the inhabitants from this territory but, instead, dwelled among the Canaanites (Phoenicians), who were known for their trading routes. Perhaps a need for that close connection is why Asher was one of two tribes reprimanded by Deborah for not assisting in battling and overthrowing the Canaanite tyrant Yabin: “Asher dwelled at the shore of the sea, and abided by its bays” (Judges 5:17).
The Tribe of Asher was not afraid to fight, as was demonstrated in Judges 6:35, when they heeded Gideon’s call to arms against the Midianites and the Amalekites. Indeed, it is noted in Judges 7:23, that the soldiers of Asher, Naphtali and Menashe were the ones who pursued and vanquished the fleeing Midianites.
The Tribe of Asher makes one further noteworthy appearance in Scripture. Chronicles II records that long after the division of the Israelites into two kingdoms, King Hezekiah of Judah invited the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, and only representatives from Asher, Menashe and Zebulun attended. (30:11).
The Midrash records Asher’s birthdate as the 20th of Shevat.