Aser (Hebrew: ASR).—Though the form Aser uniformly appears in the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Douay versions, an inspection of the original text clearly shows that the correct form of the name is Asher. I. Aser was the eighth son of Jacob, born to him in Paddan-Aram. He was the second son of Zelpha, the handmaid of Lia, Jacob’s wife. His name is derived from the root Asher, to make or declare happy. His mother bestowed this name on him; for she declared that through her childbearing, “women will call me blessed” (Gen., xxx, 13) In the Bible there are recorded of Aser four sons and one daughter called Sara (Gen., xlvi,) 7). The descendants of Aser are enumerated (I Par.. vii, 30-40).
II. One of the twelve tribes of Israel, being descended from Aser, the son of Israel. Its tribal territory is described in Josue, xix, 24-31. It stretched along the Mediterranean Sea from Mt. Carmel northward to the river Leontes, the modern Nahr el-Quasimiyeh. Its eastern boundary was an irregular line, dividing it from Zabulon and Nephtali. Its farthest eastward boundary was the city Ahalab, most probably the modern El-Djich. The land of Aser held twenty-two cities, with their villages; but the Aserites did not drive out the inhabitants of these cities, but dwelt among them. Their land was fertile, as was foretold by Jacob: the bread of Aser was fat; he yielded royal dainties (Gen., xlix, 20); he dipped his foot in oil (Deut., xxxiii, 24). The numerous valleys of the land are well watered by the wadys El-Houbeichiyeh, El-Ezziyeh, Ez-Zerka, Ker Kera, El-Kourn; and the rivers Nahr Mefschoukh, Nahr Semiriyeh, Nahr Namin, and Nahr el-Moukhatta, the ancient Cison. Aser’s littoral was irregular. Its northern portion has a mean width of less than two miles. At Ras en-Naqurah, the ancient Scala Tyriorum, the mountain plunges its wall of rock out to the waterline. Southward from this point the littoral broadens until, at Ez-zib and on southward to Saint Jean d’Aere, it is sometimes more than ten miles in width. This great plain and the valleys extending inland produced for Aser an abundance of wheat, barley, and other cereals. Even in the present decadent state of the land, the region is rich in cereals. The slopes of the hills, now covered with thick brushwood, were, in the days of Israel’s prosperity, covered with olive-trees, fig-trees, and vines. The fertility of the land gave rise to the saying, that in Aser oil flowed as a river. The valleys, the slopes of the hills, and the high places are covered with Chanaanean, Jewish, Byzantine, and later ruins, showing a sort of stratified succession of the civilizations that have flourished in the land. In the history of Israel the tribe of Aser plays an unimportant part. When the first census of Israel was made at Sinai, Aser numbered 41,500 men that were able to go forth to war (Num., i, 40-41). Their chief was Phegiel, the son of Ochran. In Num., xxvi, 47, this number had grown to 53,400. When the warriors of the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron to make him King over Israel, there came out of Aser 40,000 soldiers [I Par. (Chron.), xii, 36]. Aser’s offering for the first altar dedicated by Moses in the desert is recorded in Num., vii, 72-77. In the tribe of Aser there were four Levitical cities: Masal, Abdon, Helcath, and Rohob, with their suburbs. When Zabulon and Nephtali exposed their lives unto death in war against Jabin, King of Chanaan, “Aser dwelt on the seashore, and abode in the havens”; hence it is chided in the Song of Debbora (Judges, v, 17). It redeemed itself somewhat from this reproach by marching with Gideon against Madian. When Ezechias invited the men of the northern kingdom of Israel to come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to keep the Passover, some of the tribe of Aser came (II Par., xxx, 11).—Anna the prophetess was of Aser (Luke, ii, 36).
III. Aser, a frontier village of the cis-Jordanic territory of the tribe of Manasses; most probably the modern Teiasir.
IV. Aser, an erroneous rendering in the Vulgate (Ex., vi, 24), of the name Assir, the son of Core. In the Vulgate text of I Par., vi, 22, the same person is called Asir.
A. E. BREEN