According to the Book of Genesis, Naphtali (//; Hebrew: נַפְתָּלִי, Modern Naftali, Tiberian Nap̄tālî; "my struggle") was the sixth son of Jacob and second son with Bilhah. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Naphtali. However, some Biblical scholars[who?] view this as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an aetiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite confederation.
The text of the Torah states that the name of Naphtali refers to the struggle between Rachel and Leah for the favours of Jacob; Bilhah was the handmaid of Rachel, who had thought herself to be infertile, and had persuaded Jacob to have a child with Bilhah as a proxy for having one with herself.
The biblical account shows Bilhah's status as a handmaid change to an actual wife of Jacob (Genesis 30:4). Her handmaid status is regarded by some biblical scholars as indicating that the authors saw the tribe of Naphtali as being not of entirely Israelite origin; this may have been the result of a typographic error, as the names of Naphtali and Issachar appear to have changed places elsewhere in the text, and the birth narrative of Naphtali and Issachar is regarded by some textual critics as having been spliced together from its sources in a manner which has highly corrupted the narrative.
According to the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, Naphtali was a swift runner, though this appears to have been inferred from the Blessing of Jacob, which equates Naphtali to a hind. However, Biblical scholars believe this to actually be a description of the tribe of Naphtali, particularly since some textual scholars regard the Blessing of Jacob as having been written long after the tribe settled permanently in Canaan.
Naphtali is listed in Deuteronomy 34.2 when God takes Moses up to the mountain of Nebo and shows him the extent of the land which he had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. See article on Tribe of Simeon for a map of the twelve tribes of Israel.
According to Genesis 46:24, Naphtali had four sons: Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem. The name of his wife/wives are not given. He and his family migrated to Egypt, with the rest of the clan where they remained until the Exodus.
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Tribe of Issachar
- Genesis 46:24
- Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Nephtali". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.