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Warring Wives — Genesis Chapter 30

This blog post will cover the devotionals #135-138 for Genesis Chapter 30.

Please note that this devotional book is for sale as a physical (paperback) &/or digital (PDF) book on my website.

[135] Genesis 30:1,2

Leah had been incredibly jealous of her sister because Jacob loved and wanted Rachel more than her. God pitied Leah because Jacob clearly did love her less, and she was enabled to give birth to four sons (causing her to believe that her husband would finally love her for it). Rachel, on the other hand, was barren in the child aspect (instead of love, like Leah). She watched her sister (who’d stolen her rightful position as Jacob’s wife) giving her husband son after son, and became very jealous because she couldn’t even give him one. Rachel reacted very emotionally about her barrenness (especially considering Leah’s fruitfulness), and blamed Jacob, saying, “Give me children or I will die.” It was as if he was withholding pregnancy from her—which he clearly wouldn’t have done—loving her so much. Perhaps she was afraid that his love for her would be replaced with his growing love for Leah because of her giving him heirs. Her implications and accusation really affected him, and he was angry. He said to her, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld the fruit of the womb from you?” Jacob wasn’t responsible for her lack of ability / opportunity to have children, nor would he love her any less because of it. However, she still came up with a plan that she thought would prevent her fears from coming true (which we’ll see, in devotional #136, only caused more discord in the home). The sisters had a vicious cycle of jealousy between them, and Jacob was caught in the crossfire, stuck between his duties as Leah’s husband and his feelings as Rachel’s husband. The rivalry between his wives was a constant bitterness in his life, and he felt hopelessly trapped because he couldn’t give up Rachel, whom he dearly loved, nor Leah, whom he agreed to retain to prevent disgrace upon the family. Jacob's relationship with Rachel was a tender story of love in the Bible, but her sister’s marriage to her husband prevented them from having happiness in their home.

[136] Genesis 30:1-13

Like Sarah sought to fix a particular barrenness problem by giving her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham—Rachel sought to do similarly by giving her handmaid to Jacob. The difference was that Sarah thought it’d fulfill God’s promise by the family having a son of Abraham, and Rachel thought she'd ‘win back’ her husband’s love by providing him a child in some way (she could provide a woman to give him one but would take that child as her own). And just like Abraham, Jacob not only went along with it, but suffered further strife because of it. When Bilhah had a son, Rachel named him Dan (meaning ‘judge’ or ‘to strive’), because she believed that ‘God judged her, but also heard her cry’. Bilhah had another son, which Rachel named Naphtali (which means ‘my wrestling’, ‘struggle’ or ‘twine’), because of her struggles with Leah. She specifically noted that (like Jacob with the Heavenly Being) she’d wrestled with her sister and prevailed. Rachel had Jacob’s love from the beginning, so she didn’t need to fight Leah for that. The fact that she provided Jacob two sons didn’t make him love her more (even if they'd come from her very own womb). What Rachel didn’t likely consider very well is that her very struggle of sharing her husband with another woman—her sister (which happened against her will and/or without her knowledge)—was compounded by her free choice to share her handmaid with her husband. “And she gave him Bilhah, her handmaid, as a wife.” She now had double the competition (or at the very least, had yet another person to share Jacob’s attention and intimacy with). As we’ll see, she also didn’t likely consider the fact that her sister was no less willing than her to do the very same thing to continue striving for Jacob’s love (she was the one, after all, that deceived him to begin with). Leah had conceived and birthed Jacob four sons before Rachel stepped in with her handmaid. This undoubtedly upset Leah, who probably thought she had the upper hand in the situation. Perhaps she hadn’t considered that her younger sister also had schemes up her own sleeve. Now, Leah not only had her sister as competition (who already naturally had Jacob’s heart), but also another woman (Rachel’s handmaid). Still believing that providing him with more sons would win him to her more (even if they didn’t come from her own womb), she prioritized giving him more sons over the further risk of splitting her marital bonds with a fourth woman (which technically would’ve merely contradicted the purpose anyway)—and gave her own handmaid to Jacob as a wife. Zilpah had a son, whom Leah named Gad (meaning ‘to attack’, ‘invade’, ‘overcome’), stating that “A troop is coming.” The names given to children were meant to represent character—and we can see, from all the names of Jacob’s sons, that they actually represented the character of their own ‘mothers’, which at this point, weren't very respectable. The story told by their sons’ names was a clear tale of jealousy and strife among the sister-wives. Leah was rallying the offspring troops to invade the marriage of her sister and win the heart of Jacob. Zilpah had another son (Leah’s ‘sixth’ son), whom Leah named Asher (which means ‘happy’), because she believed that she’d now be viewed as blessed.

[137] Genesis 30:14-24

Notice how Leah made a claim about her sister, Rachel, that sounded like Esau’s claim about his brother, Jacob? We’re seeing parallels (natural consequences drawn to Jacob from his own deceptive sin) in the life of Jacob’s family. Leah said, “Is it not a big deal that you have taken my husband? And would you also take away my son’s mandrakes?” Esau had said, in Genesis 27:36, “He took away my birthright; and see, now he has taken away my blessing.” How did Rachel respond to the claim of Leah (who was the first to take the husband away from the rightful wife)? She bartered with her (like Jacob bartered with lentils with Esau for the birthright). “He will lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes, therefore.” She bartered with something not hers to give, and contradicted all she'd tried to accomplish in keeping Jacob's love. However, what’s most ironic is what Rachel was bartering for. What was she willing to give her sister a night with her beloved husband for? A mandrake is the root of a particular kind of plant, andStrong’s Concordance defines it an ‘aphrodisiac’ (which is ‘a food, drink, or drug that stimulates sexual desire’). Rachel apparently had plans of her own for Jacob. What’s even more interesting is the other way Strong’s Concordance defines mandrakes: ‘a boiler (seething pot)’—which is the same terminology that was used when discussing the lentil soup that Jacob had bartered Esau with for the birthright. There may not be an actual connection, but it's intriguing to see it being used in another barter. Leah told Jacob that he was required to sleep with her that night because she’d hired him with Reuben’s mandrakes (which he’d found when harvesting wheat). If Jacob was her rightful husband, why did she need to ‘hire’ him for sex? Well, they slept together, and she got pregnant a fifth time (providing him his seventh son from her ‘portion’ of the family), and she named him Issachar (meaning ‘he will bring a reward’ or ‘payment of contract’ / ’hire’), saying that God had paid her wages for giving her handmaid to Jacob (like a reward). Perhaps she thought it was reward for her ‘sacrifice’ since she’d only given her handmaid because she couldn’t conceive anymore. She had a sixth son, Zebulun (meaning ‘habitation’ or ‘reside with’), believing Jacob would now choose to live with her because she’d given him so many sons. She later gave birth to a daughter, Dinah (which means ‘justice’ and ‘strife’), who, in devotionals #147 and #148, we’ll see further the grief of Jacob’s life. After everything that happened (Leah had four sons, Rachel’s handmaid had two sons, Leah’s handmaid had two sons, then Leah had two more sons and a daughter), Rachel still hadn’t born any of her own children. God finally took away her barrenness, and she bore a son named Joseph (which, according to Strong’s Concordance, means ‘adding’ or ‘let him add’). Rachel named her son Joseph because she felt her shame was taken away (because she hadn’t been able to have children up until that point), and that she’d definitely have another son because her shame was gone. Jacob was ninety-one years old when Joseph was born. In devotional #150, we’ll see whether she had another son as she believed she would. Even though Rachel was the beloved wife of Jacob, she'd still felt ashamed or less loved because of her inability to bare children. Rachel wasn’t a part of wrong concerning Jacob’s preference towards her. There was no unfairness about it. She was meant to be his wife from the beginning—and she was wronged deeply by her family’s scheme. God didn’t forget about what she went through and chose to heal her womb so she could bare her husband a son of her own. It’ll be interesting to see (in devotional #156) if the mere fact that Joseph was Rachel’s child was enough to make him Jacob’s favorite, or if he had other reasons to prefer him over the first ten sons.

[138] Genesis 30:25-43

Jacob had promised a total of fourteen years of labor for Rachel, but he worked twenty total. After Rachel had finally given birth to her first son, Joseph, Jacob told Laban he wanted to leave and go home to his father’s house. Laban begged him to stay because he recognized that God had blessed him greatly due to Jacob’s presence there. He said, “Tell me what you would charge, and I will pay it.” Jacob replied, “You know how I have served you, and how your cattle was with me. You had little before I came, and now it has been increased to a multitude; and the Lord has blessed you since I came: and now, when will I provide for my own house also?” Laban asked what he could give him to stay, and he said, “You will not give me anything: if you will do this for me, I will again feed and keep your flock: I will pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled of the goats: of those will be my wages. Thus will my righteousness answer for me in due time before you, when the time comes for my payment: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep—those will be counted stolen if found with me.” Thus, Jacob agreed to stay longer, and his wages would be the specifically colored / patterned flocks he’d pointed out, nothing more, nothing less. Laban agreed to it and took out all the goats that were striped and spotted and/or had some white color, and all the brown sheep, and gave them to his sons. After that, he separated himself from Jacob by three days, and Jacob cared for the remainder of his sheep. He’d start with a fresh slate of unpatterned / uncolored sheep, and all that came from those from then on that had patterns and/or color would be Jacob’s. Jacob gathered green poplar, hazel, and chestnut sticks, and peeled the bark off to reveal the white beneath. He set them in front of the flocks in the watering troughs so that they’d conceive when they came to drink. They conceived striped, speckled, and spotted cattle. Then he separated the lambs and faced the flocks towards the striped and brown flocks of Laban and put his own flocks by themselves (apart from Laban’s cattle). Whenever the stronger cattle conceived, Jacob put the sticks in the cattle’s view in the troughs. When the cattle were weak, he didn’t put the sticks there. Thus, Laban’s flocks were weaker, and Jacob’s were stronger. Jacob knew what he was doing and took advantage of the situation to get what he needed to care for his family and receive something for all the hard work he’d done. Jacob didn’t steal from Laban or mistreat his flocks, but he knew extra tricks to help his flocks to flourish, and God blessed his flocks and did much less so for Laban's. In devotional #139, we’ll see how Laban’s family reacted to Jacob’s success with the flocks because he became very wealthy and had a large amount of cattle, camels, donkeys, and servants.

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