Focusing on Jacob’s life in the house of Laban, the passage expanded on the wives of Jacob, namely Leah and Rachel. Throughout the narrative, the wrestlings between Leah and Rachel were evident. Their oppositions give us important lessons concerning attitudes toward rivalry, reliance on God’s mercy and relationship in marriage.
Did You Know...?
- “Leah was unloved” (29:31): in Hebrew, the expression can literally be translated as “Leah was hated.”
- Reuben (29:32) literally comes from the Hebrew root “see” and “son.” Thus, the name can be translated as “Behold, a son.”
- Simeon (29:33): The name is literally from a primary Hebrew verb “to hear.”
- Levi (29:34) comes from the root “to join” or “to attach” in Hebrew.
- Judah (29:35) can be translated literally in Hebrew as “give praise.”
- Dan (30:6) originates from the root “judge” in Hebrew.
- Naphtali (30:8): The word can be literally translated in Hebrew as “my wrestling.”
- Gad (30:11) comes from a Hebrew word, “fortune.”
- Asher (30:13) in Hebrew literally means “the happy one.”
- Mandrakes (30:14): are stemless plants with oval leaves, purple flowers and fruits that ripen to bright yellow or orange during “the days of wheat harvest” (Gen 30:14). The fruits and the fleshly forked root, which resembles the form of the human body, have been used traditionally to induce amorous responses and to promote conception (therefore, the common name “love-apple” in some of the English translation version). The odor of the mandrake is disagreeable to most Westerners but apparently was thought pleasant in Old Testament times (Song 7:13). [ref]
- Isaachar (30:18) can be originated from the Hebrew expression “there is recompense,” which also has similar pronunciation as the word “hire” in Genesis 30:16.
- “Now my husband will dwell with me” (30:20): This expression can also be literally translated in Hebrew as “Now at length, let my husband honor me.”
- Zebulun (30:20) literally comes from the word “dwelling” in Hebrew.
- Dinah (30:21): The name can have similar root-meaning from the name “Dan.”
- Joseph (30:24) can literally be translated as the Hebrew expression “He will add.”
After the marriage, how was Leah treated by her husband?
How did the LORD respond to Leah’s marriage life?
What lessons can we learn from the LORD’s response to Leah’s marriage?Hide Answer
The LORD saw that Leah was unloved (Gen 29:31). This phrase tells us that God cares about our married life, especially the close relationship between a husband and his wife. Since God had established the marriage institution (Gen 2:18, 23-24), He is concerned about the loving union between a husband and his wife. Thus, the apostle Paul mentions in his letter to the Ephesians that husbands ought to love their wives, just as Christ also love the church and has given Himself for her (Eph 5:25). The apostle Paul’s admonishment serve as a lesson for us that the loving relationship in marriage is essential to reflect the teaching of a Christ-like relationship.
In addition, responding to Jacob’s hatred towards Leah, the LORD opened Leah’s womb (Gen 29:31). God’s act reflected His compassion toward the unloved and neglected Leah. Though unloved, Leah was given a chance by God to give birth to a firstborn son—the supposed legacy to continue family inheritance (Deut 21:15-17) and family heir (Gen 15:3-4). According to Genesis 29:33-34, Leah hoped to be loved and joined by her husband through the birth of her children. Today, the coming of a child should not only serve as a blessing to the addition of family members but also a blessing to strengthen the bond between a husband and his wife.
Share an experience of how God has helped to ease the conflict in your or other people’s marriage.(The answer is empty)Hide Answer
Observe how the names of Leah’s first four sons reflected her thankfulness and supplications to the LORD. Reuben;Hide Answer
The naming of Reuben reflected Leah’s supplication to the LORD upon her unloving husband. She was comforted when Reuben arrived and she hoped that her husband, Jacob, would turn to love her (Gen 29:32).
b. Simeon: The name of Leah’s second son reflected her thankfulness that her prayer was heard by the LORD. Though Leah had given birth to the firstborn, the legacy of Jacob’s heir and inheritance, she remained unloved (Gen 29:33). Thus, God comforted her through the second son, Simeon.
Leah named her third son, Levi, to reflect her supplication of her afflicted marriage. Though she had given birth to two sons, her husband still refused to bond with her (Gen 29:34). Thus, the naming of Levi suggested that Leah hoped that the birth of a third son would help to create a bond between her and her husband.
Through the naming of Judah, the fourth son, Leah summarized her thankfulness and praise to the LORD. Leah felt the great blessings of the LORD for the gift of having four sons at the moment (Gen 29:35). Furthermore, the absence of her mention toward the affliction suggested that Leah had accepted her lot in life as second best (Gen 33:2) and thanked God for the blessings He had given her instead of focusing on her emotional needs for that moment.
What caused Rachel to be envious at Leah?
How did Rachel react in her envy?
Compare Rachel’s attitude toward her barrenness with that of Hannah’s. See also
1 Sam 1:10-11.Hide Answer
In her barrenness, not only was Rachel envious of her sister, Leah, she also complained and blamed Jacob, her husband, as if he was the one who refused to give her a child (Gen 30:1). On the other hand, in her barrenness, Hannah prayed to the LORD in supplication, telling God her anguish and bitterness of soul and knowing that God was the One who had the power to give her a child. Even in her prayer, Hannah vowed to the LORD to dedicate the given-child back to Him (
1 Sam 1:10-11).
How did Jacob respond to Rachel’s words? And why such a response?Hide Answer
Upon hearing Rachel’s words, Jacob’s anger was aroused against her. And he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” (Gen 30:2). The anger of Jacob to Rachel was a response to Rachel’s blame. Rachel accused Jacob of withholding her pregnancy. But Jacob responded that such an accusation was similar in placing her husband as God Himself who had the power to open Rachel’s womb.
Compare Jacob’s attitude toward barrenness with that of Isaac’s.
What lesson can we learn about pregnancy from the examples of Rachel and Jacob?Hide Answer
From the examples of Rachel and Jacob, Rebekah and Isaac, we learn that pregnancy comes from the Lord. Many married couples through expensive medical methods try to induce their pregnancies but to avail, while other couples seemingly without effort are able to obtain many children. There are many testimonies of our church members who were barren but at the end received God’s mercy of pregnancy through their supplication prayers in tears.
How did Rachel confront her barrenness?
Observe the similarity between Rachel’s action and Sarah’s action when they faced their barrenness.Hide Answer
Knowing that they were barren, both Rachel and Sarah took their maid-servants and gave them to their husbands. Through the maid-servants, Rachel and Sarah hoped to obtain children for themselves (Gen 16:1-2). Both Rachel and Sarah felt that the fruit of their wombs were restrained. While Sarah thought that the LORD had restrained her womb, Rachel thought that her husband, Jacob, had restrained her from giving birth to a child (Gen 16:2, 30:1-2).
How did the naming of Bilhah’s sons in Gen 30:6-8 reflected Rachel’s character? Dan;Hide Answer
The name Dan reflected Rachel’s envy in regard to her barrenness. She brought God in to take her side. When naming Dan, Rachel said, “God has judged my case, and He has also heard my voice and given me a son” (Gen 30:6). Rachel’s case was about having a son. While Leah, the unloved one, was able to give birth to four sons; Rachel, the loved one, was barren and was unable to give any children to her husband. Thus, the birth of a son through Bilhah, Rachel’s maid-servant, in Rachel’s point of view was an act of God’s fair judgment toward Rachel’s barrenness. Rachel had let her case with Leah become a personal matter. Rachel’s selfishness was seen when she could not accept her barrenness and wanted God to vindicate her case.
The naming of Naphtali summarized Rachel’s competition with her sister, Leah. Upon naming Naphtali, Rachel said, “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed” (Gen 30:8). The great wrestlings were but Rachel’s competitions with Leah, her sister, of having the ability to give children to Jacob. In Rachel’s eyes, the birth of the second son through Bilhah proved that she had won. Rachel was the type of person who could not afford to lose.
How did the envy and rivalry of Rachel affect Leah?
How was the naming of Zilpah’s sons reflect Leah’s thankfulness?Hide Answer
Leah named the sons of Zilpah, Gad and Asher, which can literally be translated as “fortune” and “the happy one” in Hebrew. Although Leah was unloved, she was thankful for the additional sons whom she received from Zilpah. Leah’s thankfulness in the midst of her marriage affliction could be seen from her expressed happiness after the birth of Asher (Gen 30:13).
How did the conflict between Leah and Rachel escalate?
Why did Rachel’s request bring forth a retaliation from Leah?Hide Answer
In replying Rachel’s request for the mandrakes, Leah answered, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” (Gen 30:15). From Leah’s perspective, Rachel had already taken away Jacob for herself and now Rachel wanted to take away Leah’s mandrakes. The mandrakes in ancient times were known to trigger an amorous response and conception. Therefore, by requesting the mandrakes from Leah meant that Rachel—who had already won Jacob’s love—wanted to keep Jacob for herself even more.
What do the passage in Gen 30:15-16 tell us about: Rachel’s dominance;
Leah’s persistence;Hide Answer
Accepting the fact that she was unloved, Leah made every effort to be with Jacob. Leah waited for Jacob until he came out of the field in the evening and she met him (Gen 30:16). Since the exchange of the mandrakes was only for a night with Jacob, Leah took every opportunity to wait for Jacob’s coming.
List several verses from the Scriptures which show that “God listens” to our cries of affliction.Hide Answer
Just as God listened to Leah and Rachel, God also listened to the afflictions of various people in the Scriptures:
1) God heard the cry of young Ishmael when he was without water in the wilderness (Gen 21:17),
2) God heard the groaning of the children of Israel for the bondage in Egypt (Ex 2:24),
3) The Lord listened to the voice of Israel concerning their enemies, the Canaanites (Num 21:3),
4) The Lord heard the voice of Israel in regards to their affliction, labor and oppression (Deut 26:7),
God listened to Leah’s and to Rachel’s cries. Although both sisters wrestled each other, they both had their afflictions. While Leah was unloved by her husband, Rachel was a reproach to the people around her due to her barrenness. At the end, God listened to their supplications and desperations and gave them the comfort they needed.
From the examples of Leah and of Rachel, we learn that the Lord not only sees the difficulties that we are facing, but He also “waits” for us to cry out for His help and mercy. On one side, we are “too busy” and “too arrogant” to cry out for God’s help, relying only on our strengths to solve the problem at hand until we come to a realization those strengths are useless. On the other side, we are “too desperate,” thinking that God’s help will not arrive. But the psalmist in the book of Psalms 40:1 admonishes us that waiting patiently is a requirement for the Lord’s response to our cry. The examples of Leah and Rachel show us that God listens and gives the needed comfort at their opportune time.
How does the naming of Leah’s additional sons reflected: Leah’s personal feeling toward her marriage life (Issachar);Hide Answer
The birth of Issachar for Leah was an unexpected one. Previously, Leah had stop bearing children (Gen 30:9) and therefore, she gave Zilpah to Jacob as a surrogate mother to continue bearing children. When Issachar was born, Leah felt that God had now given her the wages (Gen 30:18) for her patience of being unloved and her acceptance of her inability to conceive again after giving birth to four sons.
Leah’s personal relationship with her husband Jacob (Zebulun);Hide Answer
was also a great surprise for Leah. Zebulun’s birth meant that Leah’s husband, Jacob, now would dwell with her again because Leah had given birth to six sons for Jacob, a total which exceeded far more to that of Bilhah’s, Zilpah’s and Rachel’s combined. Thus, Leah felt that through Zebulun, God had endowed Leah with a good endowment (Gen 30:20).
From Genesis 30:22-24, what can we tell about Rachel’s surrender to God’s will?Hide Answer
At this point in time, though Rachel was loved by her husband, Jacob, she felt that her life and her marriage were but a reproach (Gen 30:23) to the people around her. Knowing that she was barren, she wanted to obtain children through her efforts of giving her maid-servant to be a surrogate mother and by consuming the mandrakes. Yet, those personal efforts were to no avail. At the end, Rachel must surrender to God’s power and will, admitting that it was the Lord who was able to give her children at His opportune time and will.
How did the naming of Joseph reflect Rachel’s change of faith when compared to the naming of her two previous sons?Hide Answer
Previously, the naming of Dan and Naphtali reflected Rachel’s personal vendetta against Leah in her competition to give Jacob an heir. Furthermore, the naming of the two sons also reflected Rachel’s selfishness and ambition in her wish to win the wrestlings with her sister (Gen 30:6-8). Now, from the naming of Joseph, we could see the changes within Rachel. The name of Joseph carried the meaning “The LORD shall add to me another son” (Gen 30:24). Thus, Rachel now yielded to the Lord’s omnipotence, knowing that it was the Lord who had the power to give her a child, who took away her reproach and who was able to give her own child (Gen 30:23-24).
Share the reason and the meaning behind the naming of your name or the naming of your child / children.(The answer is empty)Hide Answer