zeb'-u-lun (zebhulun, also written zebuwlun and zebuluwn; the first form occurs only in Jg 1:30; the other two are frequent, and are used interchangeably; Zaboulon): In Ge 30:20 Leah exclaims, "God hath endowed me with a good dowry," which suggests a derivation of Zebulun from zabhadh, "to bestow," the (d) being replaced by (l). Again she says, "Now will my husband dwell with me (or "honor me"): and she called his name Zebulun"; the derivation being from zabhal, "to exalt" or "honor" (OHL, under the word).
Zebulun was the 10th son of Jacob, the 6th borne to him by Leah in Paddan-aram. Nothing is known of this patriarch's life, save in so far as it coincides with that of his brethren. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan says that he first of the five brethren was presented to Pharaoh by Joseph, when Israel and his house arrived in Egypt (Ge 47:2). Three sons, Sered, Elon and Jahleel, were born to him in Canaan, and these became the ancestors of the three main divisions of the tribe (Ge 46:14).
The position of the tribe of Zebulun in the wilderness was with the standard of the camp of Judah on the east side of the tabernacle (Nu 2:7). This camp moved foremost on the march (Nu 2:9). At the first census Zebulun numbered 57,400 men of war (Nu 1:30), the prince of the tribe being Eliab, son of Helon (Nu 1:9). At the second census the men of war numbered 60,500 (Nu 26:27); see, however, NUMBERS. Among the spies Zebulun was represented by Gaddiel son of Sodi (Nu 13:10). To assist in the division of the land Elizaphan son of Parnach was chosen (Nu 34:25). At Shechem Zebulun, the descendants of Leah's youngest son, stood along with Reuben, whose disgrace carried with it that of his tribe, and the descendants of the sons of the handmaids, over against the other six, who traced their descent to Rachel and Leah (De 27:13). At the second division of territory the lot of Zebulun came up third, and assigned to him a beautifully diversified stretch of country in the North. The area of his possession is in general clear enough, but it is impossible to define the boundaries exactly (Jos 19:10-16). It "marched" with Naphtali on the East and Southeast, and with Asher on the West and Northwest. The line ran northward from Mt. Tabor, keeping on the heights West of the Sea of Galilee, on to Kerr `Anan (Hannathon). It turned westward along the base of the mountain, and reached the border of Asher, probably by the vale of `Abilin. It then proceeded southward to the Kishon opposite Tell Kaimun (Jokneam). As the plain belonged to Issachar, the south border would skirt its northern edge, terminating again at Tabor, probably near Deburiyeh (Daberath), which belonged to Issachar (Jos 21:28).
The details given are confusing. It is to be observed that this does not bring Zebulun into touch with the sea, and so is in apparent contradiction with Ge 49:13, and also with Josephus (Ant., V, i, 22; BJ, III, iii, 1), who says the lot of Zebulun included the land which "lay as far as the Lake of Gennesareth, and that which belonged to Carmel and the sea." Perhaps, however, the limits changed from time to time. So far as the words in Ge 49:13 are concerned, Delitzsch thinks they do not necessarily imply actual contact with the sea; but only that his position should enable him to profit by maritime trade. This it certainly did; the great caravan route, via maris, passing through his territory. Thus he could "suck the treasures of the sea." See also TABOR, MOUNT. Within the boundaries thus roughly indicated were all varieties of mountain and plain, rough upland country. shady wood and fruitful valley. What is said of the territory of Naphtali applies generally to this. Olive groves and vineyards are plentiful. Good harvests are gathered on the sunny slopes, and on the rich levels of the Plain of Asochis (el-BaTTauf).
Elon the Zebulunite was the only leader given by the tribe to Israel of whom we have any record (Jg 12:11 f); but the people were brave and skillful in war, furnishing, according to the Song of Deborah, "(them) that handle the marshal's staff" (Jg 5:14). The tribe sent 50,000 single-hearted warriors, capable and well equipped, to David at Hebron (1Ch 12:33). From their rich land they brought stores of provisions (1Ch 12:40). Over Zebulun in David's time was Ishmaiah, son of Obadiah (1Ch 27:19). Although they had fallen away, Hezekiah proved that many of them were capable of warm response to the appeal of religious duty and privilege (2Ch 30:10 f,2Ch 18:1-34 ff). They are not named, but it is probable that Zebulun suffered along with Naphtali in the invasion of Tiglath-pileser (2Ki 15:29). In later days the men from these breezy uplands lent strength and enterprise to the Jewish armies. Jotapata (Tell Jifat), the scene of Josephus' heroic defense, was in Zebulun. So was Sepphoris (Seffuriyeh), which was for a time the capital of Galilee (Ant., XVIII, ii, 1; BJ, VII; III, ii, 4). Nazareth, the home of our Saviour's boyhood, is sheltered among its lower hills.