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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature

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1. Is´sachar (price-bought), a son of Jacob and Leah, born B.C. 1749, who gave name to one of the tribes of Israel (; ).

2. The tribe called after Issachar. Jacob, on his death-bed, speaking metaphorically of the character and destinies of his sons, or rather of the tribes which should spring from them, said, 'Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens' (). Remembering the character of the ass in Eastern countries, we may be sure that this comparison was not intended in disparagement. The ass is anything but stupid; and the proverbial obstinacy which it sometimes exhibits in our own country, is rather the result of ill-treatment than a natural characteristic of the animal. Its true attributes are patience, gentleness, great capability of endurance, laborious exertion, and a meek submission to authority. Issachar, therefore, the progenitor of a race singularly docile, and distinguished for their patient industry, is exhibited under the similitude of the meekest and most laborious of quadrupeds. The descriptive character goes on:—'And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant, and he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute' which probably does not imply that reproach upon Issachar, as addicted to ignominious ease, which some commentators find in it. It seems simply to mean that finding itself in possession of a most fertile portion of Palestine, the tribe devoted itself to the labors of agriculture, taking little interest in the public affairs of the nation. Accordingly Josephus says that the heritage of the tribe 'was fruitful to admiration, abounding in pastures and nurseries of all kinds, so that it would make any man in love with husbandry' (Antiq. v. 1, 22). But although a decided preference of agricultural over commercial or military pursuits is here indicated, there seems no reason to conclude, as some gather from the last clause, that the tribe would be willing to purchase exemption from war by the payment of a heavy tribute. The words do not necessarily imply this; and there is no evidence that the tribe ever declined any military service to which it was called. On the contrary, it is specially commended by Deborah for the promptitude with which it presented itself in the war with Jabin (); and in the days of David honorable testimony is borne to its character (). In this passage the 'children of Issachar' are described as 'men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do,' which probably means that they were men held in esteem for their prudence and wisdom, and who knew that the time was come when it was no longer safe to delay calling David to the throne of all Israel. On quitting Egypt the tribe of Issachar numbered 54,000 adult males, which gave it the fifth numerical rank among the twelve tribes, Judah, Simeon, Zebulun, and Dan being alone above it. In the wilderness it increased nearly 10,000, and then ranked as the third of the tribes, Judah and Dan only being more numerous (Numbers 1; Numbers 26). The territory of the tribe comprehended the whole of the plain of Esdraelon and the neighboring districts—the granary of Palestine. It was bounded on the east by the Jordan, on the west and south by Manasseh, and on the north by Asher and Zebulun. It contained the towns of Megiddo, Taanach, Shunem, Jezreel, and Bethshan, with the villages of Endor, Aphek, and Ibleam, all historical names: the mountains of Tabor and Gilboa, and the valley of Jezreel, were in the territory of this tribe, and the course of the river Kishon lay through it.





Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Issachar'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​i/issachar.html.
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