Editor's Note: Every Week, DrydenWire.com publishes a submitted article in a weekly series from Pastor Brian Cole. If you would have a question for Brian or would like to learn more about him, visit his website or his official Facebook page.
Genesis 30:1-43 - Spiritual prosperity and Enriching Others - Part 1
Since it’s been three weeks since we last left our text in Genesis 29, let’s do a quick review: Jacob went to the school of hard knocks. He traveled and came to a well with a bunch of guys standing around and started asking about Labon. Labon’s daughter just happened to be there. He started barking orders, saw Rachel, moved a stone, kissed he and began weeping. Jacob asked for Rachel’s hand and Labon swindled him. He worked 7 years for Rachel only to get Leah. He then worked another 7 years to get Rachel. Then the kid wars started.
So, as of three weeks ago, the score in the baby wars are now 4-0. Leah’s got 4 and Rachel has none. Now things get real weird in Chapter 30.
Vs. 1 - 2 - “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”
Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”
This household of Jacob is just filled with insecurity, conflict and all kinds of grief. There might be some men who look at Jacob and perceive him to have been sexually advantaged or whatever, but this guy did NOT live in peace, he did not have contentment, it was not a nurturing environment to be raising children.
So she comes to Jacob and says: “I want kids.” And Jacob says: “Hey, I’m not the one with the problem. I’m with Leah, things are working out, and with you things aren’t working out, so who’s got the problem?”
Notice Jacob does probably recognize the real source of the problem. “Hey, God is withholding you. It’s not me, it’s God.” But here, Jacob does not take it a step further. You remember his mother and father, they had great difficulty conceiving. They went 20 years before they had the twins, but you remember that his father prayed for his mother and the Lord answered that prayer.
So he recognizes the problem, but rather than going to the Lord in prayer, he allows his wife to do what his grandmother Sarah did years before with Hagar, and we know what happened there.
Vs, 3 - “Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.”
Here in the NIV it says: “So that she can bear children.” If you have a NAS or KJ or NKJ version this is how it reads in the Hebrew: “So that she may bear on my knees...” Now this phrase: So that she may bear on my knees, is the original Hebrew and this is where it get’s a little more bizarre.
They would take the surrogate mother and she would actually sit on the knees of; in this case Rachel, while the husband would impregnate her. This is bizarre, but this is what’s going on here, and then when it came time for the child to come forth, the woman would give birth upon Rachel’s knees again. The idea in the culture was that Jacob was impregnating her and she was the one that was to bring forth this child in such a way, through this custom, that the child would legally be considered hers.
Vs. 4-8 - (Here comes the kid wars.) “So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son. Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan.
Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.
We see what’s going on here by naming their kids in such a way - these poor kids are just pawns in the sister wars. This is tragic. Rachel’s talking smack, right? “It’s 4-2 baby, look who’s staging a comeback!” Just notice the tension in this home! Is it any wonder that these 12 boys grew up and ended up being the way they were? This is NOT the tender loving environment to be raising kids in.
She calls this kid “Naphtili” in vs. 8. Naphtili! Really! I guarantee if you call your kid Naphtili he’s going to get beat up in grade school! It means “wrestling” in the Hebrew.
Vs. 9-14 - When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad.
Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.
During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
Notice in vs. 14 here, in the days of the wheat harvest, this would be in May or June, and so Ruben now, born no doubt in the second 7 years of service, so he’s 5-7 years old, evidently old enough to be playing out in the field by himself.
He’s playing and finds these mandrakes. A mandrake is actually a narcotic. But back then it was considered to be an aphrodisiac. “Love apples” is what they called them in that culture. It was thought these “love apples” would aid in the conception of a child. So ya got this little kid bringing in this plant - “Hey mom, look what I found for you!”
So Rachel sees this mandrake and she’s thinking: “hey, this could help me conceive. So, “give me you're son’s mandrake!”
Notice in vs. 15, this is Leah speaking: 15 - “But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”
“Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”
What a bizarre family we’ve got going on here! You can see Leah, her opinion of Rachel is “Home Wrecker!” She has stolen my husband and now you wanna take my son’s love apples! So Rachel says: “Look, I’ll let him have sex with you tonight, just give me the love apples.” So she agrees to it.
Vs. 16-24 - “So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.
God listened to (“Remembered”) Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.
Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.
Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.
Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” She named him Josephand said, “May the Lord add to me another son.”
Do ya see what competition does? Do ya see what insecurity does in the home?
In vs. 22 she can’t just rest and say, “Well, thank you God, your sooo good, you’ve given me my own son and ya know what, if ya never do anything again, just thank you, you’re so awesome!” But rather than that, God blesses her and she plays the presumption card. “Ok, well, I’m going to call this kid ‘Adding’ because I’m going to believe that God’s now going to add a whole lot more kids...”
There is no peace in this home, and this is just being set up for failure. I do wanna park here for a minute to talk about this whole “God remembered Rachel” thing.
How many times she must have felt that God had forgotten her? But we can be sure that all of the heartbroken pleas of this woman who wanted children were kept safe before God and never forgotten.
The tears of her lonely heart God put in His bottle.
And how often this comes up in the Bible!
- God remembered Noah: Gen. 8:1.
- God remembered Abraham: Gen. 19:29.
- God remembered Rachel: Gen. 30:22.
- God remembered Hannah: 1 Sam. 1:19.
- God remembers His covenant, His mercy, His promises.
But there is the sweet promise about us that He will forgive our iniquity and remember our sin no more when it is confessed and put under the blood and all will be forgiven! (Jer. 31:34)!!
God heard the groaning of the children of Israel in slavery in Egypt, and “God remembered His Covenant.” (Exod. 2:24).
It may sometimes be easy to think that God has forgotten us, has forgotten His promises to us, forgotten our sorrows, our needs... But He NEVER does!
Join us next week as we continue with the text. Blessings to you all.