Unfortunately so little is preserved for the northern part of the Holy Land. We miss Mount Carmel, the Plain of Iezrehel, most of Lower and Upper Galilee, Mount Tabor, the Sea of Galilee, the sources of the Jordan River, the Golan Heighs, Mount Hermon... Galilee was home to five of the Israelite Tribes: Manasseh, Issacar, Zabulon, Nephtali and Asher. Some of the Judges - Debora, Gideon - accomplished their mission there. This region was part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The prophets Helijah and Elisha performed great miracles there. But, above all, Galilee was the place of origin of Jesus, the Nazarene, and of most of his Apostles. The mosaicist must have put all of this into his master work of biblical topography.
ZEBULUN, tenth son of Jacob and the
sixth born to him by Leah (Gen. 30:19f.). The tribe of Zebulun
is named after him. It was divided into three clans: Seredites,
Elonites, and Jahleelites (Num. 26:27) after the three sons of
Zebulun (Gen. 46:14). At the census taken in the Plains of Moab
the number of men in the tribe over 20 years of age and fit for
military service was 60,500 (Num. 26:27). Zebulun held a major
position among the tribes of Galilee; it was settled more securely
than the others. Unlike the case of the tribes of Asher and Naphtali
who continued to "dwell among the Canaanites" (Judg.
1:32f.), among Zebulun the Canaanites constituted a minority:
"the Canaanites continued to dwell among them" (Judg.
1:30). The tribe was very active in the campaigns of the period
of the Judges. The victorious army in the battle by the wadi
Kishon was formed of men of Zebulun and Naphtali (Judg. 4:6,
10). Deborah praised them as "a people that put its life
in jeopardy to the point of death..." (Judg. 5:18). The
men of Zebulun also took part in the Midianite war (Judg. 6:35).
The judge Elon was a Zebulunite (Judg. 12:11), as was probably
Ibzan of Beth-Lehem (in Galilee in the territory of Zebulun,
Josh. 19:15), whom the text juxtaposes with Elon (Judg. 12:8-10).
The importance and strength of the tribe of Zebulun in the period of the united kingdom is also indicated by the mention of Zebulun's army as the largest of the western tribal armies that fought under King David (I Chron. 12:34 ). Isaiah mentions the land of Zebulun after the collapse of the kingdom of Israel (8:23 [9:1]). Apparently, it suffered less than other regions during the destruction of the kingdom of Israel. The Zebulunites were not uprooted and were probably the core of the remnant that survived the Assyrian campaigns in Galilee (II Chron. 30:6). Consequently, the last Davidic kings were careful to maintain their ties with the people of Zebulun who were among those who made the pilgrimage to celebrate Hezekiah's Passover in Jerusalem (II Chron. 30:10ñ11). Manasseh, king of Judah, married Meshullemeth of Jotbah (II Kings 21:19), which, according to S. Klein, was Yotbat-Yodpat (referred to by Josephus as Jotapata), in the land of Zebulun, and her son Amon succeeded Manasseh as king in Jerusalem. Amon's son, King Josiah, also married into the tribe of Zebulun; his wife Zebudah, the mother of King Jehoiakim, was a native of Rumah in the Valley of Beth-Netophah (II Kings 23:36). This is the regnant view, though S. Mowinckel, in the Norwegian Bible translation, and H. L. Ginsberg, Marx Jubilee Volume (1950), 350f. n. 12 prefer to restore the Judean town names Juttah (Josh. 15:55; 21:16) and Dumah (Josh. 15:52) respectively.
It has been shown that the populous Jewish community in Galilee in the period of the Second Temple centered around Sepphoris, Jotapata, and the Valley of Beth-Netophah. In all likelihood it was the remnant of Zebulun together with what was left of other tribes, Babylonian returnees, and some Judeans who, together, formed the nucleus of Jewish Galilee which lasted over 1,000 years. The sages were particularly sympathetic toward the tribe of Zebulun, mainly because many of the centers of learning after the destruction of the Temple, such as Bet She'arim and Sepphoris, were in the land of that tribe. The generosity of the wealthy Galileans in supporting the colleges and sages is reflected in rabbinic legends about Issachar and Zebulun.
Yehuda Elitzur, Encyclopaedia Judaica, ad v. "Zebulun"
Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen
This (inscription) is an excerpt from the benediction on Zebulon in Genesis according to the Greek Septuagint version. Historically, the tribal area of Zebulon was in the western part of Lower Galilee. The interpreters, however, took the phrase 'towards Sidon' verbatim and assumed the extension of Zebulon into present Lebanon.
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