SynopsisIn the last chapter, Leah began bearing children for Jacob, but Rachel—whom he loved most—had not yet borne any children. This chapter continues the bearing and naming of children.
Rachel gets jealous, because Leah is bearing children and she isn’t. She tells Jacob to give her children or she will die, and he responds, quite reasonably I think, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” So Rachel gives Jacob her maidservant, she he can bear children through her; children born through the maidservant would be counted as Rachel’s. A child is born, and Rachel feels vindicated, so she names the boy Dan, which means “he has vindicated”.
The servant bears another son, and Rachel feels she has won the struggle against her sister, so she names the boy Naphtali, which means “my struggle”.
Leah steps up the battle, and gives Jacob her maidservant. She bears him a son, and Leah thinks this is good fortune, so she names him Gad, which means “good fortune” (or “a troop”).
Then Leah’s maidservant bears another son; Leah is so happy that she names him Asher, which means “happy”.
Later on, Reuben goes out to pick some mandrakes, and Rachel wants some, but Leah won’t give her any. (“Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” (verse 15).) So Rachel sells Leah her night with Jacob, for some of the mandrakes. Leah became pregnant again, and had a son; she felt that God was rewarding her for giving Jacob her maidservant, so she named the boy Issachar, which sounds like the Hebrew for “reward”.
Leah became pregnant again, and bore a son. She felt that Jacob would treat her with honour, because she had bore him so many sons, so she named the boy Zebulun, which probably means “honour”.
She became pregnant yet again, and this time bore a daughter, whom she named Dinah. My Bible’s footnotes don’t tell me what “Dinah” means in Hebrew.
Finally, Rachel became pregnant, and bore a son. She named him Joseph, which means “may he add”, and said “May the LORD add to me another son.”
Phew. That’s a lot of babies!
The last part of the chapter is about Jacob asking Laban to let him—and his wives and children—leave, but Laban is unwilling to let Jacob go, because he feels he is being blessed through Jacob. So they strike a deal: Jacob will continue to watch Laban’s flocks, and in payment, he will be allowed to keep all of the speckled or spotted ones. That way he can’t be accuses of stealing from Laban, because it will be plainly obvious whose sheep are whose.
However, what Jacob does is take some branches, and make some white stripes on them, which he puts into the watering troughs, which induces the flocks to have more speckled and spotted young. In fact, what he does is put the branches in the troughs only when the good, strong animals are there, and not when the weaker ones are. In this way, he builds up for himself a good flock, while Laban’s flock starts to dwindle.
ThoughtsThe obvious thoughts are that it’s still sad to see the rivalry between the two sisters, in this chapter. Trying desperately to have children, to take away their shame.
Also, don’t bother trying the thing with the branches at home, if you happen to have flocks. This doesn’t actually produce the benefit that happens in this chapter. If Jacob’s flocks increased, he had only God to thank for it.