Introduction: Chronicles chapter 5 recorded the selective genealogies and territories of the two and a half tribes who lived outside the Promised Land under the rule of the kings of Northern Israel. Within the territories of Northern Israel that Abraham did not give to Lot’s descendants, there were eight and a half tribes. In the order that they appear in this chapter, Chronicles lists a total of six of these eight and a half tribes. These include: (1) Issachar, (2) Benjamin, (3) Naphtali, (4) the half tribe of Manasseh that resided west of the River Jordan, (5) Ephraim, and (6) Asher. God was forced to send all of these tribes into exile for their apostasy and idolatry. After the Assyrians conquered Northern Israel, they renamed the former territories of these tribes as Samaria. The Jews and foreigners who lived in Samaria created an apostate state that mixed Judaism with pagan idolatry (2 Kgs. 17:24). Thus, the descendants of these tribes could not return and restart their lives in their same lands. Many did not return. Others who did return did so as either refugees in Judah or Samaria. With one exception, the genealogies of these tribes therefore does not list the territories that God gave to each tribe. Yet, even though all of these tribes sinned, God did not condemn them. Out of mercy and grace, He instead remembers these tribes through the contributions of their descendants. He celebrated four of these six tribes through the contributions of some of their descendants. Two of the tribes, however, are remembered through either the absence of any contributions or the evil acts of their descendants. Finally, Chronicles omits any reference to the two tribes of Dan and Zebulun. From God’s summary of these tribes, He reveals seven lessons for believers about His blessings in your life.
First, Issachar is amongst three tribes celebrated for their “mighty men of valor.” (1 Chr. 7:2,7). Although the tribe of Issachar was born out of the flesh in a union between Jacob and his wife’s maidservant, many descendants lived according to the Spirit and not their fleshly desires. If you believe in Jesus, He will also make you a new creation. He wants you to live according to the Spirit and not desires of your flesh. Second, God also celebrated the tribe of Benjamin for their “mighty men of valor.” (1 Chr. 7:7, 9). Many members of the tribe served God. But the tribe overall misused God’s blessings and its privileged status as a license to sin. God does not want you to make the same mistake by misusing His blessings. Third, God next remembered the tribe of Naphtali. The tribe of Naphtali is referenced in passing by the names of only a few of its descendants. But Chronicles records no accomplishments for this tribe of any kind. The tribe squandered its many blessings. God also does not want you to squander his spiritual blessings by complacency or by failing to serve Him. Fourth, God next remembered the half tribe of Manasseh that resided west of the River Jordan. This half tribe is remembered by, among other things, the contributions of Zelophehad’s daughters (1 Chr. 7:15). They helped to correct a then sexist tradition which prohibited women from inheriting property, something that God did not condone. But the tribe split in two because its members were of two minds regarding the things of the Spirit and the things of the world. God does not want you to be dual minded like this tribe between the things that He offers and things of this world. Fifth, God next remembered the tribe of Ephraim. Ephraim is referenced by its evil acts. This includes both a descendant named Beriah, whose name means “evil” (1 Chr. 7:23), and their occupation of Bethel (1 Chr. 7:28). Within Bethel, Jeroboam set up one of two centers for counterfeit worship of golden calves (1 Kgs. 12:28-33). Ephraim became prideful from its privileged status amongst the tribes. Its pride led to its downfall. God also does not want you to become prideful because of His blessings in your life. Sixth, God next remembered the tribe of Asher. Asher was the third tribe that God celebrated for its “mighty men of valor.” (1 Chr. 7:40). Asher used its gifts to serve others. God also wants you to use His blessings to serve others in need. Finally, Chronicles omits any reference to the two tribes of Dan and Zebulun. They were not listed amongst the tribes returning from exile. Dan is also omitted from the tribes saved during the Great Tribulation. But both tribes are listed as receiving an inheritance during the Millennial Reign of Jesus. Even when you sin against God, you can give thanks that He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Issachar. Issachar was the first of the listed tribes from Northern Israel: “1 Now the sons of Issachar were four: Tola, Puah, Jashub and Shimron. 2 The sons of Tola were Uzzi, Rephaiah, Jeriel, Jahmai, Ibsam and Samuel, heads of their fathers’ households. The sons of Tola were mighty men of valor in their generations; their number in the days of David was 22,600. 3 The son of Uzzi was Izrahiah. And the sons of Izrahiah were Michael, Obadiah, Joel, Isshiah; all five of them were chief men. 4 With them by their generations according to their fathers’ households were 36,000 troops of the army for war, for they had many wives and sons. 5 Their relatives among all the families of Issachar were mighty men of valor, enrolled by genealogy, in all 87,000.” (1 Chr. 7:1-5). In Genesis, Issachar’s sons are listed with a slight variation in two of the names (Gen. 46:13; Nu. 26:23). For many generations, they fought valiantly for God.
Issachar. Issachar was a son of Leah (Gen. 30:18, 20). His name means hire, or he is hired. Issachar was the ninth son in terms of birth order. Issachar appeared in the later census listing as the fifth tribe (Nu. 1:28-31; 26:23-27). Here, the tribe is listed first. The different listings of the tribes was meant to stress that God did not place any importance on birth order. Issachar sinned against God by wanting to kill Joseph out of jealousy (Gen 37:27-28). Yet, out of grace, Jacob/Israel promised a blessing for Issachar: “14 ‘Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds. 15 ‘When he saw that a resting place was good and that the land was pleasant, he bowed his shoulder to bear burdens, and became a slave at forced labor.”’ (Gen. 49:14-15). Issachar managed to grow from God’s blessings while in the wilderness. The tribe of Issachar grew from 54,400 to 64,300 fighting men (Nu. 1:29; 26:25). This was an increase of 9,900 or 18.19%. Before his death, Moses blessed the tribe of Issachar with future prosperity: “18 Of Zebulun he said, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going forth, and, Issachar, in your tents. 19 They will call peoples to the mountain; there they will offer righteous sacrifices; for they will draw out the abundance of the seas, and the hidden treasures of the sand.” (Dt. 33:18-19). Issachar, however, only partially fulfilled the blessings available to the tribe. Although Jacob/Israel promised Issachar prosperous lands (believed to be near Mount Tabor), he warned that Issachar would be subdued by the sins of its Canaanite enemies (Gen. 49:14-15). Members of the tribe of Issachar, however, still served God. For example, many in the tribe stood with the prophet Deborah: “And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; . . . Into the valley they rushed at his heels . . .” (Jdgs. 5:5). Issachar’s tribes later produced a righteous but little known judge or deliver, Tola, who was God’s sixth judge or deliver (Jdgs. 10:1-2). He quietly served God. His clan also became the most prominent of the descendants of Issachar. During David’s reign, his clan provided 22,600 fighting men of valor (1 Chr. 7:2; 21:5). “Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their kinsmen were at their command.” (1 Chr. 12:32).
The territories of the 12 tribes1
Use Jesus’ blessings in your life to live as a “new creation”. Like the tribe of Issachar, you are no longer a prisoner to your past or the desires of your flesh. If you have accepted Jesus, He will make you a new creation: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17). “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezek. 36:26; Jer. 24:7). Jesus has freed you from all condemnation. Are you living as a new creation?
Benjamin. The tribe of Benjamin was the second of the listed tribes from Northern Israel: “6 The sons of Benjamin were three: Bela and Becher and Jediael. 7 The sons of Bela were five: Ezbon, Uzzi, Uzziel, Jerimoth and Iri. They were heads of fathers’ households, mighty men of valor, and were 22,034 enrolled by genealogy. 8 The sons of Becher were Zemirah, Joash, Eliezer, Elioenai, Omri, Jeremoth, Abijah, Anathoth and Alemeth. All these were the sons of Becher. 9 They were enrolled by genealogy, according to their generations, heads of their fathers’ households, 20,200 mighty men of valor. 10 The son of Jediael was Bilhan. And the sons of Bilhan were Jeush, Benjamin, Ehud, Chenaanah, Zethan, Tarshish and Ahishahar. 11 All these were sons of Jediael, according to the heads of their fathers’ households, 17,200 mighty men of valor, who were ready to go out with the army to war. 12 Shuppim and Huppim were the sons of Ir; Hushim was the son of Aher.” (1 Chr. 7:6-12). Many of Benjamin’s descendants are also listed in the Torah (Gen. 46:21; Nu. 26:38-41). Like the tribe of Issachar, many of their descendants were also celebrated as “mighty men of valor” (1 Chr. 7:11). Yet, the tribe overall misused God’s mercy and grace as a license to engage in sin.
Benjamin misused its spiritual inheritance. Benjamin was the second and the last son of Rachel. He was also the last of Jacob/Israel’s 12 sons (Gen. 35:24). The name Benjamin means “son of the right hand.” Before his death, Jacob/Israel blessed Benjamin with the special status as a future protector of Israel: “‘Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, and in the evening he divides the spoil.” (Gen. 49:27). While in the wilderness, the tribe of Benjamin grew from 35,400 to 45,600 fighting men (Nu. 1:37; 26:41). This was an increase of 10,200 or 28.81% in just 38 years. Moses later also blessed Benjamin as the protector of the place of God’s future Temple, represented as the “place between the shoulders.”: “12 Of Benjamin he said, “May the beloved of the Lord dwell in security by Him, who shields him all the day, and he dwells between His shoulders.” (Dt. 33:12). The descendants included Ehud (1 Chr. 7:10). Ehud was the second judge or deliverer of Israel (Jdgs. 3:15). He assassinated the Moabite King Eglon and then inspired the Jews to rise up in rebellion against the Moabites (Jdgs. 3:15-26). But the tribe of Benjamin slid into sin after Ehud’s heroism. Jerusalem was originally promised to the tribe of Benjamin (Josh. 18:16, 28). Yet, because they lacked faith and trust in God, Benjamin could not drive out the Jebusites. The task for taking Jerusalem then fell to its southern neighbor Judah (Josh. 15:8). Judah was, however, only temporarily successful in sacking and burning Jerusalem (Jdgs. 1:8). Jerusalem remained a territory that was considered unsafe during the time of the judges (Jdgs. 19:10-12). The Jebusites further remained in the area and continued to threaten the Jews until David had the faith and courage to fight them and defeat them (2 Sam. 5:6-10). The tribe of Benjamin also committed more serious sins. For example, Judges chapter 19 documents the brutal gang rape and death of a Levite’s concubine in the Benjamite town of Gibeah. Judges chapter 20 also documents a sad civil war that broke out between 11 of the tribes and the tribe of Benjamin as a result of this gang rape. As a result of this civil war, 65,700 people died. The tribe of Benjamin was almost exterminated with only 600 survivors (Jdgs. 20:36-48). Yet, out of mercy and grace, God gave Benjamin another opportunity to redeem itself. He appointed Saul from this tribe as the first king of Israel. Saul, however, failed to live by the Spirit. The leadership mantle then fell back to the tribe of Judah through David. The lesson for believers is not to misuse God’s grace.
Don’t misuse your blessings as a license to sin. Jesus died on the cross for your sins. He does not want you to misuse His mercy and grace as an excuse to sin more: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? . . . What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” (Ro. 6:1, 15; Jude 1:4). If you have asked for forgiveness, don’t return to your old sins.
Naphtali. The tribe of Naphtali was the third of the listed tribes from Northern Israel: “13 The sons of Naphtali were Jahziel, Guni, Jezer, and Shallum, the sons of Bilhah.” (1 Chr. 7:13). These descendants are also listed in the Torah (Gen. 46:24; Nu. 26:48). They went on to form four important clans. Jahziel was the patriarch of the Jahzeelite clan. Guni was the patriarch of the Gunite clan. Jezer was the patriarch of the Jezerite clan. Shallum was patriarch of the Shillemite clan. Yet, unlike the other tribes, there is no mention of any accomplishments or acts of faith attributed to the leaders of this tribe.
Naphtali was a child of the flesh. Naphtali was the son of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid. He was also the sixth son of Jacob (Gen. 30:8). Naphtali was a child of the flesh. Rachel had him out of jealousy and a lack of faith. Naphtali also wanted to kill Joseph out of jealousy. Yet, out of grace, Jacob/Israel blessed Naphtali: “21 ‘Naphtali is a doe let loose, he gives beautiful words.”’ (Gen. 49:21). Naphtali, however, abused God’s mercy and grace. His tribe declined from its sins while in the wilderness. It declined from 53,400 to 45,400 fighting men (Nu. 1:43; 26:50). This was a decrease of 8,000 or 14.98%. This tribe shows that some who are chastened in life will never use that humility to grow in the Lord. Their bitterness will instead merely fuel further acts of rebellion and their further decline. Yet, out of grace, Moses blessed the tribe with fertile farm lands in the Promised Land: “23 Of Naphtali he said, “O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord, take possession of the sea and the south.” (Dt. 33:23). The tribe of Naphtali defeated the Canaanites in their land. They took the farm lands along the western edge of Galilee, which has some of the best farm lands in Israel. But it lacked the obedience to kill the Canaanites as commanded (Jdgs. 1:33). As a result of this disobedience and the disobedience of the other northern tribes, they would eventually be swept away by their enemies (2 Kgs. 17:7-23). Unlike the other tribes, there was nothing for God to celebrate or remember. It lived solely for its own interests.
Don’t squander the gifts that God has given you. Each person has received gifts from God. Yet, many sadly fail to use these gifts to serve God in any way. Jesus rebuked the wicked servant who failed to use God’s gifts to serve Him: ‘“And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.”’ (Matt. 25:25-26). If God has blessed you with time, talent, or treasure, are you being faithful to use those resources for God’s Kingdom? Or, like Naphtali, are you only using God’s blessings to enrich yourself?
Manasseh. The half tribe of Manasseh that stayed in the Promised Land was the fourth of the listed tribes from Northern Israel: “14 The sons of Manasseh were Asriel, whom his Aramean concubine bore; she bore Machir the father of Gilead. 15 Machir took a wife for Huppim and Shuppim, whose sister’s name was Maacah. And the name of the second was Zelophehad, and Zelophehad had daughters. 16 Maacah the wife of Machir bore a son, and she named him Peresh; and the name of his brother was Sheresh, and his sons were Ulam and Rakem. 17 The son of Ulam was Bedan. These were the sons of Gilead the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh. 18 His sister Hammolecheth bore Ishhod and Abiezer and Mahlah. 19 The sons of Shemida were Ahian and Shechem and Likhi and Aniam.” (1 Chr. 7:14-19). Manasseh had a wife named Asriel. But he committed the sin of also taking on a concubine (1 Chr. 7:14). The concubine’s son was Machir. He was the patriarch of the Machirites (Nu. 26:29). Machir’s son Gilead was also the patriarch of the Gileadites. Machir’s descendants also included Zelophehad. Zelophehad died with only daughters and no male heirs (1 Chr. 7:15). The daughters were famous for approaching Moses and demanding an inheritance. Because it was never God’s plan to only allow men to receive an inheritance, God told Moses to give the women an equal inheritance (Nu. 27:6-11). Abi-ezer was also the patriarch of the Jeezer clan (Num. 26:30). The judge or deliverer Gideon was a member of this clan (Jdgs. 6:11).
Manasseh enjoyed great blessings before half of its members fell into temptation. Manasseh was the most obedient of all the tribes in the wilderness, and it grew the most. By the beginning of their journey, the Manasseh tribe had fighting men totaling 32,200 (Nu. 1:35). By the end of their 38-year-journey, their fighting men totaled 52,700 (Nu. 26:34). This was an increase of 20,500 or 63.66%. God promised the tribe of Manasseh territories within the Promised Land (Josh. 16:9). But half of this tribe gave up God’s blessings for a counterfeit promise of a better life outside the Promised Land. They were influenced by the company that they kept with Reuben and Gad. The lesson is that you should not let yourself be unequally yoked with others (2 Cor. 6:14). If you do, you might be pulled off your walk with God.
The half tribe that stayed in the Promised Land had a split inheritance. After Manasseh split into two, the part that stayed in the Promised Land shared a border on the north side of the Ephraim tribe in central Israel (Ezek. 48:5). But their inheritance was mixed within the lands given to three other tribes, Issachar, Asher, and Napheth (Josh. 17:7-11). Seven of their cities were in other territories: (1) Beth-shean; (2) Ibleam; (3) Dor; (4) En-dor; (6) Taanach; and (7) Megiddo (Josh. 17:11). They also failed to drive out the Canaanites dwelling amongst them. They instead used the Canaanites as laborers: “12 But the sons of Manasseh could not take possession of these cities, because the Canaanites persisted in living in that land. 13 It came about when the sons of Israel became strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.” (Josh. 17:12-13). Using the Canaanites as slave labor, however, was against God’s plan. He warned the Jews not to make peace with the people of Canaan because of the threat that they would pose to the Jews if left behind (Nu. 33:52-56; Dt. 7:1-2; 20:16-18). Because the Jews failed to drive out the Canaanites, they later grew to become a threat to the tribe of Manasseh that stayed in the Promised Land. They also became a snare on their walk, causing them to adopt the idolatry of the Canaanites.
Don’t be dual minded between the things of God and the world. Although Manasseh had many great leaders who served God, the tribe split and ultimately turned from God because it was divided between the things of God and this world. God does not want you to make the same mistake. “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jam. 1:7-8). “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jo. 2:15). Is your heart divided in any area?
Ephraim. The tribe of Ephraim was the fifth of the listed tribes from Northern Israel: “20 The sons of Ephraim were Shuthelah and Bered his son, Tahath his son, Eleadah his son, Tahath his son, 21 Zabad his son, Shuthelah his son, and Ezer and Elead whom the men of Gath who were born in the land killed, because they came down to take their livestock. 22 Their father Ephraim mourned many days, and his relatives came to comfort him. 23 Then he went in to his wife, and she conceived and bore a son, and he named him Beriah, because misfortune had come upon his house. 24 His daughter was Sheerah, who built lower and upper Beth-horon, also Uzzen-sheerah. 25 Rephah was his son along with Resheph, Telah his son, Tahan his son, 26 Ladan his son, Ammihud his son, Elishama his son, 27 Non his son and Joshua his son. 28 Their possessions and settlements were Bethel with its towns, and to the east Naaran, and to the west Gezer with its towns, and Shechem with its towns as far as Ayyah with its towns, 29 and along the borders of the sons of Manasseh, Beth-shean with its towns, Taanach with its towns, Megiddo with its towns, Dor with its towns. In these lived the sons of Joseph the son of Israel.” (1 Chr. 7:20-29). Before his death, Jacob/Israel elevated Joseph’s two oldest sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, to the status and importance of his 12 original sons (Gen. 48:5-6). Jacob/Israel spoke prophetically of a time when the Levites would become God’s priests and lose their right to a land inheritance (Dt. 18:1-2; 10:9; 12:12; Nu. 18:20). To keep the number of tribes with a land inheritance at 12, Joseph’s sons would receive a double inheritance. In addition to giving Joseph’s sons an inheritance equal to their uncles, Jacob/Israel switched the birth order of Joseph’s sons to give the second son Ephraim the greater inheritance (Gen. 48:8-14). Manasseh would have normally received a double inheritance. But that honor went to Ephraim. Ephraim’s name also means double fruit. Ephraim’s sons included Shuthelah, Bered, Tahath, Eladah, Tahath (1 Chr. 7:20). Some of his early descendants died while trying to return from Egypt to the Promised Land. Ephraim was still alive to mourn for their deaths (1 Chr. 7:21-22). These descendants apparently refused to stay in Egypt with the other descendants of Jacob/Israel. The elevated importance of their tribe caused them to feel pride. Thus, they returned prematurely to the Promised Land before God called upon them to return. The evil in Ephram’s tribe did not end there. Another descendant named Beriah committed horrific acts of evil (1 Chr. 7:23). Although many descendants were evil, God still honored those who acted with faith. For example, He honored a female descendant named Sherah, who founded a town named Beth-horon (1 Chr. 7:24). Like the story of Zelophehad’s daughters (Nu. 27:1-11), this again showed that God did not condone the sexist views of that time. He values men and women equally. Joshua, a hero of the faith and Moses’ successor, was also a member of the tribe of Ephraim (1 Chr. 7:27; Nu. 13:8, 14:6-9).
Ephraim’s privileged role amongst the tribes. In addition to receiving more land, Jacob/Israel prophetically announced that Ephraim’s would be greater in influence and power than Manasseh’s tribe (Gen. 48:17-20). This later proved to be true. Ephraim became the dominant power with Northern Israel. Indeed, Isaiah at times referred to all of Northern Israel as “Ephraim” (Is. 7:8, 11). Both Ephraim and Manasseh received a special inheritance through God’s mercy and grace alone. But sin also affected the ability of each tribe to fully realize all of God’s intended inheritance. Ephraim also became prideful over its special status and squandered its spiritual inheritance.
Ephraim’s inheritance was based upon God’s mercy and grace. Ephraim’s tribe did nothing to earn its special blessing. Ephraim’s tribe sinned while it was in the wilderness. As a result, the fighting men in their tribe shrank from 40,500 fighting men (Nu. 1:33) to 32,500 (Nu. 26:37), a decrease of 19.75%. But, out of mercy and grace, God later fulfilled Israel’s prophetic word and gave the first and most important land blessing to the younger tribe of Ephraim (Josh. 16:5-8(a)). Their territory included Bethel, formerly called Luz (1 Chr. 7:28; Josh 16:7). The name Bethel means house of God. It was meant to be a light for God’s people. Within Bethel, however, Jeroboam set up one of two centers for counterfeit worship of golden calves (1 Kgs. 12:28-33). The tribe of Ephraim also ignored God’s Law that they not make peace with the Canaanites (Ex. 23:32; Dt. 7:2; 19:13). Instead of driving them out of their lands, the Ephraimites used the Canaanites as slave labor (Josh. 16:10). These slaves, however, later snared the Jews with their pagan beliefs. Like Ephraim, God has also blessed you in many ways through mercy and grace. Have you become prideful and misused any of His blessings?
Don’t let God’s blessings cause you to become prideful. You cannot lose your eternal salvation based upon your works. Yet, sin can keep you from fully realizing all of the blessings that God meant for you. After Solomon’s death when the Kingdom of Israel separated into two, Ephraim was the dominant power in the north. Yet, the tribe of Ephraim was later condemned for its pride. Following Gideon’s victory over the Midianites, the tribe of Ephraim confronted Gideon over his failure to include them in the initial battle. They were jealous because they wanted the honor of helping to defeat the enemy (Jdgs. 8:1-3; 12:1). Ephraim was then also condemned for apostasy “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone.” (Hosea 4:17). “I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from Me; for now, O Ephraim, you have played the harlot, Israel has defiled itself.” (Hosea 5:3). Its pride led to its decline and eventual destruction. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18). Pride is one of the few things that God “hates.” (Prov. 8:13). For this reason, although Jacob/Israel transferred the privilege of “the first born” to “Joseph,” the line of eternal kings and the Messianic line would still run through Judah (Gen. 49:8-10; 2 Sam 7:12-13). If you feel prideful about any of the blessings in your life, give Jesus the glory.
Asher. The tribe of Asher was the sixth and final tribe listed from Northern Israel: “30 The sons of Asher were Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi and Beriah, and Serah their sister. 31 The sons of Beriah were Heber and Malchiel, who was the father of Birzaith. 32 Heber became the father of Japhlet, Shomer and Hotham, and Shua their sister. 33 The sons of Japhlet were Pasach, Bimhal and Ashvath. These were the sons of Japhlet. 34 The sons of Shemer were Ahi and Rohgah, Jehubbah and Aram. 35 The sons of his brother Helem were Zophah, Imna, Shelesh and Amal. 36 The sons of Zophah were Suah, Harnepher, Shual, Beri and Imrah, 37 Bezer, Hod, Shamma, Shilshah, Ithran and Beera. 38 The sons of Jether were Jephunneh, Pispa and Ara. 39 The sons of Ulla were Arah, Hanniel and Rizia. 40 All these were the sons of Asher, heads of the fathers’ houses, choice and mighty men of valor, heads of the princes. And the number of them enrolled by genealogy for service in war was 26,000 men.” (1 Chr. 7:30-40). Asher’s list of descendants is similar to a list provided in the Torah with some variations (Genesis 46:17; Nu. 26:44-46). Many of their descendants were “mighty men of valor” who served God (1 Chr. 7:40-41).
Asher used God’s blessings to serve others. Asher was a son of Zilpah, Leah’s maid (Gen. 30:12). He was the eighth son in terms of birth order. He was also a child of flesh born out of jealousy between Jacob’s wives. He also sold Joseph into slavery out of jealousy. But Jacob/Israel blessed Asher’s future tribe with rich farm lands: “20 ‘As for Asher, his food shall be rich, and he will yield royal dainties.”’ (Gen. 49:20). The Asher tribe then used God’s blessings to seek after His righteousness. While in the wilderness, it had the third highest growth in the wilderness. It grew from 41,500 to 53,400 fighting men (Nu. 1:41; 26:47). This was an increase of 11,900 or 28.67%. Like Chronicles, Moses listed this tribe last for his blessings. Moses responded to their righteousness by granting even greater blessings for Asher. Many who are last will be first (Matt. 19:30). It would walk in the Spirit and be favored by its brothers: “24 Of Asher he said, “More blessed than sons is Asher; may he be favored by his brothers, and may he dip his foot in oil. 25 Your locks will be iron and bronze, and according to your days, so will your leisurely walk be.” (Dt. 33:24-25). The oil referenced here alluded to the oil trees where it would reside near the Mediterranean Coast. Oil was also a symbol of the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13). The metals also symbolized the strength and protection that God would give it. The name Asher further meant “blessing,” “happiness,” and/or “contentment.” Guided by the Holy Spirit, it would be a blessing to its brother tribes. It would also be protected and content with God’s blessings. It further produced “mighty men of valor” who fought for the Jews (1 Chr. 7:40). Yet, after the 12 tribes invaded the Promised Land, the tribe of Asher failed to defeat the Canaanites (Jdgs. 1:31-32). Their failure of faith would also threaten their existence as the Canaanites became a snare in their walk. God wants you to have the faith to both serve others and avoid the sins of the world.
Use God’s blessings to serve God. God has blessed every person with gifts so that each person can use their gifts to serve others in need: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ep. 2:10). “who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Titus 2:14). “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8). You have also benefited from His mercy and grace. How are you using His gifts to serve?
The missing tribes of Dan and Zebulun. The listing of the tribes of Northern Israel ends with the glaring omission of the tribes of Dan and Zebulun. Bible scholars have struggled with the omission of these tribes. Some speculate that these two tribes had less influence amongst the returning tribes. Yet, God cares about all of His people equally. Others theorize that the descendants of the tribes listed in this chapter included Dan and Zebulun. But it would be illogical for God to meticulously list the descendants of the other tribes and leave the reader to assume that the descendants of Dan and Zebulun were hidden within the descendants of the other tribes. Some speculate that the author wanted to keep the total number of tribes listed at 12. In the Bible, the number 12 is the number for God’s perfect government. While this theory is appealing for that reason, it fails to explain what happened to these two tribes. Both tribes turned away from God. These tribes also appear to have not returned in significant numbers from the exile. But God did not forget His people. He will still provide a future inheritance for both tribes.
Dan. Dan was the son of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid (Gen. 30:6). He was also the fifth of Jacob’s sons. Like Gad, Asher, and Naphtali, Dan was a child of the flesh. He also wanted to kill Joseph out of jealousy. Yet, out of grace, Jacob/Israel blessed Dan as a future tribe of mighty warriors who would judge the wicked amongst God’s people: “16 ‘Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 ‘Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a horned snake in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider falls backward. 18 ‘For Your salvation I wait, O Lord.” (Gen. 49:16-17). Even though it had its origins in the flesh, it used God’s grace to live righteously and grow in the wilderness. It grew from 62,700 to 64,000 fighting men (Nu. 1:39; 26:43). This was an increase of 1,700 or 2.71%. Like Jacob/Israel, Moses also blessed Dan as a tribe of mighty soldiers in God’s army: “22 Of Dan he said, “Dan is a lion’s whelp, that leaps forth from Bashan.” (Dt. 33:22). But Dan failed to fully realize the blessings of Jacob/Israel and Moses. After invading the Promised Land, the tribe of Dan not only lacked the faith to drive out the Amorites, its faith was so weak that the Amorites drove the tribe of Dan from its land (Jdgs. 1:34). They had to turn to the tribe of Ephraim to drive out the Amorites (Jdgs. 1:35-6). Samson, from the tribe of Dan, later emerged as God’s final judge (Jdgs. 13:2). Samson, however, was not trying to start a rebellion against the Canaanites. Instead, he was trying to marry into the Philistine nation. The tribe of Dan later failed to settle in its assigned territory in southern Israel. Its leaders stole idols and set up a counterfeit religion in the far north (Jdgs. 18:30-31). After Northern Israel broke away from Judah in the south, King Jeroboam turned the isolated city of Dan into the second center of idolatry in Northern Israel with a pagan golden calf and a counterfeit priesthood (1 Kgs. 12:28-31). Dan’s counterfeit religion and its idolatry in turn brought God’s curse upon it (Dt. 27:15). In addition to being omitted in Chronicles, the tribe is also omitted from the 144,000 who will be saved during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 7:5-8). Yet, Ezekiel reveals that the tribe will survive during the Millennial Reign (Ezek. 48:1-2). Thus, even when mankind is unfaithful, God remains faithful. Thus, for any prophecy that has not yet come true, the prophecies will come true during the Millennial Reign. Dan’s tribe was meant to be a nation of mighty warriors for God. Today, the battles believers fight are not against flesh and blood. They instead fight spiritual battles (Eph. 6:12). God is looking for soldiers for His army. Will you serve as a prayer warrior in His army?
Zebulun. Zebulun was one Leah’s sons and Jacob’s tenth son out of 12 (Gen. 30:18, 20). Zebulun also sinned against God by wanting to kill Joseph out of jealousy (Gen 37:27-28). Yet, out of grace, Jacob/Israel blessed Zebulun: “13 ‘Zebulun will dwell at the seashore; and he shall be a haven for ships, and his flank shall be toward Sidon. 14 ‘Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds. 15 ‘When he saw that a resting place was good and that the land was pleasant, he bowed his shoulder to bear burdens, and became a slave at forced labor.”’ (Gen. 49:13-15). Zebulun also managed to grow from God’s blessings while in the wilderness. The tribe of Zebulun grew from 57,400 to 60,500 fighting men (Nu. 1:31; 26:27). This was an increase of 3,100 or 5.40%. Moses also blessed Zebulun with future prosperity: “18 Of Zebulun he said, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going forth, and, Issachar, in your tents. 19 They will call peoples to the mountain; there they will offer righteous sacrifices; for they will draw out the abundance of the seas, and the hidden treasures of the sand.” (Dt. 33:18-19). This tribe later produced a righteous but little know judge or deliver. Elon, from this tribe, was God’s tenth judge or deliverer (Jdgs. 12:11-12). He quietly served the greater good in Israel without drawing attention to himself. The tribe of Zebulun also showed that it would work with others for the greater good when it at one point gave the greatest number of soldiers to David’s army (1 Chr. 12:33). Zebulun, however, failed to fulfill the blessings available to the tribe. Zebulun defeated the Canaanites in their land. Yet, instead of driving them out as Moses commanded, the tribe of Zebulun used the Canaanites as forced laborers (Jdgs. 1:30). Zebulun’s decision to turn the Canaanites in their land into slave labor would also create problems in the future. They would cause the tribe of Zebulun to become corrupted in their worship and fall into sin. Zebulun was promised the fertile lands near the seashore near Sidon in Southern Lebanon (Gen. 49:13; Josh. 19:10-16). But they never acted in faith to seize the lands that God promised to them. God, however, did not forget these people. Members of this tribe will also one day accept Jesus. Zebulun will have 12,000 saved during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 7:8). This tribe will also receive a land inheritance during the Millennial Reign (Ezek. 48:26). If you are waiting for God's blessings, He wants you to have patience.
Give thanks that God will never abandon you. Even when the Jews sinned, God never left or forsook them. “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6). This promise also applies to any believer in Jesus (Heb. 13:5). If God allows you to experience His discipline, He does so out of love to correct your walk. Give thanks that God will never leave you nor forsake any believer in Jesus because of sin. You further show your gratitude by living a life that is holy and set apart for His use.