Sunday, May 29, 2011

Genesis 49:20 Jacob's Blessing: Asher

"Asher's food will be rich;
he will provide delicacies fit for a king."

Genesis 49:20 (NIV)

I thought I would take the Scriptures which refer to Asher and search them for information about this individual and tribe.  This seemed to be a better solution than trying to figure out whether the various scholars' ideas and statements were indeed true.  Not that I dismiss these scholars' ideas, just that I know that what Scripture says about things will always prove, in the end, to be accurate.  Again I picked up a concordance and found that searching through references to this tribe brought up many interesting facts:
  • Asher was the second son of Jacob and Zilpha (Leah's maidservant).  (The first son of these two had been Gad.)  (Genesis 30:10-12)  See also Genesis 35:26, where Gad and Asher are named in a list of Jacob's sons.
  • Asher means 'happy'.  When Asher was born, "...Leah said, 'How happy I am!  The women will call me happy.'  So she named him Asher." (Genesis 30:13 NIV)  
  • Asher's sons are listed in Genesis 46:17.  At that point, Asher's family tree looks like this:
Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi and Beriah, and a daughter, Serah
                                      Heber and Malkiel
  • A man from Asher named Pagiel, son of Ocran, was one of  the twelve men chosen (one from each of the twelve tribes) to assist Moses and Aaron in the military census of the Israelites. (Numbers 1:13)  Pagiel also was the one to bring the tribe's offering when Moses dedicated the tabernacle. (Numbers 7:72).  There he is described as "the leader of the people of Asher".
  • At the time of this military census, the tribe of Asher had 41,500 men who were twenty years old or older and could serve in the army. (Numbers 1:40-41; 2:27)  [Of course, in addition to these men, the tribe of Asher would have women and children and other men who were too old or incapacitated to serve.]
  • Positionally, the tribe of Asher formed part of the rear guard, along with Dan and Naphtali. (Numbers 10:25-28)
  • Later, when the Lord told Moses to send men to explore the land of Canaan, a man named Sethur son of Michael was chosen as a representative from the tribe of Asher. (Genesis 13:13)  The men in the list in Numbers 13 are different than the list of leaders mentioned in earlier chapters of the book of Numbers.  This task may have required a higher level of fitness.  Also, it seems that there could be several leaders within each tribe (see Numbers 13:1 "...From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.") All those sent, however, were leaders of the Israelites. (Num 13:3)        
  • At the time of a second military census (Numbers 26), Moses and Eleazar son of Aaron (Aaron had died) were chosen to number the men twenty years old and above, who were able to serve.  "The descendants of Asher by their clans were:
                            through Imnah, the Imnite clan;
                            through Ishvi, the Ishvite clan;
                            through Beriah, the Berite clan;
and through the descendants of Beriah:
                    through Heber, the Heberite clan; 
                    through Malkiel, the Malkielite clan.
                    (Asher had a daughter named Serah.)
         These were the clans of Asher; those numbered were 53,400."
                                      (Numbers 26:44-47 NIV)
  • Note that the number of fighting men were now 53, 400 instead of the previous 41,500.  The number of fighting men had increased 11,900.  I assume there was a corresponding increase in women and children.  God was continuing to keep His promise to Abraham (Genesis 12) to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens.
  • In Numbers 34:16-29, one leader from each tribe was selected to help Eleazar and Joshua assign the land of Canaan to the Israelites.  Ahihud son of Shelomi was the man from the tribe of Asher who was chosen for this duty. (Numbers 34:27)
  • In Deuteronomy 33, Moses gives his final blessing to the tribes. Asher's blessing is found in verses 24-25 of this chapter.
  • One last thing:  Asher's land, as promised, was quite fertile and enabled the tribe to produce abundant food.  I thought that these comments from John Gill summed up the blessings upon  the tribe of Asher quite nicely:  John Gill commentary on Genesis 49:20 (You will need to type Genesis 49:20 into the search box on this page and scroll down to John Gill's comments.)  Several of his most interesting points (to me at least) were that the land assigned to Asher actually was very fertile and was used to supply King Solomon's household, and that Jesus' miracle of turning water into wine happened in this area, as well as Jesus' teaching on how he was the 'bread of life' -- both very appropriate for an area prophesied to produce an abundance of food fit for royal households.

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