Issachar… Understanding Time!

Posted: March 4, 2013 in Issachar
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Each of the twelve sons of Israel received a blessing from their father, Jacob, just before his death. The twelve sons gave direction to the twelve tribes of Israel, and Jacob’s blessings contained prophetic information about the future of each tribe.
In the case of the tribe of Issachar, 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” (Genesis 49:14-15).
Issachar means “he will bring reward” or “Man of Wages.” The word translated “rawboned” in the NIV is translated “strong” in other versions. It can also mean “bony” as in “nothing but skin and bones.” Therefore, the prophecy could either mean that the descendants of Issachar would be strong and robust, able to bear burdens, or that they would be thin and weak and unable to do so. As a result there is no definitive answer.
The image of a donkey lying down between its burdens can be interpreted two ways. One way, is that it could portray a sturdy animal resting for the task ahead. The second view is that, donkeys are known to stubbornly crouch between their burdens to keep from having to do the work! The story of Issachar in the word does not conclusively favor either view.
There is a second part to the prophecy that Jacob gave, some believe that the descendants of Issachar would be farmers— “a band of slaves” means they would be servants of the land. Others see it as a prediction of forced labor, yet nothing in Scripture indicates that the tribe of Issachar was ever forced into slavery of any kind.
The men of Issachar is mentioned again during the time of David’s hastle with Saul (1 Chronicles 12:32). There were two hundred chiefs of Issachar who were faithful to David and this is the important part, they are described as those who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”
Many are divided on the meaning of the phrase “understood the times.” Some say the men of Issachar are politically aware, knowing how to use current events to their own advantage. Others take the phrase to mean, they were known for their understanding of astronomy and physical science. Then there is a third group that sees them as men of prudence and wisdom, because of their religious scholarship, knew that this was the proper time for David to become king. No absolutes again.

So how am i to understand Issachar and the different interpretations, and what do they mean to me today? It is important for me to understand that Jacob’s prophecies to his sons were just that—prophecies to his sons. i must be very careful when trying to apply Old Testament words to myself today.

It is impossible for me to be one of the men of Issachar, as in physically related. But maybe just being associated by name will do? i would like to be a man who “understands the time and knows what i am to do.” i wonder how it would look to be politically aware to the point of knowing how to use events to my own advantage. The second two ideas do not interest me in the same way, and i know i am cherry picking, which i am not a fan of in general.
The Word has much to say about “understanding the times.” The Lord rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees because they understood the signs which
told them of the weather, but did not understand what was happening in the spiritual realm (Matt. 16:1-4). They didn’t realize that the Son of God was in
their midst, and that redemption was being accomplished. They did not understand how they were being deluded by Satan and were blinded to these things (John 8:44). The result was chaos.
How important it is, then, that i understand the times in which i am living. And shouldn’t i at least know what my position is?
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