The Tribe of Naphtali
As the ancestors of the tribes of Israel, the lives and personalities of each of the twelve sons of Jacob significantly impact on the history and behavior of the tribe members who descended from them.
As with Naphtali himself, little is said of the tribe of Naphtali during the Israelites’ wandering in the wilderness. When Moses blessed the tribes before they entered the Land of Israel, he said “Naphtali is satiated with favor and filled with Godly blessings. The sea and its south it will possess” (Deuteronomy 33:23).
The contentment and blessing Moses spoke of for the tribe of Naphtali was actually a direct correlation to the tribe’s land. They settled in the Galilee, in the fertile mountains nestled against the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). On this bountiful land, the Naphtalites had all that they needed.
When trouble brewed, the people of Naphtali did not hesitate to come to the aid of their brethren. When Jabin, the king of the Canaanites, oppressed the Children of Israel, Deborah, the prophetess, judge and leader of the Israelites, called for Barak the son of Abinoam from the tribe of Naphtali to gather and lead an army against the Canaanite general Sisera (Judges 4). And, later, when the Midianites oppressed the Jews, the soldiers of Naphtali swiftly joined Gideon’s army (Judges 6).
Naphtali was regarded as a messenger, and his descendants delivered a palpable message of support for God’s anointed second king of Israel, David. When Saul’s son Ishboshet tried to assert his right to the throne (which God had definitively removed from the descendants of Saul), 38,000 Naphtalites moved to support David (1 Chronicles 12:34).
When the unified kingdom divided, Naphtali became part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and was one of the first tribes to be decimated and exiled by the Assyrians.
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