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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.

1. And when Rachel saw. Here Moses begins to relate that Jacob was distracted with domestic strifes. But although the Lord was punishing him, because he had been guilty of no light sin in marrying two wives, and especially sisters; yet the chastisement was paternal; and God himself, seeing that he is wont mercifully to pardon his own people, restrained in some degree his hand. Whence also it happened, that Jacob did not immediately repent, but added new offenses to the former. But first we must speak of Rachel. Whereas she rejoiced to see her sister subjected to contempt and grief, the Lord represses this sinful joy, by giving his blessing to Leah, in order to make the condition of both of them equal. She hears the grateful acknowledgment of her sister, and learns from the names given to the four sons, that God had pitied, and had sustained by his favor, her who had been unjustly despised by man. Nevertheless envy inflames her, and will not suffer anything of the dignity becoming a wife to appear in her. We see what ambition can do. For Rachel, in seeking preeminence, does not spare even her own sister; and scarcely refrains from venting her anger against God, for having honored that sister with the gift of fruitfulness. Her emulation did not proceed from any injuries that she had received, but because she could not bear to have a partner and an equal, though she herself was really the younger. What would she have done had she been provoked, seeing that she envies her sister who was contented with her lot? Now Moses, by exhibiting this evil in Rachel, would teach us that it is inherent in all; in order that each of us, tearing it up by the roots, may vigilantly purify himself from it. That we may be cured of envy, it behaves us to put away pride and selflove; as Paul prescribes this single remedy against contentions

“Let nothing be done through vainglory.” (Philippians 2:3.)

2. And Jacob’s anger was kindled. The tenderness of Jacob’s affection rendered him unwilling to offend his wife; yet her unworthy conduct compelled him to do so, when he saw her petulantly exalt herself, not only against her sister, who piously, homily, and thankfully was enjoying the gifts of God; but even against God himself, of whom it is said that the fruit of the womb is his reward. (Psalm 127:3.) On this account, therefore, Jacob is angry, because his wife ascribes nothing to the providence of God, and, by imagining that children are the offspring of chance, would deprive God of the care and government of mankind. It is probable that Jacob had been already sorrowful on account of his wife’s barrenness. He now, therefore, fears lest her folly should still farther provoke God’s anger to inflict more severe strokes. This was a holy indignation, by which Jacob maintained the honor due to God, while he corrected his wife, and taught her that it was not without sufficient cause that she had been hitherto barren. For when he affirms that the Lord had shut her womb, he obliquely intimates that she ought the more deeply to humble herself.


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