WORD STUDY – STRONG DONKEY
Genesis 49:14: “Issachar is a strong donkey, crouched down between two burdens.”
Strong Donkey – Chamor Garem – Idiomatic expression for a bitter medicine that cures through cleansing the body.
There is a sort of play on words here. Issachar comes from the root word “shacar” which means reward, gift, or intoxication. Let’s focus on the words gift and intoxication. The word for donkey is “chamor” which is also the word used for fermenting and foaming. There are a number of words in the Hebrew which can be rendered as strong, but the word used her is “garam” which means to gnaw at a bone and lick it clean. It carries the idea of cleansing through affliction. In fact the word garam has a numerical value of 243 which is the same numerical value for the word “to cleanse.” The words “strong donkey” is really a play on words expressing the idea of drinking a medicine that is very bitter to the taste yet will cleanse the body of whatever is causing it to be afflicted. In our modern terms we would say it would cure whatever ails you or the cure is almost worse than the affliction. An operation, chemo therapy, even an injection would be an example of a chamor garem or a strong donkey. Issachar basically means a gift or reward. The reward or gift of drinking wine can be intoxication. I have never been intoxicated but those who have say it is a good warm feeling. We often use the word intoxication with being in love, or just an expression of joy.
The picture here is that Issachar may represent a “strong donkey” or a bitter healing agent, yet it is really a gift in disguise to bring great joy. The expression “crouched between two burdens is the encouragement given while drinking this bitter agent. The word for two burdens here is “hamishepethaim.” This is an enclosure for cattle or an animal stall. This stall is used to keep the cattle from wandering away and to protect them from predators who seek to harm them. It is sort of like a hospital where you are surrounded by nurses, doctors and security personnel dedicated to protecting you while you recover.
So what is your Issachar today? What is the strong donkey that God is using to cleanse you today? Is it that co-worker that drives you nuts, your demanding and never satisfied boss? Is it that crazy driver that cuts you off in rush hour traffic, is it that unpaid bill, car problems, relationship problems etc.? It all may just be a “strong donkey” a cleansing agent of God and in reality is an Issachar or a gift. While receiving this gift of cleansing, God will have you between two burdens or a “hamishepethaim” a protective stall or hospital where you have nothing to do but just get yourself healed or cleansed as He will watch over you and protect you like a hospital staff while you go through your period of cleansing.