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What did Jacob’s prophecy to Issachar mean?

Jacob’s Prophecy to Issachar

The patriarch Jacob, just before his death, gave each of his 12 sons a prophecy. To the tribe of Issachar, he gave the following prophecy: “Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between two burdens; he saw that rest was good, and that the land was pleasant; he bowed his shoulder to bear a burden, and became a band of slaves” (Genesis 49:14-15).

The 12 sons were the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. Although the characters of Jacob’s sons constituted the starting point of his prophecies, the Holy Spirit revealed to him the future history of his offspring, so that he discovered in the characters of his sons the coming progress of the tribes. To each, he gave its position and importance in the nation, with unfailing prophetic accuracy.

The Meaning

The resembling of Issachar to a bony and strongly built ass, especially well-suited for carrying burdens, referred to the fact that this tribe would content itself with material good, dedicate itself to agriculture, and not strive for political involvement. It pointed also that his offspring would be men of power and would receive a good inheritance.

This was fulfilled in the land portion to it of lower Galilee, including the prosperous and fruitful tableland of Jezreel. Although the tribe once gained fame for heroic bravery, together with Zebulun, during the time of the judges (Judges 5:14, 15, 18), it was basically content with its wealth, no matter what happened to the nation. It is rarely found taking a stand bravely to defend threatened rights or freedoms. This was maybe why Issachar is recorded last among the sons of Leah, although he was not the last son.

1 Chronicles 12:32 mentions the men of Issachar during the time of David’s fight with King Saul: “of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command.”

The men of Issachar had wisdom to see the outcome of their events and were able to give wise counsel (Esther 1:13). They clearly saw that David was the right leading man for the nation of Israel, and that it was prudent for the people to accept him.

As part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the territory of Issachar was captured by the Assyrian army about 720 B.C. And the tribe was taken into foreign exile. The Bible doesn’t mention the tribe of Issachar after that.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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