NETHERLANDS  -  ZEBULUN  of  Israel  #6



Moses, Israel's great leader, standing before the Promised Land, sings about Zebulun's future:

"Rejoice Zebulun in thy going out. They shall call the people to the mountain, there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness. They shall suck of the abundance of the sea and of the treasures hid in the sand.''  (the Book of Laws for Israel, Deuterononmy 33:18-19).

The end of this song is most illuminating. Again we may translate the Hebrew words on different levels and every time one may discover striking "strange parallels" with the image of little Holland in the world, an image greatly exploited by Dutch advertisements for attracting tourists into the country.

Unconsciously the Dutch tourist-offices are advertising exactly what Zebulun had prophesied he would be doing and exporting! reclaiming land, putting fingers in dykes, living in windmills sucking water, and all the Dutch being shown as blond cheese-heads milking their Friesian cows or making cheese and butter in some fancy national costume, everybody with smiling faces, rejoicing, with Dutch tulips in their hands good for export. Yes indeed, modern export propaganda and exploitation of past Dutch folk-lore still shows in a mirror a strange parallel with Zebulun!


Yes, they certainly are, in more than one sense! Let us look from a humorous angle how others see us and how our character is being reflected in water and milk, both so abundant in Holland!

You would laugh at the numerous composite words and expressions including the word "milk'' in a Dutch dictionary! The most spectacular one is "melkmuil" (milk-mouth) meaning greenhorn, or is it...a sucker?! Pardon this pun, but the point is, that in Hebrew we read literally:

"They shall milk (therefore translated as "suck") the abundance of the waters.'' This word for milking can mean both giving milk and suckling milk.

The verse of Moses has sometimes been interpreted as: Israel having to dig for treasures in the sea like oil, amber, uranium. Although probably not being untrue, there are other texts in the Bible concerning other tribes referring to oil, which is beyond the scope of our subject. It is far more to the point to take the meaning of the text as it stands:

Sucking the surplus of (sea) water and delving up the sand itself.

The sand in itself is already a treasure, because new dykes, new land is being made out of it. The latter will become pasture with grazing cows. These are the true Dutch treasures: the reclaimed fat land of sand and mud giving treasures of milk and cheese, which yielded easy riches to the farmers in their golden days of free enterprise. (Not suggesting that a farmer is not a hard worker, but it is nature, reclaimed nature, which gives the Netherlands its wealth)


Northsea-gas, which is becoming very popular in western Europe, has been discovered by Dutch engineers. In 1962 they discovered a huge "gas bell" under the northern Netherlands and the North sea, while boring for oil! Sucking gas in abundances from the seas! What a treasure for the Celtic fringe this new gas-belt has become!


What is more Dutch than the sight of a working windmill in a flat green Dutch landscape? Although those who have studied the history of the windmills, have traced them back to Medo-Persia—you remember Zebulun as one of the ten tribes which was deported to that area—the Dutch have refined the buildings and engineering of windmilling at least from as far back as 1200 A.D. The invention

of the water-windmill for drainage purposes, with the screw action lifting or "hooking" the water from a lower to a higher level is exclusively Dutch.

Apart from this, the variety of windmills in the Netherlands is greater than anywhere else in the world. On the power of the wind their age-old wooden engines worked as flour, spicery and oil grinders, as sawmills, as papermakers, as printing presses, as gin-distillers. In the golden 17th century the Netherlands had thousands of turning windmills with the always blowing westwind sucking and sighing harder through its wings, making the wheels go turning harder and more efficient, than many a modern machine after the invention of electricity.

This is not meant as a plea for a return to a former century. It is just a drawing of strange parallels between the blessings to Zebulun and the essentials of Dutch historical culture and achievements in historical times, although it was indeed a more blessed period for Holland's peace of mind when men worked in harmony with the natural powers of nature. The Netherlands were an organic unity, independent and self-supporting when using the powers of nature only. They could indeed rejoice in their going out, as Moses sang, in their large wooden ships, whose planks had been cut by the power of the windmills, and rejoice when returning with these ships laden with Eastern spices to be ground by the power of the mills. No manpower was needed but for one miller who was skilled in wind-and-weather-forecast in order to set the sails of his ' 'factory'' to the wind in God's right time. Imagine how one miller during a strong wind can handle an ordinary mill with huge sails (twenty-seven meter, 81 feet, across the height of the mill once as much again). These man-made treasures kept the land dry by drainage, while the cows graze it. Sucking, milking.

In recent times, when the power of electricity was cut off during the second world war, the mills were freely used again, and nowadays about 1000 have been restored, many of them still working, because windmilling for which one has to pass an exam is becoming a favorite hobby of young Dutchmen.


"God created the world, but the Dutch created Holland" is an old Dutch saying. Anyhow Dutch engineers have been asked for advice in drainage-projects throughout the ages.

Prof. Ch. Wilson devoted a chapter (page 80-91) in his book "The Dutch Republic'' to the areas the Dutch reclaimed in Western Europe and England from the 13th to the 17th centuries. For instance the Royal Park at Windsor, the Lincoln and Cambridge Fens, parts of Kent, Somerset, East Anglia, but also parts of France, Italy and Germany.

The Dutch know how to grow crops on reclaimed land and how to remove excess salt.

"At the same time," according to Wilson, "the famous breed of Friesian cattle was making its appearance in Britain. Mortimer, writing in 1707, remarked that the long-legged short-horned cow of the Dutch breed found in Lincolnshire and Kent was the best breed for milking.''

"Rejoicing in their going out," many descendants of these Dutch-Friesian cows nowadays block the roads to hasty motorists, who are driving their cars through the winding roads of Somerset.


Dutch export of cheese and butter, but also Dutch export of engineers, of farmers and of intellectuals is flourishing. Do you know that compared with other countries the Dutch send out the largest percentage of the population to farm and to teach farming in the West and nowadays also in under-developed countries?

Did you know that only 50 out of 500,000 Dutch emigrants don't succeed and need help or return? This is an extremely low percentage, according to the Netherlands Emigration Service. (Elsevier's magazine, June 1971) Moreover Dutch immigrants often seem to have stable families and can easily adapt themselves to their new environments. Another parallel with Zebulun's "rejoicing in their going out ? "


This going out can also be translated as "going abroad" and when the text speaks of Zebulun calling the people to the mountain, which is often seen as a symbol for Jerusalem, it is not too far fetched to compare this with the Dutch Protestant and Roman Catholic Missions. Next to Great Britain and the United States the Netherlands have the honor to have been the third missionary nation, their main fields of activity having been Indonesia, their former colonies (84 million inhabitants in 1960). Although the mission has had its hey-day, one cannot underestimate the Calvinistic (mostly Dutch-Reformed) principles that have been spread around the globe. Neither should the Mennonites, Methodist and Presbyterian groups, having their roots in the Netherlands, which settles in the United States and grew into astronomical numbers, been forgotten, when thinking of Zebulun "rejoicing in his going out." New York was founded by the Dutch as "New Amsterdam."


Neither can any historian ever deny that South Africa is mainly a Dutch plantation. The interests of the Duth East India Company with their speedy ''flyboats'' in the 17th century were mixed with the missionary activities of the young Protestant Republic in the 16th and 17th centuries with its many refugees, mainly Huguenots, who have formed the bulk of the Dutch settlers in South Africa. Undoubtedly their going out has become a blessing for that land. Is it still strange that there are groups in South Africa today who see themselves as offshoots of Zebulun through their descendency from Holland?


This being a difficult text in itself, I have not yet received the inspiration for the determination of a satisfying parallel with Holland, unless one might see this as prospective a task for the purpose of calling the nations to Jerusalem, centre of the world, by being able to speak many languages, (the average Dutchman learns four languages) where the Dutch and their offshoots, the South-Africans will be offering sacrifices of righteousness in the sense of being politically seen as black-sheep by their keeping, as a nation, to the letter of the Bible. They will have to sacrifice a lot for this righteousness in the near future. In this respect both the Dutch and the South Africans have a high calling amongst the nations. This is only one interpretation. There are certainly more.


Instead of calling to one spiritual mountain, they are often too divided among themselves. As the Patriarch said in his Testament, the Dutch especially, as his descendents are too much split up into little parties and opinions, so that they are not one unit of force. "Unity makes force" (Union is strength) was the official device of the Republic of the Netherlands when fighting Spain, but in the past they have often been too weak to make their cry heard internationally or to awaken the right spirit in other peoples. This is how Zebulun warned his children:

"If you are divided into many streams, the earth swalloweth them up and they become of no account. So shall ye also be if ye be divided. Be not ye therefore divided into two heads, for everything the Lord has made has but one head…." (IX 2-4)

Revealing are such expressions about Dutchmen as: "Three Dutchmen, three different churches." "Wherever two Dutchmen meet in a pub, they start a theological row." "So many men, so many minds. "

Nowhere in the western world have there been so many split-ups in churches and political parties as in the Netherlands. Nowhere exist so much hair-splitting and quibbling about internal political details considering what is going on in the world at large. Did the Patriarch forsee this splitting up by the Dutch?

Anyhow the best remedy against mental division always has been the physical joined struggle against the water. In their great projects of impoldering, making dykes and defending their country against floods and disasters, the best traits of the Dutch national character come to the surface. In fighting a common enemy, the Dutch have more than once proven to be no small nation at heart.


Leaving Moses' blessing now I'm referring here in passing to the 50,000 zebulunites in the Bible, who are said to be "not of double heart". In other words: A courageous and reliable people! They came to fight at King David's side. He could rely on these Zebulunites. (I Chron. 12: 33). The allies could rely on the Dutch in the last world war. May it be the same in the future!