1 When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” 2 Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” 3 Then she said, “Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to her, so that she may give birth on my behalf, that even I may have children through her.” 4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. 5 And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan. 7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.
-Rachel might be a great match for Jacob after all because we see this same kind of willfulness and selfishness. Rachel actually says “give me children, or I shall die”. Rachel is essentially saying “If I don’t get what I want, life is not worth living, because it is all about what I want.” Jacob acknowledges God but doesn’t seem to believe that He really is in control. Like with Abraham before him, his wife gives him her servant to bear children for her because they both cannot wait. And then she claims the child as hers. She credits God but it doesn’t appear that God had anything to do with it. It is thought to be customary in this day for wives to have servants bear children on their behalf but Jacob and Rachel should know better. After the second child by Bilhah, we see Rachel’s true heart motive. She is simply competing with her sister. Her motivation is envy. Her heart is black. This is a horrible living situation that seems even worse than what Abraham went through before allowing Sarah to send Hagar away. This is not the way God meant for things to be. Selfishness is destroying these people’s lives. It is consuming them and their children will suffer for it.
9 When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Then Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 And Leah said, “Good fortune has come!” so she called his name Gad. 12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah said, “Happy am I! For women have called me happy.” So she called his name Asher.
-Not to be one upped since Leah also appeared to have stopped after four children, she also gives her servant making Jacob the husband of four women. This is a complete and utter mess. But no matter what ill choices we make, God will use it for His perfect plan. God used this mess of a a so called “family” and turned it into the nation of Israel which has a place one Earth for all time.
14 In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went 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?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.” 16 When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night.
-The situation has gotten so bad that they are buying their husband like a prostitute! They are bartering for who gets to sleep with him that night. How does reading this not drive one mad! It seems evident that their family was divided along the lines of Leah/Zilpah’s offspring and Rachel/Bilhah’s offspring. Technically, Rachel is the step-mother of Reuben and why shouldn’t Reuben share yet Leah will not let Rachel have of “her” sons mandrakes. Living for yourself brings nothing but pain!
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 gave my servant to my husband.” So she called his name Issachar. 19 And Leah conceived again, and she bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will honor 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.
-It says that “God listened to Leah” but we aren’t told of anything Leah had said to God. So it might be assumed that she prayed about having more children and God answered her. Her line about “now my husband will honor me” must have been her continuing pain of her husband not loving her. She thought for sure, after six sons which sounds to have been quite rare in this day that she would be looked on with honor for giving her husband so much. But of course, this does not happen. It is amazing with all these children by four different women, only one daughter is born. We know this because she is identified or else we might assume there were other daughters who weren’t mentioned because they were not male as in genealogies up to this point.
22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. 23 She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” 24 And she called his name Joseph, saying, “May the Lord add to me another son!”
-Again, we aren’t told about Rachel saying anything but may assume Rachel finally went to prayer about it as well. Perhaps she realized it worked for Leah. But it is still enough as once she has one son she is already asking for another. The self can never be satisfied. It’s desire is infinite. Therefore, the only way to truly satisfy the self is to fill it with something that is infinite. The self can only be satisfied with God.
25 As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, that I may go, for you know the service that I have given you.” 27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you. 28 Name your wages, and I will give it.”
-Despite all this sin and selfishness, God is still going to fulfill His promise. Nothing the Lord says can ever be taken away. This is why one cannot lose their salvation. Once a person truly believes, they are promised eternal life. No matter how much we may sin and turn away, God will never forsake us, EVER! Laban has recognized that Jacob is “good luck” and he’s better off with him around. So now, Laban is practically begging for Jacob to stay.
29 Jacob said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you, and how your livestock has fared with me. 30 For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?” 31 He said, “What shall I give you?” Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this for me, I will again pasture your flock and keep it: 32 let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and they shall be my wages. 33 So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my wages with you. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, shall be counted stolen.” 34 Laban said, “Good! Let it be as you have said.”
-You would think after such a long time together they would know each other by now. Jacob appears very genuine but we’ve already seen his selfish nature, as with the nature of Laban and his daughters. Everyone is out to cheat one another and they are both about to cheat each other in just a few verses.
35 But that day Laban removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in the charge of his sons. 36 And he set a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob pastured the rest of Laban’s flock. 37 Then Jacob took fresh sticks of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the sticks. 38 He set the sticks that he had peeled in front of the flocks in the troughs, that is, the watering places, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, 39 the flocks bred in front of the sticks and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. 40 And Jacob separated the lambs and set the faces of the flocks toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban. He put his own droves apart and did not put them with Laban’s flock. 41 Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding, Jacob would lay the sticks in the troughs before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the sticks, 42 but for the feebler of the flock he would not lay them there. So the feebler would be Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s. 43 Thus the man increased greatly and had large flocks, female servants and male servants, and camels and donkeys.
-So Laban thought he was clever in removing the speckled and spotted of the flock ahead of time but Jacob had his own plan as well. Being now an expert having taken care of Laban’s flock for years, Jacob knew how to ensure those with the speckled and spotted genes would mate so that his share would be increased and not only that but be stronger as well. Jacob prospers from his understanding of micro-evolution. Shepherds and farmers, even in this early time, clearly understand breeding and Jacob devised this plan based on his intelligence on this subject. But what Jacob is going to find out next chapter is that his cleverness is not what has sustained him his whole life, but rather the omniscient, loving God.