Genesis 49:21
Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.
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(21) Naphtali.—Gad had been described as moving slowly in war, and allowing himself to be surprised by hordes of plunderers, whom, nevertheless, as soon as he has collected his forces, he repels and pursues with vigour. Naphtali, on the contrary, is light and active, moving rapidly like “a hind let loose;” or, literally, sent forth, like the scouts or van of an army. And thus he brings back “goodly words”—Heb., words of pleasure—that is, trustworthy intelligence to guide the army in its motions. Another translation has been proposed, which has the support of the LXX.: “Naphtali is a spreading terebinth, which shoots forth goodly branches.” It retains the consonants of the Hebrew text, but gives them different vowels.

Genesis 49:21. Naphtali is a hind let loose — Those of this tribe were, as the loosened hind, zealous for their liberty, and yet affable and courteous, their language refined, and they complaisant, giving goodly words. Among God’s Israel there is to be found a great variety of dispositions, yet all contributing to the beauty and strength of the body. He closes with the blessings of his best-beloved sons, Joseph and Benjamin: with these he will breathe his last.

49:19-21 Concerning Gad, Jacob alludes to his name, which signifies a troop, and foresees the character of that tribe. The cause of God and his people, though for a time it may seem to be baffled and run down, will be victorious at last. It represents the Christian's conflict. Grace in the soul is often foiled in its conflicts; troops of corruption overcome it, but the cause is God's, and grace will in the end come off conqueror, yea, more than conqueror, Ro 8:37. Asher should be a rich tribe. His inheritance bordered upon Carmel, which was fruitful to a proverb. Naphtali, is a hind let loose. We may consider it as a description of the character of this tribe. Unlike the laborious ox and ass; desirous of ease and liberty; active, but more noted for quick despatch than steady labour and perseverance. Like the suppliant who, with goodly words, craves mercy. Let not those of different tempers and gifts censure or envy one another.Naphtali is a hind let loose. The hind or "gazelle" is agile and nimble. When free on its native hills, it roams with instinctive confidence and delight. It is timid and irresolute in confinement. This is probably the character of Naphtali. "He giveth goodly words." Here we pass from the figure to the reality. Eloquence in prose and verse was characteristic of this particular tribe. The only important historical event in which they are concerned is the defeat of Jabin's host, which is celebrated in the song of Deborah and Barak Judges 4:5. In this passage we may study the character of the tribe.Ge 49:21. Naphtali—The best rendering we know is this, "Naphtali is a deer roaming at liberty; he shooteth forth goodly branches," or majestic antlers [Taylor, Scripture Illustrations], and the meaning of the prophecy seems to be that the tribe of Naphtali would be located in a territory so fertile and peaceable, that, feeding on the richest pasture, he would spread out, like a deer, branching antlers. A hind let loose; not pursued by hunters, nor shut up in some little enclosure, but wholly left to its own freedom, to feed upon the best pastures: see Deu 33:23. Or, free from the yoke which they, together with the other tribes, did bear in Egypt; free from its former restraints, which make it run away more swiftly. So it may note their nimbleness and expedition, either in encountering enemies, or in avoiding dangers. See Judges 4:6,10 5:18. Or, like a tame hind left to its liberty, in which the owner takes delight, as Proverbs 5:19; for he seems to be commended rather for arts of peace than war. And this may note, that his temper and Conversation was civil, obliging, and amiable; which sense the next words favour. His speeches and discourses with others are fair, and friendly, and winning. It is not strange that this tribe was generally of a sweeter disposition than others, seeing it is commonly observed that there is a great difference in the tempers of people of divers provinces or cities bordering one upon another. But this verse may be otherwise rendered according to the opinion of a late learned writer:

Naphtali is a tree (so the Hebrew word signifies, only jod is inserted here, as it is in the same word, Isaiah 1:29 61:3) shot forth, or spread forth, ( into many branches; for the Hebrew verb shalach is oft used concerning trees, and their shooting forth of branches, as Psalm 80:11 Ezekiel 17:6 31:5) sending forth goodly branches; the word imre, which is by others rendered words, here signifying branches, as either the same word, or one coming from the same root, and consisting of the same radical letters, is taken Isaiah 17:6,9. And it is usual in the Hebrew language for two words coming from the same root to exchange their significations. And this interpretation is favoured by the ancient interpreters, the LXX., and one of the Arabic manuscripts, which make Naphtali here to be compared to a goodly tree bringing forth excellent fruit.

Naphtali is a hind let loose,.... Onkelos applies it to the tribe itself, and to the goodness of its land,"as for Naphtali, his lot fell in a good land, and his inheritance a fruit bearing one,''as it was; for in it was the most fruitful country of Gennesaret, which gave name to a sea or lake by it, and which abounded with gardens, with palm trees, fig trees, and olive trees; and which, Josephus says (n) one might call the ambition of nature; and Strabo (o), an Heathen writer, says of it, that it was an happy blessed country, and bearing all sorts of good things; and Jarchi on the place observes, this is the vale of Gennesaret, which is as quick to bring forth fruit, as a hind is swift to run. Some will have this prophecy to be fulfilled in Barak, as Ben Gersom, Abendana, and others, who was of this tribe, and who at first was fearful like the hind, and backward to go out to war when called, but afterwards readily went out with Deborah, and at last gave goodly words in the song they both sung: but it better describes the genius, disposition, and manners of the tribe, who were kind and loving, swift and expeditious in their affairs; lovers of liberty, well spoken persons, humane, affable, courteous, of a good address and pleasing language, as follows:

he giveth goodly words; to those he converses with; and it may be applied, particularly to Christ and his disciples, and to the inhabitants of this tribe in his time, among whom they much were, see Matthew 4:13 he himself is compared to the hind of the morning, Psalm 22:1 in the title, and to a roe or a young hart, Sol 2:9 Sol 8:14 for his amiableness and loveliness in himself, and for his lovingness to his people, and for his swiftness to do the will and work of his father, being sent out (p), as the word here used signifies, by him into this world, on the business of man's salvation: and so his disciples, who were Galilaeans, were swift to obey his call, and left all and followed him, and were sent out by him to preach his Gospel; and both he and they may be said to "give goodly words", as the doctrines of the Gospel are, words of grace, truth, and life; wholesome, comfortable, pleasant and delightful; good tidings of good things, of peace, pardon, righteousness, salvation and eternal life by Christ: and the inhabitants of this country in Christ's time were swift to run after him, and hear him; panted after him as the hart after the water brooks, and both received and gave out the goodly words of the Gospel, and were made free thereby, and so like an hind let loose. Bochart gives a different version of these words, which is countenanced by the Septuagint version, Naphtali is a tree full of shoots, or "a tree shot out, sprouting out beautiful branches"; but as this is contrary to the points, and coincides with the next verse, it is rejected by many learned men.

(n) De Bello Jud. l. 3. c. 9. sect. 3.((o) Geograph. l. 16. p. 519. (p) Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 3. c. 18. col. 896.

Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth {q} goodly words.

(q) Overcoming more by fair words than by force.

21. Naphtali] It is doubtful whether the simile applied to this tribe is that of “a hind” or “a terebinth tree.” The comparisons in the song are for the most part taken from animals, e.g. the lion of Judah, the ass of Issachar, the serpent of Dan, the wolf of Benjamin. On the other hand, Joseph is compared to a vine.

a hind let loose] Lat. cervus emissus, an image of swiftness and grace in movement, associated with the thought of open and extensive country. For the idea of freedom expressed in “let loose,” cf. Job 39:5, “who hath sent out the wild ass free, or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?”

He giveth goodly words] A sudden change in the description, referring apparently to the tribe’s reputation for eloquence; but the transition to such a subject seems scarcely probable. The rendering “goodly lambs” is suggested, but the translation “lambs” cannot be supported from the O.T., and gives, at the best, a very prosaic sense.

By a different vocalization an entirely different turn is given to the verse. “Naphtali is a tall shoot of terebinth, one that putteth forth goodly topmost branches.” “Topmost branches” would then be metaphorical for “leaders” like Barak (Jdg 4:5), but this rendering is very questionable; though it may explain LXX Νεφθαλεὶ στέλεχος ἀνειμένον ἐπιδιδοὺς ἐν τῷ γεννήματι κάλλος.

Verse 21. - Naphtaii is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words. The LXX., followed by Dathe, Michaelis, Ewald, Bohlen, and others, read, Naphtali is a tall terebinth, that putteth forth beautiful boughs; but the word אַיָלָה signifies a hind or gazelle, and is here employed, along with the qualifying epithet שְּׁלֻחָה, let loose, running freely (Keil), or graceful (Kalisch), to depict Naphtali as a beautiful and agile warrior. In the appended clause he is represented as possessing in addition the capacity of "giving words of beauty," in which may be detected an allusion to the development in eloquence and song which afterwards took place in that northern tribe (Judges 4:6-9; Judges 5:1-31). Genesis 49:21"Naphtali is a hind let loose, who giveth goodly words." The hind or gazelle is a simile of a warrior who is skilful and swift in his movements (2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 12:8, cf. Psalm 18:33; Habakkuk 3:19). שׁלהה here is neither hunted, nor stretched out or grown slim; but let loose, running freely about (Job 39:5). The meaning and allusion are obscure, since nothing further is known of the history of the tribe of Naphtali, than that Naphtali obtained a great victory under Barak in association with Zebulun over the Canaanitish king Jabin, which the prophetess Deborah commemorated in her celebrated song (Judges 4 and 5). If the first half of the verse be understood as referring to the independent possession of a tract of land, upon which Naphtali moved like a hind in perfect freedom, the interpretation of Masius (on Joshua 19) is certainly the correct one: "Sicut cervus emissus et liber in herbosa et fertili terra exultim ludit, ita et in sua fertili sorte ludet et excultabit Nephtali." But the second half of the verse can hardly refer to "beautiful sayings and songs, in which the beauty and fertility of their home were displayed." It is far better to keep, as Vatablius does, to the general thought: tribus Naphtali erit fortissima, elegantissima et agillima et erit facundissima.
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