The tribe of Issachar was one of the twelve tribes of Israel descended from the sons of Jacob. Issachar was the ninth son of Jacob and the fifth son Jacob had with Leah (Genesis 30:17-18). The tribe of Issachar received an inheritance of land when the Israelites entered the Promised Land after the Exodus from Egypt (Joshua 19:17-23).
The Bible mentions some key details about Issachar and his descendants that can provide valuable lessons for us today:
They were known for their wisdom and understanding of the times
1 Chronicles 12:32 describes the men of Issachar as “men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” This indicates that the tribe of Issachar had keen insight into the events of their day and knew how to advise the nation about the best course of action. They understood the signs of the times and applied God’s truth to their current circumstances.
We likewise need to develop discernment and understand the times we live in (1 Chronicles 12:32; Matthew 16:3). As Christians, we should seek wisdom from God’s Word about the culture around us and how to live for Christ in our generation (Romans 12:2). We need to be grounded in biblical values while also being aware of current trends and ideas.
They were loyal to King David
The tribe of Issachar was among the tribes that loyally supported King David when he was contending for the kingdom. They “had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” and recognized that following David was God’s will in that situation (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Being able to discern God’s purposes and direction for our lives is so valuable. The Issacharites understood the times and knew that David was God’s choice to lead Israel. This encouraged them to align themselves with God’s anointed leader despite the risks. We too need loyal dedication to doing God’s will, even when it costs us.
They rejoiced in God’s Word
Deuteronomy 33:18-19 describes how the tribe of Issachar joyfully celebrated the righteousness of God. His Word was their delight. The Issacharites found great joy in the commands and precepts of Scripture.
The principles and truths of the Bible should be just as exciting for us today! God’s Word provides instructions to live by and stabilizes our lives (Psalm 119:9-16). As we walk closely with Christ, the spiritual wisdom in Scripture will bring us joy.
They were hardworking agriculturalists
Genesis 49:14-15 and Deuteronomy 33:18-19 portray Issachar as a strong donkey bearing the burden and toiling at hard labor. 1 Chronicles 12:40 also mentions that the tribe brought abundant supplies of food. This suggests that Issachar was a very industrious tribe focused on working the land.
The Issacharites modeled the value of working hard and making a practical impact. As Christians, we honor God when we work diligently and contribute to society (Colossians 3:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). Our daily responsibilities matter to God.
They were courageous warriors
While perhaps not as renowned in battle as some other tribes, the men of Issachar were willing to fight alongside David and other tribes for the sake of Israel (1 Chronicles 12:32). They took initiative to help defend the nation when enemies threatened.
Living for God requires courage and commitment. There are spiritual battles to be fought against sin and darkness in our world (Ephesians 6:10-18). The tribe of Issachar provides an example of stepping up to do what is right in the face of opposition.
They were faithful to tabernacle worship
After the settlement in Canaan, the tribe of Issachar was assigned to encamp on the east side of the tabernacle and was responsible for transporting parts of the tabernacle during journeys through the wilderness (Numbers 2:5; Numbers 7:18-23). They faithfully carried out their duties in worshipping God at the tabernacle.
Regularly gathering for worship should be a priority for believers too (Hebrews 10:25). Setting aside time to focus on exalting God corporately keeps our faith vibrant. Like Issachar, we need to be dependable in participating in church worship services.
They followed God wholeheartedly during Deborah’s leadership
During the time of Israel’s judges, when Deborah was judging, the Issacharites “jeopardized their lives to the death in the high places of the field” in order to gain victory over their enemies (Judges 5:15). They demonstrated complete commitment to following the Lord under Deborah’s leadership.
God calls all of us to give our complete allegiance to Him, holding nothing back (Mark 12:30). He deserves our full devotion. The boldness of Issachar under Deborah exemplifies uncompromising dedication to God’s purposes.
They were targeted by pagan religious influences
After the kingdom divided, King Ahab of Israel married the Phoenician princess Jezebel and began to worship Baal. Under these influences, many Israelites turned to idolatry. However, 1 Kings 18:4 notes that Obadiah “took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water” to protect them from being killed by Queen Jezebel. Obadiah was from the tribe of Issachar and tried to do what was right during this time of pagan pressure.
Similarly, as believers we may face temptations to compromise and religious pressure from our surrounding culture. Issachar shows that we can still try to be faithful to God in the midst of pagan influences. Obadiah resisted the tide of idolatry through his actions.
They were targeted by foreign enemies due to their strategic location
The territory of Issachar bordered strongly pagan lands to the north. This northern position made them among the first attacked by invading armies like the Assyrians and Babylonians when those empires came in to take the Israelites captive (2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26). Their geography exposed them to some of the earliest unrest.
As Christians, our surrounding environment may subject us to strong negative influences. Like Issachar, we need to respond by drawing even closer to God rather than succumbing to the world’s ways or compromising our faith. Pressures can strengthen our roots in Christ.
They remained faithful remnants during times of paganism
The prophets Hosea and Amos came from areas associated with the tribe of Issachar. During seasons of rampant idolatry in Israel, God still preserved faithful prophets from this tribe to call the nation to repentance. They remained loyal even when the majority turned to sin.
No matter how depraved the culture around us becomes, we must stay true to Jesus Christ. He promises to sustain His people and enable us to shine as light in the darkness through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 5:14-16; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 1:7).
The tribe of Issachar models key virtues like wisdom, hard work, courage, and loyalty to God. Their example encourages us to ground our lives in the Word of God, understand the times, work diligently, worship faithfully, resist compromising influences, and stay devoted to Christ through all of life’s seasons and challenges.