Foundational Themes in Genesis – Study 109

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Foundational themes in Genesis – Study 109

(Key verses: Genesis 49:14-15)

We are busy discussing the theme of “the last days” as found in the final words of Jacob to his twelve sons:

Gen 49:1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.
Gen 49:2 Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father.

What Jacob said to each son has spiritual meaning for those who can receive these words as applicable to them in this age (Joh 6:63):

1Co 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world [Greek: aiōn – age] are come.

The “ends of the world” or “last days” has for many only a future application, but God’s elect knows that “all things are [theirs]” as they indeed live by every word which proceeded out of God’s mouth:

1Co 3:21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;
1Co 3:22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;
1Co 3:23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

Mat 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Therefore these sons of Jacob are all types of “the Israel of God”, His elected few, on whom the “last days” or the end of this physical age has come (Isa 2:2; Act 2:17-18; Rom 2:28-29; Heb 1:2; 2Pe 3:1; Rev 1:1-3):

Gal 6:16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

In previous discussions we discussed the words of Jacob to Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah and Zebulun, and we also saw how those words apply in our lives – those who can receive them. Here are Jacob’s words to Issachar who is the focus of this discussion.

Issachar: his meaning and position in the family

Issachar was Jacob’s ninth son and his fifth with Leah:

Gen 30:17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.
Gen 30:18 And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.

These words of Leah reflect the comparison between the two daughters of Laban whom he gave as wives to Jacob. Jacob wanted Rachel, and he worked seven years for her, but her father Laban deceived Jacob by causing him to sleep with the elder sister Leah, whom Jacob had to marry first before he could marry his beloved Rachel (Gen 29:16-28). This all started the battle for Jacob’s love and attention between these two wives. This is also our story because spiritually, first, we are intimately linked to our first wife, spiritual Babylon, before we can have the true wife, the church of Jesus Christ (Rev 17:1-18; Rev 21:9-27). This competition and striving between Leah and Rachel typifies the battle in us between the flesh and the spirit to get God’s approval. Leah is indeed the spiritual representation of our flesh which is our first wife in that sense, and Rachel spiritually refers to the intimacy we have afterward with the spirit of Christ. These two ‘marriages’ we all will be involved in are totally conflicting, and they cause this war in our heavens (Dan 7:2; Eph 6:12; Heb 12:3; Rev 12:7):

Gal 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

The flesh cannot accept that it is not the beloved of God and that it will never please Him:

Rom 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Rom 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Rom 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

After the birth of Judah, the fourth son of Leah, she could not bear sons to Jacob for a period of time (Gen 30:9):

Gen 29:35 And she [Leah] conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.

Rachel, who was still barren at this stage, saw this opportunity and then gave to Jacob her servant Bilhah, through whom Jacob fathered two sons, Dan and Naphtali (Gen 30:3-8). Leah then did the same and gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob, and from her Jacob also fathered two sons, Gad and Asher (Gen 30:9-13). This is the sequence of the births of these sons of Jacob according to the book of Genesis, which sets the background for the birth of this ninth son, Issachar:

Gen 30:14 And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.
Gen 30:15 And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes.

We know from the scriptures these mandrakes give a pleasant smell…they are “pleasant fruits”, typifying the doctrine of Christ and the spiritual fruit it produces in the elect….but of course, in the others it is twisted and perverted (Son 7:12-13; 2Co 2:14-16). We discussed this event with Reuben and the mandrakes in study #84 in which we saw that these symbols of the wheat harvest and the mandrakes actually relate to the elect or first fruits of God in the scriptures (Deu 16:16; Exo 34:22; 1Co 15:23; Jas 1:18).

Rachel typifies this elect who rightfully is the beloved of God, but it was Leah’s firstborn, Reuben, who brought her these mandrakes causing Leah to believe that God has favoured her above Rachel. Those in spiritual Babylon actually believe and are convinced that they are God’s church even while they serve the flesh with all its attachments and neglect and disobey God’s true commandments:

Gen 30:16 And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired [Hebrew: śâkar = a temporary purchase] thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.

The birth of Issachar convinced Leah of God’s favour on her, and she saw him as her reward from God, which is also the meaning of the word “Issachar” in Hebrew:

Gen 30:17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.
Gen 30:18 And Leah said, God hath given me my hire [Hebrew: śâkâr = payment/salary/reward], because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar [Hebrew: yiśśâśkâr = he will bring a reward/there is recompense].

Flesh is a temporary vessel which God created to bring forth His new creation, but in general the flesh usually totally overestimates its purpose and value:

1Co 15:46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.

Issachar is the spiritual symbol of these opposing perspectives of the concept of hire or reward – first the negative or earthy application and then the positive or heavenly application. Working for rewards is central to how we operate or work within our times under these two ‘marriages’.

Working for rewards

Leah saw in the birth of Issachar that God was rewarding her for not being selfish in the period when she could not birth children for Jacob by giving him Zilpah. Even Rachel, as a type of the elect of God, got caught up in this maneuvering which the apostle Paul describes as “measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves” (2Co 10:12). Like Rachel, the elect of God do not bare spiritual fruit at first as God works on our natural impatience at that stage (Luk 21:19; Gal 5:22-23). In this time we see how those who unashamedly serve the flesh seemingly prosper, and we, like Rachel, even envy them. This is of course all from God to fulfill His purposes in us, as Jacob also clearly indicated to Rachel:

Gen 30:1 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.
Gen 30:2 And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

With all these four women, the method and timing of the births were planned by God, were all very necessary to bring forth the twelve sons of Jacob – twelve is spiritually referring to Christ and the foundations and the ways He uses to achieve His goal (1Co 3:11; Act 1:26; Rev 21:14; Rev 21:12; Rev 21:21). God uses both good and evil to fulfill His purposes, and His physical creation is indeed “very good” although it is temporary:

Gen 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

Pro 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Like Leah, we naturally want recognition and rewards when we achieve something – even when we have done what was actually required of us:

Luk 17:7 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
Luk 17:8 And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
Luk 17:9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
Luk 17:10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

The flesh cannot see that God is under no obligation to reward us for anything – we are here to serve His purposes (Job 22:2; Job 35:7; Rom 3:10-12; Jas 4:3). The apostle Paul puts it this way:

Rom 11:35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
Rom 11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Leah’s idea of reward for her good works reminds one of those who only serve God in selfish pride and the lusts of flesh with the wrong motive at heart – yes, they are producing fruit, but of the wrong kind:

Mat 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Mat 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

We have no insight in others’ motives, but one thing that must be obvious is that there are indeed wrong and right motives which produce “evil fruit” versus “good fruit” for all to judge (Mat 7:20). Flesh does receive rewards, but these earthy rewards are given for another purpose – to supply the fuel for our fiery trials to bring us to spiritual maturity and salvation (1Pe 4:12):

1Co 3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
1Co 3:14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
1Co 3:15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

To suffer loss is the wonderful and strange work of God which actually benefits the new man so “that He may do His work, His strange work; and bring to pass His act, His strange act” (Isa 28:21). The rich earthy man in us supplies the “treasures hid in the sand” and lays them at the feet of the new spirit man through God’s judgment and destruction (Tit 2:11-12; Heb 12:6-8). This is also the application of Issachar and his tribe in us as per the words of Moses:

Deu 33:18 And of Zebulun he [Moses] said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and, Issachar, in thy tents.
Deu 33:19 They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand.

We are admonished to do all things with the proper knowledge and right motive so the Lord is glorified above all:

Col 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Col 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
Col 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
Col 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Col 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
Col 3:22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
Col 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
Col 3:24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
Col 3:25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

This is the development of Issachar in us – from self-serving and menpleasing to God-serving and God-pleasing. These are Jacob’s words to Issachar just before his death:

Gen 49:14 Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens:
Gen 49:15 And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.

A few symbols are brought to the fore for our learning. The first is that of an ass or donkey.

“Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens”

Gen 49:14 Issachar is a strong [Hebrew: gerem = bone/strong] ass [Hebrew: chămôr = he-ass] couching down between two burdens [Hebrew: mishpâth = an enclosure/ stall/shelter for animals].

An ass is an animal that was created to carry a load (Gen 22:3; Gen 44:13). The word “burdens” in that verse is translated from the Hebrew word “mishpâth” which also has in its meaning a stall or shelter for animals:

Jdg 5:16 (CEV) Reuben, why did you stay among your sheep pens? [Hebrew: mishpâth]. Was it to listen to shepherds whistling for their sheep? No one could figure out why Reuben wouldn’t come.

Issachar, like all of us, is couched down between two shelters. The first shelter we are burdened with is this fleshly one which God gives as a marred vessel of clay being subjected to vanity, going through an experience of evil which no one chooses for themselves (Ecc 1:13; Jer 18:4; Rom 8:20). This is the first humble estate or burden which all the sons of Adam must ‘couch down’ to being beasts in an enclosure of flesh:

Ecc 3:18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.

Issachar, like all of us, is not limited to this one burden, which is the image of the earthy. We will also carry the image of the heavenly – our second shelter:

1Co 15:49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

This is also explains the two laws we must live under and see as totally different from one another – the natural law of sin and death versus the spiritual law of Christ (Jer 31:31-34; Gal 4:1-7). The last law sets us free from the first:

Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

“Issachar…a servant unto tribute”

Issachar is linked to the tribe of Zebulun in many instances in scriptures, as also seen in Moses’ blessings on these tribes:

Deu 33:18 And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and, Issachar, in thy tents.
Deu 33:19 They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand.

Issachar, “in [his] tents” (referring to these shelters of flesh and then spirit), became the founder of the tribe of Issachar who fulfilled important roles within physical Israel which all typifies his spiritual work in us, “the Israel of God”. The tribe of Issachar was positioned second after the tribe of Judah and before the tribe of Zebulun at the east of the tabernacle during Israel’s forty years sojourning in the wilderness as they also moved camp in this order for the rest of the tribes to follow (Num 2:1-9):

Num 2:5 And those that do pitch next unto him [Judah] shall be the tribe of Issachar: and Nethaneel the son of Zuar shall be captain of the children of Issachar.

Issachar also then indicates a leadership role to which Jacob also referred in his last words to Issachar:

Gen 49:15 (KJV) And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.

Gen 49:15 (ASV) And 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.

Servants are leaders in God’s vocabulary (Mat 20:25-28). In the words of Jacob to Issachar, we also see so much of our role as God’s servants to bring many to spiritual maturity and rest in Him:

Col 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Col 1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
Col 1:29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.

As it is with all those who must give guidance, Issachar’s leadership role was formed in the times of hardship, even when Issachar and his tribe suffered with the other eleven tribes in the four hundred years in slavery to our Egypt (Gen 15:13; Act 7:6). This is our symbolic years under the dominion of sin in the flesh. Even when we are taken out of that time of dominion under sin, our flesh wants to go back because the burden of dying to the flesh is so much heavier. As with the tribe of Issachar and the other tribes of Israel we naturally want to “[sit] down to eat and drink, and rose up to play”:

1Co 10:6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
1Co 10:7 Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
1Co 10:8 Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
1Co 10:9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
1Co 10:10 Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

When we are under the delusion of a so-called “free” will which believes man is a free moral agent determining his own destination, we cannot see that God is in control of everything in His creation, and we cannot see that everything is 100% on track after the counsel of His will:

Eph 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

Under God’s strong delusion, we cannot see that God’s will is the only sovereign free will that exists. When things do not go according to our liking, we naturally complain and contend with God, despising His way of doing things. In God’s mercy, He sends the destroyer to bring that period to an end in our lives. This all helps to prepare us for being the leaders God wants. A few rulers in Israel also came from the tribe of Issachar, among whom were one judge and two kings (Jdg 10:1; 1Ki 15:27).

“The children of Issachar…had understanding of the times”

The elect of God is prepared for rulership and leading the rest of creation to spiritual maturity. This is also so beautifully typified through this tribe of Issachar whom God used effectively in the battles between David and Saul. The tribe of Issachar supplied crucial leadership to the camp of David:

1Ch 12:32 And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.

To have understanding of the times is also what the wise Solomon found very helpful:

Ecc 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

Everything God brings to us has its particular time to start and its time to be completed – and it all is purposefully done by God. The tribe of Issachar showed the rest of Israel what they “ought to do”. God appoints leaders to “the perfecting of the saints” to bring everyone within His church to spiritual maturity:

Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
Eph 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Eph 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Eph 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

To have “understanding of the times” is an important spiritual aspect within leadership of getting the spiritually immature to maturity. Spiritual Babylon is known for their ability to keep their followers in spiritual diapers and wrap them in cotton wool all the time just to maintain a false sense of maturity in their leadership and ruling over their faith (Mat 20:25-28; 2Co 1:24). Throughout the New Testament we see how Jesus and the apostles treated this evil spirit in those who were openly satisfied with an attitude of “little faith” (Mat 14:31; Mat 16:8; 1Co 3:1-4; Gal 3:1-4; Heb 5:11-14):

Mat 6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Mat 8:26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

This tribe of Issachar was indeed among the six tribes who shouted the blessings from the southern mountain of Gerizim, promising the blessing of God on those who keep His commandments:

Deu 27:12 These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people when you have come over Jordan: Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin.

This is what the tribe of Issachar spiritually represents in us – carrying our calling as God’s leaders with dignity and love for His people to be sealed within the spiritual Israel of God:

Rev 7:7 …Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.

Gal 6:16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.


Detailed studies and emails relating to these foundational themes in Scripture are available on the website, including these topics and links:

Numbers in Scripture
Live By Every Word of God
Why God Hates All Flesh
Foundational Themes in Genesis – Study 84
Animals in Scripture – Ass
The Law of Moses Versus The Law of The Spirit

Other related posts