Genesis 30:1 “…Rachel envied her sister…”
Having children was of major importance. A woman did not feel complete unless she was able to perpetuate the line. Rachel was already in competition with her sister over Jacob. Not having children, especially when Leah was already having several, just made it worse.
2 “…God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb”
I’ve heard people say that childbirth isn’t a miracle, just a function of nature. Yet man still cannot guarantee pregnancy or a full term birth. God has been and always will be the final say on children. Why He allows children to be born from rape or incest or into families where they aren’t loved and cared for is a mystery, but He is still in control. Man is not.
3 “…Here is my maid Bilhah…”
Here we go again. I wonder if Jacob knew the story behind Ishmael. Considering they apparently didn’t see anything wrong with the practice, and his favorite wife is so upset with the situation, I would imagine he felt some pressure to go along with the idea, even if he had any reservations. The patience of God with man never ceases to amaze me.
15 “…you have taken away my husband…Therefore he will lie with you tonight…”
Leah was the first married, so she had a right to expect Jacob to be a husband to her. But she surely knew how Jacob felt about Rachel when she was joined to him. He had probably split his time between all of them, perhaps more out of duty than anything else, but since Leah had not conceived in some time, he may have been spending more time with Rachel as reflected in Rachel’s statement of where Jacob would spend the night.
16 “…You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you…”
The situation lends itself to numerous jokes if it weren’t so tragic. What should have been a joyful time of intimacy and reveling in God’s gift has become a duty and a labor, part of a feud between two sisters who were the victims of their father’s deceitfulness.
23 “…God has taken away my reproach”
Being childless wasn’t only a reason for feeling incomplete, it was also a social stigma. While society doesn’t look down on childlessness as it once did, some women still feel the emptiness if they aren’t able to have children.
26 “Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go…”
Jacob’s term of service to Laban has ended. He has fulfilled seven more years for Rachel. The phrasing of his request brings questions. Commentaries had only suggestions. Some wondered if Laban still had some say and control over his daughters and their children even though he had given them to Jacob in return for his service. I wonder if it was just a way of Jacob saying he had fulfilled his time so he wanted Laban to give him some type of material payment and send them off with his blessing.
30 “…when shall I also provide for my own house”
Here Jacob is bringing up the issue of material possessions. He has been working for Laban for fourteen years, and all of the blessing that God has given Jacob has been going to Laban. Now he needs to have his own possessions to provide for his family.
31-32 “…You shall not give me anything…removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep…and these shall be my wages”
This was a little difficult to catch on first reading. It sounds like Jacob is saying he will take all the spotted animals. But if that were so, it would contradict what he said about Laban not giving him anything. The phrase these shall be my wages is not referring to those already there, but to future ones that are spotted and speckled. The idea was to remove all multicolored ones from the flocks and herds, and then any that are born from the solids that were spotted or speckled would be Jacob’s. That way no one could say he had taken what was Laban’s. Laban likes this as he probably figured there wouldn’t be many multicolored ones born to solids. He pulls out the multicolored ones, gives them to his sons, then puts three days journey between himself and Jacob. Probably between thirty and sixty miles depending on what they considered a day’s journey.
39 “So the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted.”
The action of putting streaked rods in front of the flocks and herds as they mated may or may not have had any influence on their offspring. Commentaries had no explanation other than that it was believed that whatever a female was focused on when she conceived would be passed on to the offspring. Jacob appears to have subscribed to this belief, but it is agreed that the primary, if not the only, factor was the providence of God. He certainly used the occasion to build up Jacob’s possessions in fulfillment of His promise to him.
I hope you enjoy reading and studying His word. May it accomplish what He desires. Please feel free to comment or post questions. Thanks for reading!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.