Genesis 49:21

ESV “Naphtali is a doe let loose that bears beautiful fawns.
NIV Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.
NASB 'Naphtali is a doe let loose; He utters beautiful words.
CSB Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.
NLT 'Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns.
KJV Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.

What does Genesis 49:21 mean?

This is another verse which scholars struggle to accurately translate. Jacob is poetically describing the future tribes descending from his twelve sons (Genesis 49:1–2). The first part of the sentence seems straightforward: Naphtali (Genesis 30:7–8) is compared to a female deer which has been set free.

The second part of the verse is a bit less clear. The words ha nōtēn' 'imre sāper seem most literally to mean "gives beautiful fawns." However, similar Hebrew words mean things like "he said," or refer to speech. This is why some translations render this to mean Naphtali's tribe will produce beautiful "words."

There is no question that Naphtali's descendants would settle in mountainous terrain, which in that region was associated with "deer" and similar animals. Deborah, a judge over Israel, described Naphtali "on the heights of the field" (Judges 5:18). Naphtali settled northwest of the Sea of Galilee (Joshua 19:32–39). A reputation for being free-spirited and mountain-dwelling would fit this prophecy well.
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