Joshua 19:32-34: The Borders of Naphtali

Verse 32:[1] The sixth lot came out to the children of Naphtali, even for the children of Naphtali according to their families.

[Naphtali] The Asherites were separating them from the Mediterranean Sea: Libanus was to the North; Jordan to the East (Masius).


Verse 33:[2] And their coast was from Heleph, from Allon to Zaanannim, and Adami, Nekeb, and Jabneel, unto Lakum; and the outgoings thereof were at Jordan…

[And the border began] The Eastern border from the North to the south (Junius, Malvenda, similarly Masius, Serarius, etc.). And Heleph and Allon were not so far from the springs of Jordan. But to me this does not satisfy: For, 1. concerning the situation of these cities nothing is evident. 2. What follows does not support this explication, but rather opposes. Objection: But, since the Southern side is described in verse 34, the eastern side appears to have been previously described. Response: The Eastern side is sufficiently indicated, when it is indicated also that the Northern side had reached to Jordan, and that the Southern side is begun by turning back from Jordan, and that to such an extent that entire stretch of Jordan that lies between pertains to the Nephthalim, and furnishes the eastern border. For me it is settled that the Northern border is here described: 1. Because otherwise that is nowhere described, which the aforementioned interpreters confess: But what is the reason why this border alone would be passed over in silence? 2. From those words, and the outgoings thereof all the way to Jordan: which words would have no suitable sense, unless either the Southern or Northern border is here described; but the Southern border is described below; therefore, the Northern border is described here. For those words, to have their outgoings in some place, in the rest of the descriptions signify only this, to be shut up and ended there. And how would they say that the eastern border is shut up by Jordan, if the entire border proceeds along Jordan? It was rather to be said, the outgoings of that side are at the sea of Cinnereth; for there the eastern side extends (Bonfrerius). But that, it ended at Jordan, is plainly the twin of that in verse 26, it falls unto Carmel toward the sea. For, even if we has hitherto traced our descent along Jordan, nevertheless the river ought to be named, so that that very thing might be understood, that we yet concerned with its bank. And it is able to happen that that, being curved in this place, hindered from descending any further toward the south (Masius).

[And Allon to Zaanannim[3]] Thus Judges 4:11.[4] Therefore, the Septuagint and the Chaldean incorrectly read Meelon unto Besaanaim, as if the prepositions were part of the names; just like Meeleph in the place of Heleph (Masius).

[מֵֽאֵל֜וֹן בְּצַעֲנַנִּ֗ים[5]] From Allon in Zaanannim (Montanus), that is, which are cities in the region of Zaanannim (Vatablus): or, rather, before the face of these people; since Zaanannim is plural. It is a phrase of this sort, Douai is before the face of the Dutch[6] (Bonfrerius). From the oak forest in Zaanannim (Junius and Tremellius).

[And Adami, which is Nekeb, וַאֲדָמִ֥י הַנֶּ֛קֶב[7]] [They render it variously.] Adami, Nekeb (Munster, Tigurinus, Pagnine). Adami of that Nekeb (Montanus). A great many, following our translation, think that it is one and the same city (Malvenda, thus Bonfrerius). I think that Nekeb is an epithet of the city Adami (Masius). From the pass of Adami (Junius and Tremellius). From the possessors of the cellar (Arabic). [It appears to have read וַאֲדוֹנֵי, and the lords.] Moreover, Adami appears to be the same as that in Joshua 3:16 (Masius).

[And the outgoings of them (that is, of the Nephthalim [Bonfrerius]) all the way to Jordan] Hebrew: and its outgoing was Jordan[8] (Montanus, similarly the Septuagint), or, to (or toward [Tigurinus], or unto [Junius and Tremellius]) Jordan (Jonathan, Pagnine, similarly the Syriac). Hence it arrives at Jordan (Vatablus). Its borders cease at Jordan (Munster). [Concerning the sense see what things were said on the prior part of this verse.]

Their coast; their northern border, drawn from west to east, as appears, because when this coast is described and brought to its end, the coast is said to turn from the east westward, verse 34. The outgoings, that is, the end of that coast.


Verse 34:[9] And then (Deut. 33:23) the coast turneth westward to Aznoth-tabor, and goeth out from thence to Hukkok, and reacheth to Zebulun on the south side, and reacheth to Asher on the west side, and to Judah upon Jordan toward the sunrising.

[And the border is turned back] The Southern border is undoubtedly here described from the East Westward (Bonfrerius, thus Masius, Malvenda). It is turned back, that is, from the Sunrise (Vatablus).

Westward: this is unquestionably the southern border described from east to west.

[It passes unto Zebulun toward the south] It meets with Zebulun on the south side (Junius and Tremellius), in such a way that the Northern side of the Zebulonites is the same as the Southern side of the Nephthalim (Bonfrerius after Masius). Moreover, that the Nephthalim reached all the way to the lake of Gennesaret, appears to me to be proven out of Isaiah 9, the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, etc., compared with Matthew 4. Now, that those two cities, Aznoth-tabor and Hukkok, occur before the arrival at the Zebulonites, I think it to be explained by the fact that there is some bending back toward the West along the shore of the lake of Gennesaret before the arrival at the Zebulonites, and these two cities were situated in that place (Bonfrerius).

[And unto Asher toward the west] That is, on the Western side the Nephthalim were bordering the Asherites (Bonfrerius, Menochius).

[And unto Judah on Jordan toward the rising of the sun[10]] But this appears unbelievable, for the Judahites were separated from the Nephthalim with so many tribes interposed (Masius), namely, Benjamin, Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun; all which, as was shown, were extending to Jordan (Bonfrerius). But these words do not signify that the tribe of Naphtali shared a border with the Judahites, but that by means of the Jordan in a certain manner it was a neighbor and connected to the Tribe of Judah, namely, through trade by means of the Jordan (Menochius). The author wanted to indicate that the prophecy of Moses was here fulfilled, Deuteronomy 33:23 (Bonfrerius, Masius). That is to say, Suppose it to be so that the Nephthalim appear to be removed from the sea and the other tribes, especially Judah; nevertheless through commerce by means of the Jordan they readily enjoy all goods (Bonfrerius, similarly Masius, Menochius). And this sense the Hebrew words do allow, which are able thus to be translated, and unto Judge by Jordan (or, through Jordan) toward the sunrising. Now, that toward the sunrising ought to be referred, not to Judah, but to Jordan (Bonfrerius). [Junius refers the reader to Joshua 15:5, the border (namely, of Judah) Northward, from the bay of that sea, was part of Jordan: where he observes these things:] That is, Judah possessed the greatest part of Jordan from its end to the lake of Gennesaret, even if the borders of certain tribes were falling unto the same Jordan. It was done in this manner, that the border of Naphtali on Jordan might be coterminous with Judah, as it is found in Joshua 19:34 (Junius). The Septuagint thus reads it, and the Jordan toward the sunrise: thus the difficulty vanishes: but they omit the reference to Judah, which is found in the Hebrew (Bonfrerius). Moreover, that these things that were predicted by Moses were fulfilled, shall be readily demonstrated from the fecundity of that soil, extolled by many authors. See also on Judges 18:9, 10, where that tract near the springs of Jordan is treated. But you will set over against this Deuteronomy 33:23, possess the sea and the south. But the Chaldean takes this of the sea of Tiberias. But, since the use of sea in this sense is unusual, the sense is rather, Although they dwelt in an altogether different part, that is, the North and the East, nevertheless through with the other tribes they were going to share in whatever good were among them (Masius on verse 39).

To Judah, upon Jordan. Question. How can this be, when there were divers tribes between this and Judah, all which reached to Jordan? Answer. He doth not say of Judah, as he doth of Zebulun and Asher, that it reacheth to it; but, as it seems, purposely leaves out that word which he had used in both the former branches, lest it should be understood of a local reaching to it, or being contiguous with it, which was not true; and that he might signify that he meant this clause in another sense, to wit, that it did in some sort go or reach to, or converse with Judah by Jordan. And so this may be here added, to show the accomplishment of that famous and obscure prophecy, That Naphtali, though he should be planted in the utmost border of the land, on the north-east, yet he should possess the riches of the west and south, Deuteronomy 33:23, that is, of those tribes which were at a great distance from him westward and southward; and this he should do by way of commerce with them by their famous river Jordan, which he did not only touch in a small part, as some of the other tribes did, but lay all along it for a good space together, even from the very fountain unto the sea of Gennesaret. Some think that this is verified by that royalty of this river, which they suppose God gave to the tribe of Judah, which extended as far as Naphtali.

[1] Hebrew: לִבְנֵ֣י נַפְתָּלִ֔י יָצָ֖א הַגּוֹרָ֣ל הַשִּׁשִּׁ֑י לִבְנֵ֥י נַפְתָּלִ֖י לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֣י גְבוּלָ֗ם מֵחֵ֙לֶף מֵֽאֵל֜וֹן בְּצַעֲנַנִּ֗ים וַאֲדָמִ֥י הַנֶּ֛קֶב וְיַבְנְאֵ֖ל עַד־לַקּ֑וּם וַיְהִ֥י תֹצְאֹתָ֖יו הַיַּרְדֵּֽן׃

[3] Hebrew: מֵֽאֵל֜וֹן בְּצַעֲנַנִּ֗ים.

[4] Judges 4:11:  “Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim (עַד־אֵל֥וֹן בַּצְעַנִּ֖ים), which is by Kedesh.”

[5] אֵלוֹן/Elon can signify a terebinth.

[6] Douai is in the extreme northern reaches of France.

[7] נֶקֶב/Nekeb may signify a mountain pass, from נָקַב, to pierce.

[8] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֥י תֹצְאֹתָ֖יו הַיַּרְדֵּֽן׃.

[9] Hebrew: וְשָׁ֙ב הַגְּב֥וּל יָ֙מָּה֙ אַזְנ֣וֹת תָּב֔וֹר וְיָצָ֥א מִשָּׁ֖ם חוּקֹ֑קָה וּפָגַ֙ע בִּזְבֻל֜וּן מִנֶּ֗גֶב וּבְאָשֵׁר֙ פָּגַ֣ע מִיָּ֔ם וּבִ֣יהוּדָ֔ה הַיַּרְדֵּ֖ן מִזְרַ֥ח הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃

[10] Hebrew: וּבִ֣יהוּדָ֔ה הַיַּרְדֵּ֖ן מִזְרַ֥ח הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃.

1 thought on “Joshua 19:32-34: The Borders of Naphtali

  1. John Calvin: ‘The next lot mentioned is that of Naphtali, and it seems to correspond with the disposition and manners of that tribe. For Jacob had testified, Naphtali is a hind let loose; he gave goodly words. For this reason they seem to have been contiguous on one side to the children of Judah, and to have been surrounded on other sides by the enclosures of their brethren. Indeed, in its being said that the tribe of Dan took Lesen, there seems to be a tacit comparison, because the children of Naphtali did not employ arms to force their way into their inheritance, but kept themselves quietly in a subdued territory, and thus enjoyed safety and tranquillity under the faith, and, as it were, protection of Judah and the other tribes. The capture of Lesen by the children of Dan, in accordance with the divine grant which they had received of it, did not take place till after the death of Joshua. But the fact which is more fully detailed in the book of Judges is here mentioned in passing, because praise was due to them for their boldness and activity in thus embracing the right which God had bestowed upon them, and so trusting in him as to go down bravely and defeat the enemy.’

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