It isn't a very long trip... only about 10-11 kilometers. But somewhere en route, Rachel's water breaks. She goes into labor. Hard labor, the scripture tells us.
I've heard of children being born in taxi cabs and such in our modern day, but on a dusty camel train? Ugh.
The caravan probably grinds to a halt. And we don't know exactly what goes wrong, but Rachel has a very difficult time of it and she dies. Knowing she is dying, she sorrowfully names her child Ben-Oni, or son of my sorrow.
But Jacob, although he must be devastated over the loss of his beloved Rachel, overrules the name and calls the boy Benjamin, meaning son of the right hand.
(Small rabbit trail: there are 700 Benjamites in Joshua 20 who are noted to be left-handed. Coincidence? I think not.)
Rachel is buried in Bethlehem, and Jacob sets a stone pillar as a memorial on her grave. Jews continue this tradition of stones on graves to this day. I love the idea of stones on graves instead of cut flowers. They are a symbol of eternity. Maybe this is why I like rocks so much, and often haul them home from travels to various places.
|Early photo of Rachel's tomb in Bethlehem.|
The company of Jacob then picked up and traveled a little further onward, to Migdal Eder, or the tower of the flock. The only other place this term is used is in Micah 4, in the midst of a prophecy regarding the coming Messiah in Micah 4 and 5, a Ruler of Israel who would someday be born on this very spot.
Now we come to another verse that seems out of context, and, well, frankly - awkward:
And it happened, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard about it.
|Plus Dinah, daughter of Leah.|
So. just for fun I tried to draw out Esau's lineage based on Genesis 36 and 1 Chronicles 1.
It wasn't easy. It was so mixed with the sons of Seir. I think that perhaps that is part of the point of this chapter... contrasting the mixed family of Esau with the set-apart children of Israel. I finally gave up trying to create an accurate family tree of Esau. One of the Hebrew word for mixed is Arab. It is the same word as erev, or sunset, which also carries the meaning of chaos. Not light and not dark. Twilight.
Some of these names of Edom's family show up later in scripture. For instance, Eliphaz the Temanite shows up in the book of Job. The Amalekites certainly show up later on when the LORD tells Saul to destroy them all in 1 Samuel 15. Saul disobeys and spares King Agag. Eventually the prophet Samuel steps in and hacks Agag to pieces (oh, how colorful is the word of God), but not before Agag somehow has a chance to procreate. One of Agag's descendants - Haman - shows up in the book of Esther, and we know how that went!
I must pause for a moment, and address my struggle with verse 6.
Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the persons of his household, his cattle and all his animals, and all his goods which he had gained in the land of Canaan, and went to a country away from the presence of his brother Jacob.
And Esau's departure is God-ordained, as we see in Deuteronomy 2:5, Joshua 24:4, and other places. It was God's intent all along to remove Esau from the Promised Land and also to give Seir to Esau. And Esau becomes a bigwig himself - head honcho of the land of Edom.