Yisaschar (Issachar)


Usually called Issachar in English, attempting to phoneticise the double-Seen (שש), either of which may anyway be a Sheen. A double-letter in Yehudit is very rare, and there is no other double-Seen except this one name, so we have to consider the possibility that it may be an error, or a foreign word, or perhaps a conflation of two words; and then we have to determine if one of the Seens might in fact be a Sheen.

The way it is written, it ought to be YISASCHAR; until someone can convince me otherwise, I am simply presenting the name phonetically.

Genesis 30:18 names him as the fifth of Ya'akov's (Jacob's) sons, by Le'ah, the ninth son overall, whose descendants lived around Mount Tavor, south and west of the Sea of Galilee. Other than being given the detail of his tribal territory (Joshua 19:17-23), we learn nothing else about this man.

The name is said to mean "bought with wages", from the root Sachar (שכר). This is explained in Genesis 30:16, in connection with a most bizarre tale about mandrakes, in which Le'ah gets the right to sleep with Ya'akov for a single night, by literally paying for him with mandrakes - a Redacted version, presumably, of some aspect of the ancient fertility cult, but with insufficient left in here to be able to reconstruct the original. 

Genesis 30:18 anyway contradicts this explanation of his name, saying that the child was a reward for giving her maiden to her husband, presumably meaning Zilpah, though the word for husband in Yehudit is Ba'al (בעל), and the reward of a child for such a sexual liaison is generally, in Beney Yisra-Eli literature, a tale of the bounty of the fertility goddess; so we have to assume that this too is part of the fertility cult, and not a mere family event. 

And then, if either of the Sachar meanings – "wages" or "reward" - were correct, it would anyway be Yisa Sachar (ישא שכר); and much as we might wish to be generous and suggest that the original Aleph (א) has been lost by error, the fact that the probably erroneous double-Seen started this enquiry in the first place precludes a resolution by means of another error.

If we are indeed in the territory of the fertility goddess - and the mandrakes and the reward for giving a maiden to a Ba'al certainly seem to be taking us that way - then we can also note that this is another of the many names that begin with a Yud (י), and that all the Yud names are either the use of the third person future singular, or a Redaction of a name that originally included the moon-goddess Yah (Yah-Ekev, Yah-Natan, et cetera). The Ba'al requires a consort after all. Let us hold this thought for a moment.

Because first we still need to deal with the problem of the double-Seen. What if we read one of the Seens as a Sheen?

There is no other obvious root by which to explain the name in its double-Seen form, but there is a Hebrew word, Yeshesh (ישש) which means "to be white"; whence "old man" is Yashash (ישש) in 2 Chronicles 36:17 and frequently in Job (12:12 for "ancientness", 15:10, 29:8 etc). Which would make Ya'akov's son Yesheshchar. And then, Yeshish (ישיש) is the Yehudit method for writing Isis, the cold white moon-goddess of Mitsrayim (note that, in English, Isis also makes Seens out of the Sheens). 

This would seem to resolve both the Yud and the double-Seen, and a look at the map further endorses it - there sits Osher (Osiris) on the coast where his body was washed up, now named Asher; next to him Jezebel's territory, I-Zevel, Yah-Zevel, Zevulun, Zebulon, the realm of the Underworld from which she retrieved him and reprieved him, Persephone-like, year after year; and then, next tribal territory inland, Isis herself, Yehuditised as Yesheshchar - except for one small but unavoidable problem; that we still have the latter part of the name, Char (כר), for which only add the adjective "cold" exists as an option, and an explanation needed...

The double-Sheen is nevertheless reinforced by discovering a character named Yeshishay (ישישי) in 1 Chronicles 5:14.

If I am right about the Isis link, then we should expect to find an overt reference to the trinity tale in Ya'akov's blessing (Genesis 49:14), and lo and behold we do, for the chamor (חֲמֹר), the ass or donkey, is associated with Set, the murderous brother of Osher (Osiris).

"Yissachar is a strong ass couching between two burdens [look at the map and you'll see that this is a reference to Menasheh]; and he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute."

Which in Yehudit is:

יששכר חמר גרם רבץ בין המשפתים וירא מנחה כי טוב ואת-הארץ כי נעמה ויט שכמו לסבל ויהי למס-עבד

Yisaschar chamor gerem robets beyn ha-mispetayim. Va-yar menuchah kee tov ve-et-ha-arets kee ne-emah va-yet shichmo lisbol, va-yehi la-mas-oved

Is Mispetayim (
משפתים) a misreading for Mishpatim? Is Menuchah (מנחה) likewise a misreading for Minchah - and if so see Kayin's minchah was which not so tov (Genesis 4:3-5). 

And if my Isis reading is not correct (and I am only positing it, not even recommending it, because the Char is hugely problematic), then what alternatives are there? Two in fact, both even more problematic, but out there in the scholarly world, so necessary of mention.

The first is Ish Sokar, a most obscure Egyptian god - indeed, so obscure that he may not actually be a god at all, but a mere mis-interpretation by modern scholars of something actually more interesting. "The Egyptians in the Pyramid Texts linked his name to the anguished cry of Osiris to Isis 'Sy-k-ri' ('hurry to me'), in the underworld. Seker is strongly linked with two other gods, Ptah the Creator god and chief god of Memphis and Osiris the god of the dead." This from Wikipedia, and you can read the rest yourself; what it infers, and several other rather more scholarly websites affirm it, is that Yisaschar may in fact be "Yeshesh Sy-k-ri" in a Yehuditised phonetic form. To impute Ish Sokar from this seems to me non-viable, simply because there is no other known reference to an Egyptian god of that name; but the yet-another-Isis-link may be another matter.

And then there is the theory of the Black Madonna, based on re-reading Yisaschar as Yah Shachur; another of those theories of Robert Graves that sound so wonderful in English but fall apart entirely as soon as you recheck the Yehudit. For black in Yehudit is Shachur (שחור) with a Chet (ח) rather than the Chaf (כ) we have in Yisaschar (and while it would be convenient to find a Black Madonna living so close to the White Madonna Asherah in Asher's territory, the fact is that Asher is masculine not feminine, associated with Osher not Asherah, and while there will be readers who believe I am looking for gods and goddesses anywhere I can find them, dogmatic in my search to prove a theory, the fact is that Yisaschar may be oblique in meaning, but I will offer no proofs which the Yehudit does not voluntarily throw up, and here the Yehudit is adamant in its rejection.

What I would accept is that Yisaschar may well be a variant of that very White Madonna, namely Isis herself, for which see also my notes to Yishvah/Yishvi. But if she is Isis, then we must move the dot from the left to the right and turn the Seen back into a Seen: Yesheshchar, not Yisaschar.

And one last thought, derived from the Graves. That there is Shachur, which is erroneous, and there is also Shachar (שָׁחַר), and therefore a possibility of Yah-Shachar; Shachar is "the dawn". See my notes to Achi-Shachar, a son of Bin-Yamin in 1 Chronicles 7:10, on the Bilhan page. Unfortunately Shachar is also written with a Chet (ח)and not a Chaf (כ), so this falls flat too.

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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