Mothers in the Bible: Rachel, She Bargained

Jacob is fleeing from his brother, after he and his mother, Rebekah, deceive his father, Isaac.   Jacob is sent to his mother’s brother, Laban.

Jacob loved Rachel from the time he first met her

So, as he arrives he probably thinks all of his troubles are over.   His troubles with his brother are for the time being, but a whole new set of issues is about to be stirred up.

The journey has been long and on the way, Jacob has communed with God.   Jacob is tired and thirst by the time he reaches Haran.  He is asking about his Uncle Laban when the shepherd’s point out Laban’s daughter, Rachel, coming with the sheep.    {Genesis 29}

Jacob loved Rachel {Genesis 29:18}.   He tells Laban that he will work seven years to be allowed to marry Rachel.

Jacob met {and eventually married} Leah and Rachel

“And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.”  {Genesis 29:20}.   The seven years flew by, in his love for Rachel.

But, when it is time to marry, Jacob is the one deceived.  He is originally married off to Leah, Rachel’s sister.   When he realizes he has been deceived, he is angry.  Laban claims that he could not allow the younger sister to marry before the older sister.  He agreed to work seven more years to marry Rachel.

“And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.”  {Genesis 29:30}  Just as his parents showed favoritism between Jacob and his brother, he {Jacob} showed favoritism between his wives.

Rachel envied her sister having children

 And Jehovah saw that Leah was hated, and he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.”   {Genesis 29:31}.

Rachel has the love of her man, but she has no sons with him.   Yet, her sister continues to have son after son with Jacob.  Each son, Leah names to describe her relationship with God.  Yet, Rachel may have seen this as an emphasize on her own barrenness.

Rachel becomes resentful and bitterness over her situation.  We are told that Rachel “envied her sister”.

Jacob loved Rachel best

Have you ever had a friend or loved one that had a child when you couldn’t?   it is very easy for that resentfulness to rise up from within.   I know from experience, that the best way to work through this is asking God for his help and to change your heart.   Yet, we see no evidence in scripture of Rachel reaching out to God.

Rachel says to her husband, “Give me children, or else I die.”   Jacob becomes angry with her and says “Am I God?”   {Genesis 30:1-2}

The Women of the Bible devotional ask, “was it better to have love but no children or to be unloved and yet mother to a house full of sons?”

Jacob loved Rachel from the moment he met her…{from Wikipedia}

For Rachel her husband’s love alone was not enough.

Our study guide goes on to say, “Rachel reminds us that being beautiful does not bring contentment.  Nor does a loving husband bring happiness.”

Rachel is a reminder that happiness has to come from within and from God.   Rachel was convinced that she could not be happy without having a child of her own.   She set her mind to the fact that this defined her and was what would make her happy.

Jacob had many sons

So, Rachel devises her own scheme.  She has a handmaiden named Bilhah and gives her to Jacob to go into.   {Has she learned nothing of hearing Jacob share stories of his grandmother, Sarah, and mother, Rebekah?}

Bilhah gives birth to two sons by Jacob, Dan and Naphtali.   With the birth of both sons, Rachel says, “And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son.”   {Genesis 30:6-8}.

The Women of the Bible says, “the phrase “another son” tells us much about how Rachel

Jacob favored his son, Joseph born of Rachel

felt about the children born to Bilhah.  She did not say that at last God had given her a child, but that God was adding another son.  It would appear that Dan and Naphtali were loved as if they were her own flesh and blood. “

Rachel became so desperate for a child that she even bargained with her sister for mandrakes, in hopes that it would allow her to conceive.

Rachel finally conceives a child.  Imagine her relief when she discovers her condition.  Our devotional says, “God remembered Rachel, but he had never really forgotten her.  …when the Bible says God remembers something, it expresses God’s love and compassion for his people.  ..He will never forsake us…never forget us…always remember us.”

He took his family and returned to his homeland

Rachel finally gives birth to a son and names him Joseph, which means may Jehovah add or give increase.   Imagine how Rachel’s heart must have rejoiced as she held the infant Joseph in her arms.   Yet, even in the naming of her son, she seems to be asking God for yet another child to be added to her line.

Rachel has longed for a child, yet not one {or the third if you count her children via Bilhah} seems to be enough.

When Jacob decides to leave Haran and return to his homeland of Canaan.   Rachel takes her father’s idols and hides them.   She has become a trickster like her father, husband and mother-in-law.   When her father searches, Rachel claims to be unable to stand.  Jacob, not knowing his favorite wife has the idols, vows “With whoever you will find your gods, he will not live” (Genesis 31:32).

Rachel hid her father’s idols

Rachel conceives a second time.  This time the family is traveling and that alone would have made this pregnancy more difficult and uncomfortable, especially as the time grows near for her to deliver.

However, as they reach his brother, Jacob again shows his favoritism.  He puts Rachel and Joseph last, with Leah and her children in front of them and his two servants and their children at the front of the pack.

Then he places Leah and her children and her handmaiden and children after them.

Rachel leaves Jacob with their son, Benjamin

Near Ephrath, Rachel goes into labor with her second son.  Twice in scripture the labor is described as a “hard labor”  {Genesis 35:16-17}.   This labor was extremely difficult as she strove to bring her second son into the world.

“And it came to pass, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin.”

Years earlier, Rachel had told Jacob she had rather die than remain childless.  Yet, that one thing she longed for so much, was what cost her her life.

The Women of the Bible devotional says, “Rachel struggled to give birth to her second son, an answer to her prayers.  Ironically, the woman who once said she would die unless she had children was now dying because of a child.  Rachel’s last words, “He is Ben-Oni, the son of my trouble,” capture her anguish at the birth of this son. “

Jacob was reunited with his favorite son

 And Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave: the same is the Pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.”  {Genesis 35:20}

Jacob was probably greatly anguished at her death and as he said goodbye to her.  He buried her and journeyed on towards his destination.   Unless for some reason he was traveling in that direction again, it seems unlikely that he ever stood at her grave again.

Rachel was so jealous of her sister, Leah, yet Leah is the one that was last with Jacob.   Leah is also the wife that would be buried with Jacob.

Rachel’s tomb from Wikipedia

Our Women of the Bible study guide says, “we don’t know a great deal about Rachel’s relationship with the Lord…it is perhaps a significant comment on Rachel’s spiritual insensitivity that the line of Christ runs through Leah, not Rachel.”

“After the tribes of Ephraim and Benjamin were exiled by the Assyrians, Rachel was remembered as the classic mother who mourns and intercedes for her children. Jeremiah 31:15, speaks of ‘Rachel weeping for her children'”

When you don’t have what you want do you become angry and try to bargain or outsmart God and the situation? Do you weep for your children?


Photos courtesy of unless otherwise noted

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