You Have Another Son!
Now we move from the voice of God to a baby’s cry and a mother’s last words.
Leaving Bethel, Jacob and his clan moved on toward Ephrath. But Rachel went into labor while they were still some distance away. Her labor pains were intense. After a very hard delivery, the midwife finally exclaimed, “Don’t be afraid—you have another son!”
When Jacob’s beloved Rachel learned that she was pregnant, it must have given both of them great joy. She had borne Jacob only one son, Joseph (“adding”); and in naming him, she had expressed her desire for another son (30:22-24). God answered her prayers and gave her a boy. Jacob now had twelve sons, the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel.
And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died). So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).
Genesis 35:18a-19 (NKJV)
Rachel had said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die” (30:1). Now she would bear that second son, but in so doing would lay down her own life for the life of the child.We shouldn’t interpret her death as a judgment from God either because of her rash statement or because she stole her father’s idols. Life is a mosaic of lights and shadows, joys and sorrows; and the same baby that brought Rachel and her husband joy also brought tears.
That she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin.
Genesis 35:18b (NKJV)
Ben-oni means “son of my sorrow” or “son of my trouble,” not a very favorable name for a man to carry through life, reminding him that his birth had helped cause his mother’s death. Sorrow would overshadow his every birthday. But Jacob was always ready to rename something, so he called his new son Benjamin, which means “son of my right hand,” that is, a son to be honored. The first king of Israel came from the tribe of Benjamin (1 Sam. 9) and the Apostle Paul was also a Benjamite (Phil. 3:5).
Jacob set up a stone monument over Rachel’s grave, and it can be seen there to this day.
Genesis 35:20 (NLT)
More than twenty years before, Jacob had set up a pillar at Bethel to commemorate his meeting with God. Now he set up a pillar to memorialize his beloved wife Rachel. It was located “on the way to Ephrath,” another name for Bethlehem. (Ephrath means “fruitful,” and “Bethlehem” means “house of bread.”) Tradition places Rachel’s tomb about a mile north of Bethlehem, on the road to Jerusalem, but Jeremiah said it was near Ramah, five miles north of Jerusalem.
Were it not for the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the town would be remembered primarily for the death of Rachel. Because He came, we have “tiding of great joy” instead of tears of sorrow. Matthew connected Jeremiah’s reference to Rachel with Herod’s murder of the innocent children in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:18). The birth of Jesus brought joy (“Benjamin”) and also sorrow (Ben-oni).