The Cross and its Shadow

In Jacob's dying blessing, Judah was compared to a lion, Dan to a serpent, Issachar to a strong ass, Benjamin to a wolf, but Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words. Gen 49:21 A hind, or female deer, is a timid animal, ready to flee at the first approach of danger. No one would attempt to bind a burden on a deer.

Naphtali indicates a character quite different from Issachar, couching down between two burdens, or Judah with his kingly power; yet Naphtali has a precious gift that every one may Covet: He giveth goodly words. Unencumbered 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 to encourage the despondent and comfort the sorrowful.

Naphtali does not represent the unruly tongue that is set on fire of hell, James 3:5-8 far from it, for he giveth goodly words, and pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. Prov 16:24

Let no one think because Naphtali spoke goodly words that he represented a light, unstable character; for in the great typical battle of Megiddo, Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field. Judges 5:18 The literal translation of the original is very emphatic, they desolated their lives to death; they were determined to conquer or die, and therefore plunged into the thickest of the battle. The cause of God was more precious to them than life, and they did not shrink from fighting in the high places of the field, exposed to the fiery darts of the enemy, if the success of the battle demanded it.

There will be twelve thousand of the tribe of Naphtali that throughout all eternity will follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth; twelve thousand that during their probationary life on this earth spoke goodly words, and in difficult places, fearlessly stood firm at their post of duty, ready to sacrifice their lives rather than compromise the cause of God.

In Moses' last blessing, of Naphtali he said, O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord. Deut 33:23 Surely, this is a condition to be coveted by every child of God, satisfied with favour. The Lord greatly favours every one whose sins are forgiven; but how often we are dissatisfied and impatient, and go through life with downcast faces.

Because we are not satisfied with favour, we are not full with the blessing of the Lord. The child of God who fully realises what it is to be cleansed from sin and clothed with Christ's righteousness, will be satisfied with favour: and if he appreciates the many blessings he receives at the hand of the Lord, and counts them over day by day, he will find that his life is full with the blessing of the Lord.

Naphtali joined with the rest of Israel in crowning David king at Hebron, and the record states that with other northern tribes they brought large quantities of provisions to Hebron at that time. 1 Chron 12:40 Barak, of Kadesh-Naphtali, is the only great hero of this tribe, mentioned in the Bible. The battle fought by him under the direction of Deborah the prophetess was in many respects the greatest battle fought by the ancient people of God, and is a type, or object lesson, of the great battle of Armageddon. Judges 4:6-24

The territory bordering on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee and extending northward, was given to Naphtali. It was a fertile country, and during the reign of Solomon was one of his commissariat districts, in charge of Ahimaaz, a son-in-law of the king. 1 Kings 4:7,15

The territory of Naphtali lay in the path of the Syrian and Assyrian invaders. It was from the goodly land of Naphtali that Ben-hadad and Tiglath-pileser had their first taste of the plunder of the Israelites. In 730 B.C, Tiglath-pileser overran the whole of the north of Israel, and the tribe of Naphtali was carried captive into Assyria.

In the time of Christ, Naphtali no longer possessed the shore of the Sea of Galilee, but it was to be far more renowned than when held by him. Isaiah, more than seven hundred years before Christ, had prophesied that the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali would see a great light, Isa 9:1, 2; Matt 4:15, 16 and in fulfilment of it, Jesus, the Light of the world, had His home in Galilee. It was the cradle of the Christian faith, and from the shores of the Sea of Galilee the leading disciples were called to their life-work.  

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.

SUMMARY

The tribe of Naphtali sprang from four sons of Naphtali. Gen. 46:24.
The tribe numbered 45,400, when they entered the promised land. NUM. 26:50.
Barak, of Kadesh-Naphtali, is the only great hero of this tribe.
Christ's work in the borders of what had been the Land of Naphtali, was a subject of prophecy.  Isa. 9:1,  2.