In describing the borders of every inherited piece of land in the book of Joshua it is said that the border of Naphtali touches Judah at the Jordan on the east.

Then the border turned westward to Aznoth-tabor and ran from there to Hukkok, touching Zebulun on the south side, Asher on the west, and Judah at the Jordan on the east. (Joshua 19:34)

But when I look at a map I see the land of Naphtali to be way up north in Israel and Juda in the deep south. How should I read the phrase 'touching borders', since the only thing these two tribes had in common is the river Jordan?

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  • Deuteronomy 33:23 also speaks of Naphtali's portion being in the south – b a Jun 13 '19 at 17:09

An excellent question that has been discussed at length and caused untold consternation for thousands of years. Here is my suggestion as to its resolution.

The text MIGHT be read that the eastern border of Naphtali was the same as that of Judah, namely, the Jordan River. This does not violate the text but allows the two territories to be separated as the map correctly suggests. That is, both had the same border (Jordan River) but did not touch.

The Pulpit commentary has another suggestion which is equally plausible:

We have it here clearly stated that Naphtali was bordered on the south by Zebulun, on the west by Asher, and on the east by "Judah upon Jordan." To Judah. These words have caused great trouble to translators and expositors for 2,000 years. The LXX. omits them altogether, rendering, "and the Jordan to the eastward." The Masorites, by inserting a disjunctive accent between them and the words that follow, would have us render, "and to Judah: Jordan towards the sun rising," or, "is towards the sunrising," a rendering which gives no reasonable sense. They unquestionably form part of the text, since no version but the LXX. omits them. A suggestion of Von Raumer's has found favour that the cities called Havoth Jair, which were on the eastern side of Jordan, opposite the inheritance of Naphtali, are meant. Jair was a descendant of Judah by the father's side, through Hezron. So Ritter, 4:338 (see 1 Chronicles 2:21-23). It would seem that the principle of female inheritance, having once been admitted in the tribe of Manasseh, was found capable of further extension. But to the majority of the Israelites this settlement would no doubt be regarded as an offshoot of the tribe of Judah.

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