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30. Rachel and Bilhah

And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. 2And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? 3And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees that I may also have children by her. 4And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. 5And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. 6And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan. 7And Bilhah Rachel’s maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son. 8And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali. 9When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. 10And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a son. 11And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad. 12And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a second son. 13And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.

14And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes. 15And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes. 16And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night. 17And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son. 18And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar. 19And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son. 20And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun. 21And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.

22And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. 23And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: 24And she called his name Joseph; and said, The Lord shall add to me another son.

25And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country. 26Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee. 27And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake. 28And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it. 29And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me. 30For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and the Lord hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also? 31And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock: 32I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire. 33So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me. 34And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word. 35And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons. 36And he set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.

37And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods. 38And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink. 39And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted. 40And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban’s cattle. 41And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. 42But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s. 43And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.

9. When Leah saw that she had left bearing. Moses returns to Leah, who, not content with four sons, devised a method whereby she might always retain her superior rank: and therefore she also, in turn, substitutes her maid in her place. And truly Rachel deserved such a reward of her perverse design; since she, desiring to snatch the palm from her sister, does not consider that the same contrivance to which she had resorted, might speedily be employed against herself. Yet Leah sins still more grievously, by using wicked and unjust arts in the contest. Within a short period, she had experienced the wonderful blessing of God; and now, because she ceased from bearing, for a little while, she despairs concerning the future, as if she had never participated in the Divine favor. What, if her desire was strong; why did she not resort to the fountain of blessing? In obtruding, therefore, her maid, she gave proof not only of impatience, but also of distrust; because with the remembrance of Divine mercy, faith also is extinguished in her heart. And we know that all who rely upon the Lord are so tranquil and sedate in their mind, that they patiently wait for what he is about to give. And it is the just punishment of unbelief when any one stumbles through excessive haste. So much the more ought we to beware of the assaults of the flesh, if we desire to maintain a right course.

As to the name Gad, this passage is variously expounded by commentators. In this point they agree, that בגד (bagad) means the same as if Leah had said “the time of bearing is come.”7676     Venit felicitas In the French translation, “Mon heur est venu.” My hour is come. The word בגד is explained in the margin of the Hebrew Bible by בא גד Venit turma, ceu exercitus — a troop or army cometh. See Schindler. — Ed But some suppose גד (Gad,) to be the prosperous star of Jupiter; others, Mercury; others, good fortune. They adduce Isaiah 65:11, where it is written, “they offer a libation to Gad.”7777     “Ye are they that forsake the Lord, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for that troop (margin, Meni). — English Translation. Calvin has quoted from memory, and not accurately, having put libation instead of table. — Ed. But the context of the Prophet shows that this ought rather to be understood of the host of heaven, or of the number of false gods; because it immediately follows that they offer sacrifices to the stars, and furnish tables for a multitude of gods: the punishment is then added, that as they had fabricated an immense number of deities, so God will “number” them “to the sword.” As it respects the present passage, nothing is less probable than that Leah should extol the planet Jupiter instead of God, seeing that she, at least, maintained the principle that the propagation of the human race flows from God alone. I wonder also that interpreters understand this of prosperous fortune, when Moses afterwards, Genesis 49:19, leads us to an opposite meaning. For the allusion he there makes would be inappropriate, “Gad, a troop shall overcome him,” etc., unless it had been the design of Leah to congratulate herself on the troop of her children. For since she had so far surpassed her sister,7878     Nam quum sesquialtera parte superior esset, praedicat se habere in magna copia liberos. she declares that she has children in great abundance. When she proclaims herself happy7979     “And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters shall call me blessed; and she called his name Asher.” — English Translation. It may be observed that the names given to these children of the hand-maidens were far less indicative of a pious state of mind, than those which Leah had previously given to her own sons. A fact which confirms the remarks of Calvin on the impiety of the course pursued by the rival wives. Rachel seems to make no reference to God in the names of the children of her handmaid; Leah, in imitating the example of her sister, seems to lose her own previous devotional feeling; and both sink in our esteem, as they proceed in their unseemly contentions. — Ed. in her sixth son, it again appears in what great esteem fecundity was then held. And certainly it is a great honor, when God confers on mortals the sacred title of parents, and through them propagates the human race formed after his own image.


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