Genesis: The Beginning
A Son for Rachel 1-29-16
READ: Genesis 30:1-24
Yesterday, Laban deceived Jacob into marrying not just one but two of his daughters: Leah and Rachel. Jacob worked fourteen years for Laban as dowry payment. Today, we will look at Jacob’s family and how conflict caused all kinds of wrong decisions.
We cannot connect our understanding with this patriarchal polygamous culture, but we can relate to the spirits of envy and jealousy that seeks to permeate human hearts. Leah is having one child after another with Jacob: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Rachel is barren and has not been able to conceive a child with Jacob (which is social death—disgrace—because children are considered a gift from God). Rachel begs Jacob to give her a son. In his response we see that Jacob is growing in his spiritual understanding, because the man who manipulated others through human effort to get the divine blessing says, “Am I God?” In other words, “Only God can bless and open your womb, Rachel!”
Envy comes to the surface of this family followed by human striving for status. Rachel gives her servant, Bilhah, to Jacob as a wife (surrogate mother) and she bears him two sons: Dan (translates “He brought justice”) and Naphtali (translates “wrestling”). (NOTE: All children born to a surrogate wife were regarded as belonging to the head wife of the husband). Rachel chooses the names she does because she is in such conflict with her sister.
Leah is not content with the four sons she has given Jacob, so she gives her servant, Zilpah, to be a wife (surrogate mother) for Jacob and she bears him two sons: Gad (translates “good fortune”) and Asher (translates “happy”). Leah chooses the names she does because she wants to rub more disgrace over Rachel.
Reuben, the oldest of Jacob’s sons through Leah, is out harvesting wheat when he finds some mandrakes. A mandrake is an aphrodisiac herb; the root is used to promote conception. When Rachel finds out Leah has mandrakes, she begs her sister to share them. Leah protested, “Wasn’t it enough that you stole my husband? Now will you steal my son’s mandrakes, too?” (I seem to remember Laban tricking Jacob to marry Leah in the first place; Rachel did not steal Jacob’s heart from Leah). Humans certainly can distort things with a veil of darkness when we want our way or when trying to cover our own insecurities.
Rachel bargains for the mandrakes; she is still struggling to take matters that belong to God into human hands. She tells Leah she can sleep with Jacob that night if she will share the mandrakes. Leah agrees, becomes pregnant, and gives birth to Issachar (translates “wages”). Later, Leah becomes pregnant again with a sixth son for Jacob; she names him Zebulun (translates “honor”).
God opens Rachel’s womb in time and she conceives and bears a son to Jacob; she names him Joseph (translates “may He add”). Rachel realizes Mighty God has taken away her reproach; Yahweh (the LORD) has kept his promises.
Family conflict is not set aside for biblical characters only; conflict exists in many families, today. Offense, envy and jealousy will stir conflict if it is allowed. Forgiveness is Christ’s way not revenge and bitterness. So, how many times have you had to forgive a family member due to conflict? Seventy times seven? Jesus basically teaches there is to be no limit to our forgiveness toward family, because Christ, as our brother, has forgiven us for much more. Blessings for your day as you walk in the forgiveness of Christ…