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Zebulun and Naphtali


When King Herod Antipas arrested John, Jesus withdrew to the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. Matthew, who wrote for the Jews and Jewish Christians, reported it as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen. From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:15-17). The reason for Zebulun and Naphtali sitting in spiritual darkness and overshadowed by death because of their pagan influence.

Joshua had originally assigned Galilee to the tribes of Asher, Naphtali, and Zebulun when the Israelites first inhabited the promised land. Zebulun was the tenth son of Jacob and his sixth son from Leah. Naphtali was one of the twelve sons of Jacob from Rachel’s servant, Bilhah. These tribes failed to expel fully the native Canaanites when they entered the land. So, they had gentile influence and attacks from neighboring gentiles.

The Assyrians conquered the land and exiled many Israelites, scattering them so that they would not unite for any revolt against the Assyrians. Foreigners then settled in the land. Thus, Galilee became a mixed group of Israelites and the gentiles. Aristobulus conquered Galilee for the Jews in 104 BC and forcibly made the inhabitants Jews through circumcision.


The mingling of the Israelites with the Gentiles and their intermarriages led them to worship of pagan gods. So, they ended in spiritual darkness, overshadowed by death. However, Jesus did not abandon them. He went there as a spiritual light and started his preaching there saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17). In our spiritual darkness, we are in the shadow of eternal death. Let us be in the light of Jesus by repentance and spiritual renovation.

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