🔼The name Naphtali: Summary
- My Wrestlings, Crafty
- From the verb פתל (patal), to twist or be cunning.
🔼The name Naphtali in the Bible
Naphtali was the sixth son of Jacob and the second son of Bilhah (Genesis 30:8). His descendants formed one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and their land was situated in the northern half of Israel, from the river Jordan on their eastern border and only the tribe of Asher between them and the Mediterranean Sea (Joshua 19:33-34). A famous man from Naphtali was Barak, who became a general under Deborah the judge, and defeated the army of Sisera (Judges 4:6).
In the Greek New Testament the name Naphtali is mentioned in conjunction with the land of Zebulun and in reference to the location of Capernaum, where Jesus lived (Matthew 4:13 and 4:15, spelled Νεφθαλειμ, Nephthaleim), and in the section of Revelation that deals with the promise of 144,000 thousand secured Israelites (Revelation 7:6).
🔼Etymology of the name Naphtali
The name Naphtali is commonly understood to come from the verb פתל (patal) meaning to twist:
The verb פתל (patal) means to twist or contort, or even to be cunning or crafty. Noun פתיל (patil) describes (a twisted) cord or thread. Adjective פתלתל (petaltol) means tortuous. Plural noun נפתולים (naptulim) means wrestlings or contortions, obviously with a cognitive connotation.
The name Naphtali is formed through a grammatical construction that makes a noun from a verb, and places the letter נ (nun) in front of the root. The letter י (yod) upon which the name Naphtali ends probably indicates possession: my or mine.
For a meaning of the name Naphtali, NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names agree: the name Naphtali means My Wrestling. BDB Theological Dictionary observes that although our name is traditionally interpreted as My Wrestlings, it may originally have meant Crafty, Cunning One.