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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 30

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary



Jacob begets Dan and Naphtali, of Bilhah: Gad and Asher, of Zilpah. Leah brings forth Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah. Rachel brings forth Joseph. Jacob desires to depart from Laban, who again agrees with and retains him.

Before Christ 1749.

Verse 1

Genesis 30:1. Give me children, &c.— It is very evident from the text, that the foundation of this impatient and unbecoming behaviour in Rachel, was envy and jealousy of her sister: and therefore, though sterility was counted a very great evil among the Hebrew women, and that principally from their hope of being respectively the mother of the blessed Seed; yet it is not evident, that Rachel was now actuated by this hope, but solely by envy of her sister, as appears further from the names which she gave her handmaid's children. That, in her cooler and more serious hours, she was affected by the reproach of barrenness, there is no doubt, see Gen 30:23 as well as anxious to bear, that she might be the mother of that Seed of Abraham in whom all nations should be blessed.

Verse 3

Genesis 30:3. Behold my maid, &c.— Struck with the force of her husband's reproof, she bethought herself of the usual way, at that time, for women in her case to become mothers: to which end she gave Bilhah her handmaid to Jacob, as Sarah had done heretofore to Abraham. And she shall bear upon my knees, said Rachel; which the Chaldee paraphrases, and I shall be a nurse, which appears to be the true meaning of the phrase, and in which sense it might be rendered more properly she shall bear for my knees; a sense which על (al) is often used in, as may be seen in Noldius. So ch. Genesis 50:23. it is said, that the children of Machir were brought up (Heb. born) upon or for Joseph's knees. The children of the handmaids were esteemed the children of the wife, as we have before observed. So Rachel designed that Bilhah should bear children, which she would bring up and dandle on her knees as her own children, that thus she might be built up, or have a family through her. See Parker's 34th Occasion. Annotation.

Verse 8

Genesis 30:8. With great wrestlings That is, according to the Hebrew, with wrestlings of God; either with great and hard wrestlings or strivings, or by wrestling with God in fervent prayer; and by God's grace and strength.

Naphtali Rachel, like Leah, denominated her children from the occasion: Dan, i.e.. Judging, was so called, because God had judged her cause: and Naphtali, i.e.. My wrestling, is so named, because she had wrestled or strove, and prevailed. Others think, that the word פתל (patal) whence comes Naphtali, signifying to contrive or counterplot, the beginning of the verse should be rendered, by an excellent artifice or contrivance, &c. But Mr. Parkhurst, who enters deeper into the word פתל patal, (the original sense of which, according to him, is to wreath, entwist, intwine,) renders it, By the agency of God I am intwined with my sister, i.e.. My family is now interwoven with my sister's, and has a chance of producing the promised Seed. To this purpose the LXX render it, God hath taken me into partnership, (viz. with Leah,) and I am intwined (συνανεστραφην ) with my sister: and Aquila still plainer, God hath intwined me, and I am intwined, συνανεστρεψεν με ο Θεος, και συνανεστραφην . The Vulgate also preserves nearly the true sense, though not the idea of the word; comparavit me Deus cum forore mea, God hath made me equal with my sister.

REFLECTIONS.—From connections like Jacob's, little domestic happiness could be expected. Accordingly we find, 1. Rachel's envy at her sister, and her perverse demand from her husband: she speaks as one at the point of death, Note; (1.) Envious discontent and disappointed pride have the most fatal effects. A broken heart is not a death so uncommon, perhaps, as it is thought to be. (2.) Inordinate desire after creature-comforts, makes almost all our miseries.

2. Jacob's reproof. It was impiety to quarrel with God's dispensations. He therefore corrected warmly, as he loved. Note; (1.) Our love to the person must not suffer us to connive at sin. (2.) In all our trials God must be applied to. (3.) It is folly as well as sin to expect that happiness from the creature, which only God can bestow.

3. The wrong expedient Rachel took to relieve herself. Though none surely could be so near as her sister's children, she thought she could not nurse them and rule them as she could those of her servant, and therefore Jacob must take her maid to wife; and when she bore two sons, they have names of contention, Dan and Naphtali, given them, as if she had now prevailed. Note; It is wickedness in parents to transmit their quarrels in their children.

4. The same expedient used by Leah. Jacob consented perhaps at Rachel's importunity, and now he cannot refuse Leah pleading the precedent. Note; When men are once overcome by temptation, they in general the more easily yield to it a second time.

Verse 14

Genesis 30:14. Found mandrakes Many eminent Naturalists, ancient and modern, have written largely concerning the nature and properties of these dudaim or mandrakes. But as it is by no means necessary to enter minutely into the subject, the reader will excuse me, if I pass it over in silence.

Verse 15

Genesis 30:15. That thou hast taken, &c.— From Leah's expression, thou hast taken away my husband, it rather seems as if Rachel had so engrossed all Jacob's affection, as to have withdrawn him entirely from Leah, who therefore, solicitous for more children, was the rather anxious for his company. I cannot think, says Bishop Patrick, of any good reason, either for this contention between Jacob's wives for his company, or their giving him their maid-servants to be his wives; or for Moses's taking such particular notice of all this; but only the earnest desire they had to fulfil the promise made to Abraham, that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude; and that in one Seed of his (the Messiah) all the nations of the earth should be blessed. It had been below the dignity of such a sacred history as this is, to relate such things, if there had not been something of great consideration in them. And what can that be, but chiefly the birth of the blessed Seed, which was the object of the hopes of the pious in those days? For it is evident, in respect to both Rachel and her sister, that it was children they desired: as it follows, Genesis 30:17.

Verse 21

Genesis 30:21. And afterwards she bare a daughter, &c.— Leah, continuing to bear children, which were the great objects of her desire, appears to have gained more of her husband's company and regard. She ascribes the gift to God, Genesis 30:18; Genesis 30:20. at the same time that she judges her condescension in giving her maid to her husband (according to the ignorance of those times concerning the sin of polygamy) rewarded by God in this manner; on which account she names her fifth son Issachar, or hire, the reward given to her by God. Her sixth son (full of hope that her husband's affection would now be fixed to her, and that he would dwell with her as formerly) she names Zebulun or dwelling. And her daughter she names Dinah, or judgment, as her sister had denominated her son Dan, by Bilhah. It is observable, in Gen 30:17 that God is said to hearken to Leah, by which and the like expressions in that sacred book, which with the strictest propriety ascribes all events to God, we are taught, that Providence is in a special manner interested in the propagation of mankind: a truth which is confirmed by observation. For (to use the words of a celebrated writer on the subject) how can we, without supposing ourselves under the constant care of a Supreme Being, give any possible account for that nice proportion which we find between the number of males and of females who are brought into the world? What else could adjust, in so exact a manner, the recruits of every nation to its losses, and divide these new supplies of people into such equal bodies of both sexes?

Chance could never hold the balance with so steady a hand. Were we not counted out by an intelligent Supervisor, we should sometimes be overcharged with multitudes, and at other times waste away into a desart.

Verse 22

Genesis 30:22. God remembered Rachel, &c.— Rachel, grown wiser by her husband's reproof, Gen 30:2 applied herself to Him who is the Giver of children; and he heard her prayer, and granted her request; delayed the longer, probably, for her impatience: for blessings are often withheld, to teach us resignation. Rachel called her son Joseph, which signifies adding; and said, The Lord shall add to me another son: which must either be understood as prophetical, or we may render it, as the LXX and other versions have done, in the optative, may the Lord add another son!

Had Rachel but exercised the patience of Rebekah, she had not been so hasty to put her handmaid in her place. More prayer, and less worldly wisdom, had better answered her end; for now, at her earnest prayer, God remembers her, and gives her a son. She calls him Joseph, in token of her confidence in the increase of her children. Alas! How little do we know what is good for ourselves! This name had not been given, if she could have foreseen that her next son would be the cause of her death.

Verse 25

Genesis 30:25. It came to pass, &c.— It is plain, by this verse, Bishop Patrick observes, that the last seven years service for Rachel was now finished, just when Joseph was born; and therefore Jacob desires to be dismissed, having served Laban fourteen years. Usher proves that Jacob was ninety-one years old when Joseph was born (and consequently seventy-seven when he first came to Laban): for in Exodus it appears that Jacob, when he came before Pharaoh, was one hundred and thirty; and Joseph, at that time, but thirty-nine.

Jacob now, after his long absence, began to think of home. The land of Canaan was not only the land of his nativity, but the land of promise; and the seed which should inherit it, began now to multiply. Though he has nothing of his own, he has a good father to go to, who will welcome him and his: or, if not, he can trust God. Note; 1. God will not give mouths without sending meat for them. 2. Every true Christian, however comfortably settled or increased in this world, hath his eye and his heart upon his own country, which is above.

Verse 27

Genesis 30:27. I have learned by experience The primary sense of the original word here used, נחשׁ (nachash) is to view, observe attentively, to use attentive and subtle observation; see l Kings 20: 33. and therefore our translation is extremely proper, as well as that of the Vulgate, experimento dedici: and all the observations respecting Laban's consulting his teraphim, and knowing this matter by divination, are of no import; seeing to augur, or divine, is but a secondary sense of the original word; and in so plain a case as this there could be no need of augury, when observation and experience were abundantly sufficient to assure Laban of the truth. The 26th, 29th, and 30th verses, clearly prove the sense we have given.

Verse 29

Genesis 30:29. Thou knowest how I have served thee Who that saw Jacob deceiving his aged father, would have expected to have heard of such a witness as Laban, appearing, after so many years experience, for Jacob's sincerity in the discharge of all the duties of a servant and a son!

Verse 30

Genesis 30:30. Since my coming Heb. at my foot, i.e.. ever since I set my foot within thy doors; or wheresoever I went, and led thy flock. But Maimonides says it signifies, because of me, for my sake. St. Austin reports, that in Africa they express a happy man, by saying a man with a good foot. Houbigant says, that the original is, verbatim, ad mea vestigia, at my footsteps, when thy flocks followed me as their shepherd.

Verse 32

Genesis 30:32. Speckled and spotted The speckled cattle were those marked with little points or pricks, which the Greeks called στιγματα . The spotted were those marked with broader and larger spots, such as are often seen in the Eastern cattle especially. There were two other sorts (see ch. Genesis 31:10.); 1st, The ring-straked; that is, marked with spots or strakes, as by binding with cords. Symmachus renders it white-footed; and the Targums, having marks on their feet. Bishop Patrick says it signifies, most properly, spots, or rather circles or rings about their feet and legs. 2nd, The Grisled, which signifies marked with white spots, like hail upon black or any other colour, for ברד (barad) is hail.

Of such shall be my hire Jacob's bargain was this: that all the party-coloured sheep and goats should be removed from Laban's flocks under his care, and that he would from that time require for his wages only such party-coloured ones as should be produced by the white or uniformly coloured cattle: a bargain apparently so advantageous, that Laban joyfully acquiesced in it, Genesis 31:34. Accordingly the division was made, and the flocks were separated three days journey from each other, that they might have no intercourse. The bargain too was no less acceptable to Jacob, as it would afford a visible demonstration of God's interposition in his behalf, and consequently a full proof of his righteousness, Gen 31:33 i.e.. his fair and just dealing with Laban. Nor do I conceive that the least reasonable charge of over-reaching and treachery can be brought against Jacob for what he did, as mentioned in the subsequent verses: for it is evident that the whole was the work of God, who punished the injustice of Laban by giving the best of his flocks to Jacob. And as it is clear that a vision was made to Jacob, (see ch. Genesis 31:10, &c.) probably before he thought of the method used, so it is reasonable to believe that God himself instructed him in the use of that method. But then, it may be asked, Is that method really efficacious or not, to produce the end which we are informed it produced? We think not: but God might be pleased to enjoin it on Jacob as a trial of his faith, and as an external and visible sign of his immediate interposition; as he has been often pleased to attach efficacy to signs, otherwise and in themselves utterly unavailable to the end proposed. In this view Jacob is wholly exculpated, and we cannot well account for the transaction upon any other hypothesis; since, had it been a merely natural effect of the pilled rods that such cattle were brought forth, it is probable Laban would not have been ignorant of it, and that similar effects would have since followed from the same cause. Shuckford is of the same opinion with us: "God being determined," says he, "to reward Jacob's fidelity, and punish Laban's injustice, revealed to him in a dream, (ch. Genesis 31:10.) that the cattle should be speckled and spotted, and directed him to use these pilled rods as a testimony of his dependance on God. Jacob accordingly obeyed; no more thinking that the laying pilled rods was a natural way to cause the cattle to bring forth speckled young, than Naaman did, that washing in the river Jordan was a cure for the leprosy." See ch. Genesis 31:16.

There follows, between this and the thirty-seventh verse, in the Samaritan copy, a paragraph similar to that in the next chapter, Genesis 31:11, &c. concerning the angel's appearance to Jacob: and as that event is related by him there as a matter which had he fallen him before, it is not improbable that the relation might be in its proper place here: in which view, it still more confirms our opinion of God's revealing this method of proceeding to Jacob; by which he is entirely exculpated; though, without this insertion from the Samaritan, the whole appears sufficiently plain from ch. Genesis 31:11.

Verse 33

Genesis 30:33. When it shall come, &c.— This may be rendered, according to Le Clerc, when it (my righteousness) shall came before thy face, respecting my reward, or as to the matter of my reward. The righteousness of Jacob is said to be about to come before the face of Laban, because it would be manifest from the sight of that flock, which was to be his reward.

REFLECTIONS.—Laban had now experience of his interest in Jacob's stay, and God's blessing upon him; and therefore, though he could part with his daughters and grand-children, he is loth to lose so good a shepherd as Jacob, by whose care he had prospered so greatly. He intreats him therefore to stay. Note; Worldly men can give good words to serve their own ends. To engage him, as his family was large, and his possessions small, and Jacob appeared not unwilling to yield if he had a prospect of providing for his family, he consents to Jacob's proposal, and gives him the speckled and ring-straked sheep for his hire. Thus the matter is put into God's hands, and Laban has no pretext to dispute the property of Jacob. Learn, 1. How wise and cunning worldly men are for their own interests. 2. How vain their caution, when God designs to frustrate their purposes.

Verse 39

Genesis 30:39. And the flocks conceived, &c.— Dr. Shuckford observes further, (see note on Genesis 30:32.) that as it cannot be proved that the method which Jacob used is a natural and effectual way to produce variegated cattle, the ancient naturalists have carried their thoughts upon these subjects much farther than they would bear. The effect of impressions upon the imagination must be very accidental; because the objects that should cause them may or may not be taken notice of, as any one would find that should try Jacob's pilled rods to variegate his cattle with. But granting they might naturally produce the effect here mentioned, yet if, as has been said above, Jacob used them in obedience to a special Divine direction, without knowing any thing of their natural virtue, the effect must still be ascribed to God himself, just as in the case of Hezekiah: though the figs which were applied for his recovery might be a natural remedy for his distemper; yet, since the application of them was not made by any rules of physic then known, but by a Divine direction, the cure is justly ascribed to the immediate hand of God. We will only observe further, that whether this effect was owing to natural, or to to those which we call preternatural and miraculous causes, it is equally agreeable to the Scripture-style, and to the truth of philosophy, to ascribe it to God as Jacob does, ch. Genesis 31:9.

Verse 40

Genesis 30:40. And Jacob, &c.— After the success which attended his use of the pilled rods, he took care to keep what belonged to Laban separate from those lambs which, by agreement, belonged to himself; at the same time placing his ring-straked, &c. in the face or front of Laban's flock, that by that means also the flock might continue to bring forth party-coloured lambs. And now, finding his cattle increase, he began to be more curious about the breed; and therefore, Gen 30:41 he placed the rods only before the stronger.

Verse 43

Genesis 30:43. The man increased, &c.— God rewarded his fidelity, and punished the cruelty and avarice of Laban; transferring his wealth to Jacob, as he gave the riches of the AEgyptians to the Israelites: for the world is his, and the fulness thereof; and he may certainly dispose of every thing in it as he pleases. See Genesis 30:30.; from which we learn, that all Laban's increase was owing to God's blessing upon Jacob. See Chais on the passage.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Genesis 30". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/genesis-30.html. 1801-1803.
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