1-8 The Sons of Bilhah 9-13 The Sons of Zilpah 14-21 Leah ‘Hires’ Jacob 22-24 Rachel Gets Joseph 25-36 Jacob Acquires His Flock 37-43 The Trick of Jacob
The Sons of Bilhah

1Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die.” 2Then Jacob’s anger burned against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” 3She said, “Here is my maid Bilhah, go in to her that she may bear on my knees, that through her I too may have children.” 4So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. 5Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. 6Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me, and has indeed heard my voice and has given me a son.” Therefore she named him Dan. 7Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8So Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, [and] I have indeed prevailed.” And she named him Naphtali.

When Rachel sees that she remains childless, she becomes jealous of Leah. She sets Jacob an impossible ultimatum. Such a thing only happens when the Lord is not given a place in the difficulties. Then people, husbands, ask unreasonable things of each other, they expect things that are beyond the ability of the other. The cause is jealousy. As a result, much evil has already been done in world history, in society, in families, and in churches (Jam 3:1616For where jealousy and elfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.). Out of jealousy Cain killed Abel, the brothers sold Joseph, Saul pursued David, and the chief priests handed over the Lord Jesus.

Instead of following his father’s example (Gen 25:2121Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived.) and going with Rachel to the LORD – he himself was a child of prayer – Jacob bursts out against her. He does not take the place of God (cf. 2Kgs 5:77When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending [word] to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.”)! What he says is true, but why he says it and the way in which he does it, make it clear that he uses this truth only to silence Rachel. He does not take the time to pray with her, nor does he take the time to talk with her.

Jacob does not seem to be a strong personality. Rachel exploits that. Jacob accepts her proposal without objection that he should go in to her maid. This too is a repetition of a not so beautiful history (Gen 16:1-41Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no [children], and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.2So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing [children]. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.3After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife.4He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight.). Rachel’s proposal is successful. She gives the child the name “Dan”, which means ‘to judge’. In so doing, she indicates that God has given her right.

It is the way of people who go their own way and see the blessing they receive as a justification that God gives for the self-willed way they go. Maybe it has also been our way to justify something wrong.

Bilhah has a second son. Rachel calls him “Naphtali”. With this she expresses the wrestlings – Naphtali means ‘my wrestling – she has within herself with the blessing that her sister has had. She also thinks that she has emerged as the winner. She has strived for her right and believes that she has now been given this. She wants to stand above Leah and praises the fact that she has now succeeded. Later it turns out that it is the hollow joy of the moment. In reality, therefore, she has lost. In the name she gives to the child herself, she will be constantly remembered of it.

It is an important lesson that we do not call our children ‘Naphtali’, that our children are not burdened with the wrestling we may have with our husband or wife, or with our brothers and sisters.

With all the wrong things, we see with Leah and Rachel the longing for children (Psa 127:33Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
). Today, this is sometimes different for modern women.

The Sons of Zilpah

9When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11Then Leah said, “How fortunate!” So she named him Gad. 12Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13Then Leah said, “Happy am I! For women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.

The relationship between Rachel and Leah is characterized by rivalry. That is the result if one goes against God’s marriage institution of one man with one woman. That danger of rivalry is always great if we start to compare and think that the other one has more than we do. That may be material, or it may be spiritual.

Leah has mistaken it all and resorts to the same low practice as Rachel. It seems that she is successful. In any case, she experiences that the tide has turned, and that happiness has come into her life. She indicates this in the names she gives to the two children who give birth to her maid Zilpah: “Gad” means “happiness” and “Asher” means “happy”.

Leah ‘Hires’ Jacob

14Now 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.” 15But she said to her, “Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son’s mandrakes also?” So Rachel said, “Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” 16When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. 17God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18Then Leah said, “God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband.” So she named him Issachar. 19Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob. 20Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun. 21Afterward she bore a daughter and named her Dinah.

Jacob, who seems to have a weak character anyway, can just be used as a bet in the quarrel between his two wives. Nowhere do we read of a powerful action to call them to order, he does not say a word. He neglects his position as head of the family. He avoids the problems in this whole unsavory history. If you do not take God’s institution seriously, you also have no regard for other responsibilities.

The wives and children do not go to Jacob with their difficulties. They do everything themselves. Rachel applies a new trick. In her superstition, she believes that the mandrakes or love-apples help to achieve her coveted goal of having children. This is what Reuben, the son of Leah, brings home. It is possible that it has been thought that erotic feelings and fertility are created when eating these apples.

Who educated Reuben about this, what does he intend to do with it? Do we educate our children, or do they get it on the street? Let us have an open ear for what our children come home with, with what kind of talk, and take that as an opportunity to educate them. From Genesis 35 is the cautious conclusion to be drawn that Reuben has not been able to deal with his sexual feelings as God wants it (Gen 35:2222It came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine, and Israel heard [of it]. Now there were twelve sons of Jacob—). In his father’s house he didn’t have the good examples in this either.

Rachel ‘buys’ Leah’s love-apples with the ‘payment’ that Leah can ‘use’ Jacob again. She superstitiously believes that these love-apples will free her from her infertility. Lea also acts out of superstition. Both women are working with tricks to acquire blessings.

When a son is born by Leah’s ‘hired’ sexual intercourse with Jacob, she crookedly argues that God has rewarded her, for “Issachar” means ‘reward’. At the same time God stands above this carnal act and follows His own path of grace. God hears, not because of her way of doing things, but despite her way of doing things. When Leah gets another son, she calls him “Zebulun”, which means “dwell”, in the expectation that Jacob will finally give in and dwell with her.

After six sons, Leah had a daughter as the seventh child. She calls her “Dinah”, which means ‘right’. We don’t hear much about Dinah. She only appears in Genesis 34, in which she plays a leading role (Gen 34:1-341Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land.2When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force.3He was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her.4So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young girl for a wife.”5Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in.6Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him.7Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard [it]; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.8But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage.9Intermarry with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves.10Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be [open] before you; live and trade in it and acquire property in it.”11Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “If I find favor in your sight, then I will give whatever you say to me.12Ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; but give me the girl in marriage.”13But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.14They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us.15Only on this [condition] will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised,16then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people.17But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go.”18Now their words seemed reasonable to Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son.19The young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was more respected than all the household of his father.20So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying,21“These men are friendly with us; therefore let them live in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters in marriage, and give our daughters to them.22Only on this [condition] will the men consent to us to live with us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised.23Will not their livestock and their property and all their animals be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will live with us.”24All who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.25Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male.26They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went forth.27Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister.28They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field;29and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that [was] in the houses.30Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.”31But they said, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?”). She does not appear in the blessing of Jacob.

Rachel Gets Joseph

22Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. 23So she conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” 24She named him Joseph, saying, “May the LORD give me another son.”

Rachel also eventually gets the child she so long expected and coveted. This is not the result of her ‘bought’ love-apples, but of a work by God. Rachel realizes this too, and she gives God the honor for it. She says: He has taken away my reproach, God has done that.

She calls the son who is born “Joseph”, which means ‘He will add’. He is also a child of prayer, for God “gave heed to” Rachel. This son occupies a special place. In many ways he is a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus. We will see that later.

Jacob Acquires His Flock

25Now it came about when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country. 26Give [me] my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me depart; for you yourself know my service which I have rendered you.” 27But Laban said to him, “If now it pleases you, [stay with me]; I have divined that the LORD has blessed me on your account.” 28He continued, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.” 29But he said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you and how your cattle have fared with me. 30For you had little before I came and it has increased to a multitude, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned. But now, when shall I provide for my own household also?” 31So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this [one] thing for me, I will again pasture [and] keep your flock: 32let me pass through your entire flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted sheep and every black one among the lambs and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and [such] shall be my wages. 33So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come concerning my wages. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, [if found] with me, will be considered stolen.” 34Laban said, “Good, let it be according to your word.” 35So he removed on that day the striped and spotted male goats and all the speckled and spotted female goats, every one with white in it, and all the black ones among the sheep, and gave them into the care of his sons. 36And he put [a distance of] three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.

When Joseph was born, Jacob wants to return to his land. It is also spiritually the same in the life of the believer: when the Lord Jesus – of whom Joseph is a beautiful picture – comes to live in him, he wishes to enjoy the blessings of the heavenly land. Jacob experiences the child Rachel gets as a special blessing.

Laban acknowledges that God has done him well for the sake of Jacob. In prophetic terms this is also the case: whoever treats Israel, God’s people, well, will experience the blessing of it from God.

When Jacob has indicated that he wants to leave, Laban asks Jacob what he wants as a reward. He does this to bind Jacob even longer to himself. Someone that is such a blessing for you, you don’t let just go. Jacob wants to keep working for a while. As wages for this he asks cattle. He determines what kind of cattle will be his. Laban agrees with this.

Laban, however, is cunning and takes measures to safeguard the cattle that Jacob asked for himself. He takes all striped and spotted male goats, and all speckled and spotted female goats, and all black sheep, which Jacob has stipulated as his wages, and put them under the care of his sons.

He also built in a safety zone of a three days’ journey between himself and Jacob. In this way he prevents that there can be crossbreeding between the cattle he has separated and that which is under Jacob’s care. Thus there will be no chance that in the flock of Jacob a striped and spotted goat or goat or a black sheep will be born, which he would have lost.

The Trick of Jacob

37Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white which [was] in the rods. 38He set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, [even] in the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink; and they mated when they came to drink. 39So the flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. 40Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban; and he put his own herds apart, and did not put them with Laban’s flock. 41Moreover, whenever the stronger of the flock were mating, Jacob would place the rods in the sight of the flock in the gutters, so that they might mate by the rods; 42but when the flock was feeble, he did not put [them] in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s. 43So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys.

When the negotiations are complete, the old Jacob comes back to the surface. He works cunningly to get as much of Laban’s cattle as possible in his possession. Jacob is honest in a certain sense, because he does not steal. In another sense he is not sincere. He believes that peeled branches are a means of expanding his herd.

However, God shows him in a dream how he really came to his flock (Gen 31:10-1210And it came about at the time when the flock were mating that I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the male goats which were mating [were] striped, speckled, and mottled.11Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’12He said, ‘Lift up now your eyes and see [that] all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you.). Not the branches, but the goats were used by God. Jacob’s superstition did not make his herd grow a single piece of flock. God is with Jacob, but Jacob is not yet with God. God is on his way with Jacob to bring him to that goal.

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