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Chapter 30

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ch.29:31 - 30:24   ch.30:25-42 

Jacob's Children (ch.29:31 30:24)

 

Verse 31 says that "the Lord saw that Leah was not loved".  We need to think a bit about the words "not loved" here.  The Hebrew word translated as "not loved" is also found in Deut. 21:15, Mal. 1:2 and 3.    In Mal. 1:3 we see the words "God hated Esau."  Paul picks up on this and quotes from Mal. 1:3 in Romans 9:13. The question always arises concerning God hating Esau.  How could God hate someone, especially when Jesus died for that someone.  The Hebrew word translated as "hate"  in Mal. 1:3 is translated as "loved less" here in Genesis 29:3. It is a cultural idiom.  Hate thus means "love less".  This is how we should view  God hating Esau.  He loved him less.

 

We also see in verse 31 that both Rachel was barren, but the Lord opened Leah's womb.   It was commonly held that when a woman got pregnant, it was God who opened her womb.  Because the text says that God opened Leah's womb, does not mean she was barren in the sense she could not have a child.  It simply means that she had not yet had a child to that point in time.  Yet when it comes to Rachel, the text specifically said she was barren.  We don't know how long she was barren. She could have simply not have been pregnant as yet, or, she could have needed a miracle to have a child.

 

We do see God here loving those who are loved less.  That is the nature of God.  He does love, and He does love those who are loved less. 

 

In verse 32 we see the first born of Jacob's twelve sons who represent, and would become the twelve tribes of Israel.  His name was Rueben.  Because Leah finally had a child, she hoped that Jacob would now love her as he loved her sister Leah.  One thing I'm sure of and that is you cannot make someone love you, although Leah certainly tried to make Jacob love her.

 

In verse 33 we see that Leah gave birth to yet another son who she named Simeon.   Once again she felt that God had blessed her because she was not loved by Jacob. 

 

Verse 34 tells us that Leah had yet another son who she named Levi.  For sure she thought that Jacob would love her now, now that she had given him three sons. 

It is a bit ironic, that even though Jacob apparently did not love Leah, he had no trouble getting her pregnant. If he did not love her, he certainly loved sleeping with her.

 

Verse 35 tells us that Leah had a fourth son that she called Judah because she really praised the Lord in this verse.  She was certainly happy having given Jacob four sons. The text says, "this time she praised the Lord."  That may suggest, but not conclusively that she praised the Lord this time more than the other times.   The verse also tells us that this was the last child that she had, at least for a while.  Why this was so, we don't know for sure. It might be that Jacob stopped sleeping with her for a while.  To me, there is some hint of this later in the chapter.   Jesus was born through the lineage of Judah.  

 

In chapter 30 verse 1 we see the competitive nature of Leah and Rachel's relationship.  Rachel was quite jealous because Leah had given Jacob four sons but she hadn't given him any sons.  She actually got upset with Jacob and told him to give her sons.  Of course, he had no control over that, and his answer showed his disgust.  In verse 2 he answered by saying, "am I God".   People in those days understood that  God, or the gods, depending on one's religion, caused women to get pregnant.  Jacob was saying, "I'm not God. I can't make you get pregnant."   Of course, he had his part to play, but ultimately the baby to be formed inside the womb of the woman was Gods' responsibility, or so they thought back then. 

 

Jacob asked Rachel, "who has kept you from having children?"  Jacob's question implied that it was not him that prevented her from having children.  It was God who was stopping her from having children.

 

In today's world we abort thousands of babies each year. If we viewed the conception of babies as being from God as these people did back then, that would certainly make a big dent in the number of babies we abort.  You would have a heard time aborting, or killing, a baby if you understood that baby to come from God, not just your partner.    

 

Verse 3 might sound strange to some, but it was the culture of the day.  Rachel tells Jacob to sleep with her maid servant so she could have children on her behalf, so she could build a family like Leah.  If you remember, Sarah told Abraham to do the same when she couldn't have children.  In Sarah's case, the outcome was a total disaster.

 

Verses 4 and 5 state that Rachel gave her servant girl to be Jacob's wife.  I don't think that the servant girl actually became his wife in the real sense of the word.  I think she became is wife, so to speak, in the act of sleeping together. She was acting as a wife, and was really acting in place of his wife. 

 

The text states that Rachel gave the girl to Jacob.  To me, that suggests that Rachel simply handed her over and said, "here she is.  Take her and sleep with her."  What a different culture they lived in.  It was certainly different than ours.

 

In verse 6 we see that the servant girl indeed did give birth to a son, who Rachel called Dan.   Notice that Rachel called him Dan, not the servant girl.  Rachel's understanding was that God gave her a son, even though the son was not born from her.  I'm not sure her understanding was right, but that was how she thought.

 

In verse 7 we see the competition between the two sisters rage on.  Rachel has Jacob sleep with her made servant again, and again she has a baby boy.  Rachel named the boy Naphteli because in her mind she had won the battle with her sister.  Yet in reality, has she really won the battle?  Leah has had four boys born from her own womb while Rachel has had only two boys born not  from her womb but from her servant's womb.  I wouldn't call that winning the battle. 

 

We see Leah's response to Rachel in verses 9 through 11.  Leah appears to have stopped having children for a while.  The way the text has it, is that she had been trying, meaning, Jacob was sleeping with her but she just didn't get pregnant. So, Leah pulled a page out of Rachel's book and had Jacob sleep with her made servant, which he probably gladly did, and she gave birth to a baby boy.  Leah called this boy Gad, because she now had good fortune.  That is sort of like saying "I'm lucky.  It appears, or possibly appears, that in her eyes "good fortune" had now replaced the will of God.  She once gave thanks to God for her babies. Now she calls it good fortune.

 

I said earlier that one reason for Leah not giving birth was that maybe Jacob wasn't sleeping with her.  This passage suggests he was, at least for this time period.  Still, there might have been a while when he was not sleeping with Leah.

 

In verse 12 and 13 Leah's made servant gives birth to yet another son who Leah called Asher because it made her happy.  It all comes down to personal happiness at this point in the competition between the two sisters.  I wonder how happy Jacob was.  He sure was a busy man, although he had to put up with two fighting sisters. I can't see that making him very happy.

 

Time was now passing and one year during wheat harvest one of Leah's sons named Rueben went out and picked some mandrakes.  Mandrakes are herbs that  grow in the Mediterranean area.  It is so named because the root system looks like the form of a man.  It was is a narcotic of sorts and in civilizations past was seen as a means to help women get pregnant.  So in verse 14 Rueben finds some mandrakes and when Rachel hears that, she wants some.  She is surely thinking that they will help her get pregnant since she has not yet had a child from her own womb.

 

I see verse 15 as being a bit funny.  Basically Leah responds  to Rachel's request by saying, "you took my husband, now you want my sons mandrakes."  I think it's funny because Leah compares a herb to her husband.  Her husband would be important. The herb shouldn't really be compared with her husband.  Rueben could probably go out and find some more mandrakes.  Leah couldn't just go out and find another husband. 

 

Rachel responds to Leah by saying, "very well, Jacob can sleep with you tonight."   This response might suggest that Jacob had been sleeping with Rachel now and that he had not been sleeping with Leah for a while.  Verse 16 seems to imply this too.  Leah meets Jacob as he was coming in from the fields and told him that he had to sleep with her that night because she had "hired him" with her son's mandrakes.  She paid for Jacob that evening.  That sounds weird, but I guess if you have two fighting sisters that you are married to, anything can happen.

 

The last part of verse 16 says, "so he slept with her."  Jacob did as he was told. 

 

Verse 17 tells us that because of that night, Leah gave birth to a fifth son that she named Issachar.  This was her reasoning.  She thought that because she let Jacob sleep with her made servant God blessed her for that by giving her another baby.  I'm not sure that Leah's logic was correct, but that's what she thought.  So the battle goes on. 

 

So there was a period of time that Leah did not give birth.  We don't know why for sure.  But there is a hint that Jacob might not have slept with Leah as frequently as he once did.  This might be the cause for Leah's temporary bareness.    

 

Verse 17 begins with, "God listened to Leah", so maybe Leah had a point when she attributed the birth of this son to God.

 

Verses 19 and 20 tell us that Leah now gave birth to a sixth son she called Zebulun.  She thought for sure that Jacob would honour her because she gave him six sons.  This battle between the sisters never ends. 

 

Verse 21 tells us that some time later Leah gave birth to a daughter she named Dinah.  We'll see later in Genesis that Dinah was sexually assaulted by a man name Sheckem who wanted her as his wife.  I'm not sure sexually assaulting her would help his cause.  In retaliation for this assault Simeon and Levi killed all the men in the town the Sheckem lived.  The town was named after him.  

 

In verse 22 we see that God remembered Rachel and listened to her and opened  her womb.  Verses 23 and 24 state that Rachel finally became pregnant and gave birth to a son and she called him Joseph because God had taken away her disgrace.  Women in those days felt disgraced among other women if they could not give birth to a baby.  Joseph was the son the was despised by the other brothers and was sold into slavery.  You might well imagine why Joseph was not liked by his brothers.  He was a special son.  The only son born from Rachel to that date.  She probably really babied him.   

 

This chapter lists eleven of the twelve sons that Jacob had born to him.  The last son was born to Rachel after Joseph, the first son born to Rachel, and the eleventh son to be born, was born after Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers.  

 

So Jacob had twelve sons.  Leah gave birth to six sons.   They were, Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.   

 

Rachel gave birth to two sons.  There names were Joseph and Benjamin.

 

Leah's maid servant gave birth to  two sons.  There names were, Gad and Asher.  

 

Rachel's maid servant gave birth to two sons.  There names were, Dan, Naphteli,

 

It looks like Leah won the competition between the two sisters, but in the eyes of God, all twelve sons were important, no matter how or when they were born.   

 

 

Jacob's Flocks Increase (ch. 30:25- 42)

 

In verses 25 and 26 we see that after Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob wanted to return home.  It is only speculation, but the birth of Joseph must have really meant something to Jacob.  Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and now Rachel, after all these years, finally gave him a son.  I know from experience that when a couple gives birth, and if they are far away from home, there is the feeling of wanting to return home if at all possible.  This is how I think Jacob felt at this point.  He was a "mother's boy" as we would say.  I'm sure he wanted his mother to see his children before she died. 

 

So Jacob asked Laban to allow him to go home.  You might wonder why Jacob had to ask for permission.   Jacob has respect for Laban.  It might not have been a personal respect from his heart, but it was a cultural respect. Laban was the head of this large extended family that he was now a part of.  What Jacob was doing here was simply asking Laban's permission and blessing to leave, as he asked for Laban's permission to marry Rachel.

 

Verse 27 tells us that Laban did not want Jacob to leave.  He knew well that Jacob had become a real financial blessing for him.  Laban now had become wealthy because of Jacob's presence, and he did not want to lose Jacob for that reason.  So Laban said that if he has found favour in Jacob's eyes, he wanted Jacob to stay.  We will see that this actually turned out to be a detriment to Laban.

 

Verse 27 tells us something about Laban.  The text says that Laban learned that the Lord, that is Yahweh, was the one who had actually blessed him, and that was true.  Yet, the text says that Laban learned that through divination.  Divination is condemned in the Law of Moses, which was not yet in existence.  Divination is the attempt by a person to contact the spirit world to find answers to questions that could otherwise not be known.  For this reason, Laban could not have been a true worshipper of Yahweh.  It appears that he acknowledged the existence of Yahweh, but also dabbled in spiritualism, something that goes against the very heart and nature of worshipping the one and only true God. 

 

You might wonder why Laban believed in divination.  Divination was part of the polytheistic culture of the day.  Laban was not a fearer of the God of Abraham. 

 

You also might wonder if Laban really needed to seek the demonic spiritual world to know that it was Yahweh that had blessed him.  Personally, I think it is quite obvious that Jacob and his God was the means of blessing.  Laban had not been so blessed prior to Jacob working for him.  It doesn't take much intelligence to put two and two together here.  This tells me that divination was a practice for Laban, not just a one time thing.  That was part of his religion, as it was with most people back then.

 

In verse 28 Laban said, "name your wages."  He told Jacob to just let him know how much he wanted to be paid in order to stay and look after the cattle for Laban.  Laban wanted Jacob to stay pretty badly.  He'd pay anything, or so he said.  I'm not sure though that you could fully trust Laban.

 

In verses 29 and 30 Jacob reminds Laban how long he had work for him for.  In verse 30 we learn that prior to Jacob's arrival, Laban had little, but now he has a lot, but it was now time for Jacob to have and build his own family.  That's only natural.  Jacob did not want to work for Laban forever.  He wanted his own flock, his own business.  You can't blame him for that.

 

Again, in verse 31, Laban asked, "what can I give you."  Jacob replied by saying, "don't give me anything."   Jacob did not want a salary. 

 

Verses 31 and 32 state Jacob's plan.  He told Laban that he would go through Laban's flock, take out every spotted sheep and lamb, and every dark sheep for himself.  That would be payment enough to keep Jacob there working for Laban.

 

Verse 33 tells us why Jacob came up with this plan.  It was all a matter of honesty.  His cattle and Laban's cattle could be easily distinguished.   The babies born from Jacob sheep would be spotted, clearly differentiating them from Laban's sheep.  Laban could go at any time to check out to make sure things were as they had been agreed to.  Jacob said that if there were any unspotted sheep or sheep that weren't darkened among his flock, Laban could consider them as being stolen.  That was a pretty simple way to keep the two flocks separated.

 

When Jacob brings up the thought about honesty, he is simply saying, "trust me".  Of course, that was the problem.  There was no trust between these two men.  Laban did not trust Jacob, and Jacob did not trust Laban.

 

In verse 34 Laban simply said, "agreed".   I think he jumped at Jacob's plan pretty quickly.  I think he thought that he was getting a real deal.  His side of the deal was better than Jacob's.   There would have been much less spotted and darkened animals that Jacob would have acquired.  Laban would have kept the bulk of the sheep and lambs.   For this reason Laban agreed quickly before Jacob changed his mind.

 

Verses 34 through 36 tell us that after the agreement, Laban did the separating of the sheep and lambs.  I guess Jacob trusted him that much.  Once Laban had separated the flock into two, then he had his sons look after Jacob's flock while Jacob looked after his flock.  He also had his sons go on a three day journey with Jacob's flock to make sure there was enough space between the two flocks so nothing would get mixed up.  That sounds all very logical and sensible.

 

From verse 37 onward to the end of the chapter, we see how Jacob tended Laban's flock.  I'm not convinced that he was being totally honest here.  If I understand the text right, Jacob devised a way with branches that had been stripped of their bark and put in watering troughs as a means to encourage mating.  The text says that he would keep the strong young lambs for himself and leave the weak for Laban.  By so doing, Jacob became very wealthy

 

It's my feeling that the process that Jacob went through in these last few verses was pure superstition.  Some think that there is some prophetic significance here, but I don't think so.  

 

We need to understand that God blessed Jacob in his life, even though he was not acting righteously.  This is in direct fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant that  stated God would bless Abraham.  God's blessings on Israel has nothing to do with their righteousness.  That is clear in this chapter as well as in other chapters.

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