The Sons of Jacob Promised Return Series – The Tribe of Naphtali

And of Naftali he said: O Naftali, sated with favor And full of Hashem's blessing, Take possession on the west and south.

Deuteronomy

33:

23

(the israel bible)

August 28, 2023

8 min read

One of the remarkable characteristics of this tribe is they “host a great light.” I am reminded as a small boy, I learned about walking in the light. My dad was a hunter. He had trained hound dogs for tracking his prey. He would rise to hunt before light. I loved to go with him and roam through the woods at night. I recall one dark night, he had his lantern. He warned me, “Son, make sure you stay with me and don’t get lost. Keep your eyes on the light! I got distracted as a boy will do looking at an old stump. Soon, I realized I was standing in darkness alone in the woods. My father had moved on with the light up the trail. I ran as fast as I could, crying, “Wait for me Dad!” God has given instructions to His people to walk in the light of His word as He is in the light so they do not walk in darkness. 

Naphtali was borne by Rachel’s maidservant, Bilhah. He was her second and last child with Jacob. When Naphtali was born, Rachel declared:

“With mighty wrestling, I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.” So, she named him Naphtali.” The name Naphtali means “my struggle” or “my wrestling.”  In Hebrew Naftali is נַפְתָּלִי. GENESIS 30:8 (ESV)

Moses said of Naphtali:

“O Naphtali, salted with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord,
     possess the lake and the south.” Deuteronomy 33:23 (ESV)

The land of Naphtali with Zebulon comes down to the Sea of Galilee area and would have included Capernaum. Isaiah prophesied of this area to declare that those who lived in this region would “See a great light!” Isaiah 9:1-2.

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isaiah 9:1-2 ESV)

Some of the qualities of this tribe include favor and blessing according to Moses. 

(Deut. 33:23). The word for favor is also translated as grace! 

This area holds a good deal of significance for both the Christians and the Jews. Christians see Bible history as relating to the work of Jesus in this area, while Jews see the preservation of the Word of God as relating to this area. 

Christians believe this verse points to the presence and ministry of Jesus, who was raised in this region in Nazareth and conducted 90 percent of his ministry in the Galilee area. There are many historical sites Christians travel to see in this area, such as the Feeding of the Five Thousand in Tabgha, on the northwest shore of Galilee, and the location of the Sermon on the Mount of Beatitudes at the Korazim Plateau. There is a church marking this location called, “The Church of the Beatitudes.”  

This region includes Tiberias on the Galilee, which is important to the Jews. Tiberias was founded in 20 BC by Herod Antipas and was named after the Roman emperor Tiberius. It became a major political and religious hub of the Jews in the Land of Israel after the destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of Judea during the Jewish–Roman wars. From the time of the second through the tenth centuries, Tiberias was the largest Jewish city in Galilee. Much of the Mishna and the Jerusalem Talmud were compiled there. 

The Mishna is a book of authoritative Jewish law compiled by early rabbis. The Talmud is, in simple terms, a record of the rabbinic debates in the 2nd-5th century on the teachings of the Torah to understand and apply it. The word “Torah” simply means Instructions or teachings of God. The Torah is the basis of Jewish law and includes the first five books of the Bible. When the Jews came back to Israel, they were able to revive a dead language after 2,000 years, largely because it was kept alive by Jewish leaders in Tiberias. 

The Psalms says, “Through Your precepts (instructions) I get understanding; Therefore, I hate every false way. Your word (Speech or Torah) is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”. (Psalms 119:104-105). 

The Psalmist declares, “I shall not forget Your word (teachings)”. (Psalms 119:16). God’s Word includes His instructions and Law. A society without law and order becomes a society of chaos. If you defund the police, you will get cities full of crime and violence. A society without God’s Word, which includes His law, will be a society without light, truth, decency, and order.

Tiberias became a great light because it preserved the Word of God and the Jewish language. Isaiah foresaw this and declared the people of this region would “See a great light!” God, himself, is light. (Psalms 27:1). His words declare who He is and define His relationship with His people. Therefore, we see light through His Word. 

The land of Naphtali produced prophets who magnified God’s precepts and truths, such as Deborah the prophet, who produced vision and victory for her people by calling them back to God’s precepts and back to true worship.

When the time came for action to fight the enemies of Israel, Barak responded in fear. He agreed to fight against King Jabin’s army, king of Canaan, only if Deborah would accompany him as his military leader, which she did! As a prophet, she represented the word of God (Torah), accompanying the army in battle. The tribe of Naphtali was represented in this battle. 

She sent and summoned Barak, the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-Naphtali and said to him, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?” Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go, but if you do not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kadesh.  (Judges 4:6-9. ESV). Deborah’s prophecy was fulfilled in Judges 4:17–22

Obedience to God’s Word and instructions led to victory. Later, Naphtali was summoned by Gideon to repel the Midianites, Amalekites, and others from the East from their encampment in the Jezreel Valley. With the tribes of Asher and Manasseh, Naphtali joined Gideon into battle and pursued the Midianites to Zererah and Meholah to reclaim the inheritance of the Israelites. 

When the time came for David to assume the throne, the tribe of “Naphtali provided 1,000 officers, together with 37,000 warriors armed with shields and spears to help him. Of Naphtali 1,000 commanders with whom were 37,000 men armed with shield and spear.”  (I Chronicles 12:34 ESV) “And also, their relatives, from as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, came bringing food on donkeys and on camels and on mules and on oxen, abundant provisions of flour, cakes of figs, clusters of raisins, and wine and oil, oxen, and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.” (1 Chronicles 12:40 ESV)

This tribe was used to establish victory over the enemies of Israel and to establish freedom for the people of Israel. 

This tribe also helped in the building of the temple to establish worship and the tangible presence of God in Israel:

When King Solomon was building the temple, he hired Huram, a man whose mother was a Naphtalite, to do the bronze work on the palace. And King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze. And he was full of wisdom, understanding, and skill for making any work in bronze. He came to King Solomon and did all his work. (1 KINGS 7:13-14).  

Where did this son of Naphtalie get understanding from to make him so skilled? We are told where to find understanding, God says, “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.” (Proverbs 4:5-9). It is adherence to the word of God and His instructions that brings wisdom. 

Truths are established in this region.

Naphtali points to the reality that one of the ways we build up a dwelling place for God is through worship based on truth and faithfulness to the one true God. We can join in spiritual warfare to establish and claim the inheritance of God’s people as Naphtali joined Gideon. 

You will notice God made it impossible to defeat the enemies of Israel without large numbers. They had to follow God’s instructions (Torah), which included prophetic declarations such as lifting torches of light in empty jars, blowing the shofar, and giving a shout. This caused fear among the enemy, who attacked each other and fled. Here, we see God was the one fighting for Israel. This truly is a picture of spiritual warfare. (Judges 7:15-21). These ancient stories of obedience to God’s Word teach us the importance of using God’s Word as a lamp unto our feet. (Psalms 119:105). His instructions include both His written word and His prophetic word. 

One of the ways we are to build up our faith is through prophetic revelation. Gideon was not confident to attack an overwhelming army. He came by night to a guard post and overheard the dream of one of the soldiers, which the other soldier interpreted that their army would be given over to Gideon. This dream encouraged Gideon to trust God for victory and to follow His instructions. Why did God have them break “empty jars” as a part of a prophetic declaration? The enemy kept stilling the harvest and crops of the Israelites. The “empty jars” symbolized that the lack created by the enemy was over! (Judges 7:20). 

Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers—they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing—and they cried, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” (Judges 7:20 NKJV)

They were declaring prophetically with torches that, “The time of oppression is over! Our lack is over and a great light will restore our future!” God was redeeming them from their enemy so they could serve and worship Him. 

The torches represented God’s truth and light that would expel their enemies. In the Book of Psalms, it is written, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119:105). The light of God’s word and truth expel darkness and cause it to flee! The torches used by Gedeon’s army were declaring, 

“We are no longer tolerating the oppression and darkness you are bringing on our people. We are here declaring God’s truth for this hour that says we are walking in victory over the enemy. We will have our inheritance restored so we can walk in the light with our God.”  

Whenever we stand on the promises of God, we are declaring His Word is our victory and we will have His promised blessings. 

The Voice of Aliyah is being heard in the Nations for Naphtali

Prophetic declaration for the Tribe of Naphtali.

The one who is the “Great Light” calls you to return from where you are to the land of blessings and favor prophesied by Isaiah the prophet. (Isa. 9:1,2). Capernaum and Tiberias shall again bear witness to the blessings and favor promised to you. The Lord would say, “Your struggles are over! Come home to the land for your inheritance from the nations and leap for joy. The God of your fathers is waiting for you to return to the Promised Land and to the great inheritance He placed in this land. Cast off your burdens and return with shouts of joy.

Location of the Tribe of Naphtali reaches from Galilee northward.

Where is Naphtali in the nations today? Polynesian Islands

Explorers believed this tribe went south and are found in the Polynesian Islands between New Zealand and Fiji. Early explorers commented on the inhabitants having Jewish features and Jewish customs. For example, the people on Tapo celebrate the Feast of Inaji, or offerings of First Fruits to the gods every year as it is done in Israel.

On the Island of Tonga, they have Cities of Refuge that are reminiscent of the Mosaic Law. These observations of the Polynesian Islanders were reported by Thomas West. (The years in the South-Central Polynesia. 1865). He and others saw a common origin between all the brown-colored inhabitants of Polynesia, including those of the Hawaiian Islands, Soma, Tonga, New Zealand, Tsukamoto, Archipelago and other groups between New Zealand and America. (Andrew Jenson, “Jenson’s Travels”, Aug. 25, 1895”)

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