Monday, October 8, 2018

Genesis Post 48 - Bring on the Babies! (Chapters 29 and 30)

Chapter 29 wraps up with the birth of Jacob's first four sons.

Verse 31 says, When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. 

In verse 32, Leah gives birth to Reuben.  His name means behold, a son.  Poor Leah was crying out for her husband to love her and thought that producing Jacob's firstborn would make it happen.  It did not.

One verse later, she has another baby and calls him Shimon (Simeon), which means heard.  Leah admits that the LORD knows she's unloved by her hubby, and therefore He heard her and blessed her with another son with which to console her.

In verse 34, Leah has a third son, and she believes this will cause Jacob to attach to her.  She names the baby Levi, meaning joined to.  Once again, Leah is disappointed.  

In verse 35, she seems to come to terms with the situation and decides to praise the LORD anyway.  Another baby boy.  Welcome, Yehuda (Judah).

Can I just pause here and talk about the name of Yehuda?

There is a very special Hebrew word, which looks like this:

YHVH - Hashem - the name of the LORD

It is called the tetragrammaton, the very name of the LORD Himself.  Nobody knows how to pronounce it, so you will hear Yahweh, Jehovah, Yehovah, and so on.  If you consider the meanings of the Hebrew letters, it carries the meaning of behold the hand, behold the nail.

To form the name Yehuda, all you have to do is add the Hebrew letter dalet, which represents a door.  Chew on that for awhile.  Hint:  John 10:9.


I know I've said poor Leah numerous times.  But the LORD is faithful to her.  From her come the two tribes that are foundational to God's plan.  Judah and Levi - the kingship and the priesthood.

Leah experiences a pause in childbearing after she has Judah. Judah means praise. We see a picture here.  Sometimes we simply need to stop what we are doing and praise the Lord.

Chapter 30 opens with the exact opposite sentiment from Rachel. She is pitching a fit in verse 1:
Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die!"

Rachel is overcome with envy because her sister has babies and she does not. In her jealousy, she does not stop to consider that she is the wife that is loved and cherished by Jacob and that Leah was unloved.

I get it… Having children in that culture was a high honor indeed, especially among Hebrew women - all of whom hoped to give birth to the Seed that was promised back in Genesis 3:15.

But Rachel acts like a spoiled and jealous child.  She casts the blame solidly on Jacob, basically telling him that unless he gives her children, her life is not worth living.

Even he becomes irritated with his beloved wife. He yells at her, telling her that he is not God.

So she responds by giving her maid to Jacob so she can claim Bilhah’s child as her own. (Uh oh, remember Sarah?)

Poor Bilhah, she appears to have no choice in the matter. Her name means troubled.

She produces a son, and Rachel names him Dan, meaning judge. She claims that God has judged her case. 

Not content with one child from her maid, she goes for two.

Back to Jacob’s bed goes the maid Bilhah, and she conceives again.

This time, the gloves come off and Rachel names the child Naphtali, which means intense struggle. For she is now in a wrestling match with her sister.

Not to be outdone, Leah retaliates and gives her maid Zilpah to Jacob.

Is this a daytime soap opera, or what?

Leah names this child Gad, which means a troop comes. Leah means business with this retaliation.

Zilpah has one more child, and Leah names him Asher. Asher means happy, and Leah has decided to be happy because so many will call her blessed.

What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall during conversations between Zilpah and Bilhah. What were their thoughts on this whole scenario?

Zilpah and Bilhah - Did they have any choice?

We now come to a weird story about mandrakes.

Reuben find some mandrakes and Rachel asked Leah for them. Mandrakes were considered a fertility herb, And were also known as love apples. In fact the Hebrew word for mandrake is the same is beloved in the song of Solomon: dodi. It’s the same root word as David, which means beloved. 

Mandrake roots basically look like naked people, thus the folklore that surrounded them in ancient times (and actually continues today among modern pagans). Total superstition.

Mandragora (mandrake) roots

Leah gives Rachel a catty reply in verse 15:
But she said to her, "Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son's mandrakes also?" And Rachel said, "Therefore he will lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.”

(Um, first of all, what the heck does Reuben want with them??)

The plan backfires on Rachel. Leah buys Jacob for the night in exchange for the mandrakes, and it’s Leah that gets pregnant.

Superstition doesn’t work.  God makes babies, mandrakes do not.

Leah names him Issachar, which means wages. She reckons that her new baby is her payment for giving Zilpah to Jacob.

Leah isn’t done. She then bears boy number six in verse 19, and thinking this will cause Jacob to dwell with her, gives him a name that means dwelling: Zebulun.

In verse 21, Leah has her seventh and last baby, and it’s a girl! Her name is Dinah, which I just learned is the feminine form of Dan and means judgment.

Seven babies = completeness for Leah.

Finally, God remembers Rachel and listens to her.  She optimistically names him Yosef (Joseph), which means he will add. She fully expects to have another child, and she will.   Ironically, the root word of Yosef carries a double meaning:  he will add, and he will remove.  Through the birth of Yosef, the LORD has taken away Rachel's reproach.

Whew, that was a whirlwind. In just 28 verses, Jacob has twelve children with four different mothers. Busy guy.

Jacob now has many kids, but he does not have the covenant land which was promised. He needs to get back to the land!

But first, God is going to make him rich. Stay tuned for adventures in prosperity.

Find the next post here.

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