The children of Jacob (Gen 29:31-30:24)

“When Yahweh saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb.  But Rachel was barren.  Leah conceived and bore a son.  She named him Reuben.  For she said, ‘Yahweh has looked upon my affliction.  Surely now my husband will love me.’  She conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘Because Yahweh has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.’ She named him Simeon.  Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, ‘Now this time my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons.’  Therefore he was named Levi.  She conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘This time I will praise Yahweh.’ Therefore she named him Judah. Then she ceased bearing.”

Although Jacob loved Rachel, she was barren.  However, Leah bore 4 sons named Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.  Each time Leah praised Yahweh and hoped that her husband Jacob would love her.  You would think that these 4 sons would be important, but only the later two, Levi and Judah, take on an important significance.  Nevertheless, Leah is responsible for a third of the 12 families of Israel.

“When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister.  She said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die!’  Jacob became very anger with Rachel.  He said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’  Then she said, ‘Here is my maid Bilhah. Go in to her, that she may bear upon my knees, and that I too may have children through her.’  So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife.  Jacob went in to her.  Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son.  Then Rachel said, ‘God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.’ Therefore she named him Dan.  Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son.  Then Rachel said, ‘With mighty wrestling I have wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed.’  So she named him Naphtali.”

Rachel envied her sister Leah for all the children that she had.  She went to Jacob and said to give her children, or she was going to die.  Jacob got angry and said it was God’s will not his to have or not have children.  Rachel gave her maid Bilhah to Jacob to have children, and Jacob had sex with her.  Bilhah had two sons named Dan and Naphtah.  Jacob now has had sex with three women, and has 6 sons.

“When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife.  Then Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son.  Leah said, ‘Good fortune!   So she named him Gad. Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son.  Leah said, ‘Happy am I! For the women will call me happy.’ So she called his name Asher.

Then Leah asked her maid Zilpah to sleep with Jacob and she had two sons with him, Gad and Asher. This makes the fourth woman for Jacob with 8 sons.

“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.’  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 for your son’s mandrakes.’  When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him, and said, ‘You must come in to me.  I have paid for you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night.  God heeded Leah and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.  Leah said, ‘God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband.’  So she named him Issachar.  Leah conceived again and she bore Jacob a sixth son.  Then Leah said, ‘God has endowed me with a good dowry.  Now my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons.’ So she named him Zebulun.  Afterwards she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah.

One day Reuben brought mandrakes, some sort of aphrodisiac, to his mother Leah, but Rachel wanted some.  So Leah gave her the mandrakes in exchange for sleeping with Jacob that night.  Thus Leah bore a fifth and sixth son, Issachar and Zebulun, as well as a daughter, Dinah. Leah then has 6 sons, one daughter, and 2 sons by her maid, ¾ of the children of Jacob.

 “Then God remembered Rachel, and God heeded her and opened her womb.  She conceived and bore a son, and said, ‘God has taken away my reproach.’ She named him Joseph, saying, ‘May Yahweh add to me another son!’”

Then God remembered Rachel and ‘opened her womb’ and she conceived a son called Joseph.  Of course, he will become the most famous of the sons of Jacob.  Now we have 11 sons, one more to come.

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The two marriages of Jacob (Gen 29:15-Gen 29:30)

“Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?’   Now Laban had two daughters.  The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.  Leah’s eyes were lovely and Rachel was graceful and beautiful.  Jacob loved Rachel.  So he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’  Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man.  Stay with me.’  So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.”

Laban decided to pay Jacob because he was a ‘kinsman.’  Laban had two daughters, Leah, the oldest, and Rachel, the youngest.  Jacob loved Rachel and he said that he would serve Laban for seven years in order to marry her.  This seems like a real love story when years seem like days. Jacob did this so that he could marry his first cousin.

“Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.  So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast.   But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob.  He went in to her.  Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.   When morning came, it was Leah!  Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel?  Why then have you deceived me?’  Laban said, ‘This is not done in our country, to give the younger before the first-born.  Complete this marriage week, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.’  Jacob did so, and completed her nuptial week.  Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.  Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her maid.  So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah.  He served Laban for another seven years.”

On the wedding night, Laban brought the veiled Leah, not Rachel, to Jacob.  ‘He went in to her,’ a euphemism for intercourse.  He also gave her a maid called Zilpah. This time it is Jacob who is deceived.  Laban explained that the older daughter must be married before the younger daughter.  Nevertheless they completed the week of marriage festivities.  However, he said if you work another seven years I will give you Rachel, the younger one with a maid named Bilhah.  It turns out to be a two for one deal as Jacob marries two sisters at the same time.