Genesis 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) A servant unto tribute.—Heb., task-work. It means service paid in actual labour, such as was exacted by Solomon of the descendants of the Canaanites (1Kings 9:21, where the phrase used here is translated “a tribute of bondservice;” and 2Chronicles 8:8). In the Middle Ages this forced labour—called” service without wages in Jeremiah 22:13—was one of the wrongs most deeply felt by the peasantry, as they had to neglect their own plots of ground to labour for their seigneurs. The picture, then, is that of a race settled in a rich agricultural country, and content to endure a great deal of injustice because their condition as a whole was prosperous.

49:13-18 Concerning Zebulun: if prophecy says, Zebulun shall be a haven of ships, be sure Providence will so plant him. God appoints the bounds of our habitation. It is our wisdom and duty to accommodate ourselves to our lot, and to improve it; if Zebulun dwell at the heaven of the sea, let him be for a haven of ships. Concerning Issachar: he saw that the land was pleasant, yielding not only pleasant prospects, but pleasant fruits to recompense his toils. Let us, with an eye of faith, see the heavenly rest to be good, and that land of promise to be pleasant; this will make our present services easy. Dan should, by art, and policy, and surprise, gain advantages against his enemies, like a serpent biting the heel of the traveller. Jacob, almost spent, and ready to faint, relieves himself with those words, I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord! The salvation he waited for was Christ, the promised Seed; now that he was going to be gathered to his people, he breathes after Him to whom the gathering of the people shall be. He declared plainly that he sought heaven, the better country, Heb 11:13,14. Now he is going to enjoy the salvation, he comforts himself that he had waited for the salvation. Christ, as our way to heaven, is to be waited on; and heaven, as our rest in Christ, is to be waited for. It is the comfort of a dying saint thus to have waited for the salvation of the Lord; for then he shall have what he has been waiting for."An ass of bone," and therefore, of strength. "Couching between the hurdles" - the pens or stalls in which the cattle were lodged. Rest in a pleasant land he felt to be good; and hence, rather than undertake the struggle for liberty and independence, he became like the strong ass a bearer of burdens, and a payer of tribute. He is thus a hireling by disposition as well as by name Genesis 30:18.Ge 49:14, 15. Issachar—

14. a strong ass couching down between two burdens—that is, it was to be active, patient, given to agricultural labors. It was established in lower Galilee—a "good land," settling down in the midst of the Canaanites, where, for the sake of quiet, they "bowed their shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute."

Rest, or rather, his resting-place, as this very word signifies, Genesis 8:9 Psalm 116:7 132:8 Isaiah 11:10, i.e. his portion or habitation, as the Chaldee and Syriac translate it. So this agrees with the following member, where, after the manner of the Hebrews, the same thing is repeated in other words. And if it be objected against this version, that it is not said his rest, but

rest in the general, it may be replied, that so it is in the following branch,

the land, though it be apparently meant of his land, or portion of land allotted to him. Besides, the pronouns are often omitted, and to be understood in Hebrew text; as may appear by comparing 1 Kings 10:7, with 2 Chronicles 9:6; and Psalm 41:9, with John 13:18; and Matthew 3:12, with Luke 3:17.

Became a servant unto tribute; willingly paying whatsoever tributes were imposed upon him, either by the neighbouring tribes, or by foreign powers, rather than to forfeit his pleasant and fruitful country, and his sweet repose.

And he saw that rest was good,.... Not the house of the sanctuary, and attendance there, and the service of that, as the Targum of Jerusalem; nor the rest of the world to come, the happiness of a future state, as that of Jonathan; but rather, as Onkelos, the part and portion of the good land allotted him; he saw that a quiet industry exercised in a diligent cultivation and manuring his land was preferable to the hurry of a court, or the fatigue of a camp, or the dangers of the seas:

and the land that it was pleasant; a fine delightful country, which, if well looked after and improved, would produce plenty of pleasant fruits; and within this tribe were the rich vale of Esdraelon or Jezreel, and the fruitful mountains of Gilboa: of the former it is agreed by all travellers the like has never been seen by them, being of vast extent and very fertile, and formerly abounded with corn, wine, and oil; See Gill on Hosea 1:5 and the latter were famous for their fruitfulness, through the dews that descended on them, 2 Samuel 1:21.

and bowed his shoulders to bear; the fatigues of ploughing and sowing, and reaping, and carrying in the fruits of the earth:

and became a servant unto tribute; which greatly arises from agriculture and the fruits of the earth; and this tribe chose rather to pay more tribute than the rest, that they might abide at home and attend the business of their fields, when others were called to go forth to war.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. a resting place] Better, as R.V. marg., rest. “Rest,” as opposed to the wandering life of nomads. Cf. Deuteronomy 12:9; Psalm 95:11.

pleasant] Vulg. optima. LXX πίων = “fat,” possibly following a slightly different reading.

bowed his shoulder] Issachar was ready to kneel, and bear any heavy burden, for the sake of a quiet life in a fertile land.

a servant under taskwork] Cf. Joshua 16:10, “became servants to do taskwork.” Issachar is reproached for being ready to undertake forced labour, and so to acknowledge the Canaanites as his overlords. The phrase is the regular one for becoming tributary; cf. Deuteronomy 20:11; Jdg 1:30; Isaiah 31:8. In all probability there is a play upon the name “Issachar” and its derivation in the sense of “a man of hire,” îsh and sâchar; cf. Genesis 30:18. LXX, apparently seeking to mitigate the severity of the reproach, ἐγενήθη ἀνὴρ γεωργός = “became a labourer.” Targ. Onk. “he will subdue the provinces of the peoples, destroy their inhabitants, and those who are left among them shall be servants unto him and bringers of tribute.”

Genesis 49:15"Issachar is a bony ass, lying between the hurdles. He saw that rest was a good (טוב subst.), and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute." The foundation of this award also lies in the name שׂכר ישּׂא, which is probably interpreted with reference to the character of Issachar, and with an allusion to the relation between שׂכר and שׂכיר, a daily labourer, as an indication of the character and fate of his tribe. "Ease at the cost of liberty will be the characteristic of the tribe of Issachar" (Delitzsch). The simile of a bony, i.e., strongly-built ass, particularly adapted for carrying burdens, pointed to the fact that this tribe would content itself with material good, devote itself to the labour and burden of agriculture, and not strive after political power and rule. The figure also indicated "that Issachar would become a robust, powerful race of men, and receive a pleasant inheritance which would invite to comfortable repose." (According to Jos. de bell. Jude 3.3, 2, Lower Galilee, with the fruitful table land of Jezreel, was attractive even to τὸν ἥκιστα γῆς φιλόπονον). Hence, even if the simile of a bony ass contained nothing contemptible, it did not contribute to Issachar's glory. Like an idle beast of burden, he would rather submit to the yoke and be forced to do the work of a slave, than risk his possessions and his peace in the struggle for liberty. To bend the shoulder to the yoke, to come down to carrying burdens and become a mere serf, was unworthy of Israel, the nation of God that was called to rule, however it might befit its foes, especially the Canaanites upon whom the curse of slavery rested (Deuteronomy 20:11; Joshua 16:10; 1 Kings 9:20-21; Isaiah 10:27). This was probably also the reason why Issachar was noticed last among the sons of Leah. In the time of the Judges, however, Issachar acquired renown for heroic bravery in connection with Zebulun (Judges 5:14-15, Judges 5:18). The sons of Leah are followed by the four sons of the two maids, arranged, not according to their mothers or their ages, but according to the blessing pronounced upon them, so that the two warlike tribes stand first.
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