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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Rachel

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("an ewe.") (See JACOB; BENJAMIN.) (Genesis 29-33; Genesis 35). Jacob's first interview, courteous removal of the stone at the well's mouth, emotion, and kissing her in the usual mode of salutation in pastoral life in the East in those days, are simply and graphically narrated; his love to her making his seven years' service "seem but a few days"; the imposition of Leah upon him, his second term of service for her, and his receiving her in marriage. Even then disappointment followed in her childlessness at first; beauty and the grace of God do not always go together, "Rachel envied her sister" and said with unreasonable and impatient fretfulness, "Give me children, or else I die." Jacob with just anger replied, "am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?" God took her at her word; she had Joseph, and in giving birth to Benjamin "died."

At Joseph's birth she by his name ("adding") expressed her fond anticipation, "the Lord shall add to me another son" (Genesis 30:24). In obtaining her wish, the greatest joy to her, she suffered her sharpest pang; Ben-oni's ("son of her sorrow") birth was her death. Her stealing her father's images or teraphim , household gods in human form, used for divination (Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14; Judges 18:17-18; Judges 18:20; 1 Samuel 15:23; 2 Samuel 23:24; Ezekiel 21:21; Zechariah 10:2), and her dexterity and ready cunning in hiding them, mark a character that had learned much of her father's duplicity.(See TERAPHIM.) The old superstition from which Abraham had been called still lingered in the family (Joshua 24:2; Joshua 24:14). Not until Jacob reached Bethel did he bury the strange gods under the oak by Shechem. A little way from Ephrath, which is Bethlehem, Rachel died and was buried, and Jacob set a pillar on her grave.

The patriarch on his death bed vividly recalls that tender, deep, and lasting sorrow (Genesis 48:7). Though fretful, cunning, and superstitions, Rachel still worshipped Jehovah; and after she had complained to her husband, and received his reproof, she turned in prayer to God, for we read "God remembered Rachel, and hearkened to her, and opened her womb" (compare 1 Samuel 1:19). She had given up all her idols before the death stroke fell on her (Genesis 35), and, we may well believe, was prepared for her great change by the hallowing influences of God's blessing on her husband and his seed immediately before, at Bethel. Moreover, Joseph, the only son over whom she exercised a mother's influence, was from early years the choice one of the family; such a son must have had a mother not altogether dissimilar. Hers is the first instance recorded of death in childbirth, and her sepulchral pillar is the first on record in the Bible.

Caves were the usual places of sepulcher (1 Samuel 10:2). Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:15) says as to Nebuzaradan's collecting the captive Jews at Ramah, previous to their removal to Babylon (Jeremiah 40:1), "a voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children ... refused to be comforted because they were not; thus saith the Lord, Refrain thy voice from weeping, for ... there is hope in thine end, that thy children shall come again to their own border." Rachel, who pined so for children and died in bearing "the son of her sorrow," and was buried in the neighborhood of Ramah (of Benjamin) and Bethlehem, is poetically represented as "weeping" for her Ephraimite sons carried off by the Chaldees. Matthew (Matthew 2:17-18) quotes this as fulfilled in Herod's massacre of the innocents.

"A lesser, and a greater, event of different times may answer to the single sense of one scripture, until the prophecy be exhausted" (Bengel). Besides the reference to the Babylonian exile of Rachel's sons, the Holy Spirit foreshadowed Messiah's exile to Egypt, and the accompanying desolation caused near Rachel's tomb by Herod's massacre, to the grief of Benjamite mothers who had "sons of sorrow," as Rachel's son proved to her. Israel's representative Messiah's return from Egypt, and Israel's (both the literal and the spiritual) future restoration (including the innocents) at His second advent, are antitypical to Israel's restoration from Babylon, the consolation held out by Jeremiah. "They were not," i.e. were dead (Genesis 42:13), does not apply so strictly to the Babylonian exiles as it does to Messiah and His people, past, present, and future.

"There is hope in thine end," namely, when Rachel shall meet her murdered children at the resurrection of the saints bodily, and of Israel nationally (Ezekiel 37). Literally, "each was not," i.e. each Bethlehemite mother had but one child to lament, as Herod's limit, "two years old and under," implies; a coincidence the more remarkable as not obvious. The singular too suits Messiah going to exile in Egypt, Rachel's chief object of lamentation. Rachel's tomb (Arabic Κubbit Rahil ) is two and a half miles S. of Jerusalem, one mile and a half N. of Bethlehem; Muslims, Jews, and Christians agree as to the site. The tomb is a small square building of stone, with a dome, and within it a tomb, a modern building; in the seventh century A.D. there was only a pyramid of stones.


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Rachel'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/r/rachel.html. 1949.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13
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