Zebulun, Zebulunites

ZEBULUN, ZEBULUNITES zĕb’ yə lən, īts זְבֻלֽוּן, זְבוּלֻ֗ן. The first form of the Heb. word is found only in Judg 1:30, the latter form is frequent and interchangeable.

1. Zebulun,tenth son of Jacob and sixth of Leah, was conceived in the rivalry of Leah and Rachel and so named because Leah felt reassured that God had bestowed a good dowry and her husband would henceforth dwell with or honor her (Gen 30:19, 20): since zābhadh meant “bestow” and zabalu (apparently Akkad.) meant either “dwell with” or more likely “honor,” a dual significance seems implied. Little else is recorded of Zebulun, though his three sons were born before he left Canaan for Egypt (Gen 46:14) where Joseph presented him to Pharaoh (47:2).

2. The tribe of Zebulun,subdivided into clans named after his sons Sered, Elon and Jahleel, encamped with Judah’s standard to the E of the Tabernacle (Num 2:7). Gaddiel the son of Sodi was named to help spy out Canaan (Num 13:10) and Eliab the son of Helon selected to assist Moses in census-taking (Num 1:9). The two counts, showing that there were 57,400 and 60,500 warriors at the beginning and end of the Exodus (Num 1:31; 26:27) indicate that Zebulun was numerically fourth among the tribes but a lowlier place is intimated in the selection of Zebulun—descended from Leah’s last son—to share the lot of shamed Reuben and the handmaid’s sons in pronouncing the cursings from Mt. Ebal (Deut 27:13).


Such hypotheses apart, the boundaries of Joshua 19, though undeciphered in detail, are clear in general. Zebulun’s southern limit extended from an undetermined stream E of Jokneam across the northern fringe of Esdraelon and along the limestone scarp of Nazareth to the slopes of Tabor. From there it turned irregularly northward, approximately following the Galilean-Mediterranean watershed before bending westward to the Iphtahel—either the broad Sahl el-Battōf or the narrow zigzag of the Wadi Malik. At least major portions of the basins of Tur’an and Battōf (or Asochis) were encompassed before the boundary headed southward across the natural “marchland” of infertile and forested Cenomanian limestone and the margins of the Acre (or Zebulun) and Esdraelon plains.


Bibliography G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land (1931); J. Garstang, Joshua-Judges (1931); H. H. Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua (1948); D. Baly, Geography of the Bible (1957); D. Baly, Geographical Companion to the Bible (1963).