Rachel and Jacob were naturally frustrated by her inability to bear children. Like Sarah before her, Rachel chose to have a child through her handmaid, Bilhah. The son born of the handmaid was named Dan, or "he has judged," because Rachel believed God had judged her case and heard her appeal. The second son borne by Bilhah was named Naphtali, or "my wrestling." Apparently, she saw herself as in a contest with Leah in the bearing of children to Jacob and felt she had won through her handmaid giving birth to two sons.
It appears Leah gave Jacob her handmaid, Zilpah, because she did not want to be outdone by her sister. She bore a son Leah named Gad, or "good fortune." Leah named Zilpah"s second son Asher, or "happy" because she said other women would call her blessed (Genesis 30:1-13).
Joseph, Rachel"s Firstborn
There are two possible reasons Rachel wanted the mandrakes, a poisonous plant of the potato family. She may have thought they produced fertility, since many in that region still have such a superstition today. Or, she may have just wanted them because they are rare. At any rate, she exchanged an opportunity for Leah to be with Jacob for Reuben"s mandrakes. Leah then bore Issachar, meaning "my hire." His name came from the fact that Leah hired Jacob in the exchange for the mandrakes. Leah then bore Zebulun, a name meaning "honor" and chosen because Leah felt God had honored her with six sons. She also bore a daughter named Dinah, or "rights controversy."
Finally, long years after any potential effect from the mandrakes would have worn off, God remembered Rachel. It should be noted that "God listened to her, which clearly indicates she had been praying about the matter. We all need to remember God is the source of all blessings, including children. She bore a son who she named Joseph, or "he adds." In the name is an expression of joy because God had taken away her source of shame in allowing her to have a child. Also, Joseph"s name might be viewed as a prayer to God to give her more (Genesis 30:14-24).
God Caused Jacob to Prosper
After the seven years of service for Rachel were completed, Jacob told Laban he desired to return home. Laban did not want him to go because he knew God had made him wealthy through Jacob"s service. Jacob also acknowledged God had made Laban prosperous through him. For his wages, he asked to receive all the oddly colored animals from the flocks. Since speckled and spotted sheep and goats and black lambs are rare, Laban agreed to the arrangement. Laban then cut all the designated types of animals from the flock and sent them three days journey apart with his sons. He thus attempted to defraud Jacob. Through various superstitious tricks and selective breeding, Jacob sought to influence the types of young which would be brought forth from the flocks. Laban kept changing which animals Jacob was to receive. However, God is the one who blesses. So, Jacob"s flocks grew with the stronger types of animals (Genesis 30:25-43; Genesis 31:7; Genesis 31:9).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Genesis 30". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany