🔼The name Issachar: Summary
- Man Of Hire
- He Is Wages, There Is Recompense
- From (1) איש (ish), man, and (2) the verb שכר (sakar), to hire.
- From (1) יש (yesh), there is, and (2) the verb שכר (sakar), to hire.
🔼The name Issachar in the Bible
There are two men named Issachar mentioned in the Bible:
- The famous Issachar is Jacob's ninth son and Leah's fifth (Genesis 30:18). His name occurs in the Greek New Testament only once, in Revelation 7:7, where it's spelled Ισαχαρ. Very curiously, the ethnonym Issacharite (יששכרי), does not occur in the Bible.
- The lesser known is the seventh son of Obed-edom (1 Chronicles 26:5).
🔼Etymology of the name Issachar
The name Issachar consists of two parts, although the origin and meaning of the first part is disputed. NOBSE Study Bible Name List suggests a root in the word איש (ish) meaning man in the sense of a function (man of such and such). This word is written with an aleph, which does not occur in the name:
The verb אנש ('anash) appears to emphasize the weakness of the human individual and mankind's consequent tendency to clan up and have strength in numbers first and then in social stratification. It either means to be weak or even to be sick, or it swings the other way and means to be friendly and social. It yields the important noun אנוש ('enosh), man or human male individual who is weak yet social.
In the Bible, societies are feminine (and maternal) and although some scholars insist on a whole other but identical root, the noun אשה ('isha) means woman or wife. And again perhaps from a whole other root or perhaps the same one, the noun איש ('ish) means man, or rather man of; man in some specific function such as "man of war" or "man of the earth." It's also the common word for husband.
Since societies form around central fires (or the "purifying light" of wisdom, which is where the metaphor comes from), the noun אש ('esh), fire, may also derive from this verb.
Note that the Masoretes pointed the first part of the name Issachar, ישׂ, with a שׂ (shin), while the noun אישׁ became pointed with a שׁ (shin).
BDB Theological Dictionary and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names disagree with NOBSE all together, and see more in the word יש (yesh), meaning there is:
The word יש (yesh), marks existence and can often simply translated as "there is" or "there are". On rare occasions it occurs as a noun, where it demonstrates existence opposed to nothingness.
Note again that the word ישׁ is pointed with a shin, contrary to the first part of the name Issachar.
About the second part of the name Issachar the sources are in agreement. It comes from the verb שכר (sakar) meaning to hire:
The difference between the letters שׁ (shin) and שׂ (sin) didn't exist until scholars began to differentiate between them in the Middle Ages. Dictionaries will list the verbs שׂכר (sakar) and שׁכר (sakar) as two wholly different verbs, but to the people who wrote the Bible and those who read it for many centuries after, there was only one verb שכר (skr):
The verb שכר (sakar) means to hire, but note that in societies where money wasn't prevalent or quite literally a luxury item, workers would commonly be paid food, drink and protection. Nouns שכר (seker) and שכר (sakar) mean wage and noun משכרת (maskoret) means wages. Adjective שכיר (sakir) means hired and may be used substantially to denote employed men or deployed items.
The verb שכר (shakar) means to be or become drunk, which is what happens when workers get paid in beer, as was customary for instance in Egypt. In fact, in early cities, water was often undrinkable and beer the only beverage.
Noun שכר (shekar) denotes a drink that makes drunk. Adjective שכר or שכור (shikkor) means drunken or drunken one. And noun שכרון (shikkaron) means drunkenness.
The birth of Issachar was preceded by the birth and painfully naming of Gad, the son of Jacob with Leah's maid Zilpah (Genesis 30:11). Desiring Jacob's attention and appreciation, Leah had given her maid to Jacob. Now she even purchased the right to sleep with her husband by giving rivaling Rachel the mandrakes Reuben had found in the field (Genesis 30:14-16). Naming her son after the price she had to pay to rent her husband from his other wife shows the same kind of heartbreak Leah showed in naming Gad.
For a meaning of the name Issachar, NOBSE Study Bible Name List seems to go with the word איש ('ish), meaning man and reads Man Of Hire. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names uses יש (yesh), the particle that's indicative of presence and proposes He Is Wages. BDB Theological Dictionary, similarly, suggests There Is Recompense.