Tribe of Asher

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Territory of Asher, 1873 map

According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Asher was one of the Tribes of Israel descended from Asher (Hebrew: אָשֵׁר, Modern: ʼAšer, Tiberian: ʼĀšēr, "happy one"), the eighth son of Jacob. It is one of the ten lost tribes.

Biblical narrative

According to the biblical Book of Joshua, following the completion of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes, Joshua allocated the land among the twelve tribes. According to biblical scholar Kenneth Kitchen, one should date this conquest slightly after 1200 BC.[1] However, the consensus of modern scholars holds that the conquest of Joshua as described in the Book of Joshua never occurred.[2][3][4]

In the biblical account, Joshua assigned to Asher western and coastal Galilee,[5] a region with comparatively low temperature and much rainfall, making it some of the most fertile land in Canaan, with rich pasture, wooded hills, and orchards; as such Asher became particularly prosperous, and known for its olive oil.[6] The Blessing of Moses appears to prophesy this allocation,[7] although textual scholars view this as a postdiction.[8][page needed]

From after the conquest of the land by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel in c. 1050 BC, the Tribe of Asher formed a part of a loose confederation of Israelite tribes. No central government existed, and in times of crisis the people were led by ad hoc figures known as Judges (see the Book of Judges). With the growth of the threat from Philistine incursions, the Israelite tribes decided to form a strong centralized monarchy to meet the challenge, and the Tribe of Asher joined the new kingdom, which had Saul as its first king. After the death of Saul, all the tribes other than Judah remained loyal to the House of Saul, and followed his son Ish-bosheth,[9] but after Ish-bosheth's death, the Tribe of Asher joined the other northern Israelite tribes in making David, who was then the king of Judah, king of a re-united Kingdom of Israel.

On the accession of Rehoboam, David's grandson, in c. 930 BC the northern tribes split from the House of David to re-form a Kingdom of Israel as the Northern Kingdom. Asher remained a member of the new kingdom until Assyria conquered its territory in c. 723 BC and deported the population. From that time, tradition has counted the Tribe of Asher as one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

The New Testament describes Anna the prophetess and her father, Phanuel, as belonging to the Tribe of Asher.[10]

Territory

Map of the twelve tribes of Israel; Asher is shaded green, in the north

Despite the connection to this general geographic region, it is difficult to determine from the Torah the exact boundaries of the tribe, to the extent that it is even uncertain whether Asher even had continuous territory.[11] Sites which according to the Bible were allocated to Asher, and whose locations have since been identified, appear to be a scattered distribution of settlements rather than a compact and well-defined tribal region.[11] Perhaps because of the situation that it's territory was in the area that was controlled by Phoenicia, Asher appears, throughout its history, to have been fairly disconnected from the other tribes of Israel; additionally it seems to have taken little part in the antagonism portrayed in the Torah between the Canaanites and the other tribes, for example in the war involving Barak and Sisera.[11] Critical scholars generally conclude that Asher consisted of certain clans that were affiliated with portions of the Israelite tribal confederation, but were never incorporated into the body politic.[11] Another indication for this is that Asher together with Reuben and Gad (also detached) are the only tribes of which no person has ever been identified by name after the conquest and Asher and Gad are the only tribes not mentioned in the list of heads of tribes in II Chronicles 27.

Origin

According to the Torah, the tribe consisted of descendants of Asher the eighth son of Jacob, from whom it took its name.

Archaeological evidence

A group referred to as Aseru, living in a similar region to Asher, are mentioned in Egyptian documents made by/for Seti I and Ramses II.[12] Identification with the tribe of Asher is plausible according to Jewish scripts that date the Exodus in 1312 BCE. Multiple estimates of non-religious historians have been made ranging from roughly 1200 to 1400 BCE.

References

  1. Kitchen, Kenneth A. (2003), "On the Reliability of the Old Testament" (Grand Rapids, Michigan. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)(ISBN 0-8028-4960-1)
  2. K. Lawson Younger Jr. (1 October 2004). "Early Israel in Recent Biblical Scholarship". In David W. Baker; Bill T. Arnold (eds.). The Face of Old Testament Studies: A Survey of Contemporary Approaches. Baker Academic. p. 200. ISBN 978-0-8010-2871-7. Besides the rejection of the Albrightian 'conquest' model, the general consensus among OT scholars is that the Book of Joshua has no value in the historical reconstruction. They see the book as an ideological retrojection from a later period — either as early as the reign of Josiah or as late as the Hasmonean period.
  3. "It behooves us to ask, in spite of the fact that the overwhelming consensus of modern scholarship is that Joshua is a pious fiction composed by the deuteronomistic school, how does and how has the Jewish community dealt with these foundational narratives, saturated as they are with acts of violence against others?" Carl S. Ehrlich (1999). "Joshua, Judaism and Genocide". Jewish Studies at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Volume 1: Biblical, Rabbinical, and Medieval Studies. BRILL. p. 117. ISBN 90-04-11554-4.
  4. "Recent decades, for example, have seen a remarkable reevaluation of evidence concerning the conquest of the land of Canaan by Joshua. As more sites have been excavated, there has been a growing consensus that the main story of Joshua, that of a speedy and complete conquest (e.g. Josh. 11.23: 'Thus Joshua conquered the whole country, just as the LORD had promised Moses') is contradicted by the archaeological record, though there are indications of some destruction and conquest at the appropriate time.Adele Berlin; Marc Zvi Brettler (17 October 2014). The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition. Oxford University Press. p. 951. ISBN 978-0-19-939387-9.
  5. Joshua 19:24–31
  6.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. Deuteronomy 33:24–25
  8. Peake's Commentary on the Bible
  9. 2 Samuel 2:9–10
  10. Luke 2:36
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Jewish Encyclopedia
  12. A Dictionary of the Bible, Volume IV, Part II - page 810

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEaston, Matthew George (1897). Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons. Missing or empty |title= (help)