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.
Jacob’s deathbed blessing to Zebulun was, perhaps, the most straight-forward message: “Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea, and he shall be a shore for ships, and his flank shall be upon Zidon” (Genesis 49:13). The descendants of Zebulun were destined to become the great businessmen of Israel. From the land that they settled on the banks of the Mediterranean, the Zebulunites created a renowned merchant fleet.
The Tribe of Zebulun is mentioned rather infrequently in Scriptures. The judge, Eilon, whose name appears only in passing in Judges 12:11, was descended from Zebulun. The tribe itself was highly praised by Deborah in her poetic summation of the war against Sisera: “…out of Zebulun, they that handle the marshal’s staff…Zebulun is a people that risked its life unto the death” (Judges 5:14, 18).
Zebulun is best known for its partnership with the tribe of Issachar. At the end of his life, when Moses blessed the tribes, he spoke of Issachar and Zebulon together, saying: “Rejoice, Zebulon, in your going out, and, Issachar, in your tents. They shall call people unto the mountain; there shall they offer sacrifices of righteousness; for they shall suck the abundance of the seas, and the hidden treasures of the sand” (Deuteronomy 33:18-19).
Zebulun and Issachar had a truly unique partnership. It is related that the proceeds of Zebulun’s trade supported the Torah scholars of Issachar. Not only did the Zebulunites receive a share of the spiritual merit earned by those of Issachar, but they were rewarded for their generosity with the blessing to suck “the abundance of the seas, and the hidden treasures of the sand” (ibid).
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