Tribe of Naphtali

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The Tribe of Naphtali (Hebrew: נַפְתָּלִי, Modern Naftali Tiberian Nap̄tālî ; "My struggle") was one of the Tribes of Israel.

Following the completion of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes after about 1200 BCE,[1] Joshua allocated the land among the twelve tribes. The Tribe of Naphtali was allocated the eastern side of the Galilee (on the immediate west of the Sea of Galilee), in the areas now known as the Lower Galilee, and Upper Galilee, and was bordered on the west by Asher, in the north by Dan, in the south by Zebulun, and by the Jordan River on the east. (Joshua 19:32-39) The most significant city was Hazor.

In this region, bordering the Sea of Galilee, was the highly fertile plain of Gennesaret, characterised by Josephus as the ambition of nature, an earthly paradise,[2] and with the southern portion of the region acting as a natural pass between the highlands of Canaan, several major roads (such as those from Damascus to Tyre and Acre) ran through it.[3] The prosperity this situation brought is seemingly prophesied in the Blessing of Moses, though textual scholars view this as a postdiction, dating the poem to well after the tribe had been established in the land.[4][5]

From after the conquest of the land by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel in c. 1050 BC, the Tribe of Naphtali was a part of a loose confederation of Israelite tribes. No central government existed, and in times of crisis the people were led by ad hoc leaders known as Judges. (see the Book of Judges) With the growth of the threat from Philistine incursions, the Israelite tribes decided to form a strong centralised monarchy to meet the challenge, and the Tribe of Naphtali joined the new kingdom with Saul as the first king. After the death of Saul, all the tribes other than Judah remained loyal to the House of Saul, but after the death of Ish-bosheth, Saul's son and successor to the throne of Israel, the Tribe of Naphtali joined the other northern Israelite tribes in making David, who was then the king of Judah, king of a re-united Kingdom of Israel. However, on the accession of Rehoboam, David's grandson, in c. 930 BC the northern tribes split from the House of David to reform a Kingdom of Israel as the Northern Kingdom.

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