Issachar

ISSACHAR (ĭs'a-kar, Heb. yissākhār, meaning uncertain). 1. The ninth son of Jacob and the fifth of Leah (Gen.30.17-Gen.30.18; Gen.35.23). Almost nothing is known of his personal history beyond his share in the common actions of the sons of Jacob. He had four sons, who went with him into Egypt (Gen.46.13; Exod.1.3). There he died and was buried. His descendants formed a tribe, consisting of five great tribal families (Num.26.23-Num.26.24).


2. A Korahite doorkeeper in the reign of David (1Chr.26.5).


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At Sinai the tribe numbered 54,400 men of war over twenty years of age (1:29); at the end of the wanderings, the number had grown to 64,300 (26:25). The place of Issachar in the desert march was with the standard of the tribe of Judah (along with Zebulun) on the E side of the Tabernacle (2:5); this group formed the vanguard of the host (10:14ff.). Igal, son of Joseph, was Issachar’s representative to spy out the land of Canaan (13:7).

Although a dozen or more towns are listed in Joshua 19:17-23 as belonging to Issachar, the location of most of these is uncertain. In the strange ceremony described in Deuteronomy 27:11ff., it was the tribe of Issachar, along with several other tribes, who stood upon Mount Gerizim “to bless the people.” The territory of Issachar lay S of Zebulun and Naphtali, and N of Manasseh. On the E it was bounded by the Jordan. Whether it ever reached the sea is uncertain (Deut 33:18, 19); it prob. remained an inland tribe. Its lot included the very fertile plain of Esdraelon, but this for the most part remained in the possession of the Canaanites.

Tola, a judge, was from Issachar (Judg 10:10) as were two kings, Baasha and his son (1 Kings 15:27). Deborah and Barak belonged to Issachar; and in Deborah’s song (Judg 5:15), the tribe is mentioned as having taken part in the battle against Sisera. The battle took place on the plain of Issachar and the victory secured free passage between the Israelites in the hill country of Ephraim and those in Galilee.

In the time of David, the tribe of Issachar numbered 87,000 (1 Chron 7:5). Of the 200 “heads” of the men of Issachar who came to David at Hebron it is said that they were “men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chron 12:32). In Solomon’s arrangement of administrative districts Issachar’s territory formed an independent province (1 Kings 4:17).

In the arrangement of 1 Chronicles 4-7, the extended genealogy of Issachar may be found in 7:1-5, whereas that of Zebulun is missing. A company from Issachar came to the celebration of the Passover when it was restored by Hezekiah (2 Chron 30:18). In the ideal division of the land according to the vision of Ezekiel 48:25, the territory of Issachar lies between that of Simeon and of Zebulun; these three tribes have the three gates on the S side of the new Jerusalem named after them (Ezek 48:33). The tribe of Issachar is also mentioned in Revelation 7:7, where 12,000 were sealed.

2. A Korahite doorkeeper in the reign of David (1 Chron 26:5). See Location of Tribes.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(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 (Ge 30:17 f).

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 Ge 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 (Ge 46:13). In that land he died and was buried.

2. The Tribe:


3. The Tribal Territory:

Sixteen cities of Issachar are mentioned in Jos 19:17 ff, 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 (Jud 10:1). To Manasseh was given Beth-shean with her "towns" (Jos 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" (Ge 49:15). "The mountain" in De 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 (Jud 5:15). To Israel Issachar gave one judge, Tola (Jud 10:1), and two kings, Baasha and his son (1Ki 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" (1Ch 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 (2Ch 30:18). Issachar has a portion assigned to him in Ezekiel’s ideal division of the land (Eze 48:25); and he appears also in the list in Re (7:7).

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

W. Ewing