30 Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!”
2 And Jacob’s anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”
3 So she said, “Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, and she will bear a child on my knees, that I also may have children by her.”
4 Then she gave him Bilhah her maid as wife, and Jacob went in to her.
5 And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son.
6 Then Rachel said, “God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan.
7 And Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son.
8 Then Rachel said, “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.
9 When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took Zilpah her maid and gave her to Jacob as wife.
10 And Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son.
11 Then Leah said, “A troop comes!” So she called his name Gad.
12 And Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son.
13 Then Leah said, “I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed.” So she called his name Asher.
14 Now Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
15 But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” And Rachel said, “Therefore he will lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.”
16 When Jacob came out of the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” And he lay with her that night.
17 And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.
18 Leah said, “God has given me my wages, because I have given my maid to my husband.” So she called his name Issachar.
19 Then Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son.
20 And Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she called his name Zebulun.
21 Afterward she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah.
22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.
23 And she conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach.”
24 So she called his name Joseph, and said, “The Lord shall add to me another son.”
Rachel, of course, could hardly have been unmoved by the fact that her sister had been blessed with four sons while she remained barren. She could also [maybe] see Jacob’s love gradually shifting from her to Leah because of this. Her envy finally surfaced in a petulant outburst to her husband: “Give me children, or else I die.”
Possibly she felt that, if Jacob would spend more time in her own bed, and not so much with Leah, she would be more likely to conceive. Otherwise her remonstrance was merely an emotional exclamation, since she certainly realized that it was not Jacob who was sterile. Jacob himself no doubt had been deeply disappointed also in the fact that Rachel had not been able to produce children, since it was she whom he had loved and had chosen to be the mother of the seed God had promised in the first place.
Her outburst … angered him. He struck back at her with a strong suggestion that there was something wrong in her own life, since God had not judged her worthy of being blessed with children. — Morris, page 465.
Rachel prevailed on Jacob to “go in unto Bilhah.” … This was an accepted social custom of the day. In fact, it is quite possible that it was for this very purpose—as a guard against barrenness—Laban gave each of his daughters a personal maid. … It is not clear whether or not the statement, “she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her” is to be taken literally, though as a symbolic gesture of proxy childbirth, the maid may well have been actually delivered of the child while lying on the lap of her mistress. In any case, Bilhah was immediately successful, and she bore Jacob a son, whom Rachel named Dan, meaning “Justice,” testifying through this name that God had heard her prayer and justified her in her husband’s sight.
Bilhah … soon became pregnant with a second son. This one Rachel named Naphtali, which means “Wrestlings.” This unusual name was a reference to her long-continued rivalry with her sister. — Morris, page 466.
Leah, however, was not yet ready to accept defeat. Though she herself had stopped bearing, she also had a maid, and she reasoned that what had worked for Rachel would work for her too. Therefore she prevailed upon Jacob to take Zilpah, her maid, also as his wife, that she might have additional children by her. …
The matter or productivity was apparently of such overriding concern that the question of physical jealousy of their maids did not enter much into it. … As far as Jacob was concerned, he seems to have been rather pliant, going indiscriminately to whichever bed was most conveniently available at the time. …
Leah’s maid, Zilpah, also had two sons in quick succession, once Jacob had gone into her. Leah named them Gad and Asher, meaning “Fortunate” and “Happy,” respectively. — Morris, page 467.
Jacob now had eight sons, and presumably from six to eight years had elapsed since his marriage. The eldest son, Reuben, was thus probably about seven years old by this time. He was at least old enough to play by himself in the field. One day during the season of the wheat harvest, Reuben chanced to discover mandrakes growing in the field. He plucked them and brought them home to Leah.
The mandrake is a small orange-colored berrylike fruit, much esteemed in ancient times as an aphrodisiac and inducer of fertility. It has been called the “love-apple” and, in Western countries, the “May-apple.” It has also been used as a narcotic and emetic, especially its large roots. It was no doubt because of its supposed value in promoting fertility that both Leah and Rachel desired it.
When Rachel saw what Reuben had brought his mother, she wanted them herself, hoping that they might solve her problem of barrenness. … Rachel finally acquired them from Leah by making a bargain which must have been unpleasant for her. She agreed to insist that Jacob lie with Leah that night. — Morris, page 468.
Leah earnestly desired to have a son of her own again, and prayed to that end. God, in grace, heard her prayer, and once again Leah conceived. She named her own fifth son Issachar, meaning “Reward.” … She soon had another son, whom she named Zebulun, meaning “Dwelling.” This, she said, was in testimony of God’s gracious gift to her, assuring her that her husband now would be willing to dwell with her.
At this point, Jacob’s first daughter was born to Leah. Later, Jacob had other daughters (Genesis 37:35; 46:7, 15), but the only one whose name and whose mother’s name is given is Dinah, meaning “Judgment.” — Morris, page 469.
Finally, after many years, the Lord answered Rachel’s prayers, and she also conceived. … The name she chose for her son when he was born, Joseph, can be derived both from “Taken Away” and “May He Add,” thus indicating both her thanksgiving and her faith that God would give her yet another son. — Morris, page 470.
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