Dan and Naphtali were the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant. When Rachel was barren during all the years that her sister Leah, co-wife of Jacob, had borne four children, she decided to give Bilhah to Jacob to act as a surrogate mother for her. You can read the account of Rachel’s jealousy and her subsequent decision to use Bilhah as her surrogate in chapter 30 of the Book of Genesis. They are listed on the Biblical Timeline around 1704 B.C.
There was a continual competition between Rachel and Leah to win the affections of their husband, Jacob. Though Rachel was his favorite and first chosen wife, Leah was Jacob’s first wife and produced the majority of his children. During this period, bearing children was the manner in which the women tried to win the favor of their husband.
Dan and Naphtali were both considered minor, or less important, Bible characters. However, both eventually became leaders of one of the very famous twelve tribes of Israel.
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The name Dan means “judgment” and Rachel used this name because she felt that God had vindicated her for the injustice of her inability to have children while her sister Leah had already produced four sons for their husband, Jacob. Dan was Jacob’s fifth son.
Genesis 46:23 tells us that Dan had one son named Hushim. As with all of his sons, Israel pronounced a final blessing over Dan in Genesis 49:17. “Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward.”
Naphtali was son number six to Jacob, son number two of Bilhah, and the founder of the tribe of Naphtali. The first mention of Naphtali in the Bible is in Genesis 30:8. The name Naphtali means “my struggle” and again reflects on Rachel’s struggle with her sister over the affections of their husband.
According to Genesis 46, verse 24, Naphtali had four sons named Jahziel, Guni, Jezer, and Shillem. When Jacob, also known as Israel, pronounced a blessing over each of his sons before he died this was what he said about Naphtali: “Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.” (Genesis 49:21)
Dan and Naphtali traveled with their brothers to Egypt during a severe famine to find food. They were eventually reunited with their long lost brother Joseph that the brothers had played an important role in causing to be separated from the rest of the family. The journey led to events that caused Jacob and all of the tribes of Israel to settle in Egypt as can be seen in detail in chapter 47 of the Book of Genesis.
Elsewhere in the World
During this time, the following events at various locations around the world are recorded:
- The Middle Kingdom of Egypt reestablished prosperity and stability. This brought about art, literature, and building projects reappearing on the Egyptian scene. Military and political security, agricultural and mineral wealth, and religion all flourished during this period.
- Hittites take over the area now covered by Turkey. The Hittites were considered members of the Bronze Age, but forerunners of the Iron Age.
- Bronze to Iron Age – During this period making items of bronze seemed to be migrating into the Iron Age. The manufacture of artifacts from iron was noted. Iron became a very valuable commodity and was used to produce goods.
- In Greece – In Greece, the Middle Helladic Period was in full swing. During this time, settlements drew closer together and gravitated toward hilltops. During this period, rectilinear pottery was being influenced into curvilinear by the Minoans.
- China – The first Chinese dynasty known as the Xia migrated into the Shang Dynasty around the 18th century.
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