—Biblical Data:

The eighth son of the patriarch Jacob, and the traditional progenitor of the tribe Asher. He is represented as the younger brother of Gad; these two being the sons of Zilpah, the handmaid of Leah (Gen. xxx. 10 et seq., xxxv. 26). Four sons and one daughter were born to Asher in Canaan, who went down with him to Egypt (Gen. xlvi. 17). See Asher, Tribe and Territory; and on the general view to be taken of the tribes of Israel, Tribes, Twelve.

J. Jr. J. F. McC.—In Rabbinical Literature:

For a time Asher was not on good terms with his brothers, because he had informed them of Reuben's sin against his stepmother Bilhah, and they would not believe him;indeed they reproached him instead. Not until Reuben repented and confessed his crime did they realize their injustice toward Asher. From the first he had had no evil intentions against Reuben; in fact he was the very one whose endeavor it had always been to reconcile the brothers, especially when they disputed as to who among them was destined to be the ancestor of the priests (Sifre, Deut. 355). In the Test. Patr., Asher, 5, Asher is regarded as the example of a virtuous man who with singlemindedness strives only for the general good.

Asher married twice. His first wife was 'Adon, a great-granddaughter of Ishmael; his second, Hadurah, a granddaughter of Eber and a widow. By her first marriage Hadurah had a daughter Serah, whom Asher treated as affectionately as if she had been of his own flesh and blood, so that the Bible itself speaks of Serah as Asher's daughter ("Sefer ha-Yashar, Wayesheb"). According to the Book of Jubilees (xxxiv. 20), Asher's wife was named "Iyon" (probably , "dove").

Asher's descendants in more than one regard deserved their name ("Asher" meaning "happiness"). The tribe of Asher was the one most blessed with male children (Sifre, l.c.); and its women were so beautiful that priests and princes sought them in marriage (Gen. R. lxxi., end). The abundance of oil in the land possessed by Asher so enriched the tribe that none of them needed to hire a habitation (Gen. R. l.c.); and the soil was so fertile that in times of scarcity, and especially in the Sabbatical year, Asher provided all Israel with olive-oil (Sifre, l.c.; Men. 85b; Targ. Yer. on Deut. xxxiii. 24). The Asherites were also renowned for wisdom (Men. l.c.).

J. Sr. L. G.
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