Tribe of Asher: History, Symbol & Descendants

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  • 0:04 Asher, Tribe of Israel
  • 1:10 Who Was Asher?
  • 1:46 The Blessings of Asher
  • 2:23 The Territory of Asher
  • 4:08 The Fate of the Tribe of Asher
  • 5:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

One of the foundational moments in Jewish history was the formation of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. In this lesson, we'll get to know the Tribe of Asher and see what happened to it.

Asher, Tribe of Israel

Who's the ancestor of all the Jews? It's an interesting question to ask, and one that's actually fairly important in Judaism. You see, the Jewish faith is based around a series of covenants (which are sort of like spiritual contracts) between religious leaders and God. Moses' Ten Commandments are an example of this. However, there was another important covenant as well, that of Jacob.

Jacob is a figure in Jewish and Christian history who is also known by the name of Israel. Right away, that should tell you that this guy is important. Jacob had twelve sons, listed in the book of Genesis as Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph, and Benjamin (from oldest to youngest). According to the Jewish faith, these twelve sons spread out and became the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Each son became a progenitor of one tribe, each defined by its own unique traits. One of these tribes was the Tribe of Asher.

Who Was Asher?

The Tribes of Israel were often identified with the personalities and character traits of their founders, so let's start by getting to know Asher himself. Asher was characterized as happy, intelligent, intuitive, open to others, and a little bit impetuous. In fact, his name means ''happy one''.

Thus, the Tribe of Asher was known to be the happiest of the Twelve Tribes. This happiness partly came from the fact that there were also amongst the most prosperous of the tribes. They were described as enjoying all that life has to offer, particularly in terms of fine dining, even if that made them a little more wasteful than the other tribes.

The Blessings of Asher

Part of these characteristics are based in the prophetic blessings of Asher. What are these? Before sending them out to settle different parts of the region, Jacob gave each of his sons a blessing that would define their future. Jacob described Asher as a most blessed son, saying that the land of Asher would have rich food and delicacies fit for kings. As blessings go, that's not bad.

However, it's not the only blessing the Tribe of Asher would receive. Moses also gave a blessing to each of the twelve tribes. Moses' blessing said that Asher would be blessed with sons, pleasing to his brothers, and have his foot immersed in oil.

The Territory of Asher

The first part of Moses' blessing seems pretty clear and consistent with Jacob's blessing of Asher as a tribe of prosperity. To understand the bit about a foot in oil, however, we need to look at the tribe's territory.

Biblical sources are vague on the exact location of Asher's territory, and some Jewish scholars think that the tribe may have been more mobile than the others. In general, however, they're associated with one of the northernmost territories, right along the Mediterranean Sea. It would be roughly where Lebanon is today.

What makes this special is that the climate was a little cooler and wetter, making it one of the most fertile parts of the entire region. This is why the Tribe of Asher ate so well and was renowned for its good food. It's also why the tribe ended up being so prosperous: they were living in the best part of West Asia for growing olives. The Tribe of Asher made its fortunes from olive oil, and in fact, the symbol of the Tribe of Asher was the olive tree.

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