14“Issachar is a strong donkey, crouching between the sheepfolds. 15 He saw that a resting place was good, and that the land was pleasant, so he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant at forced labor.” (Genesis 49:14–15 (ESV)
Jacob’s fifth eldest son born by Leah was Issachar (Gen. 30:17-18). Jacob’s blessing of Issachar followed his blessing upon Zebulun. No reason is given as to why Jacob blessed these two sons in reverse order of their birth. Issachar’s name perhaps means “reward.”
Jacob said, “Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds” (Gen. 49:14, nasb). This image suggests a loaded donkey who refuses to move his burden, a lazy man who is unwilling to do his share of the work. This is not an admirable quality.
Little is known about Issachar except what he did along with the other sons of Israel. He himself had four sons (Gen. 46:13), who headed clans in the tribe (1 Chr. 7:1–5). His family went with Jacob to Egypt, where they died (although Issachar’s remains were subsequently moved to Shechem with the other 12 patriarchs—Acts 7:16).
Historically, Issachar was the main tribe involved in the fighting led by the judge Deborah. She was a member of the tribe (Judges 5:15). During the time of David, there were men of the tribe of Issachar who had an understanding of what Israel ought to do in warfare (1 Chr. 12:32). These men supported David as king to replace King Saul.
The Tyndale Bible Dictionary explains, “Issachar was assigned the fourth lot of land after the ark was taken to Shiloh (Joshua 19:17). This included the cities of Jezreel, Shunem, and En-gannim, and it lay between the mountains of Gilboa and Tabor. Their allotment was bordered on the south and west by the tribe of Manasseh, on the north by Zebulun and Naphtali, and on the east by the river Jordan. This territory was largely a fertile plain and was often threatened by the Canaanites nearby as well as by foreign invaders.”
One commentator adds, “Issachar is likened to a strong donkey loaded down with saddlebags. Some see in the saddlebags a reference to two great elevations which marked the boundaries of this tribe. Issachar would be comfortable in his pleasant land. He would rather be a slave and have peace than resist oppression and have liberty (49:14–15).”
Today, may believers in Christ would rather make doctrinal concessions against biblical truth in order to maintain a veneer of harmony within the church. Fellowship at all costs is pursued at the expense of sound doctrine (Acts 20:17-35; 2 Tim. 4:1-5; Jude 3-4). This results in the gospel being perverted and compromised.
1 Timothy 6:10–12 (ESV) says, “10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
May we resist spiritual oppression and possess liberty than pursue peace resulting in slavery.
Soli deo Gloria!