ISSACHAR (Heb. יִשָּׂשכָר), the ninth son of Jacob and the fifth of Leah; eponymous ancestor of the tribe bearing this name. Issachar's birth was considered by Leah to be a sign of divine favor, after a long intermission in childbearing, in reward for having given her handmaid to Jacob (Gen. 30:18). For that reason she called him Issachar, apparently popularly interpreting the name to mean "man of reward." The invariable association with *Zebulun in the order of birth, in the blessings
of Jacob and Moses, and in the tribal lists testifies to the proximity of the two tribes and to the close ties between them (Gen. 49:13–15; Deut. 33:18; cf. Num. 1:28–31; Josh. 19:10–23). The boundaries of the tribe may be reconstructed from the description of its neighbors – Naphtali to the north, Zebulun to the west, and Manasseh to the south – and from the list of cities within the territory (Josh. 17:11; 19:17–23; 21:28–29). It may be inferred that the border of Issachar stretched in the north from Mt. Tabor to the river Kishon in the west; in the east it lay along the length of the Jordan from Beth-Shemesh to the edge of Beth-Shean; in the south, it may have traversed the length of the mountains of Gilboa and the ridge of the mountains of Ephraim. The main part of the territory was in a plateau that sloped down to the Jordan Valley and the Valley of Jezreel. This topographical feature found rhetorical expression in the verse, "Issachar is a strong-boned ass, crouching between the saddlebags" (Gen. 49:14).
The territory of the tribe contained 16 cities including Jezreel, Shunem, and Beth-Shemesh. Several cities situated within the borders of Issachar, such as Beth-Shean, En-Dor, Taanach, and Megiddo actually constituted enclaves of the tribe of Manasseh (Josh. 17:11). Apparently, Issachar did not at first drive out the Canaanites since the Manassite cities within its borders remained Canaanite (Judg. 1:27ff.). The silence of the Bible in this regard may possibly hint at the subjection of Issachar by the Canaanites. A similar hint appears in the blessing of Jacob: "He bent his shoulder to the burden, and became a toiling serf " (Gen. 49:15).
In the war against Sisera, the tribe participated alongside Zebulun, and *Deborah the prophetess may herself have come from Issachar (cf. Judg. 5:15). The tribe also produced the judge Tola son of Puah (Judg. 10:1) and Baasha, king of Israel (i Kings 15:27). In the time of Hezekiah the men of Issachar were among those who went from Ephraim to observe the Passover in Jerusalem (ii Chron. 30:18). The territory of Issachar was conquered by Assyria in 732 b.c.e., and annexed to the Assyrian province of Megiddo.
In the Aggadah
The aggadah highlights various features of the relationship between Issachar and Zebulun, in which Zebulun the merchant provided for his brother Issachar, thus enabling him to study Torah. The Testament of Zebulun, dating from the Second Temple period, praises Zebulun's support of the needy. Issachar is first mentioned as a great scholar and renowned judge by the tanna*Eliezer b. Hyrcanus (c. 100 c.e.), whose evaluation was based on i Chronicles 12:33: "And the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do." A homily of an anonymous tanna also develops these notions: "'Rejoice Zebulun in thy going out' [Deut. 33:18] – Zebulun was an agent between his brother and other people; he would buy from his brother and sell to others; and buy from other people and sell to his brother; 'And Issachar in thy tents' – these are the battei midrash in which Torah matters are debated; 'And of the children of Issachar… their heads were 200' [i Chron. 12:33] – this tells us that the tribe of Issachar produced 200 heads of the Sanhedrin; 'And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah' [Judg. 5:15] – this teaches us that the great bet midrash of the future will be in the territory of the tribe of Issachar" (Midrash Tanna'im …, ed. D. Hoffmann (1909), 218, no. 18). This brings out the economic partnership of Issachar and Zebulun, the latter buying and selling on behalf of the former. From the last part of the homily it is clear that even before the Sanhedrin was established in Jerusalem there were battei-midrash in the territory of Issachar which were renowned for their greatness. It is reasonable to assume that this homily dates either from the period immediately before the Bar Kokhba War or from shortly after, when the Sanhedrin was forced to move from Jerusalem, in the territory of Judah, to Galilee, in the territory of Issachar (cf. Gen. R., ed. Ḥ. Albeck, 197, 1220ff.).
To the theme of the scholar being supported by the merchant, the amoraim added several points: "'For he saw a resting place that it was good' [Gen. 49:15] – this refers to the Torah; '… and he bowed his shoulders to bear the weight' [ ibid. ] – of the Torah; '… and he became a servant under task-work' [ ibid. ] – these were the 200 heads of the Sanhedrin that the tribe of Issachar produced. How did Issachar attain all this? Through the efforts of Zebulun, who traded for him and thus sustained Issachar, who devoted himself to Torah study …" (Gen. R. 98:12). This motif was expanded by *Ḥiyya b. Abba in the third century c.e. When collecting funds for needy scholars (see tj, Hor. 3:7, 48a; Meg. 3:1, 74a), R. Ḥiyya described the great rewards in store for those laymen who supported poor Torah scholars, using the example of Issachar and Zebulun to lay stress on the obligation.
in the bible: A. Saarisalo, The Boundary Between Issachar and Naphtali (1927); M. Noth, Das Buch Josua (1938), 86ff.; Alt, k1 Schr, 1 (1953), 193–202; Y. Aharoni, Hitnahalut Shivtei Yisrael ba-Galil ha-Elyon (1957), 43–48, 98–111, 115–20; S. Yeivin, in: em, 3 (1958), 944–52; Y. Kaufmann, Sefer Yehoshu'a (1959), 207–20, 223–6; Z. Kalai, Nahalot Shivtei Yisrael (1967), 144–51, 164–72, 355–60; W.F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968), 230–1; in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index; Beer, in: Sefer ha-Shanah… Bar-Ilan, 6 (1968).