1 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.
2 And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?
3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.
4 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.
5 And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son.
6 And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.
7 And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.
8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.
9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.
10 And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son.
11 And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.
12 And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son.
13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.
14 And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes.
15 And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son's mandrakes.
16 And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son's mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.
17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.
18 And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.
19 And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son.
20 And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.
21 And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.
22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.
23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach:
24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, The Lord shall add to me another son.
25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country.
26 Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee.
27 And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake.
28 And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.
29 And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me.
30 For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and the Lord hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?
31 And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock.
32 I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.
33 So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me.
34 And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.
35 And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons.
36 And he set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks.
37 And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.
38 And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.
39 And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.
40 And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban's cattle.
41 And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.
42 But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.
43 And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.
1. Bilhah gives birth to two sons for Jacob.
2. Zilpah gives birth to two sons for Jacob.
3. Leah gives birth to two more sons for Jacob.
4. Rachel gives birth to Joseph.
5. Jacob finds a way to obtain Laban’s sheep, goats, and cattle.
Verses 1–25. Despite the polygamy and dissension in Jacob’s household, God blessed the man by giving him eleven sons in six years! These were prolific years for Jacob indeed! Both Rachel and Leah pressed Jacob towards more polygamy, offering their maidservants to him as additional wives. Competing interests and competing moral values present themselves in this chapter. Apparently, the two sisters were unaware of the humiliation and dishonor to which they were subjecting themselves through this polygamy. When a man marries multiple women, he must divide his time, attention, and love amongst his wives. But these women were less concerned about their husband’s time and affection than they were about getting the best of each other. This is the corrosive sin of envy.
At the same time that they rejected God’s intentions concerning marriage, the sisters also ignored His sovereign control over the womb. They came to rely entirely on their own ability to manipulate causes in order to bring about the blessing of children. Granted, there are things that we can do to enhance the possibility of pregnancy. But men and women will often forget about trusting in God as they enthusiastically pursue pseudo-scientific methods to get what they want. The women in this story were desperate to get their hands on mandrakes, a walnut-sized fruit thought to improve fertility. Here, Moses under the inspiration of the Spirit, attests that the opening of Rachel’s womb had far more to do with the hand of God than it did with the mandrakes. Rachel eventually attributed the blessing to God’s hand.
Verses 26–43. Meanwhile, Jacob was busy working to produce blessing for himself out in the field with Laban’s flocks and herds. While his wives were seeking to enhance their fertility by polygamy and mandrakes, Jacob was working to advance the family’s wealth by another pseudo-scientific means. He peeled the branches of poplar and hazel trees and placed them in the water where the herds drank. As the theory went, if the sheep looked upon the stripes prior to conceiving their young, this would permanently affect the genetic code such that the lambs would come out striped.
Verse 30 elucidates the basic problem with Jacob’s family at this time. Jacob told Laban, “Yahweh has blessed you since my coming; and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?” This is the same issue that Abraham struggled with when he took matters into his own hands and conceived a child with Hagar. Upon multiple occasions, Abraham and Isaac tried to deceive the pagan kings using their own ill-conceived means. Also, Rebekah arranged an extravagant deception in order to secure the blessing for Jacob. When push comes to shove, this family has a hard time trusting that the sovereign power of God would work things out for them. On the one hand, Jacob here acknowledged God’s sovereign provision for Laban’s family by way of his own hard work. But then he turned his eyes away from God’s sovereign hand when it came to his own family, focusing instead upon his own responsibility to provide. Could not the same God who blessed Laban because of Jacob’s presence with him also bless Jacob with equal or better provision? It was at this point that Jacob’s faith in God wavered.
The truly astonishing element of this story is found in God’s gracious condescension towards this unworthy clan. Although we know that striped sticks do not produce striped lambs and mandrakes likely do little to improve the fertility of a woman, God patiently “played along” with the silly antics of His people in this story. He provided them with children and striped lambs. He worked through Jacob’s deceptive intent to effect what Jacob fully intended to bring about—the disenfranchisement of Laban. Indeed, God’s judgments are unsearchable and His ways past finding out! In mercy, He did not give them their just desserts. At the same time, there would be consequences for polygamy and enviousness in the household in the lives of Jacob’s sons.
This passage wisely instructs us concerning a godly view of science. Men are using science when they use previous experiences to assign cause and effect relationships to the world around them. But science should never be used to break God’s laws. Neither should we wholly rely upon science to accomplish the things we want to accomplish. Because of the explosion of scientific technology and the consequent affluence that has followed, most western nations have abandoned any and all trust in the providential sovereignty of God. They now rely entirely on science for their medical cures, economic success, and psychological treatments. They look to their striped sticks and mandrakes for blessing.
Often, they break God’s law in the process by experimenting on human stem cells, aborting their children in the womb, debauching their currencies in their economic systems, and refusing to worship the living God. Fundamentally, they refuse to look to God “from Whom all blessings flow.” It’s highly debatable whether mandrakes and striped sticks will bring us the blessings of children or economic wealth. Even if there was a distant relationship or a partial cause and effect relationship, let us never forget that the outworking is always in the hand of God. Ultimately, our health and wealth come from God. Let us trust in the Lord and pray to Him for His blessing. This will always be far more effective than science and technology.
1. What are the themes of Chapters 1 through 30?
2. What were the mandrakes supposed to do for Leah and Rachel?
3. What were the striped sticks supposed to do for the sheep?
4. Who is the source of blessing for Laban and Jacob, according to Jacob’s testimony in verse 30?
5. What are the names of the eleven sons who were born to Jacob in six years?
6. According to the passage, what happened to Rachel that enabled her to have a son?
1. In what ways might our trust in science and modern medicine displace our trust in God? Do we seek prayer from the elders of the church before going to see the doctors who play in science and pseudo-science? (Reference James 5:14)
2. Does the sin of envy and hateful jealousy ever infect the siblings in our family? Can you think of any examples of this? What are the destructive effects of these sins