Jacob Blesses Gad, Asher, and NaphtaliA Study of the 12 Tribes

Dr. Jerry A. Collins


As for Gad, raiders shall raid him, but he will raid at their heels. As for Asher, his food shall be rich, and he will yield royal dainties. Naphtali is a doe let loose, He gives beautiful words (Genesis 49:19-21).


Verse 19As for Gad, raiders shall raid him but he will raid at their heels—Even though Gad will be raided by marauding bands, he will fight valiantly. That border raids would be the lot of Gad is emphasized by the word plays in the verse—four of the six words play on the name Gad. The rendering would be “Gad, a troop shall troop upon him, but he shall troop on their heels.” Gad will be harassed by bands of hostile enemies but will eventually repel their advances.


PT—A map of Israel in biblical times vividly displays the precarious position of Gad in relation to some of Israel’s ancient enemies. Gad, along with Reuben and half of Manasseh, was allotted a portion of the land on the east side of the Jordan River (Joshua 13:24-28). This made the tribe susceptible to the Moabites and Ammonites to the east and north and the Edomites to the south. Hostile bands from these enemies bordered the entire territory keeping Gad on their toes, ready to defend themselves whenever necessary.


An Application—Sometimes we have to play defense in our spiritual lives. Rather than conquering new territory we will need to solidify and protect the territory we already possess. We will need to be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). We will need to put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11). Just like Gad, we are surrounded by an enemy bent upon destroying the work of God through the people of God. So in your prayer life determine to stay on course with whatever strategy you use. It will be attacked.


Verse 20As for Asher, his food shall be rich, and he will yield royal dainties—Jacob’s oracle predicted that Asher would be fertile and productive, so much so that he would provide delicacies to royalty. The second phrase describes what Asher would do with his abundant produce—deliver it to the court and he will yield royal dainties. The term dainties signify that the produce was delightful or pleasurable. It is probably not ordinary food but delicacies that kings could afford. So Asher will enjoy the rich products of a fertile land, teeming with those things which contribute to the sustenance of life, and also will, from the ample produce, supply those tasty morsels to royalty.


PT—During Solomon’s reign, each of the 12 tribes in turn provided the royal provisions for one month each year. Solomon had twelve deputies over all Israel, who provided for the king and his household; each man had to provide for a month in the year (1 Kings 4:7). Receiving Asher’s share of the monthly supply would ensure delicacies and morsels fit for royalty. These were excellent gourmet delights.


Verse 21Naphtali is a doe let loose, He gives beautiful words—Naphtali would be a free mountain people. But the specific point of this oracle is that Naphtali would be a messenger with a message of victory. The imagery of Naphtali as a hind let loose conveys swiftness and agility, especially in battle. Consider David’s acknowledgement of God’s help during his flight from Saul. He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me upon my high places (Psalms 18:33).

·      David had apparently observed the hind as she fled from hunters in the desolate and savage wilderness where David also was fleeing from his hunter, Saul. The second clause reveals what the message is—words of beauty he gives beautiful words. In this case, it means simply that he gives the words of the message. If beautiful is retained as the reading, then it suggests good news.


A Review of the History of the Tribe of Gad

·      The geographical name for the territory of Gad is Gilead—a name in the Old Testament that often stood for the tribe of Gad. Judges 5:17 referred to the tribe this way. Gilead remained across the Jordan. Apparently, the people of Gilead remained on the other side of the river and did not participate in the battle. Gilead, the area of ancient Palestine east of the Jordan River, corresponds to modern northwestern Jordan. The region is bounded in the north by the Yarmuk River and in the southwest by what were known in ancient times as the “plains of Moab.” To the east there is no definite boundary. Sometimes Gilead is used in a more general sense for all the region east of the Jordan River.

·      The book of Judges portrays the tribe of Gad’s perilous existence they [Philistines] afflicted and crushed the sons of Israel that year; for eighteen years they afflicted all the sons of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in Gilead in the land of the Amorites (Judges 10:8). The Philistines were shattering and crushing the tribes east of the Jordan. They sustained their oppression until it eventually included tribes on the West side of the Jordan as well. Additionally, the sons of Ammon crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah, Benjamin, and the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was greatly distressed (Judges 10:9). So, Israel was oppressed from both the east and the west.

·      It was this constant exposure to hostile enemies that resulted in Gad’s developing a reputation as fierce warriors, constantly ready to defend their land. In David’s days, as a fugitive from Saul, the Gadite warriors who joined him at Ziklag were described in the following way. From the Gadites there came over to David in the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for war, who could handle shield and spear, and whose faces were like the faces of lions, and they were as swift as the gazelles on the mountains (1 Chronicles 12:8).

·      Moses’ blessing on Gad also described their ferocity. Of Gad he said, “Blessed is the one who enlarges Gad; He lies down as a lion, and tears the arm, also the crown of the head.” Gad was a warring tribe that was very aggressive in conquering and subduing the land. They even rebuilt and fortified cities as well as provisioning for their people. The sons of Gad built Dibon and Ataroth and Aroeras fortified cities, and sheepfolds for sheep (Numbers 32:34-35). 

·      Scripture mentions nothing about any prominent individuals in this small but strategically located tribe. The most famous Gadite mentioned in the Old Testament was Jair, who judged Israel twenty-two years (Judges 10:3-5).


An Application—The New Testament describes our responsibility as an ordinary soldier who must be single-minded in his purpose, rigorous in his self-discipline, and unquestioning in his obedience. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Don’t let other duties drain off his energies or interests or divert him from his primary responsibilities as a Christian soldier. 


A Review of the History of the Tribe of Asher

·      Evidently, Asher sacrificed any military capability for his agricultural fame. According to Judges 1:31-32, the tribe never dislodged the Canaanite/Phoenician inhabitants of the northwestern coast of Israel. Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon, or of Ahlab, or of Achzib, or of Helbah, or of Aphik, or of Rehob. So the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not drive them out.

·      Moses’ blessing of Asher mentioned “More blessed than sons is Asher; May he be favored by his brothers, and may he dip his foot in oil” (Deuteronomy 33:24). To dip his foot in oil is a metaphor for prosperity, one especially apt in light of the abundance of olive groves in the area settled by Asher. The lesson of the prophecy is that Asher will be blessed with an abundance which he will then share with others.

·      The most famous Asherite in the Bible was Anna, the prophetess who greeted the infant Jesus in the Temple and there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years (Luke 2:36). This brief reference is evidence that Jews of our Lord’s time still maintained their tribal identity and the northern tribes were never lost. Anna provides evidence that representatives of the 10 northern tribes still existed over 700 years after the Assyrian captivity. So, the 10 tribes were not really lost just originally assimilated into the Southern Kingdom as refugees from the north.


An Application—Our Christian life and witness should display contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality (Romans 12:13). The writer of Hebrews says do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it (13:2). Asher had abundance and we often do too. The concept is from a derivative of phileo—brotherly love. Benevolent giving appropriate to the need. Practice hospitality not hoarding.   


A Review of the History of the Tribe of Naphtali

·      Jacob’s prophetic blessing was that Naphtali would be characterized by the speed and agility of a doe. This primarily refers to the swiftness characteristic of the tribe of Naphtali. The beautiful words of this tribe have been associated with the “Song of Deborah and Barak” recorded in Judges 5. While some of the tribes were distinguished for their heroic deeds during the battle against Jabin’s Canaanite forces, it is interesting to note that Barak was from the tribe of Naphtali. Now she sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali (Judges 4:6). His Naphtali like leadership swiftness and agility would serve well in the battles to come.

·      The great battle between the Israelite and Canaanite forces described in Judges 4 prompted the tribes to send volunteers. While such tribes as Reuben, Dan, and Asher refused to send their contingents, tribes such as Naphtali were swift to rush their troops to battle Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali together to Kedesh, and ten thousand men went up with him; Deborah also went up with him (Judges 4:10).

·      When Jesus began His ministry in Galilee, Matthew 4:13-15 states and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. He called His disciples in the very region of the tribe of Naphtali. Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:18-19). Hence, His first disciples were from the region allotted to this ancient tribe. Those early disciples carried the beautiful words of the gospel swiftly as hinds let loose.

An Application—Be ready to take a stand for righteousness. Distinguish yourself as a champion for the heart of the God of the Bible. Swift to pursue the righteous life based on an accurate understanding of the biblical authors meaning and intention. Jesus calls us to follow him. Be a Naphtali and volunteer with a sincere heart and robust attitude to please God.



1. Like the Gadites, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-11).

2. Like the Asherites, since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart (1 Peter 1:22).

3. Like the Naphtalites, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).