19 “Raiders shall raid Gad, but he shall raid at their heels. 20 “Asher’s food shall be rich, and he shall yield royal delicacies. 21 “Naphtali is a doe let loose that bears beautiful fawns.” (Genesis 49:19–21 (ESV)
Jacob’s prayer for his children’s deliverance (Gen. 49:18) was well founded. His oracles concerning Gad, Asher and Naphtali indicate their future oppression by enemies and the need for the LORD’s salvation.
Regarding Gad, Jacob declared raiders would attack him but he would give as well as he received. The reason for this ongoing conflict was because the tribe settled east of the Jordan River, on the border with other nations (Josh. 13:24–28). Jacob predicted that the tribe would overcome their enemies. Ultimately, the Tribe of Gad be known for their military skill (1 Chron. 5:18–22).
Regarding Asher, he and his progeny would be prosperous and productive. Jacob spoke of the tribe’s great wealth (Gen. 49:20). The Tribe of Asher would settle along the shore of the Mediterranean in a fertile area north of Mt. Carmel (Josh. 19:24–31). The trade routes enabled Asher’s offspring to provide “royal delicacies” (Gen. 49:20), which were food for palaces near and far. The prophetess Anna, who faithfully worshiped and proclaimed God’s redemption, came from the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36–38).
Regarding Naphtali, the imagery here is difficult to translate. Perhaps, Naphtali, like a doe, would be a free spirited mountain people. Deborah sang of the people of Naphtali risking their lives “on the heights of the field” (Judges 5:18). That tribe settled northwest of the Sea of Kinnereth (Galilee).
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “Jacob is possibly predicting that Naphtali will start off as a free spirit and then settle down with his family and the nation. Even the footloose Naphtali will one day have a permanent home in Canaan, near the Sea of Galilee (Josh. 19:32–39). Barak, whose army saved Israel from king Jabin of Hazor (Judg. 4), is one famous Naphtalite.”
Puritan Matthew Henry states, “Among God’s Israel is to be found a great variety of dispositions, contrary to each other, yet all contributing to the beauty and strength of the body.”
Believers in Christ should know that the Lord will use our various differences to build up the body of Christ today. How is the Lord using your unique gifts and personality for the benefit of the church? Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!