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Issachar

ISSACHAR

is'-a-kar (yissa(se)khar; Septuagint, Swete Issachar; Tischendorf, Issachar, so also in the New Testament, Tregelles, and Westcott and Hort, The New Testament in Greek):

(1) The 9th son of Jacob, the 5th borne to him by Leah (Genesis 30:17).

1. The Name:

His birth is in this passage connected with the strange story of Reuben and his mandrakes, and the name given him is apparently conceived as derived from 'ish sakhar, "a hired workman." There is a play upon the name in this sense in Genesis 49:15, "He bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant under taskwork." Wellhausen (Textder Buch. Sam., 95) thinks that the second element of the name may denote a deity; and Sokar, an Egyptian god, has been suggested. The name in that case would mean "worshipper of Sokar." Practically nothing is preserved of the personal history of this patriarch beyond his share in the common actions of the sons of Jacob. Four sons were born to him before Jacob's family removed to Egypt (Genesis 46:13). In that land he died and was buried.

2. The Tribe:

At Sinai the tribe numbered 54,000 men of war over 20 years of age (Numbers 1:29). At the end of the wanderings the numbers had grown to 64,300 (Numbers 26:25). In the days of David, the Chronicler puts the figures at 87,000 (1 Chronicles 7:5). See NUMBERS. The place of Issachar in the desert-march was with the standard of the tribe of Judah (along with Zebulun) on the East side of the tabernacle (Numbers 2:5), this group forming the van of the host (Numbers 10:14). The rabbis say that this standard was of 3 colors, sardine, topaz and carbuncle, on which were inscribed the names of the 3 tribes, bearing the figure of a lion's whelp (Tg, pseudo. Jon. on Numbers 2:3). The captain of the tribe was Nethanel ben-Zuar (Numbers 1:8, etc.). Later this place was held by Igal ben-Joseph, the tribal representative among the spies (Numbers 13:7). The prince chosen from Issachar to assist in the division of the land was Paltiel ben-Azzan (Numbers 34:26). The position of Issachar at the strange ceremony near Shechem was on Mt. Gerizim, "to bless the people" (Deuteronomy 27:12).

3. The Tribal Territory:

Sixteen cities of Issachar are mentioned in Joshua 19:17, but the only indications of boundaries are Tabor in the North and Jordan in the East. We gather elsewhere that the territory of this tribe marched on the North with Zebulun and Naphtali (19:11,33); on the West with Manasseh and possibly Asher (17:10); and on the South with Manasseh (17:11). It does not seem to have had any point of contact with the sea. The portion of Issachar, therefore, included the plain of Esdraelon, Tabor, the hill of Moreh, and the slopes East to the Jordan. The fortresses along the South edge of the plain were held by Manasseh. Tola, a man of Issachar, held Shamir, a stronghold in Mt. Ephraim (Judges 10:1). To Manasseh was given Beth-shean with her "towns" (Joshua 17:11). No reliable line can be drawn for the South border. The district thus indicated was small; but it embraced some of the most fruitful land in Palestine. By the very riches of the soil Issachar was tempted. "He saw a resting-place that it was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant under taskwork" (Genesis 49:15). "The mountain" in Deuteronomy 33:19 may possibly be Tabor, on which, most likely, there was an ancient sanctuary and place of pilgrimage. This would certainly be associated with a market, in which Issachar and Zebulun, the adjoining tribes, would be able to enrich themselves by trade with the pilgrims from afar. Issachar took part in the battle with Sisera (Judges 5:15). To Israel Issachar gave one judge, Tola (Judges 10:1), and two kings, Baasha and his son (1 Kings 15:27, etc.).

4. Men of Issachar:

Of the 200 "heads" of the men of Issachar who came to David at Hebron it is said that they were "men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" (1 Chronicles 12:32). According to the Targum, this meant that they knew how to ascertain the periods of the sun and moon, the intercalation of months, the dates of solemn feasts, and could interpret the signs of the times. A company from Issachar came to the celebration of the Passover when it was restored by Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:18). Issachar has a portion assigned to him in Ezekiel's ideal division of the land (Ezekiel 48:25); and he appears also in the list in Re (7:7).

(2) A Korahite doorkeeper, the 7th son of Obededom (1 Chronicles 26:5).

W. Ewing


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'ISSACHAR'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.