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Naphtali, from the Hebrew pronounced naf-taw-lee, meaning wrestling, or struggle, was the sixth son of Jacob/Israel (see Children of Jacob), the second son of his concubine (see Concubines) Bilhah, the handmaid of Rachel. Very little is recorded of Naphtali himself, however his descendants, the Israelite tribe of Naphtali, were well-known in Bible History.

Israelite Tribal Lands The birth of Naphtali (and all of the other sons of Israel, except the youngest, Benjamin, who was born near Bethlehem) occurred during the time when Jacob was with Laban in Haran, a city in Mesopotamia which is today part of Syria (see Jacob and Laban):

"When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or I shall die! ... Then she said, "Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, that she may bear upon my knees, and even I may have children through her ... And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, "God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son"; therefore she called his name Dan. Rachel's maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, "With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed"; so she called his name Naphtali." (Genesis 30:1,3,5-8 RSV)

When Jacob went down into Egypt, beginning the Israelites' time in The Land Of Goshen, Naphtali had four sons:

"The sons of Naphtali: Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem ... All the persons belonging to Jacob who came into Egypt, who were his own offspring, not including Jacob's sons' wives, were sixty-six persons in all; and the sons of Joseph [see Coat Of Many Colors], who were born to him in Egypt, were two [see Ephraim and Manasseh]; all the persons of the house of Jacob, that came into Egypt, were seventy. He sent Judah before him to Joseph, to appear before him in Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen" (Genesis 46:24,26-28 RSV)

After the Exodus over 400 years later, the tribe of Naphtali had grown to over 153,000 people (see Growth Of A Nation):

"The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "The people of Israel shall encamp each by his own standard, with the ensigns of their fathers' houses; they shall encamp facing The Tent of Meeting [see The Tabernacle In The Wilderness] on every side ... Then the tribe of Naphtali, the leader of the people of Naphtali being Ahira the son of Enan, his host as numbered being fifty-three thousand four hundred." (Numbers 2:1-2,29-30 RSV) (see also Wilderness Journey)

The Camp Around The Tabernacle

After the Israelites crossed The Jordan River into the Promised Land (apart from the God-commanded portion of the Promised Land east of the Jordan River which was given to Reuben, Gad and part of Manasseh before the others crossed the Jordan i.e. Joshua 13:8, and see map above) under the leadership of Joshua, Naphtali was assigned a territory in the north, in Galilee:

"in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali" (Joshua 20:7 RSV)

The people of Naphtali were among the "Lost Ten Tribes of Israel" who were conquered and taken away into exile by the Assyrians (see Ancient Empires - Assyria) in the 720s BC:

"In the days of Pekah king of Israel [see Kings of Israel and Judah] Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried the people captive to Assyria ... The people of Israel walked in all the sins which Jeroboam did; they did not depart from them, until The Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had spoken by all His servants the Prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day" (2 Kings 15:29, 17:22-23 RSV)

Fact Finder: Did Jesus Christ, by living in Galilee (see Nazareth and Capernaum), fulfill a prophecy involving Naphtali?
Matthew 4:14-16, Isaiah 9:1-2

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