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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 30

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Genesis 30:0


The Sons of JacobThe Children of Jacob(Genesis 29:31-24)Jacob's Success in Haran(Genesis 29:1-55)The Children Born to Jacob(Genesis 29:31-24)Jacob's Children(Genesis 29:31-24)
Genesis 30:1-13 Genesis 30:1Genesis 29:31-8
Genesis 30:2
Genesis 30:3-8
Genesis 30:9-13Genesis 30:9-13Genesis 30:9-13Genesis 30:9-13
Genesis 30:14-21Genesis 30:14-21Genesis 30:14-21Genesis 30:14Genesis 30:14-21
Genesis 30:15a
Genesis 30:15b
Genesis 30:16
Genesis 30:17-21
Genesis 30:22-24Genesis 30:22-24Genesis 30:22-24Genesis 30:22-24Genesis 30:22-24
Jacob ProspersJacob's Agreement with Laban Jacob's Bargain with LabanHow Jacob Became Rich
Genesis 30:25-36Genesis 30:25-36Genesis 30:25-36Genesis 30:25-26Genesis 30:25-31
Genesis 30:27-28
Genesis 30:29-30
Genesis 30:31a
Genesis 30:31-33
Genesis 30:32-36
Genesis 30:34-36
Genesis 30:37-43Genesis 30:37-43Genesis 30:37-43Genesis 30:37-39Genesis 30:37-43
Genesis 30:40
Genesis 30:41-43

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 30:1-8 1Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die." 2Then Jacob's anger burned against Rachel, and he said, "Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?" 3She said, "Here is my maid Bilhah, go in to her that she may bear on my knees, that through her I too may have children." 4So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. 5Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. 6Then Rachel said, "God has vindicated me, and has indeed heard my voice and has given me a son." Therefore she named him Dan. 7Rachel's maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8So Rachel said, "With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and I have indeed prevailed." And she named him Naphtali.

Genesis 30:1 "jealous of her sister" This is literally "red in the face" (from Arabic root, BDB 888, KB 1109, Piel IMPERFECT). She apparently took her jealousy out on Jacob ("give me children," BDB 396, KB 393, Qal IMPERATIVE), who did not appreciate it one bit (cf. Genesis 30:2)! Barrenness seems to be common in the wives of the Patriarchs. Rachel's impatience can be seen in Genesis 30:1, whereas Rebekah had prayed for over twenty years. After four children by Leah, Rachel is jealous, angry, and impatient.

Genesis 30:3 "Here is my maid Bilhah, go in to her, that she may bear on my knees" This is a cultural idiom which seems to refer to adoption (cf. Genesis 48:12). We know from the law codes Lipit-Ishtar, the code of Hammurabi, the Nuzi Tablets, the Mari Tablets, and Alalakh Tablets that this was a cultural possibility. We cannot judge the morality of this custom in light of our own day.

Rachel's frustration can be seen in a series of commands.

1. go in to her, BDB 97, KB 112, Qal IMPERATIVE (a strong request)

2. that she may bear, BDB 408, KB 411, Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

3. that through her I too may have children (lit. I may be built), BDB 124, KB 139, Niphal IMPERFECT used in a COHORTATIVE sense

Genesis 30:5-6 "And Bilhah conceived and bore a son. . .Dan" The name "Dan" is the Hebrew word "judged" (BDB 192). The daughter who will be born in Genesis 30:21 is the feminine form of this same word (Dinah, BDB 192).

Genesis 30:8

NASB, NRSV "with mighty wrestlings" NKJV "with great wrestlings" TEV "a hard fight" NJB "a fateful battle" LXX "contended"

The problem is that the MT has "elohim," which could mean Rachel wrestled with God, or translate it as descriptive "mighty/great/hard" and see it as denoting a metaphorical wrestling match with Leah. Possibly it relates to both the spiritual (God) and physical (her sister) struggle related to her barrenness (cf. Peshitta).

"Naphtali" This term is related to the term "wrestled" (lit. "twisted," BDB 836). She wrestled with her sister in rivalry and with God in prayer.

Verses 9-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 30:9-13 9When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a Song of Solomon 1:0; Song of Solomon 1:01Then Leah said, "How fortunate!" So she named him Gad. 12Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second Song of Solomon 1:0; Song of Solomon 1:03Then Leah said, "Happy am I! For women will call me happy." So she named him Asher.

Genesis 30:9 There was real competition between these sisters/wives!

Genesis 30:10-11 "Leah's maid Zilpah bore her a son. . .Gad" The word Gad (BDB 151 III) comes from the Hebrew "fortunate" or "good fortune" (BDB 151 II).

The MT has "by good fortune," but the Masoretic scholars' marginal note has "good fortune has come"). It is possible that Gad (גד, BDB 151 III) comes from

1. a troop, גדוד, BDB 151 I, NKJV (NIV footnote)

2. fortune, גד, BDB 151 II, LXX, NASB, NRSV, TEV, JPSOA, NJB, REB, Peshitta

3. happy, LXX

Genesis 30:12 "And Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. . .Asher" This name is related to the Hebrew word "happy" (BDB 81).

Genesis 30:13 "Asher" This name (BDB 81) comes from the VERB "happy" (BDB 80, KB 97 II, Piel PERFECT), meaning "consider happy" or "blessed."

Verses 14-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 30:14-21 14Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, "Please give me some of your son's mandrakes." 15But she said to her, "Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son's mandrakes also?" So Rachel said, "Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes." 16When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, "You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son's mandrakes." So he lay with her that night. 17God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth Song of Solomon 1:0; Song of Solomon 1:08Then Leah said, "God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband." So she named him Issachar. 19Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob. 20Then Leah said, "God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons." So she named him Zebulun. 21Afterward she bore a daughter and named her Dinah.

Genesis 30:14 "Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah" Mandrakes (BDB 188) were an ancient aphrodisiac (cf. Song of Song of Solomon 7:13). Either their yellow fruit or their roots which looked like a man were the origin of this tradition. Rachel wanted these and hoped that she would conceive and bear a son (again the covenant family trying to help God). The tension between these two sisters becomes obvious in this account. What amazes me is how Jacob was so easily manipulated by the strife of these two women (cf. Genesis 30:15-16).

Genesis 30:16 "I have surely hired you" This is an INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and PERFECT VERB of the same root (BDB 968, KB 1330), which denotes intensity. Jacob was willingly sexually manipulated by his first two wives. Isaachar's name (see below) reflects this sad event.

Genesis 30:18 "Issachar" The name Issachar (ישׂשׂכר, BDB 441) is related to the Hebrew word "wages" or "recompense" (שׂכר, BDB 969). Leah hired Jacob's love with Reuben's mandrakes!

Genesis 30:19-20 "Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob. . .Zebulun" The term Zebulun (BDB 259) is a play on the Hebrew words for "gift" or "dowry" (BDB 256) and the word "dwell" or "honor" (BDB 269). His wives are still fighting over his affection.

Genesis 30:21 "Afterwards she bore a daughter and named her Dinah" This seems to be the only girl born to this family. The fact that only one was named shows that there was probably only one daughter, however, note Genesis 37:35. However, Dinah's place in the later narrative may be the reason for the naming of this one daughter.

Verses 22-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 30:22-24 22Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. 23So she conceived and bore a son and said, "God has taken away my reproach." 24She named him Joseph, saying, "May the LORD give me another son."

Genesis 30:22-24 "Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb" The name "Joseph" (BDB 415) is related to one of two Hebrew VERBS.

1. "take away her reproach" (BDB 62, KB 74, Qal PERFECT, cf. Genesis 30:23) or

2. "add" (BDB 414, KB 418, Hiphil JUSSIVE) asking God for another male child (cf. Genesis 35:17)

Verses 25-36

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 30:25-36 25Now it came about when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, "Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country. 26Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me depart; for you yourself know my service which I have rendered you." 27But Laban said to him, "If now it pleases you, stay with me; I have divined that the LORD has blessed me on your account." 28He continued, "Name me your wages, and I will give it." 29But he said to him, "You yourself know how I have served you and how your cattle have fared with me. 30For you had little before I came and it has increased to a multitude, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned. But now, when shall I provide for my own household also?" 31So he said, "What shall I give you?" And Jacob said, "You shall not give me anything. If you will do this one thing for me, I will again pasture and keep your flock: 32let me pass through your entire flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted sheep and every black one among the lambs and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages. 33So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come concerning my wages. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, will be considered stolen." 34Laban said, "Good, let it be according to your word." 35So he removed on that day the striped and spotted male goats and all the speckled and spotted female goats, every one with white in it, and all the black ones among the sheep, and gave them into the care of his sons. 36And he put a distance of three days' journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks.

Genesis 30:25-26 "Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country" Apparently the cultural norm of the day involved Laban sending Jacob away instead of Jacob just leaving. He had apparently tried to leave several times with always the same negative result. Laban wanted Jacob to stay because it profited him (cf. Genesis 30:27).

Verses Genesis 30:25 and 26 have some intense language.

1. "send me away," Genesis 30:25, BDB 1018, KB 1511, Piel IMPERATIVE

2. "that I may go to my own place," Genesis 30:25, BDB 229, KB 246, Qal COHORTATIVE

3. "give me my wives and my children,"Genesis 30:26; Genesis 30:26, BDB 678, KB 733, Qal IMPERATIVE

4. "let me depart," BDB 229, KB 246, Qal COHORTATIVE

The VERB "served" (BDB 712, KB 773) is used twice (cf. Genesis 30:29), showing Jacob's attitude that he has fully paid Laban all he owes (and more, Genesis 30:30)!

Genesis 30:27 "I have divined that the LORD has blessed me on your account" The word "divined" is from the root "hiss" or "whisper" (BDB 638 II). It is an attempt to know and control the future through physical means apart from trusting YHWH. It is condemned in Leviticus 19:26; Numbers 23:23-24; and Deuteronomy 18:10.

It is hard to know why these early people in Genesis use things later condemned in the Mosaic legislation.

1. raised stones

2. divination, here and Genesis 44:5, Genesis 44:15 (Joseph)

3. imitation magic (i.e., striped branches produce striped animals)

4. use of mandrakes for fertility

5. household idols (teraphim)

6. circumcision of pagans (as a weapon)

These early YHWHists were influenced by their cultures. They are surely moving toward a purer, more complete monotheism, but it was a long road!

Genesis 30:28 "Name me your wages, and I will give it" Laban fully recognizes that his prosperity is based on Jacob and he wants to retain him at any cost.

The VERB "name" (BDB 666, KB 718, Qal IMPERATIVE) has a varied semantical field. It normally means "to pierce" or "bore." Here it denotes Jacob naming his compensation in order to remain with Laban. The second VERB "give" (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal COHORTATIVE) signals the reader that Laban recognizes his need of Jacob's presence and help (cf. Genesis 30:30). Laban must have been a demanding father-in-law (cf. Genesis 31:11-12). The text even implies Jacob was seen and treated as a hired servant (cf. Genesis 31:14-16).

Genesis 30:30 "the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned" Jacob knew the source of Laban's blessing was in him and his relationship to YHWH. But, as Genesis 30:30 continues, it shows that Jacob also recognized the needs of his own household.

Genesis 30:31 "So he said, 'What shall I give you?' And Jacob said, 'You shall not give me anything'" Jacob knew that the source of blessing was not Laban but God.

Genesis 30:32 Jacob is going to take the off-colored (BDB 378, KB 375, used five times in Genesis 30:32-35) animals from the sheep and the goats. The off-colored animals from the sheep would be dark and the off-colored animals from the goats would be speckled or mottled. These unusually colored animals would normally be rare. This was for the obvious reason that Jacob by this time knew Laban and he did not want any questions about whose was whose in the future (cf. Genesis 30:33).

Genesis 30:35-36 "So he removed on that day the striped and spotted male goats and all the speckled and spotted female goats, every one with white in it, and all the black ones among the sheep, and gave them into the care of his sons" There are two very interesting things in this verse and in Genesis 30:36. The word "he" at the beginning of Genesis 30:35 obviously refers to Laban. This is the first mention of his own sons. Apparently, Laban divided the flock and gave Jacob's animals into the care of his (Laban) sons. From Genesis 30:36 we see that Laban sent Jacob's animals a three days journey away so that they could not breed with his animals. This also forced Jacob to take care of Laban's animals to assure their blessing. Although Laban had everything on his side, God was with Jacob. I personally do not believe that Jacob's tricks mentioned in Genesis 30:37ff were the source of the spotted and speckled animals multiplying faster, but the supernatural presence of God.

The NIV Study Bible's footnotes assert that Genesis 30:35 was done secretly by Laban and his sons to reduce or eliminate all unusually colored animals. If so, then Jacob's claim only referred to future births. When I read this I do not see Genesis 30:35 as necessarily having this connotation, but it would not surprise me knowing the manipulative nature of Laban.

Verses 37-43

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 30:37-43 37Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white which was in the rods. 38He set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, even in the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink; and they mated when they came to drink. 39So the flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. 40Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban; and he put his own herds apart, and did not put them with Laban's flock. 41Moreover, whenever the stronger of the flock were mating, Jacob would place the rods in the sight of the flock in the gutters, so that they might mate by the rods; 42but when the flock was feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban's and the stronger Jacob's. 43So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys.

Genesis 30:37-43 This again looks like the patriarchal family trying to help YHWH fulfill His promises! Whether this method worked (i.e., some chemical in the plant) or not is not the theological issue! Jacob, the trickster, is still at work. Are YHWH's promises dependant on Jacob's actions?

Genesis 30:43 Jacob's flocks and herds grew for several years (possibly six more after the mandated fourteen, cf. Genesis 31:41).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did God allow a trickster like Laban to manipulate His chosen vessel, Jacob?

2. Did Jacob want to be a polygamist?

3. List the names of each of these sons and give their popular etymology.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Genesis 30". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/genesis-30.html. 2021.
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