It is unique, that Jacob, in referring to his children, compared them to various animals.
He’s prophetic in describing their character, their disposition, their personality and their observable temperaments.
James Russell Miller 1840–1912 in his book; A life of character writes:
“that in the Scriptures we find all the patterns for all the parts of our character.
Not just the great and prominent elements of character—
but also characters most minute features and it’s delicate lines and shadings of ornamentation.”
The principles, the beatitudes, all Christ’s precepts, the ethical teachings all show
to us the patterns of good character and contrasting bad characteristics.
We have lists of negative qualities referred to as the works of the flesh.
These are aspects of peculiarities and distinguishing idiosyncrasies.
We have positive attributes describing Christlike character.
These are beautiful dispositions that are the fruit of the Spirit
We see in Romans 1 the twelve step decline of humanities decadence.
This degeneracy begins from disregard of God to depravation to degeneracy then
to deterioration on into complete debauchery.
We have the positive path of growing in grace through developing an intimate relationship with Jesus.
Christ only is the persona of all perfections of character.
He is unrivaled in His excellence.
He is peerless and unequaled.
His revolutionary impact changes the entire architecture of our total depravity through our love relationship with Him.
Proverbs boils character down into a variety of contrasts and their fateful far reaching effects.
We see the wise individual verses the fool.
Not just one kind of fool but five categories of fools.
We read of the strange individuals verses the virtuous individuals.
And then there’s authoritative instructions on the consequences of associating with corrupting, perverting and defiling individuals
In contrast we’re told of the elevating, ennobling, uplifting influences of wise and prudent persons of character.
Jacob was not a coward in facing off with his offspring.
Their reaction toward him for calling a spade a spade didn’t dissuade or intimidate him.
Jacob was uncompromising by the consequential possibilities of lifetime rejection and revolt by relating his sage observations.
He knew each one of his children from conception to the present.
He had the power of blessing and cursing in his words.
He begins his declarations in his waning years.
Judah is like a lion.
Naphtali is like a deer.
Benjamin is like a wolf.
Dan is like a serpent.
But yikes, Issachar is like an ass.
The picture of a donkey or jack ass is one of dumbness and of an inability to appreciate higher things.
But an ass can be useful and strong.
Issachar was also one of Leah’s sons, the son born when Leah hired away Jacob from Rachel.
The circumstances of his birth could have tainted Issachar’s character.
He’s never pictured as an active person and lacks aggression in his personality.
He’s is basically content to take a humble place.
But Jacob, looking at Issachar, spoke of his strength
“Issachar,” he said, “is a strong ass.”
It is so weird to be considered a strong ass.
It’s unflattering to be likened to something strong but basically stupid at the same time.
Ismael, Hager’s son is called:
“a wild donkey of a man,
His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him;
And he will live to the east of all his brothers” Genesis 16:12
Williams renders this
he is a wild-ass man, (an untamable ass)
Some historians view Ismael as the father of the Arab world.
Although, other researchers say the Arab nations are from the Canaanite nations who were the product of Lots incestuous relationship between his two daughters.
We are told that Ishmael, was fruitful and greatly increased in numbers.
He was the father of twelve rulers, and made into a great nation. Gen. 17:20
We read that Ismael, as a distant half brother Genesis 25:18
Would have descendants who “lived in hostility towards all their brothers.”
Which may be the roots of the harsh tension between the Arab and Jewish nation.
But, back to Issachar’s strength as an ass.
He was a strong man—not strong in the sense of explosive leadership but in the sense of dependability.
He was not a man easily moved, but you knew where you stood with him.
He was a plodder, and solid.
“And he saw that rest was good & the land that it was pleasant.” Gen. 49:15a
Issachar would prefer the comforts of home to future glory.
He inherited a very fertile strip of land in the kingdom; it was in the north, fronting on the Jordan, a territory very coveted by raiders.
Issachar would yield up dignity and freedom so long as he could continue to farm his fields and be at ease.
When the book of Judges recapitulates the sketchy achievements of the tribes in taking hold of their possessions in Canaan, Issachar is not even mentioned (Judges 1).
The tribe was such a failure along military lines it did not deserve a place among those who at least made some effort to possess their possessions.
But Jacob saw even more.
The indolent, easygoing disposition of Issachar pointed to his servitude
“And he bowed his shoulder to bear and became a servant unto tribute.”
There was no blame, simply a lack of achievement.
But what’s cool is Issachar did amount to something after all.
When the tribes were camped or on the march,
Issachar was placed next to Zebulun & Judah at the head of them all
Association with those vigorous members of the kingdom was intended to inspire sluggish Issachar, and that is just what happened.
In the days of the judges, Issachar came forward to fight with Barak and even marched to bear the brunt of battle
Deborah, whose name means “the bee,” stung lazy Issachar into activity at last.
Later on, Issachar gave four kings to the northern kingdom.
But, best of all, in David’s day the men of Issachar were men who had understanding of the times, men who knew what Israel ought to do.
They took the lead in welcoming David back to the throne
1 Chronicles 12:32, 38–40
There’s a sense in which we are all strong dumb jack asses.
And, the way out is to get stung with the realization of our need of Jesus.
It is in Him & only in our Lord Jesus Christ that we embrace the glory of beauty & blessings
When we welcome Jesus onto the throne of our heart we are changed from glory to glory by
One of the most intriguing studies I’ve ever read is The Names on the Gates of Pearl
by C. H. Waller. He traces the 12 sons of Jacob to eternity where their names are
engraved on the 12 Gates of Pearl in paradise.