Journey Through The Scriptures

The Twelve Tribes of Israel, Part I

Lesson 5: 'Fortune' and 'Happy'

(Scripture to Read: Genesis 30:9–12; 49:19–20)

Gad and Asher were the seventh and eighth sons of Jacob. Their names mean “fortune” and “happy,” respectively, which spoke to the situation into which they were born. The sons’ names were given to them by Leah to express her joy at the fruitfulness of Zilpah, her maidservant, in opposition to Leah’s own sudden barrenness after having four sons.

Following Rachel’s example with Bilhah, Leah gave Zilpah in marriage to Jacob specifically for the purpose of bearing more sons.

Gad and Asher were thus full brothers, of which there were four sets among Jacob’s twelve sons – with six from Leah and two each from Bilhah, Zilpah, and Rachel as their mothers.

Gad and Asher had more in common than the same mother. Neither son appeared to be prominent. In fact, the only thing we know about either of them is that when Jacob and his family went into Egypt years later to escape a famine, Gad had seven sons and Asher had four (Genesis 46:16–17). Their descendants were probably absorbed into other peoples.

Study Questions

  1. Do you think Leah was acting out of jealousy toward Rachel when she gave Zilpah in marriage to Jacob?
  2. Why do you suppose Leah suddenly "stopped having children"?
  3. How does Jacob's family illustrate the problems resulting from the ancient practice of polygamy (multiple wives)?

Something to Think About

The fact that the tribes of Gad and Asher seemingly disappeared into history over the years reminds us that decisions made in the present have great consequences in the future. If we are faithful today we can literally store up blessing for future generations of our family!