(Zebʹu·lun) [Toleration; or, possibly, Lofty Abode (Habitation)].
1. The sixth son of Jacob’s wife Leah. Being the less-loved wife, Leah was especially pleased about the birth of the boy. The name she gave him reflected the hope that her standing with Jacob would be enhanced. Leah exclaimed: “At last my husband will tolerate me, because I have borne him six sons.” (Ge 30:20; 35:23; Ex 1:1-3; 1Ch 2:1) Zebulun eventually became the father of three sons—Sered, Elon, and Jahleel. (Ge 46:14) A distant descendant of Zebulun bearing the same name as one of these three sons, Elon, served as a judge in Israel.—Jg 12:11, 12.
2. The name Zebulun also designates the tribe descended from him through his three sons. About a year after the Israelites were liberated from enslavement in Egypt, this tribe’s able-bodied men from 20 years old upward numbered 57,400. (Nu 1:1-3, 30, 31) A second census taken at the close of Israel’s 40 years’ wandering in the wilderness revealed an increase of 3,100 registered males.—Nu 26:26, 27.
In the wilderness, the tribe of Zebulun, alongside the tribes of Judah and Issachar, camped on the E side of the tabernacle. This three-tribe division was first in the order of march. Eliab the son of Helon served as the chieftain of the Zebulunite army.—Nu 1:9; 2:3-7; 7:24; 10:14-16.
Tribal Inheritance. Regarding the inheritance of the tribe of Zebulun, the dying patriarch Jacob stated: “Zebulun will reside by the seashore, and he will be by the shore where the ships lie anchored; and his remote side will be toward Sidon.” (Ge 49:13) Since Sidon was to the N of Israel and since Zebulun’s territory was to be toward Sidon, the location of Zebulun’s territory was to be a northern one. While not bordering directly on the sea, the area assigned to Zebulun was situated between the Sea of Galilee on the E and the Mediterranean on the W and thus gave the Zebulunites easy access to both bodies of water. Hence, they could easily engage in commercial trade, which may be alluded to by Moses’ words of blessing: “Rejoice, O Zebulun, in your going out.”—De 33:18.
At the time the distribution of the Promised Land continued from Shiloh, the third lot was drawn for Zebulun. (Jos 18:8; 19:10-16) To assist in the division of the land, Elizaphan the son of Parnach was the divinely appointed representative of the tribe of Zebulun. (Nu 34:17, 25) When the territorial boundaries were established, Zebulun was surrounded by Asher (Jos 19:24, 27), Naphtali (Jos 19:32-34), and Issachar.
Several Levite cities were situated in the territory of Zebulun. (Jos 21:7, 34, 35; 1Ch 6:63, 77) From one of these, Nahalol (Nahalal), the Zebulunites failed to drive out the Canaanites, as was also true of the city of Kitron.—Jg 1:30.
Outstanding Warriors. The tribe of Zebulun produced courageous warriors. Ten thousand men from Naphtali and Zebulun responded to Barak’s call to fight against the forces under the command of Sisera. (Jg 4:6, 10) Following the victory, Barak and Deborah sang: “Zebulun was a people that scorned their souls to the point of death.” (Jg 5:18) Among those supporting Barak were Zebulunites “handling the equipment of a scribe,” evidently men in charge of numbering and enrolling the warriors. (Jg 5:14; compare 2Ki 25:19; 2Ch 26:11.) Zebulunites also came to Judge Gideon in response to his call for warriors. (Jg 6:34, 35) Among David’s supporters were 50,000 Zebulunites, loyal men not having “a double heart.” (1Ch 12:33, 38-40) During David’s reign Zebulunites evidently had a notable share in subduing the enemies of Israel.—Ps 68:27.
Attitude Toward True Worship. In the latter half of the eighth century B.C.E., individuals from the tribe of Zebulun humbled themselves and responded to Judean King Hezekiah’s invitation to attend the Passover celebration at Jerusalem. (2Ch 30:1, 10, 11, 18, 19) Centuries later, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa 9:1, 2), Christ Jesus preached in the territory of ancient Zebulun and apparently found hearing ears there.—Mt 4:13-16.
Referred to in Visions. In Ezekiel’s vision, Zebulun’s land assignment was situated between Issachar and Gad (Eze 48:26, 27), and one of the gates of the city “Jehovah Himself Is There” bears the name Zebulun. (Eze 48:33, 35) The apostle John, in vision, heard that 12,000 had been sealed out of the (spiritual) tribe of Zebulun.—Re 7:4, 8.