Ash'er (Heb. Asher', אָשֵׁר, happiness; Sept. and New Test. Α᾿σήρ), the name of a man (and the tribe descended from him), and of one or two places.
1. The eleventh of the sons of Jacob, and his third by Zilpah, the handmaid of Leah (Ge 35:26), and founder of one of the twelve tribes (Nu 26:657). Born B.C. 1914. The name is interpreted in a passage full of the paronomastic turns which distinguish these very ancient records: "And Leah said, 'In my happiness am I (בּאָשׁרִי), for the daughters have called me happy' (אִשּׁרוּנִי), and she called his name Asher" (אָשֵׁר), i.e. "happy" (Ge 30:13). A similar play occurs in the blessing of Moses (De 33:24). Gad was Zilpah's other and elder son, but the fortunes of the brothers were not at all connected. Asher had four sons and one daughter (Ge 49:20; De 33:24).
TRIBE OF ASHER. — Of the tribe descended from Asher no action is recorded during the whole course of the sacred history. Its name is found in the various lists of the tribes which occur throughout the earlier books, as Ge 35; Ge 46; Ex 1; Nu 1; Nu 2; Nu 13, etc., and like the rest, Asher sent his chief as one of the spies from Kadesh-barnea (Numbers 13). During the march through the desert his place was between Dan and Naphtali, on the north side of the tabernacle (Nu 2:27); and after the conquest he took up his allotted position without any special mention. On quitting Egypt the number of adult males in the tribe of Asher was 41,500, which made it the ninth of the tribes (excluding Levi) in numbers- Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin only being below it. But before entering Canaan an increase of 11,900-an addition exceeded only by Manasseh — raised the number to 53,400, and made it the fifth of the tribes in population (comp. Nu 1:40-41; Nu 26:47). The genealogy of the tribe appears in some instances to have been preserved till the time of Christ (Lu 2:36, "Aser").
The limits of the territory assigned to Asher are, like those of all the tribes, and especially of the northern tribes, extremely difficult to trace. This is partly owing to our ignorance of the principle on which these ancient boundaries were drawn and recorded, and partly from the absence of identification of the majority of the places named. The general position of the tribe was on the sea-shore from Carmel northward, with Manasseh on the south, Zebulun and Issachar on the south-east, and Naphtali on the north-east (Josephus, Ant. v, 1, 22). The boundaries and towns are given in Jos 19:24-31; Jos 17:10-11; and Judges i, 31, 32. From a comparison of these passages it seems plain that Dor (Tantura) must have been just without the limits of the tribe, in which case the southern boundary was probably one of the streams which enter the Mediterranean north of that place, apparently the embouchure of Wady Milheh. Crossing the promontory of Carmel, the tribe then possessed the maritime continuation of the rich plain of Esdraelon, probably for a distance of five or six miles from the shore. The boundary then ran northward from the valley of Jiphthah-el (Jefat) to that of the Leontes, and reaching Zidon, it turned and came down by Tyre to Achzib (Ecdippa, now es-Zib). SEE TRIBE. It is usually stated that the whole of the Phoenician territories, including Sidon, were assigned to this tribe (comp. Josephus, Ant. v, 1, 22; see Reland, Palcest. p. 575 sq.). But there are various considerations which militate against this conclusion (see the Pictorial Bible, Nu 26:24; Jos 19:24; Judges i, 31), and tend to show that the assigned frontier-line was drawn out to the sea south of Sidon. The strongest text for the inclusion of Sidon (Tyre was not then founded) is that in which it is mentioned to the reproach of the Asherites, that they did not drive out the Sidonians (Judges i, 31). This Michaelis is disposed to reject as an interpolation; but Kitto (Pict. Bib. in loc.) conceives it to denote that the Asherites were unable to expel the Sidonians, who by that time had encroached southward into parts of the coast actually assigned to the Asherites; and he strengthens this by referring to the subsequent foundation of Tyre, as evincing the disposition of the Sidonians to colonize the coast south of their own proper territories. The Asherites were for a long time unable to gain possession of the territories actually assigned them, and "dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land" (Jg 1:32); and, "as it is not usual to say of a larger number that it dwells among the smaller, the inference is that they expelled but comparatively few of the Canaanites, leaving them, in fact, a majority of the population" (Bush, note on Jg 1:2). SEE SIDON.
The following is a list of the places within this tribe that are mentioned in the Bible, with the modern localities to which they appear to correspond.
Such of the latter as have not been identified by any traveller are enclosed in brackets:
Abdon. Town. Abdah. Accho. do. Akka Achshaph. do. Kesaf. Achzib. do. Es-Zib. Ahlab. do. [Athlil]? Alammelech. do. [El-Habafie]? Aloth. District. SEE BEALOTH. Amad. Town. [Ama,] ? Aphek or Aphik. do. [Tell Kisol,] ? Bealoth. District. [Pl. of Akka] ? Beten. Town. El-Baneh. Beth-dagon. do. [Eajel ] ? Beth-emek. do. Amkae. Cabul. do. Kabul. Carmel. Mountain. Jebel Mar-Elias. Hali. Town. Alia. Hammon. do. Hanal Hebron. do. SEE ABRON. Helbah. do. [Haifo]? Helkath. do. Ukrith ? Hosah. do. [El-Ghaziyeh]? Jiphthah-el. Valley. Wady Abilin Kanah. Town. Kana. Kishon. Brook. Nar Mukatta. Mashal or Mishal. Town. Misalli. Neiel. do. [Eista-] ? Ptolemais. do. SEE ACCHO. Ramah. do. Ramah. Rehob (Jos 19:30). do. [Tell Kurdan ] ? Rehob (Jos 19:28). do. [Reziel,] ? Shihor-libnath. River. [Wady Milhel]? Ummah. Town. Alma ? Zebulon. do. Abilin ?
This territory contained some of the richest soil in all Palestine (Stanley, p. 265; Kenrick, Pholn. p. 35), and in its productiveness it well fulfilled the promise involved in the name "Asher," and in the blessings which had been pronounced on him by Jacob and ly Moses. Here was the oil in which he was to "dip his foot," the "bread" which was to be "fat," and the "royal dainties" in which he was to indulge (for the crops, see Robinson, new ed. of Researches, iii, 102; for the oil, Kenrick, p. 31; Reland, p. 817); and here in the metallic manufactures of the Phoenicians (Kenrick, p. 38) were the " iron and brass" for his " shoes." The Phoenician settlements were even at that early period in full vigor (Zidon was then distinguished by the name Rabbah "the Strong," Jos 19:28); and it is not surprising that Asher was soon contented to partake their luxuries, and to "dwell among them" without attempting the conquest and extermination enjoined in regard to all the Canaanites (Jg 1:31-32). Accordingly he did not drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor Dor (Sept. adds this name), nor Zidon, nor Ahlab, nor Achzib, nor Helbah, nor Aphik, nor Rehob (Jg 1:31), all which seem to have been ii the shore-strip preoccupied by the Phoenicians, are the natural consequence of this inert acquiescence is immediately visible. While Zebulun and Naphtal "jeoparded their lives unto the death" in the struggle against Sisera, Asher was content to forget the peril of his fellows in the creeks and harbors of his new allies (Jg 5:17-18). At the numbering of Israel at Sinai, Asher was more numerous than either Ephraim, Manasseh, or Benjamin (Nu 1:32-41), but in the reign of David, so insignificant had the tribe be. come, that its name is altogether omitted from the list of the chief rulers (1Ch 27:16-22); and it is with a kind of astonishment that it is related that "divers of Asher and Manasseh and Zebulun" came to Jerusalem to the Passover of Hezekiah (2Ch 30:11). With the exception of Simeon, Asher is the only tribe west of the Jordan which furnished no hero or judge to the nation. "One name alone shines out of the general obscurity-the aged widow, 'Anna, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Aser,' who, in the very close of the history, departed not from the Temple, but 'served God with fastings and prayers night and day' " (Stanley, Palest. p. 261). The inhabitants of the tribe were also called Asherites (Heb. Asheri', אָשֵׁרִי, Sept. ἐν Α᾿σήρ, Jg 1:32).
2. A city on the boundary of the tribe of Manasseh, near Michmethah and east of Shechem (Jos 17:7); according to Eusebius (Onomast. s.v. Ασήρ) a village 15, according to the Itin. Hieros., 9 Roman miles from Shechem toward Scythopolis, near the highway. This position nearly corresponds to that of the modern village Yasir, containing ruins, about half way between Nablous and Beisan (Van de Velde, Memoir, p. 289) the Teyasir suggested by Porter (Handb. p. 348). 3. A city in Galilee near Thesbe (Tobit i, 2, Engl, Vers. "Aser"), possibly a corruption for Hazor (q.v.), a city in the tribe of Naphtali (see Fritzsche, Comment. in loc.), or perhaps identical with the foregoing place,