Now, we come to the 6th tribe which is the tribe of Naphtali. Naphtali is the 6th son of Jacob, but neither to Rachel nor Leah. He is the son of Bilhah who is the maid of Rachel. We cannot find more information regarding Naphtali’s personal history as the Bible is silent on this matter except the statement that he had four sons that made up the tribe of Naphtali. According to Jewish tradition, Naphtali was noted as a swift runner, and that he was chosen by Joseph as one of the five to represent the family before Pharaoh. We can find that 5 men were taken to represent the family before Pharaoh in Genesis 47:2 And he took some of his brethren, [even] five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh. And so according to Jewish tradition, Naphtali was one of the five.
We can see that Jacob was in his death bed giving blessings to his sons, Naphtali received the following words:
Genesis 49:21. “Naphtali is a hind let loose; he giveth goodly words.
Now, let us see why Jacob said these words about Naphtali. First, let us find out what is a hind. A hind is a female deer that is a timid animal and ready to flee at the first approach of danger. It’s been said that no one would attempt to bind a burden on a deer. Have you seen a deer carrying loads on its back? I doubt if there is one.
So, he was compared to a hind that is let loose. It means Naphtali is swift. This is why Joseph chose him as one of the five to represent the family before Pharaoh.
Naphtali’s character was different from his brothers. He is not like Judah who has a kingly power and such, but he has a precious gift that every one of us can have. As Genesis 49:21 says it, “he giveth goodly words.” Because Naphtali is not hindered by many of the heavy burdens and responsibilities borne by some of his brethren, he has time to find those who are downcast and discouraged, and by his goodly words, he encouraged the despondent and comforted the sorrowful.
Here is a trait worthy of example dear brethren. Naphtali’s tongue is full of sweet savor for life. He is the opposite of a man who has unruly tongue that
“is set on fire for hell; James 3:5-8.
But opposite to that, he “giveth goodly words,” and we read from
Proverbs 16:24 that “pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”
Let nobody think that because Naphtali spoke goodly words that he represented a light, unstable character.
Judges 5:18 tells us that “Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto death in the high places of the field.”
This means that during the typical battle of Megiddo, the tribe of Naphtali desolated their lives to death. They were determined to conquer or die; therefore, they were placed into the thickest of the battle. For them, the cause of God is more important than their life, and they did not shrink from fighting even in the highest places of the field. There, they were exposed to the fiery darts of the enemy, if the success of the battle needed it.
In heaven, there will be 12,000 of the tribe of Naphtali that during their probationary life on earth spoke “goodly words” and in difficult times, fearlessly stood firm at their post of duty, ready to conquer or die rather than compromise the cause of God. These 12,000 will forever “follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth”. Revelation 14:4.
Dear brethren, is the cause of God more important to us than our own lives? Does God come first in our life than our temporal needs? What are our priorities? Let us check our own selves if we put God first in everything or we put Him secondary in some areas of our lives. He must be the first and everything to us.
Going on, not only Naphtali received blessings from Jacob, but he also received blessings from Moses. We find this in
Deuteronomy 33:23 “Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full with the blessing of the Lord.”
Notice this brothers and sisters, “satisfied with favor” is a condition to be coveted by every child of God. The Lord greatly favors those whose sins are forgiven, but how many times with downcast face we become dissatisfied and impatient.
If we believe that our sins are forgiven and that we are cleansed from our unrighteousness, then we will be “satisfied with favor.” And we see the many blessings that we have received from God and when we count them day by day, we will find out that we are “full with the blessings of the Lord.”
Another remarkable deed that the tribe of Naphtali did was the crowning of David in Hebron as a king. They were among the ones who joined with the rest of Israel to crown him as king. We can find this recorded in 1 Chronicles 12:40. We can see that they followed the will of God when He replaced Saul as king and rather chose David to be the king.
Now, we will give an example of a noted character from the tribe of Naphtali. His name is Barak. He is the only great hero of the tribe of Naphtali that is mentioned in the Bible. Barak was involved in a battle that was under the direction of Deborah the prophetess. This battle that Naphtali fought with was in many respect the greatest battle fought by the ancient people of God. This battle is a type or object lesson of the great battle of Armageddon. The whole story is found in Judges 4:6-24.
In the spiritual sense, we know that the battle of Armageddon is the spiritual warfare that begun in heaven and will end here on earth. This battle is between the righteous and unrighteous. This is not a battle of arms and weapons and such as the world preaches. This is about the truth versus error. Barak from the tribe of Naphtali fought in this battle and was noted as a great hero. This means that he conquered in that battle no matter how hard that was. As we can see in
Judges 4:24 “And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.”
As like with us brethren. We are engaged in a spiritual battle that we as a church must conquer, and as individual members of the church must conquer most of all. We are fighting not against physical flesh of brave enemies, but we are fighting against spiritual wickedness. Let us read
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].
Our battle is not against nuclear bombs, tanks, high-end guns and such. Our archenemy is unseen. He cannot be killed by a bullet nor by any powerful weapon man ever invented. This battle is spiritual and requires spiritual armour. We are fighting against spiritual wickedness, against the rulers of the darkness of this world. We must win in this battle through the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and King. But His atoning blood requires our complete cooperation with Him. Divine help combined with our humanity will conquer the devil, amen.
So moving on. Now as we know that the 12 tribes received land as their inheritance, Naphtali’s portion was the land that is at the border of the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This area is close by the Assyrians. There was a time when the tribe of Naphtali was taken captive to Syria. We can read the story in
2 Kings 15:29 “... all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria.”
When Christ was here on earth, the tribe of Naphtali no longer possesses the area bordering the shore of the Sea of Galilee. But this land that they once possessed was made re-known more than when they possessed it. Prophet Isaiah, many years, like hundreds of years before Christ came, prophesied that the land of Naphtali will see a great light. This prophecy is found in
Isaiah 9:1,2 Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali… The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
So, Isaiah prophesied that a great light is going to shine from the land of Zebulun and Naphtali. And as its fulfillment was, Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, had His home in Galilee. Galilee is known to be the cradle of Christian faith. It was from the shore of Galilee that the first disciples were called to their lifework, which is we know to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the different parts of the earth. This work they have started and as a remnant church in this world’s last days, we are to finish this work. We are not to sit and wait for the coming of our Saviour. We have to get busy. Keep our minds focus towards heaven and accompanied with our efforts to help bring as many souls as we can into the narrow path that leads to eternal life.
There is a famous poem and song that was written with regard to the Saviour in Galilee. This is written by Mrs. C. L. Shacklock. The poem goes like this.
O Galilee, sweet Galilee, What memories rise at thought of thee!
In mortal guise upon thy shore The Saviour trod whom we adore.
The waves which once His vessel bore Will sound His praise forevermore;
And from thy depths, beloved sea, We hear the call, "Come follow Me."
Through ages yet to come, thy name Will sound His praise forevermore;
'Tis hallowed ground where once He trod, The Prince of Peace, the Son of God.
O Galilee, sweet Galilee, Thy blessed name will sacred be
In every clime, on every shore, Till suns shall set to rise no more.
Amen. What a sweet memory to think about the Saviour in Galilee, in the land where Naphtali once possessed.So in summary, Naphtali was swift, not delaying, braved to conquer the battle for the Lord no matter how hard the battle was, and had godly words that gave life to those who needed encouragement and comfort. He once possessed the land where the great light will shine forth and lo, the Great Light, Jesus our Saviour had His home in Galilee. It is also the very place where the first disciples were called to their lifework.
There is not much recorded regarding the life of Naphtali, but we can see that whether you are known or not, if you are obedient, you will be found in heaven. We may not be known to a lot of people. We may not be as talented as others. You may think why you don’t have this kind of skills or talents or this and that while others know this and that. Our talent may just be to comfort others or give encouragement to others as like Naphtali. We may live in the middle of nowhere, in the jungle of Africa or anywhere, but if we fulfill the purpose of God in our lives, we will surely be found in heaven and hopefully among the tribe of Naphtali who were swift, brave to conquer the battle and have godly words to give to those who needs encouraging and comforting words.
Reference: Jewish Tradition. [Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, viii, 1, 1]
According to Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Naphtali was a swift runner. It also tells us that he was one of the 5 brethren whom Joseph chose to represent the family of Jacob in the presence of Pharaoh. He is said to have been 132 years old at his death