Rachel Wanted What Leah Had – Children
The Song of Solomon reminds us that the Jewish people never minimized the personal joys of marriage, but they also emphasized the responsibility of having children and building a God-fearing family. “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted….Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him“ (Ps. 127:1, 3).
The Jews looked upon parenthood as a stewardship before God; and this was especially true in the case of Jacob, whose descendants would multiply “beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.” (Gen. 22:17).
God would honor him by making him the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, but the fact that four different women were involved in building his family would create for Jacob one problem after another. The man who had grown up in a divided and competitive home (Gen.25:28) would himself create a divided and competitive family.
When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”
Leah wanted what Rachel had (Jacob’s love), and Rachel wanted what Leah had (children). We seldom see the good things we have and instead become jealous of what others have.
Is it so bad, really, to be jealous?
In a word, yes. Jealousy eats away at us, robbing our joy and souring our spirits. And if we give vent to our feelings, the Bible reminds us, “Jealousy is cruel as the grave.” Because Rachel “envied he sister Leah” (NCV), commentators describe Rachel as “insecure, jealous, peevish, and self-willed, bitter, envious, quarrelsome and petulant.”
Rachel was so heartbroken over this that she wanted children or death. She couldn’t live in this condition.
Then Jacob became furious with Rachel. “Am I God?” he asked. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!”
Genesis 30:2 (NLT)
This is a classic example of a wife looking to a husband to do what only God can do. It wasn’t Jacob’s fault that Rachel hadn’t borne children. But what Rachel needed wasn’t a lecture on theology or gynecology. She needed the kind understanding of her husband and the encouragement that only his love could provide.
Likewise today, many women (and men) are looking to their mates to make them happy, secure, confident, etc. That is the job of God alone. No person can be to us what only God was intended to be. To put expectations on a mere human being like that is a sure way to become bitter and disappointed with your mate. Regardless of how wonderful your mate is he or she makes a poor God.
Then Rachel told him, “Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her I can have a family, too.” So Rachel gave her servant, Bilhah, to Jacob as a wife, and he slept with her. Bilhah became pregnant and presented him with a son.
Genesis 30:3-5 (NLT)
“No!” we shout, waving our arms to get her attention. “Don’t go there!” Rachel didn’t see insolent Hagar, didn’t hear mocking Ishmael, but we did. We know how this sleep-with-my-servant business can end up. Besides, Rachel’s intentions weren’t as honorable as her great-aunt’s: Sarai wanted an heir for Abram; Rachel wanted children for Rachel, period.
It didn’t work then, and it didn’t work here. It’s a shame when one generation learns nothing from the older ones.
If Rachel and Jacob sincerely thought God was the one who kept Rachel from having children, then here they would be going against their own beliefs to try to produce children through Bilhah.
This is as inconsistent as people today who think the Lord is the one who makes them sick but then go to the doctor, trying to get well. That would be going against God’s will if they truly believed their own doctrine.
This was an accepted practice of the day, just as having multiple wives was. But this was never God’s perfect will from the beginning.
The Scriptures reveal the emotions of Leah and Rachel, but what about Leah and Rachel’s handmaids?
They were used as baby factories, and the children weren’t their own. This was certainly not the way God intended people to act. However, the Lord has never had anyone qualified working for Him yet. He, in mercy, used what was available.
Rachel named him Dan, for she said, “God has vindicated me! He has heard my request and given me a son.”
Genesis 30:6 (NLT)
Bilhah conceived and gave birth to a son, whom Rachel claimed as her own and named Dan, which comes from a Hebrew word meaning “vindication, judgment.”
This was inaccurate for Rachel to call Dan her child. It may have been legally correct in those days, but this wasn’t God’s way of giving her a child. This was the carnal way of trying to have children. I believe this was an incorrect statement on Rachel’s part.
There is no scriptural evidence that this was God’s way of giving children to Rachel. This was a child of the flesh, just as Ishmael was (Galatians 4:22-23). It’s not related that Rachel prayed to God for children at this time.
Rachel’s servant Bilhah soon conceived again and gave birth to a second son for Jacob.
Rachel: I have had to wrestle with my own sister as I’ve wrestled with God, but I have prevailed.
So Rachel named this son Naphtali.
Genesis 30:7-8 (VOICE)
The name Naphtali means “my wrestling” (Strong’s Concordance). Rachel hadn’t prevailed by any measurement but her own. Leah had borne Jacob four children herself, not through a handmaid (Genesis 29:32-35), yet Rachel claimed victory. This wasn’t God’s perspective.
Notice that with Rachel and Leah, this was all about their struggle against each other. Rachel wasn’t rejoicing for the child’s sake; she was rejoicing for her sake so that she could feel better about herself compared to her sister.
Meanwhile, Leah realized that she wasn’t getting pregnant anymore, so she took her servant, Zilpah, and gave her to Jacob as a wife.
Genesis 30:9 (NLT)
Leah’s temporary barrenness motivated her to give Jacob a fourth wife, her maid Zilpah. Zilpah and Bilhah were slaves to their mistresses and therefore concubines to Jacob. Rachel and Leah may have hated the way their father, Laban, gave them as property to Jacob, but they did the same thing with their maids.
As I have previously shared, Rachel really hadn’t prevailed. She had two children by her handmaid while Leah had four children herself. But Rachel believed she had prevailed, and I’m sure she expressed that opinion to Leah. Leah bought into Rachel’s opinion, and it made her envious. This was all rooted in Leah’s and Rachel’s competition and search for significance, not in any love for their children.
Then Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Leah said, “I have been lucky”; so she named him Gad.
Genesis 30:10-11 (GNT)
The name Gad means, “lucky” or “fortune”. This was Leah speaking in faith that there would be more children added to her account. Though Leah didn’t “resort to complaining or deceitful actions,” she, too, wasn’t satisfied with just one surrogate son.
Here we go again…
Then Zilpah gave Jacob a second son. And Leah named him Asher, for she said, “What joy is mine! Now the other women will celebrate with me.”
Genesis 30:12-13 (NLT)
This made a total of four children by Leah and two by Zilpah, Leah’s slave.
The name Asher means “happy.” She still didn’t have Jacob’s love, but either she had adjusted or transferred her affection to her children.
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