Asher [Ăsh'ûr]—happy. The eighth son of Jacob and second of Zilpah, Leah’s maid and progenitor of a tribe (Gen. 30:13, 35:26; 49:20; Deut. 33:24, 25). The New Testament form is Aser (Luke 2:36; Rev. 7:6). Asher was the founder of the Asherites (Num. 1:13; Judg. 1:32). Also the name of a town east of Shechem (Josh. 17:7).
In the blessings of Jacob and Moses, Asher is described as being not only acceptable to his brethren, but as one blessed of God with royal dainties or bountiful supplies. Of all the tribes of Israel the tribe of Asher has the least eventful history. It never produced a great warrior, judge, king or counselor. The land of Asher was as uneventful as the tribe itself. No great battles were fought there in Israel’s time.
I. Asher and his bounties. Asher was the tribe of rich pastures. Asher dwelt in the midst of plenty and being willing to share what he had, was most acceptable to his brethren. Dipping the foot in oil may refer to the olive-trees, so plentiful in that thickly wooded part of Palestine. Acre, the port and town given to Asher, has been regarded as the key of Palestine, and as oil has been recently discovered near by, perhaps the fatness of the prophecies of Jacob and Moses is about to be realized to the full.
II. Asher and his female representative. No other tribe of Israel is represented in Scripture by a woman. One member of the tribe, a widow, represents the individual history of the tribe. “One Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher” (Luke 2:36-38). It was Anna who confessed Christ, at His birth, on the part of Israel.
III. Asher and his love of ease. The chief defect in the character of Asher was his unwillingness to drive out the Canaanites. He was content to dwell among them. The command was to utterly drive them out and make no terms with them. “Live and let live,” seems to have been Asher’s policy. Asher’s rich bounties had an enervating effect upon the tribe. The people were conspicuous by their absence during the war with Sisera (Judg. 5:17). Apart from Anna, none of the tribe appear to have been eminent for prowess or piety. Prosperity resulted in ease and declension.
IV. Asher and the promise of endurance. Completing the blessing of Moses was a wonderful promise of endurance for the days of pilgrimage. “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass, and as thy days so shall thy strength be.” The words for shoes and strength are peculiar to this verse, and are found nowhere else in the Bible. Many guesses have been made as to the true meaning of these words. Such a promise was well understood by those who, as they journeyed through the great and terrible wilderness had raiment that waxed not old upon them and feet that did not swell. Anna is a fitting illustration of the promised endurance, seeing that she was long past eighty years of age when she saw the Saviour.