1. Lesson One of the Book of Daniel, Introduction to the Book of Daniel

Lesson 47  Geography Study Concerning the Scriptures, Tribal Distribution of Palestine, Benjamin, Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun, Levi


The Northern Tribes


The tribes of Asher, Naphtali and Zebulun, with the city of Laish conquered by and renamed Dan, occupied the northern part of Canaan.




Jacob in his prophesy concerning Asher said in:


Genesis 49:20,  Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.


Jacob blesses Asher (or Happy) with a prophesy concerning the product of the land that he is to inherit. 


It shall be a land that will be fertile and productive, so much so that the tribe of Asher would provide delicacies to royalty. 


Asher’s food is to be abundant and of first class quality, delicacies that kings would afford.


The area of Israel that Asher inherited was from Mt. Carmel to the land of Tyre, the area that was richest in corn and oil. 


Asher enjoyed prime property fronting on 45 miles of the Mediterranean Sea between the Plain of Sharon and Phoenicia.


Nominally Asher occupied much of the territory of southern Phoenicia, including Tyre, but this land was never actually incorporated into Israel.


Isn’t an area that produces much good food and enjoys nearness to a great sea an area where the people have great opportunity to be happy? 


So the tribe of Asher would live out his name of happy. 


But happy does not necessarily indicate that all is right with this tribe.


For this happiness due to prosperity seems to have made this people slack and of a nature which desired the comforts of the good life. 


In Deborah’s song of the book of Judges she sings of Asher’s lack of support to those who were fighting Israel’s enemies.


Judges 5:17, Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships?  Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches.(or haven). 


Asher was happy along the seashore and saw no good reason to leave such happy places. 


Asher’ happiness would be a hindrance to service for God and Jacob sees this befall his tribe in the latter days.


So by the time of David and Solomon Asher is quite absent in the history of this area and instead we see Hiram of Tyre recognized as king with much commercial dealings between Phoenicia and Israel.


Already by the time of David, Asher had become so insignificant a tribe that it is omitted in the list of chief rulers. 


1 Chron. 27:16-22,  Furthermore over the tribes of Israel: the ruler of the Reubenites was Eliezer the son of Zichri: of the Simeonites, Shephatiah the son of Maachah: 17Of the Levites, Hashabiah the son of Kemuel: of the Aaronites, Zadok: 18Of Judah, Elihu, one of the brethren of David: of Issachar, Omri the son of Michael: 19Of Zebulun, Ishmaiah the son of Obadiah: of Naphtali, Jerimoth the son of Azriel: 20Of the children of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Azaziah: of the half tribe of Manasseh, Joel the son of Pedaiah: 21Of the half tribe of Manasseh in Gilead, Iddo the son of Zechariah: of Benjamin, Jaasiel the son of Abner: 22Of Dan, Azareel the son of Jeroham. These were the princes of the tribes of Israel.


Remnants from Asher in the mountainous part of the territory did preserve their identity, however. 


In the New Testament, Anna, the prophetess, is described as a woman of Asher. 


Luke 2:36-38,  And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.




Naphtali was allotted the territory between Asher and the northern section of the Jordan River, and the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. 


Naphtali was a mountainous and fertile region, encompassing most of Galilee.


Kedesh (Naphtali) (a city of refuge) ([KEE-desh; “sacred place”]) and Hazor were among its important towns. 


In the time of Joshua, Hazor led a strong confederacy against Israel. 


Like the northern tribes, Naphtali was exposed to attack from powerful neighbors. 


Ben-Hadad I, the king of Aram, conquered much of Naphtali during the reign of Baasha, and in 734 b.c. Tiglath Pileser III annexed the region, deporting its Israelite inhabitants.


The father of the tribe of Naphtali was born of Rachel’s maid Bilhah. 


We can read of this in:


Gen 30:7, And Bilhah Rachel’s maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.  And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.


The name Naphtali means my wrestling. 


We are given a glimpse of the competition between Rachel and Leah. 


With great wrestling have I wrestled with my sister. 


I have won and my trophy is another son and his name is wrestling, or Naphtali.


Jacob spoke of Naphtali on his deathbed and this is recorded in:


Genesis 49:21,  Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.


Jacob in his last words refers to Naphtali as a hind let loose. 


A hind is a female dear, swift and graceful. 


Naphtali was apparently a man who had natural desires for unrestrained freedom. 


Probably in his early days he was ungovernable, hard to tame.


His evil doings along with the evil performed by the other sons of the handmaids was reported to Jacob by Joseph.


But Jacob sees in this love of freedom, a development toward wisdom, toward goodly words. 


Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words. 


Apparently Naphtali’s energy was now being focused toward right things. 


There was something in his love of life that would be used for God.


Naphtali was eloquent and a man of words. 


Barak was from the tribe of Naphtali and his song of victory along with Deborah in Judges 5 verify the goodly words that Jacob refers to. 


This was to be a tribal trait in the tribe of Naphtali, this was to be their heritage. 




Zebulun occupied a smaller area then Asher and Naphtali but its history is somewhat parallel. 


The territory included a small portion of the fertile Plain of Jezreel and the rich farm land of the present Nazareth region. 


Although cut off from the Mediterranean by Asher, and from the Sea of Galilee by Naphtali, Zebulun had ready access to the sea through the Plain of Jezreel and could easily reach such rich markets as Sidon. 


The important trade route between Egypt and Damascus passed though Zebulun. 


She suffered the same perils as her neighboring tribes, and many Zebulunites were taken captive by Tiglath-pileser III.


In Jacob’s pronouncements concerning Zebulun he majored on Zebulun’s location in the land.


Genesis 49:13,  Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.  


This has also been translated thusly:  Zebulon shall dwell toward the seashore, Yea, he shall be toward the shore where ships come, And his flank shall be toward Sidon.


In the Spirit Jacob foresees that Zebulun’s heritage shall lie up toward the north where he can have contact with those that go down to the sea in ships. 


It is not definitely stated that he is to dwell at or on the seashore but toward it.


So the people of Zebulun were to have contact with those whose ships touched the shore.


So the products of the commerce of this region would pass through Zebulon to the rest of the tribes


His emphasis upon dwelling place is also interesting because the name Zebulun means habitation and was given Zebulun by Leah in hopes that Jacob would dwell with her. 


Genesis 30:20,  And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.  (meaning habitation)


So Zebulun was a constant reminder to Jacob that Leah desired that he dwell with her instead of Rachel. 



Levi, the priestly tribe, received no tribal territory but was allotted certain cities among the other tribes. 

Jacob had said of Levi in Genesis 49, “I will scatter them in Israel.” 

As the priestly tribe they were certainly placed in Israel as though out of a salt shaker.

In all there were forty-eight Levitical cities, an average of four cities to each tribe. 

These are given in Joshua 21.

Six of these cities were assigned as Cities of Refuge where the innocent manslayer might be granted asylum.

Cities of Refuge were chosen on each side of the Jordan in the south, center, and north of the land. 

Joshua 20:1-9,  The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying, 2Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses: 3That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood. 4And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them. 5And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime. 6And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.  And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah. 8And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh. 9These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.