The Tribe Of Issachar

Judges 10:1-3 (ESV)

1 After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. 

2 And he judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir.

3 After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years.

Tola, the son of Puah, of the tribe of Issachar, judged Israel for twenty three years. The Bible says he rose to save Israel, and that he lived in Shamir, in the hill country of Ephraim. Other than the fact, that he rose after Abimelech, we know nothing more of him. 

Like him, we know very little about the personal history of his ancestor, Issachar. We know more about his family, and his descendants, than we know of him. We know the events that led to his birth. 

We know the things that his Mother Leah said about him. She named him recompense, or reward. She was overjoyed at his birth. We also know that without stopping to share the circumstances that led to Zebulun’s birth, it goes from Isaachar’s birth, to the pregnancy that produced Zebulun. The reward of one son, led to the birth of another. 

We know the blessing of Jacob on both boys. Even though we never hear Issachar’s voice in Scripture, we learn about his family. What connects the Judge Tola directly with his ancestor, is his name.

Like Tola the Judge, Issachar’s first son is named Tola. His second son is Puvah, which means the same as Puah, Judge Tola’s Dad. This name, chosen by Issachar or his bride, was very special. So much so, it was repeated generations later.

Although you may not first realize it. Tola, on face value, means worm, or crimson. If you stop at either, you will have missed something amazing. According to the book, Biblical Basis For Modern Science, the name is derived from the crimson-grub, but used only (in this connection) of the color from it, and cloths dyed with it.

The incredible thing, and how it connects with Issachar, is the process that creates the dye.  When the female scarlet worm species was ready to go into labor, she would attach her body to the trunk of a tree, fixing herself so firmly and permanently that she would never leave again. 

The eggs deposited beneath her body were protected until ready to hatch. As the mother died, the crimson fluid stained her body and the surrounding wood. From the dead bodies of these scarlet worm mothers, the commercial scarlet dyes of ancient times came from them. 

It makes you wonder, if this name came from a hard birth? Was Issachar afraid he would lose his bride in the birth of his son? Perhaps she lost a lot of blood, we don’t know. What we do know, is three other sons were born. 

While our history is limited, we know Judah and Simeon had children by more than one woman. There is no reference to a second bride in Issachar’s story. Perhaps that is why, his second son is named Puvah, or splendid. There is no reference to sorrow in this child’s birth. 

The third son has two names.  He is called Yob (Job), and Jashub.  One means persecuted, the other means he will return.  While I can’t speak to why this child shares both names, I do know this.  Persecution does not mean defeat, it simply means we can choose to get back up, and return to win the battle.  

The last son of Issachar, Shimron, means watch or guard. This teaches us that, no matter what you have been given, or what victory you have won, there is no room for apathy. We must hold fast the things that are most surely believed among us.  

Later in history, the men of Issachar were described as men who knew what Israel ought to do.  They were considered men of wisdom, and the reason they had that wisdom, was someone fought for it, to be able to give it to the next generation.  That’s why I don’t believe it unusual for the names to be repeated in the line of Issachar.

Tola, the Judge, wasn’t from Ephraim, but Issachar.  Yet, when he was called of God to judge Israel, he moved to a particular place on the mountain of Ephraim.  Tola didn’t move to a palace, but to a place named after the thorns that grew there.

Commentators believe that he moved there, partially because it was a central location, but more importantly, it was near The Ark at Shiloh. Tola knew that there may be thorns at his current location, but if he was near The Ark, it was worth any difficulty.  It should also be said, that the place of thorns was on the mount of Ephraim, translated as double fruit, or double fruitfulness.

Your place of thorns can also be the place of your most productive season.  Likewise, your most fruitful times of life, can produce struggle, but if you are in The Will Of God, it is worth the battle.  Thorns do not mean there is no victory, only that there will be attacks, but you will still be successful.

This is why Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer;I have overcome the world.”  There will be tribulation, but there will also be victory.  Focus, not on the battle, but the reason for the fight. Tola focused on the reason for the fight. 

Tola died after twenty three years of faithful Ministry.  We don’t know of his decisions, his battles by name, or his acts, but we do know that he was faithful.  This is the testimony that we all pray to have, faithfulness.  If your reputation is that you are faithful, it is the greatest thing that can be said of you.

Strive to be faithful, and everything else will present itself at the appropriate time.  God said that He would remember your work and labor of love. He not only sees what you do for Him, but the heart with which you do it, out of love and commitment.  

Which brings us back to Tola, the Judge Of Israel. He wasn’t the only quiet, faithful Israelite mentioned. We’ve talked about his Dad, but this passage also mentions his Granddad. 

His name was Dodo, which means beloved. There would be other men by this name in Scripture, including two heroes of David’s army, but except for this verse, his child and grandchild, we know nothing of his life. Yet it was important that Dodo’s name is here.

Why is he important enough to be mentioned here, when nothing else is known? What purpose was it? God wanted his name mentioned. 

We see many in The Bible introduced with only the name of their parents, if that. Yet this Grandfather is important enough to be referenced by name. Apparently he did something that God was so pleased with, his name was recorded. 

Dodo named his son Puah, meaning splendid, mouth, corner, or bush of hair. Only a man who found joy in his family would name his son splendid.  We know that he must have raised Puah in a splendid and Godly manner, because he in turn, raised Tola, future Judge of Israel.

We know his children and grandchildren gave him a voice in his name being recorded in Scripture. Had he made the wrong choices, I do not believe he would be in this verse. While there is repentance, we should always remember, one wrong choice can lead to a day of wrongful decisions, and could end if not repaired, with a lifetime of mistakes. That is why choosing the right things is so important in every decision of our lives.

At the same time, Joshua said make your choice for The Lord today, and restart where you are. Don’t let a number of bad decisions lie to you, there is hope, and the opportunity to start fresh. Where there is life, there is hope!

It is important that both be said, because some people will lean to extremes. They will either say nothing matters, or that no one can live up, and both contain lies. We are redeemed by Grace, but God calls us to live a new life. If we sin, we have an advocate, but that’s for mistakes, not a lifestyle of wrongdoing.

Dodo doesn’t appear to have been concerned about drawing attention to himself, he simply did what he was supposed to do. People used to talk about carving out your corner of the world, usually through some big act, but that’s not the way Dodo apparently made his mark. Dodo built his children’s future, and their lives brought him into the view of all who read the Scriptures.

If you consistently do what is right, then as Solomon said, your gift will make room for you. You won’t have to carve up someone else, or destroy their future to make a place for you. He made it through consistent right choices which raised a son, and a grandson who served God. 

Because of this, Tola arose to save Israel. He arose from the place directed to his ancestors by Moses, The Man Of God. Before Moses went to the mountain to die, he spoke, like Jacob on his deathbed, Of the future of the tribes.

Deuteronomy 33:18-19 (ESV)

18 And of Zebulun he said,“Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and Issachar, in your tents.

19 They shall call peoples to their mountain; there they offer right sacrifices; for they draw from the abundance of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand.”

When it came to Issachar and Zebulun, Moses spoke to both tribes in tandem, connecting their work. One was to rejoice in their journey, the other in their tents. Also like Jacob, Moses mentioned the younger brother Zebulun first, and Issachar second. 

In Jacob’s case, it’s not surprising that he would mention the younger first. Of course, like Jacob, Moses was a younger brother, but that’s not the reason he did. He did so because the two together convey one complete thought, and the order had to place Zebulun first, and Issachar second.

Zebulun was a seafaring tribe, a trading tribe. Their call was to go out, and share what they had with others, but that was only half of what was needed. While Zebulun was sent to share, and draw attention to Israel, Issachar was to maintain at home. Verse eighteen is because of verse nineteen, to draw all peoples to the mountains of Israel where God is worshipped.

If this were The New Testament verse nineteen would sound like this. “Go out into the highways and hedges…”. “I will make you fishers of men”, and “whosoever will let him come.”  Verse nineteen points far beyond the reach of the oceans, to the lost sea of humanity.

Isaiah 2:2-3 (ESV)

2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,

3 and many peoples shall come, and say:“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

The Prophet Isaiah says something very similar to verse nineteen in Isaiah chapter two.Tola arose from an environment that God had more planned for, than clean places to stay, and fruitful fields. Everything wasn’t in place in Tola’s day, but God had a plan. 

God will usually call someone who is in the right environment, but who is far from complete. He calls committed people, not completed people. They are completed in the process, and not before it. 

Tola’s tribe would come to be known as those who studied God’s Word. Take note, they were neither Levites, or the line Of David, but they were committed to The Word Of God. Many Christians say I’m not a Pastor, or Minister, or a teacher, and they make excuses to themselves, to not pursue a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. This is not only a mistake, but a dangerous one. 

Knowing God’s Word isn’t about position, it’s about relationship. You spend time with those you love. You learn their likes, their dislikes, their thought, and their feelings. The same is true about a relationship with God. I guarantee you, He knows your likes and dislikes, as well as your needs.

Save Israel, the Hebrew word yasa is used here, and it has many meanings. Yes, it means to free or succor, but it also means to defend, avenge, deliver, and to be safe. Salvation is more than the initial experience with God. It is about a relationship with God, where we grow in our walk with Him. 

This was the whole purpose of the Judge in Israel. A judge was not meant to punish Israel, but to redeem them, even if it involved correction. This is why Christ is both Savior and Judge. His purpose is to redeem us, but not to leave us in the condition that He found us. 

It’s no coincidence, for there are no accidents with God, that following Tola’s death in the place of thorns, “after him arose Jair the Gileadite”. We won’t dwell on Jair, except to say, his name means enlightened, and Gileadite is from the rocky region.  Death on a hill with thorns, and enlightenment, or revelation rising, sound familiar?

If it hearkens to mind Calvary, it’s by design. Everything in The Word Of God points to Christ.  From a tribe headed by a man whose voice goes unspoken in Scripture, to a seemingly obscure judge on a mountain in Israel. Just as The Word focuses on The Lord Jesus, so should our lives.

In every way, we should make The Lord part of our tents, or homes. Serving God most definitely includes Sunday Worship, for the verse talks about sacrifice on the mountain, but it also involves Monday devotions. Remember Issachar means reward, and every moment of our lives should be a thank you, for the reward of having Jesus in our lives.