Issachar and Zebulun
Categories: Men in the Old Testament
- After her handmaid bore two sons, life was still difficult for Leah.
- God hearkened to her, and she bore a fifth son.
- She names her son “Issachar,” meaning either “my reward” or “my hire.”
- It would be akin to saying, "God has paid me."
- She relates this to the fact that she had given her handmaiden to Jacob.
- She feels that she has been rewarded for her good deed.
- On his deathbed, Jacob prophesied: “Issachar is a rawboned 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.”
- A “rawboned” donkey is generally thought to be a strong donkey.
- A donkey lying between its burdens is thought to be resting.
- It suggests the Tribe of Issachar will have a prosperous life, but the “band of slaves” suggests otherwise. Yet, there is no record of them ever being forced into slavery.
- Issachar has four sons: Tola, Pubah, Lob, and Shimron.
- During the initial census at Sinai, the Tribe of Issachar numbers 54,000.
- In the second census, they have grown to 64,300. During the time of David, they number over 87,000.
- They are given a small allotment of land just north of Manasseh and west of the Jordan that includes the town of Shunem.
- Though small, this is some of the most fruitful land in Canaan.
- I Chronicles 12:32 describes 200 chiefs that were loyal to David during his difficulty with Saul as those who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”
- This suggests they were either politically astute or learned in science and religion.
- The Tribe of Issachar is part of the northern kingdom. The Assyrians conquer them in 722 BCE. The tribe is exiled or assimilated.
- There is no further mention of them after that.
- Shortly after the birth of Issachar, Leah gives birth to Zebulun.
- She says, “God has bestowed a great gift upon me.”
- Another meaning for the name, Zebulun, is “honor or exalt me.” It appears to have a double meaning; God has given her a great gift; now her husband will exalt her. Whether or not this happens is not stated.
- However, this child would always be a reminder of divine justice in the face of human injustice. She has received divine justice.
- On his deathbed, Jacob states, “Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for a haven of ships; and his border shall be upon Sidon.”
- This has caused problems since Zebulun’s territory is not along the sea.
- Zebulun’s allotment of land is just west of Issachar’s, in the area that becomes known as Galilee. It is in Northern Israel.
- Scholars have devised multiple solutions for this discrepancy in Jacob’s prophesy.
- The most realistic is that perhaps the territories were more fluid in the beginning.
- Another is that the Tribe of Zebulun might have benefited from sea trade, though indirectly.
- Most scholars have ruled out forgery intended to discredit the Genesis text.
- Some scholars believe that the Tribes of Zebulun and Issachar operate symbiotically.
- Issachar has many scholars; Zebulun financially supports them while reaping the benefit of their knowledge.
- The names of the two tribes become a euphemism for such relationships. [Although recent scholarship might be calling into question some of these assumptions.]
- Zebulun has three sons: Sered, Elon, and Jahleel.
- In the first census, they number 57,400. At the second census, they number 60,500.
- In the Song of Deborah, they are praised for their army and their willingness to fight to the death.
- 50,000 men follow David to Hebron. They are so certain of victory that they bring celebratory food and drink.
- Like the other tribes of the Northern Kingdom, they are conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BCE.
- Their leaders are exiled, and their tribe is lost.