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THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN RACHEL AND LEAH
The fruitfulness of Leah moved Rachel to jealousy, then her demand to Jacob for children moves him to anger (vs.1-2). We may see a serious lesson in Rachel's words, "Give me children or else I die." If we do not see evident fruit, we have the tendency to give up: the exercise of soul that desires true godliness may virtually die. Many Christians have their proper growth stunted by this very thing.
On the other hand, Jacob's anger does not help the situation. If Christ is not the Object of our lives, our efforts to make ourselves more spiritual will always involve the principles of jealousy, anger, and discouragement, which are contrary to the very result we seek to obtain.
Then we too often resort to a humanly conceived substitution, as Rachel did in verse 3. Sarah had done the same in giving Abraham her handmaid by whom to have a child. Rachel ought to have known that this did not work out as Sarah planned, but she thought, as Sarah, that the children of Bilhah, her handmaid, would be hers. When a boy was born (vs.5-6), Rachel said that God had given her a son, and she named him Dan, meaning "judge." Bilhah also had a second son whom Rachel named Naphthali, meaning "my wrestling," because of Rachel's wrestling with her sister Leah. All of this struggle is a picture of the struggle of Romans 7:1-25, which only stirs up the evil passions of our hearts, rather than subduing them, as we attempt to do. At first sight it may that people would not discern any spiritual significance of a history like this, and might wonder why the Lord has gone to such pains to record all the details of this. But all scripture is of vital consequence to every believer.
When Leah had no more children, she resorted to the same tactics as Rachel had, giving her maid Zilpah to Jacob, by whom he had a son, Leah naming him Gad, then another whom she named Asher (vs.9-13). Gad means "a troop" and Asher means "happy." Thus we find human support (a troop), and seek to make ourselves happy as we are, without attaining the state we desire, but Leah is not satisfied with this. For as soon as Reuben brings her mandrakes she sees the possibility of having another son. Rachel tried to obtain some with the same purpose, but Leah answered her sharply (v.15). She knew Rachel's purpose. Thus neither were actually content: the struggle continues.
Evidently mandrakes were a cherished delicacy, and Jacob was persuaded to share his bed with Leah that night. His natural appetite leads him, and Leah bears another son, Issachar, meaning "he will be hired." Then a sixth son is added for Leah herself, named Zebulon, which means "dwelling." These six are all the sons that Leah herself bore. This pictures the fact that people can struggle hard to accomplish their own ends, but always come short, for seven is the number of completeness, while six is the number of man's work day week. So Leah, speaking of what I am, can only produce that which falls short of any proper satisfaction, though she did then bear a daughter whom she names Dinah (v.21).
Finally God answered the prayer of Rachel, and she gave birth to Joseph (vs.22-24), whose name means "adding" because she had confidence that God would add to her another son. Joseph is plainly a type of Christ. A desire of a high spiritual state should thus lead us to the person of Christ, who is the only One in whom such a state is seen. Yet, Joseph gives us only one side of the truth concerning Christ, that is, that He was a Sufferer before being exalted. This is most important for us all to learn, before we are in any condition to appreciate the truth seen in Benjamin, a type of Christ as the Son of the Father's right hand, glorified and exalted to the throne, reigning in glory.
A BUSINESS AGREEMENT WITH LABAN
Appropriately, when Joseph is born, Jacob's thoughts turn toward his proper home in Canaan (v.25). When the person of Christ dawns upon the vision of the believer, he begins to realize that he should be in God's place for him. However, when Jacob informs Laban of his intention of leaving, Laban is unwilling to be deprived of the service of his son-in-law. He says he has leaned by experience that the Lord has blessed him through Jacob's presence there, and does not want to lose this (v.27). If Jacob had insisted on leaving at that time, he and Laban would have parted on less unpleasant terms than they did later (ch.31:25-55). but Jacob agreed to stay on terms that he himself suggested.
There are some who question that Jacob's trickery in verse 37-39 made any actual difference, but whether it did or not, there is a spiritual lesson here that ought to have spoken deeply to Jacob himself. The things that we allow to most occupy our attention will affect us and everything that comes from us. Jacob was allowing his desire for gain to have foremost place in his thoughts. This was bad for him spiritually, and cause him to be selfish and underhand in his actions. But we can generally recognize such principles in natural things, while not seeing their significance in our spiritual lives.
Jacob separated the lambs that he could claim for his own and kept all of his own apart from the flock of Laban (v.40), then when the stronger sheep of Laban were mating he would use his peeled rods in the watering troughs, which he would not do in the case of the weaker sheep. Thus he was able to secure the stronger sheep while Laban was left with those weaker (vs.41-42). No doubt Laban was not aware of what Jacob was doing, and Jacob wanted Laban to consider that Jacob was only depending on God to decide how many sheep Jacob should have. How often it is true with us too, that we persuade ourselves we are walking by faith in God while using our own wits to help God out in supplying our needs!
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 30". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany