Genesis 49:14–15—Why did Jacob predict slavery for Issachar here, but in Deuteronomy 33:18–19 Moses predicted blessing?

Problem: In Genesis 49:14–15 Jacob prophesies that Issachar would become “a band of slaves” (Gen. 49:15). However, in Deuteronomy 33:19 Moses predicts that Issachar will “partake of the abundance of the seas and of treasures hidden in the sand.”

Solution: The history of the tribe of Issachar indicates that Jacob was looking forward to a time when, for the sake of their earthly possessions, Issachar would bow to foreign invaders under Tiglath-pileser rather than fight for their liberty. Moses, however, was looking forward to a time before this invasion when the tribe would prosper in the fertile plain which lay between the mountains of Gilboa and Tabor. The prosperity which they gained led to a relative life of ease, a characteristic alluded to in the figure of a lazy donkey unwilling to move its burden (Gen. 49:14). This prosperity in a land which was often threatened by foreign invaders, and their unwillingness to forfeit their possessions for liberty, created the eventual servitude predicted by Jacob.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.