“Of Zebulun he said, ‘Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going forth and Issachar in your tents. They will call peoples to the mountain. There they will offer righteous sacrifices; for they will draw out the abundance of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand.’” Deuteronomy 33:18-19 [NASB]
In Deuteronomy 33, Moses blessed the twelve tribes of Israel before he died and they crossed the Jordan River to take possession of the Promised Land. Verses eighteen and nineteen are the record of Zebulun’s and Issachar’s blessing. Zebulun was Jacob’s tenth son who was born by Leah, his first wife. Zebulun was her sixth son. She named him Zebulun, which means exalted, hoping Jacob would look upon her with favor and exalt her as his favorite wife since she gave him six sons.
The tribe of Zebulun participated in the life of the nation of Israel in a couple significant ways. First, though, we must understand that tribes’ settlement of their part of the Promised Land. Joshua gave them their part of land in the northern part of Israel in the area that would later be called Galilee. Asher’s territory was between them and the Mediterranean Sea. Naphtali was to their north and Issachar was to their southeast. Josephus, from his studies, concludes the northeastern border of Zebulun’s land touched the Sea of Galilee or Sea of Chinnereth.
Remember the LORD’s command to the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land. He told them to kill and destroy completely the people who lived in Canaan – the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites (Deuteronomy 20:16-17). When Zebulun’s men entered this land, they failed to obey the LORD completely in this. Judges 1:30 recorded, “Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, who remained among them, but they did subject them to forced labor.” They were like the other tribes of Israel who did not drive out completely the inhabitants of Canaan. Like all humankind, his tribe was not one hundred percent faithful to God. We can relate to Zebulun’s tribe.
We must note, though, that Zebulun returned to the LORD. Judges 4:6 and 5:18 show they returned to do the work of the LORD. Deborah, the priestess, told Barak to get the men of Zebulun and Naphtali to make an army to fight Sisera for the Israelites who Jabin, king of Canaan, took as captives. Later in Israel’s history, after King Saul died, David aimed to transfer Saul’s kingdom to himself. He asked the different tribes to send men to battle for him during that transition. Zebulun sent 50,000 men (1 Chronicles 12:33). When King Hezekiah ascended to reign over Israel two hundred ninety four years after David’s reign began, he called the tribes of Israel to join him in keeping the Passover in the LORD’s temple as a way to atone for the sins of his father, Ahaz. Zebulun’s men went to Jerusalem, destroyed the idols, and participated in the Passover (2 Chronicles 30:10-23. These latter two instances can be seen as fulfillments of the blessing Moses gave over that tribe about calling people to the mountain – Mount Moriah, where God’s temple was, and Mount Zion, where David’s palace was. Besides this, the blessing stated, “they will offer righteous sacrifices” (vs. 19). They did this with Hezekiah and probably at other times in their history.
As noted, Zebulun, as a tribe, was not beyond redemption. They were unfaithful to God and His covenant, but later returned to Him and obeyed Him. God told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30 if they repented and returned to Him, He would hear them and return them to their land. The LORD said he would circumcise their hearts and their descendant’s hearts so they would love him with all their heart and soul and live. God said the Israelites would again obey the Him and follow His commands (Deuteronomy 30:1-8).
We are not unlike Zebulun or the other tribes of Israel. God calls to each of us to turn to Him. Whether we have never believed in His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior and so have never turned to God or if we are Christians, but have turned away from God’s ways, God will forgive and accept us if we repent of our sins. He wants to be our God and bless us. We can be like the Zebulunites who call people to the mountain (to God’s house) and offer righteous sacrifices to God (Deut. 33:19). God loves us and calls us to Him. We must decide for ourselves whether we will hear, listen, and heed His call. That is shamar.
What will you decide to do today?