Bilhah and Her Boys
Bilhah is Rachel’s servant; her other claim to fame is that she was unfaithful with Rueben. The other time she is mentioned is in 1 Chronicles 7:13 where the children of Naphtali are identified as her descendents; Dan is mentioned but his descendents are listed. (see List)
I have to think about this a little more but Dan is the first of four “slave children.” Even though the customs mentioned here in Paddan Aram are not stated again in the Bible (first-born daughter marrying first and raising a family by a slave), “slave” children are not treated as equals at other times in Scripture (ex. Jephthah, in Judges). I don’t see these four boys being treated differently by the other brothers but it should be noted that they are on the “Mount of Curses” after they enter the Promise Land and Jacob put her and Zilpah with their children at the head of the column when he was about to meet Esau (first killed/captured).
Dan is Jacob’s fifth child and Bilhah’s first. The name Dan sounds like “vindicated or judged” and was given by Rachel (she also named Naphtali).
Deuteronomy 33: 22 About Dan he said: “Dan is a lion’s cub, springing out of Bashan.”
Genesis 49: 16 “Dan will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward. 18 “I look for your deliverance, O Lord. (NIV) Several sources consider this a play on words with the meaning of his name.
Dan’s big story is in Judges 17 &18, unfortunately it is not a good one. Even though they were a large tribe they could not take their inheritance and move their allotment to the north. As a tribe they “steal” a priest and idols, kill a peaceful village and take their land. They make most of other highlights of tribal list including an allotment in Ezekiel but they are not listed in 1 Chronicles or Revelations. I have often thought that had to do with the idol worship that continued to the Exile of the Northern Kingdom but other “brothers” messed up just as bad and still made the list. Dan shown here is where he was suppose to be according to Joshua.
Naphtali is Jacob’s sixth child and Bilhah’s second; his name means “wrestling.”
Deuteronomy 33: 23 About Naphtali he said: “Naphtali is abounding with the favor of the Lord and is full of his blessing; he will inherit southward to the lake.”
Genesis 49:21 “Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns. (NIV)
Not much is known of Naphtali as a person and the tribe does show-up at important times but was not a major player. The tribe can be noted for supplying warriors for both Deborah and Gideon. With Zebulun their territory included Nazareth where Jesus grew up.
Map from http://www.biblestudytools.com/resources/maps/twelve-tribes-of-israel-map.html and eBibleTeacher.com.