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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 30

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Verses 1-8

The Sons of Bilhah

When Rachel sees that she remains childless, she becomes jealous of Leah. She sets Jacob an impossible ultimatum. Such a thing only happens when the Lord is not given a place in the difficulties. Then people, husbands, ask unreasonable things of each other, they expect things that are beyond the ability of the other. The cause is jealousy. As a result, much evil has already been done in world history, in society, in families, and in churches (James 3:16). Out of jealousy Cain killed Abel, the brothers sold Joseph, Saul pursued David, and the chief priests handed over the Lord Jesus.

Instead of following his father’s example (Genesis 25:21) and going with Rachel to the LORD – he himself was a child of prayer – Jacob bursts out against her. He does not take the place of God (cf. 2 Kings 5:7)! What he says is true, but why he says it and the way in which he does it, make it clear that he uses this truth only to silence Rachel. He does not take the time to pray with her, nor does he take the time to talk with her.

Jacob does not seem to be a strong personality. Rachel exploits that. Jacob accepts her proposal without objection that he should go in to her maid. This too is a repetition of a not so beautiful history (Genesis 16:1-Numbers :). Rachel’s proposal is successful. She gives the child the name “Dan”, which means ‘to judge’. In so doing, she indicates that God has given her right.

It is the way of people who go their own way and see the blessing they receive as a justification that God gives for the self-willed way they go. Maybe it has also been our way to justify something wrong.

Bilhah has a second son. Rachel calls him “Naphtali”. With this she expresses the wrestlings – Naphtali means ‘my wrestling – she has within herself with the blessing that her sister has had. She also thinks that she has emerged as the winner. She has strived for her right and believes that she has now been given this. She wants to stand above Leah and praises the fact that she has now succeeded. Later it turns out that it is the hollow joy of the moment. In reality, therefore, she has lost. In the name she gives to the child herself, she will be constantly remembered of it.

It is an important lesson that we do not call our children ‘Naphtali’, that our children are not burdened with the wrestling we may have with our husband or wife, or with our brothers and sisters.

With all the wrong things, we see with Leah and Rachel the longing for children (Psalms 127:3). Today, this is sometimes different for modern women.

Verses 9-13

The Sons of Zilpah

The relationship between Rachel and Leah is characterized by rivalry. That is the result if one goes against God’s marriage institution of one man with one woman. That danger of rivalry is always great if we start to compare and think that the other one has more than we do. That may be material, or it may be spiritual.

Leah has mistaken it all and resorts to the same low practice as Rachel. It seems that she is successful. In any case, she experiences that the tide has turned, and that happiness has come into her life. She indicates this in the names she gives to the two children who give birth to her maid Zilpah: “Gad” means “happiness” and “Asher” means “happy”.

Verses 14-21

Leah ‘Hires’ Jacob

Jacob, who seems to have a weak character anyway, can just be used as a bet in the quarrel between his two wives. Nowhere do we read of a powerful action to call them to order, he does not say a word. He neglects his position as head of the family. He avoids the problems in this whole unsavory history. If you do not take God’s institution seriously, you also have no regard for other responsibilities.

The wives and children do not go to Jacob with their difficulties. They do everything themselves. Rachel applies a new trick. In her superstition, she believes that the mandrakes or love-apples help to achieve her coveted goal of having children. This is what Reuben, the son of Leah, brings home. It is possible that it has been thought that erotic feelings and fertility are created when eating these apples.

Who educated Reuben about this, what does he intend to do with it? Do we educate our children, or do they get it on the street? Let us have an open ear for what our children come home with, with what kind of talk, and take that as an opportunity to educate them. From Genesis 35 is the cautious conclusion to be drawn that Reuben has not been able to deal with his sexual feelings as God wants it (Genesis 35:22). In his father’s house he didn’t have the good examples in this either.

Rachel ‘buys’ Leah’s love-apples with the ‘payment’ that Leah can ‘use’ Jacob again. She superstitiously believes that these love-apples will free her from her infertility. Lea also acts out of superstition. Both women are working with tricks to acquire blessings.

When a son is born by Leah’s ‘hired’ sexual intercourse with Jacob, she crookedly argues that God has rewarded her, for “Issachar” means ‘reward’. At the same time God stands above this carnal act and follows His own path of grace. God hears, not because of her way of doing things, but despite her way of doing things. When Leah gets another son, she calls him “Zebulun”, which means “dwell”, in the expectation that Jacob will finally give in and dwell with her.

After six sons, Leah had a daughter as the seventh child. She calls her “Dinah”, which means ‘right’. We don’t hear much about Dinah. She only appears in Genesis 34, in which she plays a leading role (Genesis 34:1-Obadiah :). She does not appear in the blessing of Jacob.

Verses 22-24

Rachel Gets Joseph

Rachel also eventually gets the child she so long expected and coveted. This is not the result of her ‘bought’ love-apples, but of a work by God. Rachel realizes this too, and she gives God the honor for it. She says: He has taken away my reproach, God has done that.

She calls the son who is born “Joseph”, which means ‘He will add’. He is also a child of prayer, for God “gave heed to” Rachel. This son occupies a special place. In many ways he is a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus. We will see that later.

Verses 25-36

Jacob Acquires His Flock

When Joseph was born, Jacob wants to return to his land. It is also spiritually the same in the life of the believer: when the Lord Jesus – of whom Joseph is a beautiful picture – comes to live in him, he wishes to enjoy the blessings of the heavenly land. Jacob experiences the child Rachel gets as a special blessing.

Laban acknowledges that God has done him well for the sake of Jacob. In prophetic terms this is also the case: whoever treats Israel, God’s people, well, will experience the blessing of it from God.

When Jacob has indicated that he wants to leave, Laban asks Jacob what he wants as a reward. He does this to bind Jacob even longer to himself. Someone that is such a blessing for you, you don’t let just go. Jacob wants to keep working for a while. As wages for this he asks cattle. He determines what kind of cattle will be his. Laban agrees with this.

Laban, however, is cunning and takes measures to safeguard the cattle that Jacob asked for himself. He takes all striped and spotted male goats, and all speckled and spotted female goats, and all black sheep, which Jacob has stipulated as his wages, and put them under the care of his sons.

He also built in a safety zone of a three days’ journey between himself and Jacob. In this way he prevents that there can be crossbreeding between the cattle he has separated and that which is under Jacob’s care. Thus there will be no chance that in the flock of Jacob a striped and spotted goat or goat or a black sheep will be born, which he would have lost.

Verses 37-43

The Trick of Jacob

When the negotiations are complete, the old Jacob comes back to the surface. He works cunningly to get as much of Laban’s cattle as possible in his possession. Jacob is honest in a certain sense, because he does not steal. In another sense he is not sincere. He believes that peeled branches are a means of expanding his herd.

However, God shows him in a dream how he really came to his flock (Genesis 31:10-2 Kings :). Not the branches, but the goats were used by God. Jacob’s superstition did not make his herd grow a single piece of flock. God is with Jacob, but Jacob is not yet with God. God is on his way with Jacob to bring him to that goal.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Genesis 30". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/genesis-30.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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