Issachar was the 9th son of Jacob and is the 5th son of Leah. After his birth, the Bible is silent about him neither how his relationship was with his brethren. The only thing we know about his is the parting words of his father Jacob in his deathbed. His blessings to Issachar reveal the life kind of life Issachar had. He was a self-sacrificing and burden-bearing person. He also has a meek and quiet spirit.
Let us listen to the words of Jacob to Issachar.
Genesis 49:14, “Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens.”
Jacob likens Issachar into a patient ass or donkey who is bearing two burdens that made him couch down beneath them. A donkey is a strong animal, and this indicates the strength of Issachar’s character.
And then the next words of Jacob to him were the following.
Genesis 49:15, “And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.”
This, the patriarch reveals the secret of the self-sacrificing life of Issachar by showing us the motive that prompted him to carry the double burdens. He was sustained by the thought that the land was pleasant and there was a rest that is coming soon. This is what prompts him to carry the two burdens. He didn’t care how heavy it was. He was looking forward to what is coming. Many of us lose the blessing because we murmur and complain when we are required to carry double burdens, but this is not the case with Issachar. He was looking forward to the blessed hope as like Paul exclaimed,
Titus 2:13, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Brethren, we know that the Saviour is coming and rest is ours soon. Eternal rest. No more sickness, no more pain, no more sorrow in the heavenly land.
This same mindset of Issachar should be ours in this present day.
Remember the battle of Megiddo which was the type of the battle of Armageddon? Issachar was true to character as portrayed in Jacob’s words of blessings to his sons.
Judges 5:15 “And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; even Issachar, and also Barak.”
According to Deborah’s words, it seemed like Issachar bore more of the burden during the battle than Barak.
This same characteristic is being shown by Issachar when the tribes gathered to crown David as king of Israel. It says in
1 Chronicles 12:32, “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.”
The tribe of Issachar had clear discernment of what to do. This tribe represented men who bore heavy responsibilities. These were men who are pillars in the cause of God. These are they who are forefront in the work. They bear more responsibilities than the rest and for them it requires more strength to be able to fulfill their role that God wanted them to be.
We can see different phases of Christian character to represent the perfect character of Christ. Different people with different character. Everyone works for one purpose. From burden bearers like Issachar to kingly Judah whose scepter never departed and to the teachers from the tribes of Levi. Everyone has his own role, and this is so to accomplish God’s purpose.
So we can see that the tribe of Issachar was laborious, hardworking, patient in labor and they are also invincible in war. They were also
“…valiant men of might.” 1 Chronicles 5:1-5
Now, let us see some noted character from this tribe.
We can see Barak and Deborah who won in the battle of Megiddo. Another one is the noble woman in Shunem who helped Elisha. When she found out that her house was not large enough to entertain Elisha, she built an additional room and furnished it for him so that she might have the privilege of his association in her home. We can find this story in 2 Kings 4:8-10. Because of her nobleness, she was blessed. 2 Kings 4:12-37. What she did to Elisha was actually being done to God. Remember brethren, whatever we do to the least of those who are of God, we have done it unto God Himself.
Matthew 25:40, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
So, it is very important to see who around us needs help because in so doing, we have done it unto the Lord. This is not to lift self but to glorify God.
There were also kings of Israel that were from the tribe of Issachar. Some of them are as follows:
Tola – who defended Israel and reigned 23 years
Judges 10:1-2 And after Abimelech there arose to defend Israel Tola the son of Puah the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim. And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir.
Baasha – 1 Kings 15:27, 33, “And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar,... In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, twenty and four years.” --- But sad to say, Baasha did evil in the sight of the Lord.
1 Kings 15:34 And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.
Elah – son of Baasha also became a king over Israel – 1 King 16:8
As like with Baasha, his son had a sad destiny. They both have sinned against the Lord.
1 Kings 16:13 For all the sins of Baasha, and the sins of Elah his son, by which they sinned, and by which they made Israel to sin, in provoking the LORD God of Israel to anger with their vanities.
In the land where Issachar dwelt, there were some unforgettable events of history that we can find precious lessons from. One of these places is the land of Endor. If this sounds familiar with you, yes, this is the same place where Saul consulted the witch. He wanted to meet Samuel who was already dead. The story is found in 1 Samuel 28:7-25. Saul was totally lost, and he placed himself in the devil's ground; therefore, he became the prey to the enemy. How can an anointed of God consult a witch? As a result, God destroyed him.
1 Chronicles 10:13-14, “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; And inquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.”
Brethren, one departure from God's plain commandment will lead to another sin and another sin and so on until the person is fully captivated and become a slave of satan. Those who follow the same course as Saul will eventually meet the same destiny. Their spiritual life will die and they will be separated from God unless they listen to the Holy Spirit's conviction of sin and confess and repent and turn away from sin. It doesn’t matter whether you are a king or a priest or a minister. While we have breath, we are under the power of the Most High God who does not respect any person. This is His justice. He is just. His law is just.
Romans 7:12, Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”