Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 30:22-24

22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.

23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach:

24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, The Lord shall add to me another son.

At long last the Lord saw fit for Rachel to conceive a child of her very own. After watching her sister and the two handmaids be able to what she could not, miraculously her womb was opened, and she gave birth to a son.

And Joseph is to become a mighty man, the greatest of all his brethren. Of course, it will be a long road before he realizes that, and first his brethren will despise and betray him. And it has occurred to me that Joseph might have always been the odd-one out because of his unique heritage. There were six sons born of Leah, two of Zilpah, and two of Bilhah. Thus, every one of the boys had at least one blood brother, except for Joseph.

Joseph would be the one and only son of Rachel until many years later. And having been born after all the other ten, he was surely much younger than the first ones. And that’s not all, there is also the fact that he was the favorite son, born of the favorite wife. Thus, there were many factors to isolate Joseph and make him despised of by his brethren, and it is little wonder that he ended up in such a complicated situation with them later on.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 30:14-15, 17, 19, 21

14 And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.

15 And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes.

17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.

19 And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son.

21 And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.

This incident of Rachel trading a night with Jacob for Reuben’s mandrakes is very similar to Esau giving up his birthright for Jacob’s mess of pottage. All Rachel wanted was to have a nice fruit, but she ended up extending her sister’s branch beyond her own.

It’s also interesting to note that previously Leah “had left bearing,” but now she was fertile once more. I can’t help but think that this would have been a particularly hard thing for Rachel to witness. Her sister that had initially been able to have children finally came into the same state of no longer being able to, only to have that ability returned to her out of the blue. Leah had twice received that which Rachel longed for even once!

But this humbling experience was the last one Rachel had to endure before finally receiving her own blessing. And while she would never bear as many sons as her sister, she would give birth to the choicest of them all.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 30:9-13

9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.

10 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a son.

11 And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.

12 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a second son.

13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.

Leah bore children, Rachel couldn’t so she had Bilhah bear children, and now Leah has her maid Ziplah bearing children, too. As I mentioned before, Rachel had to adapt to the unknown, and now we have Leah changing tactics, too.

And as for Jacob, all he had sought was one wife but now he had four! No doubt his life was a world away from anything he expected it would be while he was still living in his father’s household.

And what stands out to me out of all this is the futility of human plans. It frankly doesn’t matter what any of us think is going to happen in our lives, what will occur is only what God has already laid out for us. Even those who deny God’s purposes for themselves end up playing into His larger plan anyway.

It’s a hard thing to fully give up the reins to God, in fact that’s something I realize I still struggle with to this day. But if He’s the one calling the shots anyway, then life will feel a whole lot smoother as soon as I give up the illusion of control and just go with God’s flow.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 30:6-8

6 And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.

7 And Bilhah Rachel’s maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.

8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.

Rachel may have been prevented from having children directly, but God did allow her backup plan to work. Bilhah was able to conceive, and Rachel was as joyous to welcome her handmaid’s sons as if they had been her very own. What a turnaround from when she despaired to Jacob that she would die if she could not have any children!

Rachel despaired because she had been fighting for something that just wasn’t going to work out. In each of our lives there are these matters that don’t go according to plan, losses that have to be accepted. So long as Rachel persisted in her original path, she was only going to make herself more and more frustrated. Rachel instructing Jacob to take Bilhah to wife shows that she was finally surrendering those original plans and accepting things as they really were. It was only then, after being humbled and reformed, that she was able to find success.

And so it is with each of us. We all have times of trying to fit our square-peg dreams into our round-hole realities. We have our agenda, and we relentlessly pursue it, even when things stubbornly refuse to work out how we want. Eventually we have to be broken enough to let the old dream go and find out what divine role we were actually meant to fulfill.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 30:1-5

1 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.

2 And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.

4 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.

5 And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son.

Rachel begged Jacob for children, but all he could do was wring his hands and say that it wasn’t up to him. Nothing on his end was preventing her conception, it was the will of God, and Jacob was just as powerless to change that as she was.

Finally, Rachel did accept that her situation was not about to change, so she knew that she must adapt to it instead. She did not give up her ambition to be a mother, but she did find other methods to accomplish it.

And sometimes this sort of resourcefulness is all that remains for us. We might pray and seek heavenly blessings, but for whatever reason God sometimes answers “no” or “not yet.” Then, if possible, it is up to us to provide our own solutions, though only if they are still moral and honorable.

Rachel elected to have her handmaid to bear the children in her stead. It may not have been the exact solution that she had hoped for, but it worked, and at long last her branch of the household was filled with the sound of children.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:31-35

31 And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.

33 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.

34 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.

35 And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.

I imagine that Leah was in some way a willing party to Laban’s deception of Jacob, presumably she was careful not to reveal that it was her beneath the wedding veil instead of her sister. Even so, one can’t help to feel sorry for her, married to a man whom she knows loves her sister more than she.

God was not in favor of this situation, and he intervened in a subtle, yet effective, way. Leah was blessed with fertility, while Rachel remained barren. Jacob loved Rachel, but it was a love that literally could not bear fruit. Each sister had one blessing and one deprivation.

And in a strange way, this competition between sisters would end up serving God’s plans for the kingdom of Israel. If He was ever to raise a great nation as promised, sooner or later the pattern of one covenant-holder only fathering one more covenant-holder would have to change. By inciting this rivalry between Rachel and Leah, they aggressively sought childbirth, which multiplied the covenant lines twelvefold!

And also, it is worth noting that God’s consolation to Leah included a son named Judah, mentioned in verse 35, who was to be the forefather of Jesus Christ. I find it fitting that this portion of Christ’s ancestral line passed through one who was lonely and deprived of love, who welcomed a birth as a comfort to her soul.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:27-28, 30

27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.

28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.

30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.

It was Jacob who originally suggested that seven years was the amount of time that ought to be served for a bride, but Laban wasn’t shy to then prescribe an additional seven years for Jacob to marry the woman he had intended.

It does not seem that Jacob had to wait the full fourteen years before being united to Rachel, though. Verse 28 suggests that Jacob fulfilled the week-long wedding ritual to Leah, after which he immediately married Rachel. Then, with both wives already joined to him, he began the second set of seven years’ service to Laban.

So now he was a husband and presently a father, yet it would still be another 2,500 days before he was clear of his debt and able to work for his own gain. This may not seem like a promising foundation for his household, but Jacob was industrious, and we will soon see how he flourished under these conditions.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:22-23, 25-26

22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.

23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.

25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?

26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.

Thus far in the story Laban has treated Jacob with dignity and respect. It is interesting, then, to see this deceptive turn from him. Tricking a man into marrying a woman he did not intend is a very egregious offense. The explanation that Laban gives, that in their country the first daughter must be married before the second, in no way accounts for the fact that he did not tell this to Jacob beforehand. One would assume that he knew he would play this trick on Jacob all the seven years that his nephew labored for him, making him a liar for all of those 2,500 days!

However, I cannot help but see this as a sort of karma balancing out in Jacob’s life. He had deceived his own father and stolen the place of honor from his brother. He had done this by pretending to be someone that he was not, and now he gets to be on the receiving end of a very similar trick. Life has a way of holding up a mirror to each of us, causing us to collect the same sort of payment we have given out.

Better for Jacob to balance the cosmic scales here and now, and be clear for the rest of his life. And, as it would turn out, Leah was to become a key part of his growing heritage. So even this setback was ultimately meant for his own good.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:15-16, 18, 20

15 And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?

16 And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.

20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.

Jacob had asked to dwell with his uncle, but he was not a freeloader, and he was willing to work for his uncle’s gain, just like any other member of the family. This was very honorable of him.

Laban would not stand for that, though. He was not going to take advantage of Jacob’s kinship, and insisted he would pay wages for the work. This was very honorable of him, as well.

But Jacob was not interested in money. Instead he made clear his feelings for Rachel, and then made the bold suggestion that he serve Laban seven years so that he could marry her. This was a very interesting move on Jacob’s part. For all we know Laban would have consented to the wedding after only five years, or three, or even after no years at all! Jacob does not seem to be a very shrewd businessman by immediately throwing out such a lofty price, now does he?

But then, that wasn’t really the point. This was a question of romance, not business, and Jacob’s gesture reflects that. He is doing something dramatic and captivating, something that has immortalized his relationship to Rachel for thousands of years. What greater wedding gift could he bring than a love story that would last through all history?

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:11-14

11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.

12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebekah’s son: and she ran and told her father.

13 And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things.

14 And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month.

The similarities between Jacob’s story and Abraham’s servant continue, as each of them are joyously welcomed into the home of their kin. Laban, Jacob’s maternal uncle, agrees to let his nephew live with them indefinitely. Though the man has been a complete stranger to them all his life, there is an immediate bond created by their family heritage.

As someone who is both a nephew and an uncle, I find it far easier to relate to this hospitality when I put myself in the shoes of the uncle. By that I mean, if I were to approach any of my uncles to ask if I could live with them, I would feel anxious and unsure about whether they would be willing to accommodate me. If, on the other hand, any of my nephews ever came to me for help, I would absolutely do whatever I could for them. I suppose that I am better able to feel the bonds that flow downward than upward.

Indeed, I wonder how many of get into trouble in our youth simply because we underestimate what lengths our elder kin would go to to save us if they only knew. Out in the wilderness, Jacob also seemed very unsure about whether there would be anyone to receive and support him, but after this episode it is clear that he never had anything to worry about.