Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Genesis 30

Verses 1-24

Jacob Take's His Wives' Handmaids- The story in Genesis 30:1-24 of Jacob taking the two handmaids of his wife and bearing children was a reflection of the customs of his day, just as Abraham, his grandfather took Hagar, his wife's handmaid. The Code of Hammurabi, believed by some scholars to have been written by a Babylonian king around 2100 B.C, impacted its culture for centuries. It is very likely that Abraham and Jacob yielded to the request from their wives based upon laws 145,146 of this Code, which says, "If a man takes a [wife] and she does not present him with children and he sets his face to take a concubine, that man may take a concubine and bring her into his house..…If a man takes a [wife] and she gives to her husband a maidservant and she bears children, and afterward that maidservant would take rank with her mistress; because she has borne children her mistress may not sell her for money, but she may reduce her to bondage and count her among the female slaves." 240]

240] R. F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison, and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson"s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), "Family Life: Producing an Heir."

The Struggle between Leah and Rachel- The struggle between Leah and Rachel seen in this chapter is a common event played out today in polygamous marriages in the Africa society. Wives often compete for favor with their husband by giving him the most children, especially sons. The strife that prevails throughout the life of a polygamous marriage is one of several reasons why Paul the apostle ordained monogamous marriages for the New Testament Church ( 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6).

1 Timothy 3:2, "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;"

Titus 1:6, "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly."

Genesis 30:1 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.

Genesis 30:1Comments- In Genesis 30:1 Rachel had the right action of pleading for children, but the wrong address in asking her husband. She began to pray for a child, and besought her husband. She should take her need to the Lord in prayer. This statement from Rachel suggests that she does not know the God of Jacob.

Male children were a mother's source of hope and future security in this ancient world. When a husband died, a widow became destitute without a son to provide her needs. We see this in the life of Naomi in the book of Ruth and in the widow of Nain, whom Jesus raised her son from the dead ( Luke 7:11-15). Rachel's cry was a cry for hope and security, and ultimately, redemption from this corrupt world.

Genesis 30:3"she shall bear upon my knees" - Comments- Note the use of this phrase in Job 3:12, "Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?"

Genesis 29:14-18Comments- Leah Hires Jacob for Mandrakes - The mandrake is a plant which was supposed to have medical value and aphrodisiac or sexual arousal quantities to it. Here, Rachel reaches out desperately, using any means of obtaining a child.

Genesis 31:21Word Study on "Dinah" - Strong says the Hebrew name "Dinah" ( דִּינָה) (H 1783) - "judgement."

Genesis 30:22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.

Genesis 30:22Comments- In Genesis 30:22 the Lord remembers Rachel and opens her womb. Leah and Rachel had now been married to Jacob at least four years when she prayed this prayer ( Genesis 30:1), perhaps longer, because Leah had given birth to four sons. After Rachel prayed, both handmaids gave birth to two sons, and Leah gave birth to two sons and one daughter, which took perhaps five years. When the Lord answered Rachel's prayer, Leah had given birth to six sons and one daughter, which would have taken a minimum of seven years. Thus, it probably took at least three years before the Lord answered Rachel's prayer.

Genesis 30:25 — "Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country" - Comments- Moses made a similar statement to Pharaoh in Exodus 5:1, "And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness."

Genesis 30:27Comments- In Genesis 12:3 God told Abraham, "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." History records many accounts where God blesses those who bless the Jews, and curses those who curse the Jews. For example, God judged the Pharaoh of Egypt for persecuting the children of Israel. Just as he commanded the Jewish male children to be drown in the river, so was his entire army drowned in the Red Sea. In addition, the firstborn males were killed, and the nation destroyed. Laban acknowledged that his blessings had come through Jacob ( Genesis 30:27). Jesus healed the Roman centurion's servant, who has blessed the Jews ( Luke 7:4-5). God sent Peter to preach the Gospel to the house of Cornelius, a man that blessed the Jews ( Acts 10:22). God promised to reward the heathen according to what they had done to the Jews ( Obadiah 1:15). Jesus makes a similar statement about rewarding those who has done good to His "brethren," which certainly includes the Jews, as well as the Church ( Matthew 25:40).

Genesis 30:27, "And 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."

Obadiah 1:15, "For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head."

Matthew 25:40, "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Luke 7:4-5, "And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue."

Acts 10:22, "And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just Prayer of Manasseh, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee."

Genesis 30:27Comments- We have many blessings in life because of someone else"s prayers for us.

Genesis 30:38Word Study on "gutters" - Gesenius tells us that the Hebrew word "rahat" ( רַהַט) (H 7298) literally means, "a watering trough" ( Genesis 30:38; Genesis 30:41, Exodus 2:16). He gives us its figurative meaning as "ringlets, curls (apparently so called from their flowing down)" ( Song of Solomon 7:5). Strong tells us that this word means, "a channel or watering-box, gallery, gutter, trough," and "by resemblance a ringlet of hair (as forming parallel lines). He says it probably comes from an unused root means, "to hollow out". The Enhanced Strong says this word is used 4times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as "gutter 2, trough 1, gallery 1."

Genesis 30:38, "And 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."

Genesis 30:41, "And 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."

Exodus 2:16, "Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father"s flock."

Song of Solomon 7:5, "Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries."

Genesis 31:7 — "ten times" - Word Study on "ten times" - The Hebrew phrase "ten times" ( פְּעָמִ֔ים עֶ֣שֶׂר) is made up of two words, "ten" ( עֶשֶׂר) (H 6235), and "times" ( פַּעַם) (H 6471). Although the literal translation Isaiah, "ten times," John Gill understands the phrase "ten times" in Numbers 14:22 as an idiom to mean a rounded number, which is equivalent to "time after time," thus "numerous times." He says that although the Jews counted ten literal occasions when Israel tempted the Lord during the wilderness journeys, Aben Ezra gives this phrase a figurative meaning of "many times." 241] T. E. Espin adds to the figurative meaning of Numbers 14:22 by saying that Israel had tempted the Lord to its fullness, so that the Lord would now pass judgment upon them, even denying them access into the Promised Land, which is clearly stated in the next verse. 242]

241] Gill lists ten literal occasions, "twice at the sea, Exodus 14:11; twice concerning water, Exodus 15:23; twice about manna, Exodus 16:2; twice about quails, Exodus 16:12; once by the calf, Exodus 32:1; and once in the wilderness of Paran, Numbers 14:1, which last and tenth was the present temptation." John Gill, Numbers, in John Gill's Expositor, in e-Sword, v 777 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on Numbers 14:22.

242] E. T. Espin and J. F. Thrupp, Numbers, in The Holy Bible According to the Authorized Version (A.D 1611), with an Explanation and Critical Commentary and a Revision of the Translation, by Bishops and Clergy of the Anglican Church, vol 1, part 2, ed. F. C. Cook (London: John Murray, 1871), 702.

Comments- We can see the phrase "ten times" used as an idiom in several passages in the Scriptures:

Genesis 31:7, "And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me."

Numbers 14:22, "Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;"

Nehemiah 4:12, "And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you."

The NAB translates this phrase in Genesis 31:7 as "time after time."

NAB, "yet your father cheated me and changed my wages time after time. God, however, did not let him do me any harm."

The number ten represents a counting system that is based on ten units. Thus, the number ten can be interpreted literally to represent the numerical system, or it can be given a figurative meaning to reflect the concept of multiple occurrences.

Illustration- Jesus told Peter that we are to forgive seventy seven times ( Matthew 18:22). In this passage, Jesus did not literally mean that we were to forgive only seventy seven times, but that we were to forgive as often as was necessary to forgive, which is many times.

Matthew 18:22, "Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven."

Illustration - When my son was seven years old, he was learning how to add and subtract numbers in the first grade. One day he ran up to his mother to convince her that he knew what he was doing. He said, "Mommy, I know how to do it. I've done it many times. I've done it ten times." Even without being conscience of it, he was using the number ten symbolically to represent the numerical system that he had recently learned (October 2012).

Genesis 31:32Comments- The fact that Jacob pronounced the judgment of death upon the unknown thief was a reflection of the customs of his day. We see the sons of Jacob making the same rash vow when Joseph's cup was found in Benjamin's sack ( Genesis 44:9). The Code of Hammurabi, believed by some scholars to have been written by a Babylonian king around 2100 B.C, impacted its culture for centuries. It is very likely that Jacob's rash statement was based upon law 6 of this Code, which says, "If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing from him shall be put to death."

Genesis 31:32Comments- Note how Jacob's statement became Rachel"s curse of death. Rachel, who stole the idols, dies shortly afterwards in childbirth ( Genesis 35:18-19).

Genesis 35:18-19, "And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem."

A well-known minister explains what happened here to Rachael. When we pronounce a curse, the demons take these words before God"s throne and declare their right to implement these words of the curse. Unless prayer and repentance and words of faith are spoken to break the authority of this curse, these demons have a legal right to carry out these words. In other words, man gives his dominion over to the "prince of the power of the air" ( Ephesians 2:2). We see Rachael die before this journey is ended.

Ephesians 2:2, "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:"

A similar illustration of a rash curse being pronounced upon one"s family is in 2 Samuel 12:6. When Nathan told the story of the rich man who oppressed the poor man David pronounced a four-fold curse upon the guilty man. This man happened to be David himself. This curse came to pass in the life of David"s children.

2 Samuel 12:6, "And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity."

Genesis 31:47 — "Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed" - Comments- Adam Clarke says the two names given to this place were Aramaic (from Laban) and Hebrew (from Jacob), saying that both mean, "a collection or heap made up of gathered stones." 243]

243] Adam Clarke, Genesis, in Adam Clarke"s Commentary, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1996), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), notes on Genesis 31:47.

Genesis 31:47Comments- The ancestors of the Israelites had originally come from the region of Paddan-Aram, where Laban and his family dwelt. They spoke the Aramaic language. Thus, when Abraham left his native land and came into Canaan, his children quickly picked up the local language, just as immigrants do today. Abraham probably continued to speak Aramaic in the home as he attempted to learn the local language. We see here that Jacob's native tongue was a dialect of "the language of Canaan" ( Isaiah 19:18), while his relatives still spoke Aramaic.

Isaiah 19:18, "In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, The city of destruction."

Genesis 31:54Comments- When we eat together there is a bond that is built between one another. We see a clear example of this when Jacob and Laban made a covenant between one another in order to end their strife.

Genesis 31:55Comments- Laban was more accurately kissing his grandsons and granddaughters; but in many cultures, such words are used loosely to refer to more distant kin, as is the case in Genesis 31:55.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Genesis 30". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.