Like most of these testaments, the author has expanded on very minimal information about Naphtali to create the final words of this son of Jacob. Other Second Temple texts expanded Naphtali’s story as well. For example in Joseph and Asenath 25.5-7, Dan and Gad want to assist the son of the Pharaoh as he attacks Aseneth, Naphtali and Asher refuse to participate in this plot. Kugler suggests the “curious structure” of this testament is “no doubt results from the authors’ typical use of every available source” (71). There is a fragmentary document from Qumran which may be an early version of this testament (4QTNaph 1.2–5, 4Q215).
Naphtali says he was “light on his feet” so Jacob made him the messenger for the family (chapter 2). Targum Pseudo-Jonathan claims it was Naphtali who delivered the good news to Jacob that Joseph was still alive in Egypt (49.21). The first five verses of the chapter describe the wonders of the human body and notes that God has made man according to his own image. He then makes the distinction between light and dark, the law of the Lord and the ways of Beliar (the “two ways.”) People exist for a good purpose, therefore nothing ought to be done in a disorderly manner (2:9-10).
T.Naphtali 2:8 God made all things good in their order: the five senses in the head; to the head he attached the neck, in addition to the hair for the enhancement of appearance; then the heart for prudence; the belly for excretion from the stomach; the windpipe for health; the liver for anger; the gallbladder for bitterness; the spleen for laughter; the kidneys for craftiness; the loins for power; the lungs for the chest; the hips for strength and so on.
The essence of sin then is a departure from nature’s order. Even the Watchers departed from their natural order and the Lord pronounced a curse on them (3:5). This is a clear allusion to the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36)
The mini-apocalypse in this Testament begins in chapter 5. When Naphtali was forty, he was on the Mount of Olives and saw the sun and moon stand still. Whoever seized the sun and moon would own them – Levi got the sun and Judah got the moon. He then saw a great bull on the earth with the names of nations written on it. These are the nations which will have a share in the captivity of Israel (5:8). Naphtali had a second dream seven months later in which an unpiloted ship came near the shore at Jamnia with the name “Ship of Jacob” (chapter 6). Jacob tells the family to embark and they go out to sea only to be met by a violent windstorm. The family was dispersed to “the outer limits” on ten planks, a reference to the Diaspora.
Judah and Levi were on the same plank and Joseph escaped in a light boat. Naphtali reports these visions to his father who interprets the dream as meaning Joseph is still alive (chapter 7). Naphtali commands his children be unified to Judah and Levi since it is through Judah that salvation for Israel will come. God will appear through kingly power to save Israel (8:3) he will gather them from the nations and a time of peace will begin – the devil will flee, animals will be afraid of the nation, angels will stand by them, etc. (8:4).
There are two commandments which will leave one open to the greatest sin if they are not performed in the correct order (8:9-10). The writer does not tell us, however, what these commands are! It is possible these are the “two greatest commandments” found in the New Testament (love God and love Man.)