In the book of Numbers as the Israelites were beginning get ready to leave Mount Horeb the Lord told Moses to arrange the Israelite tribes into separate parts of the camp. The Levites camped around the Tabernacle, then there were to be three tribes to the east of the Tabernacle and other divisions of three tribes each to the north, west and south respectively. The first listed was the Tribe of Judah, whose numbers were the greatest, and they were to lead the Israelites when the camp broke up and we can easily see the symbolism in that because Jesus was born into the line of King David who was of the tribe of Judah. But when it comes to the tribe that was listed last, Naphtali, there does not appear to be an obvious connection. Can you name any of the heroes of the Bible who came from that tribe? No, neither can I. They seem to be just making up the numbers. They were among the last of the tribes to be allocated land. Three times in Numbers the tribes are listed in this order with Judah first and Naphtali last. Bible scholars regard the number three as being significant. The clue to its meaning appears to lie in the location of the location of the land allocated to Naphtali. It was beside the Sea of Galilee including the area around Capernaum where Jesus’ ministry was centred. As Jesus stated in the Book of Revelation that He was the “First and Last,” is this an indication that if the Messiah is associated with the first (Judah) then he must also be associated with the last (Naphtali)? I suspect it to be the case.
David Rose, 2016.