Jacob's son Issachar was the 9th son born to him. Issachar's mother was Leah, via Leah. When Issachar was born, his mother, unloved Leah, said, "God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband." Although Issachar was Leah's fifth biological son, he wasn't born until after his mother and aunt Rachel struck a deal with some Mandrake plants.
Big brother Reuben had found some plants that apparently had some fertility value to them. When auntie Rachel saw the plants she struck a bargain with her sister, the one unloved by their shared husband.
The magic plants...for sex with Jacob.
How about that conception story to tell your children?
Leah's desperate longing for Jacob's love had a price. A cheap one at that. A few magical plants. Yet, when she gave them to her sister, she got to try once more to get the love of her life to love her..... using her body.
I wonder if she was superstitious. She was able to have children successfully. Perhaps when Reuben found them she dismissed them with a shrug and said, "Your aunt Rachel should try these, I sure don't need them." When one is desperate to have children, home remedies and old wives tales come to the surface.
So Unloved Leah saw Issachar as a reward from God.
That's a good thing to hear your mother say when you're little. "My little reward," Leah probably cooed over him. But sooner or later, the little reward probably had some questions.
"What was I a reward for, Momma? Did you win a race?"
Can you almost see those deep brown eyes looking up at his mother's face, wanting to know the reason he was called her little reward?
I don't know how the family dynamics of all these personalities played out when they learned the reasons behind their names. It's a culture I can't relate to; what may be very strange and abnormal to me may be perfectly logical to them.
But still, I wonder.
Issachar, though born 9th, his descendants were second in line when they wandered around the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. When the offerings were made tribe by tribe for the Tabernacle dedication, Issachar's line brought theirs on the second day. They camped on the east side of the Tabernacle, a very special place to camp. Ezekiel's dream says Issachar's gate will be on the south side in heaven.
When his father was dying, he said this to Issachar, "Issacher is a rawboned donkey lying down between two saddlebags. When he sees how good is his resting place and how pleasant is his land he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor."
Moses said this about Issachar, coupled with his words for his brother Zebulun, "Rejoice, Zebulun your going out, and you, Issachar, in your tents. They will summon peoples to the mountain and there offer sacrifices of righteousness; they will feast on the abundance of the seas, on the treasures hidden in the sands."
Issachar had four sons, Tola, Puah, Jashub, Shimron. Out of those four boys came 54,400 men twenty years old and older at the first census when the Israelites had escaped Egypt. By the time of the second census they had grown to 64,300 men.
Whatever may be the story behind Issachar's conception and birth, his childhood and lineage, one thing is clear, his name is in heaven, written on a gate, his tribe's name sealed for eternity. God blessed the boy called Reward with descendants far beyond Grandpa Abraham's and Grandma Rebekah's imagination.
Perhaps when Leah snuggled with Issachar, rocking him to sleep she snuggled with her little Reward, sent by the One who told his Great Grandpa, "I am your shield, your very great reward."