The Tribe Of Asher
“Asher will dine on rich foods
and produce food fit for kings.
Genesis 49:20 (NLT)
Asher is the 3rd of Jacob’s concubines’ 4 sons, and once again we can’t help but notice the very short and succinct nature of the blessing given to him. Ashur means “happy”, and certainly the blessing Jacob gave to Ashur and his descendants was one of wellbeing, if not downright good fortune.
Ashur’s portion of land was some of the most fertile in the Holy Lands. Stretching between the land of Tyre on to Mount Carmel, their corn and olive oil was famous for its quality and quantity.
Apparently Ashur shunned military conflicts, and chose a very peaceful life of agriculture. Consequently, we read of no great military commander, leader, or even judge coming from Ashur.
What Should We Learn From The Tribe Of Asher?
In the time of Moses, Asher was divided into five clans:
- The Imnites;
- The Ishvites; and
- The Berites; and, through Beriah, the Berite patriarch, two more clans:
- The Heberites and
- The Malkielites.
The first three clans were named after Asher’s sons: the fourth and fifth after Beriah’s sons (Numbers 26:44-45).
Asher was one of six tribes chosen to stand on Mount Ebal and pronounce curses (Deuteronomy 27:13). Through these curses, the people promised God they would refrain from bad behavior.
‘Cursed is anyone who carves or casts an idol and secretly sets it up. These idols, the work of craftsmen, are detestable to the Lord.’
‘Cursed is anyone who dishonors father or mother.’
‘Cursed is anyone who steals property from a neighbor by moving a boundary marker.’
‘Cursed is anyone who leads a blind person astray on the road.’
‘Cursed is anyone who denies justice to foreigners, orphans, or widows.’
‘Cursed is anyone who has sexual intercourse with one of his father’s wives, for he has violated his father.’
‘Cursed is anyone who has sexual intercourse with an animal.’
‘Cursed is anyone who has sexual intercourse with his sister, whether she is the daughter of his father or his mother.’
‘Cursed is anyone who has sexual intercourse with his mother-in-law.’
‘Cursed is anyone who attacks a neighbor in secret.’
‘Cursed is anyone who accepts payment to kill an innocent person.’
‘Cursed is anyone who does not affirm and obey the terms of these instructions.’
In all, Asher delivered twelve admonishments (Deuteronomy 27:15-26).
When Jacob blessed his sons, he said, “Asher will dine on rich foods and produce food fit for kings” (Genesis 49:20).
Later, Moses blessed the tribe, saying, Moses said this about the tribe of Asher: “May Asher be blessed above other sons; may he be esteemed by his brothers; may he bathe his feet in olive oil.” (Deuteronomy 33:24). Washing one’s feet in oil was a sign of prosperity, and Jacob’s reference to Asher’s food being “rich” indicated that Asher would possess fertile lands.
In Joshua 19:24-31, we learn that Asher received land along the Mediterranean coast.
Despite all its blessings, the tribe of Asher failed to drive out the Canaanites, and “because of this the people of Asher lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land” (Judges 1:31-32).
In the time of Deborah and Barak, “Asher remained on the coast and stayed in its coves” rather than join the fight against Jabin, a Canaanite king (Judges 5:17). This failure to aid their fellow tribes could indicate a lack of reliance on God, a lack of effort, a fear of the enemy, or reluctance to upset those with whom they did business. Thus, the example set here is a negative one: although Asher was richly blessed, they did not behave admirably; when the time for action came, they failed to trust in God and honor His plan.
Later in Judges, Asher does respond to Gideon’s call to repel the Midianites, Amalekites, and others from the East (Judges 6:35). In another important gesture, Asher accepts Hezekiah’s invitation to the tribes from the Northern Kingdom to join the Passover celebration in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 30:11). This was considered an act of humility, proof of a contrite heart before God.
In the end, we find that Asher received many great blessings from God. Having received a blessing, they were expected to obey the Lord’s commands. In this they sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed. We too, have been blessed by God (Ephesians 1:3), and the Lord expects us to obey His commands (John 14:15).
Just as Asher received a prophetic blessing from Jacob, God’s children have received this promise: “For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Praise the Lord for His wonderful plans for us. What a comfort!
To Be Continued…