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One of the twelve sons of Jacob and ancestor of the tribe of the same name (Gen., xlvi, 14; Num., xxvi. 26). Nothing is known of Zabulon except that Sacred, Elon, and Jahelel were his sons and the heads of three tribal families. The tribe of Zabulon plays an important part in the early history of Israel. The name is Hebrew; it occurs in the form zebúlûn, eighteen times; zebûlún, twenty-six times; zebûlûn, once; Sept., Zaboulon; Josephus (Ant., V, vii, 14), Zaboules; Vulg., Zabulon, the New Testament reading is that of the Septuagint. The meaning of the name is doubtful. There seems to be a play upon Zebed; cf. Lia's words in Genesis 30:20: "God hath gifted me (zebadani) with a good gift (zebed); this time my husband shall honour me (yizbeleni), because I have borne him six sons; and therefore she called his name Zabulon".
At the census of the tribes, in the Desert of Sinai, during the second year of the Exodus, the tribe of Zabulon numbered 57,400 men fit for war (Num., i, 31). This army, under the command of Eliab, encamped with Juda and Issachar east of the tabernacle and with them made up the vanguard of the line of march (Num., ii, 3-9). Among the spies sent by Moses to view the land of Chanaan, Geddiel the son of Sodi represented Zabulon (Num., xiii, 11). At Settim, in the land of Moab, after 24,000 men were slain for their crime, a second census was taken; Zabulon numbered 60,500 fighting men (Num., xxvi, 27). Elisaphan, son of Pharnach, was chosen to represent Zabulon at the division of the Land of Promise (Num., xxxiv, 25). The tribe seems to have easily conquered its portion. During the rule of Josue it received no special mention. While the judges ruled, its prowess was worthy of note. In the Canticle of Debbora the tribe is specially singled out as having "offered their lives to death in the region of Merome" (Judges, v, 18); and praised for that there came "out of Zabulon they that led the army to fight", as in Heb., "they that carry the pen of the writer", i.e. such as recruiting and inspecting officers (Jg., v, 14). The reference is to Barac's campaign against Sisara, the commander of the forces of Jabin, King of Channaan (Judges, iv, 10). They answered the call of Gedeon and joined in battle against Madian (Judges, vi, 35); and gave to Israel Ahialon, who judged her ten years (Judges, xii, 11). Among those that followed David to Hebron to make him king were 50,000 fully armed men of Zabulon with no double heart (I Par., xii, 33), who brought with them, as sign of their hearty allegiance, bounteous supplies of meat and drink to celebrate the accession of their new ruler (I Par., xii, 40). When Ezechias made reparation for the abominations of his father Achaz, he invited all Israel to keep the pasch in the house of the Lord. Mockery and ridicule met the emissaries of the reformer; yet some were true to the religion of their fathers, and, even from far away Zabulon, went up to Jerusalem, destroyed the idols, and kept the feast of the unleavened bread (II Par., xxx, 10-23).
At the division of the land between the seven tribes not yet provided for, the lot of Zabulon was third. The tribe's territory started with Sarid (Jos., xix, 10), which is supposed to have been Tell Shadud, some five miles southwest of Nazareth. Zabulon's boundaries have not been made out. Of the nineteen proper names that the book of Josue gives to guide us, only Bethleham (Beit lahm, seven miles northwest of Nazareth) can be identified with certainty. Josephus (Antiq. Jud., V, i, 22) assigns to Zabulon the land near to Carmel and the sea, as far as the Lake of Genesareth. To its northwest lay Aser, to the southeast Issachar. It included a part of the Plain of Esdraelon, and the great highway from the sea to the lake. Within the territory of Zabulon Christ was brought up, and did and said much that is narrated in the Gospels, especially in the Synoptics, about His Galilean ministry.