Naphtali was the sixth child of Jacob. The tribe of Naphtali, born out of struggle, wound up living in relative comfort—albeit a bit too close to the pagan influence of the Canaanites. Naphtali’s birth was part of a great contest between Leah and Rachel, two sisters who shared the same husband: Jacob.
After Leah bore four sons, Rachel, who had not managed to become pregnant herself, took matters into her own hands, convincing Jacob to sleep with her servant, Bilhah. In their culture, any children that Bilhah bore would be regarded as Rachel’s own. In time, Bilhah gave birth to two sons: Dan and Naphtali.
While Rachel interpreted Dan’s birth as divine vindication, she credited herself with the triumph when Naphtali was born.
“I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won,” she said (Genesis 30:8).
Naphtali’s name means “struggle” or “wrestler.”
The struggle in which Naphtali was conceived wore on. Leah copied Rachel, giving Jacob her servant, Zilpah, who bore two sons. Then Leah gave birth to two more sons and a daughter, after which Rachel gave birth to two sons at last.
Years later, when an ailing Jacob blessed his sons, he declared Naphtali “a doe set free” (Genesis 49:21)—a description that seemed to suit Naphtali’s inheritance in the Promised Land. The tribe of Naphtali settled in the hilly, northern reaches of Israel’s territory, where they could easily enjoy relative autonomy as well as the bounty of some of the most fertile land Canaan had to offer.
The men of Naphtali, however, failed to drive out the Canaanites, preferring instead to subjugate them as forced laborers (see Judges 1:33) —ultimately making themselves vulnerable to pagan influence.
The territory occupied by Naphtali later came to be known as Galilee. It was in this part of the Promised Land that Jesus spent the majority of His adult life, delivered most of His teachings, and performed most of His miracles.
- This reply was modified 2 months ago by Bukola.