Dan and Naphtali
Categories: Jacob, Men in the Old Testament
- Because Rachel is unable to bear children with Jacob, she envies Leah (who has borne four sons).
- Rachel says to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”
- Jacob is less than supportive—he says that it is God who has withheld children from her.
- Rachel then gives her maid, Bilhah, to Jacob “so that she may bear upon my knees and that I too may have children through her.
- Bilhah’s name means “faltering” or “bashful.”
- Rabbinic sources say that Bilhah is Laban’s daughter from one of his concubines. Genesis 29:29 states she is his handmaid. He gives her to Rachel when she marries Jacob.
- Bilhah conceives and bears a son, Jacob’s fifth son.
- Rachel names him “Dan,” because “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore, “Dan” means “judgment” or “he has judged me.”
- Little is known about Dan’s activities as one of Jacob’s twelve sons.
- Dan has one son, Hushim.
- When Jacob blesses his sons upon his deathbed, he says, “Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel.”
- Indeed, Samson, the most celebrated descendant from the Tribe of Dan, is a judge of Israel.
- Jacob also says Dan will be “a serpent by the way, adder in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that the rider will fall backward.” As it turns out, the Tribe of Dan becomes associated with the shrewdness of a serpent and the wickedness of Belial.
- Dan is the ancestor of the Tribe of Dan.
- According to the first census in the Book of Numbers, the Tribe of Dan is second only to Judah. They number 62,700 men.
- By the second census, they number 64,400 – a gain of 3%.
- When the land is allocated, the Danites are given land in the south between Jerusalem and the Mediterranean Sea.
- Dissatisfied with their assigned territory, the Danites demand more space and move northward, past the boundaries of Israel, to establish the northernmost city of Israel. They name it Dan.
- Later on, a northern king, Jeroboam, will build a pagan temple there, complete with a golden calf for worship.
- The tribe is admonished in the Song of Deborah for not helping in the fight against the Canaanites.
- Jeremiah associates the northern boundaries with darkness and evil.
- In the apocryphal writing, the Testament of Dan, the early church fathers think the Antichrist will arise from the Danites.
- The tribe is not mentioned in the Book of Revelation among the 144,000 that are to be sealed.
- Scholars believe the Danites are instrumental in leading the Israelites into idolatry.
- The Assyrians conquer the territory of Dan in 722 BCE.
- Bilhah’s second son with Jacob is Naphtali, Jacob’s sixth son.
- Rachel says, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed!”
- Naphtali means, “My struggle,” or “I have wrestled.”
- Little is also known about Naphtali as one of Jacob’s twelve sons.
- He and his four sons, Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem, are among those who go to Egypt with Jacob.
- In the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs it states that Naphtali dies at the age of 137.
- According to The Testament of Naphtali, Bilhah and Zilpah are sisters. Their father is Ahotay. He is taken into captivity and later redeemed by Laban. Laban gives him Hannah for a wife, who is Bilhah’s mother. This goes against rabbinic sources that say that Laban is their father. Then, they will be half-sisters with Rachel and Leah.
- On his deathbed, Jacob proclaims Naphtali to be energetic like a deer and able to run swiftly.
- Naphtali is also the ancestor of the Tribe of Naphtali.
- According to Numbers, the tribe is 53,400 strong at the beginning of the wilderness experience, but only 45,400 at the end – a decrease of 15%.
- Unlike the Danites, most of the stories about the tribe of Naphtali are quite positive.
- Their territory is in the north. It is mountainous and fertile.
- They are one of the first tribes to be captured by the Assyrians.