13 “Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea; he shall become a haven for ships, and his border shall be at Sidon.” (Genesis 49:13 (ESV)
Zebulun was the sixth eldest son of Jacob. Jacob’s fifth eldest son born by Leah was Issachar. Jacob’s blessing of Issachar followed his blessing upon Zebulun. No reason is given as to why Jacob blessed these two sons in reverse order of their birth.
Zebulun was the sixth and last son borne to Jacob by Leah, who named the boy Zebulun, meaning “abode and, dwelling.” Jacob indicated that Zebulun, along with the tribe who would bear the name, would dwell at the shore of the sea. The reference to the sea would be the Mediterranean Sea. The Tribe of Zebulun would be enriched by seaborne trade (though the tribe did not actually border the Mediterranean (Josh. 19:10–11).
One commentator writes, “Zebulun would live by the seashore toward Sidon. This tribe would be a haven for ships (Gen. 49:13). The tribe of Zebulun was not actually given an inheritance on the coast. Apparently the meaning of the prediction is that this tribe would have direct access to the sea and would enjoy the abundance of sea commerce.”
It is interesting to note that Jacob did not say anything positive or negative about this son. However, in Deuteronomy 33:18-19, Moses recorded words of commendation regarding the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar.
One author writes, “In Deuteronomy 31 Moses was the statesman, and in chapter 32 the singer; now in chapter 33 he is the seer. Like Jacob in Genesis 49, Moses looked into the future of the tribes. He assumed the role of a father to the tribes in these verses. While the tribal oracles in Genesis 49 contain judgmental elements, here the thrust is almost entirely positive.”
Deuteronomy 33:18–19 (ESV) says, “18 And of Zebulun he said, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and Issachar, in your tents. 19 They shall call peoples to their mountain; there they offer right sacrifices; for they draw from the abundance of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand.”
Moses’ reference to right sacrifices meant that Zebulun’s offerings to God were righteous and honest. In other words, the tribe’s sacrifices to God were correct and done in the right way. This was a commendable statement by Moses on behalf of the Tribe of Zebulun.
What practical application may we make concerning Jacob’s son Zebulun? First, he was one who did not stand out in the crowd. His other brothers overshadowed him. Second, at times he went along with the crowd in doing what was not right (Gen. 37). Third, although not the most prosperous (Deut. 33:6), Zebulun, and the subsequent tribe, became consistent and true worshipers of Yahweh (Deut. 33:19).
Many of us will never stand out in the crowd. Most of us will be like a Zebulun. It is okay if we never achieve notoriety. God knows us and that is what is important. May we continue to live for the LORD, even in relative obscurity, just like Zebulun along with many others.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!