the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Rachel', רָחֵל, a "ewe" or "sheep," as in Genesis 31:38; Genesis 32:14; Song of Solomon 6:6; Isaiah 53:7; Sept. and New Test. ῾Ραχήλ, Josephus ῾Ραχήλας ), the younger daughter of the Aramean grazier Laban (Genesis 29:16), whom Jacob, her near blood-relation, earned for his wife, as wages for a second seven-years' service (Genesis 29:18 sq.). B.C. 1920. (See LEAH). After a long period of unfruitfulness, she bore him a son (Genesis 29:31), Joseph (Genesis 30:22 sq.). She went with him to Canaan, on which occasion she stole the household gods of her father and hid them artfully (Genesis 31:19; Genesis 31:34), and finally died on the journey, after the birth of Benljamin, not far from Ephrath (Genesis 35:16 sq.). (See RACHELS TOMB)
"The story of Jacob and Rachel has always had a peculiar interest: there is that in it which appeals to some of the deepest feelings of the human heart. The beauty of Rachel, the deep love with which she was loved by Jacob from their first meeting by the well of Haran, when he showed to her the simple courtesies of the desert life, and kissed her and told her he was Rebekah's son; the long servitude with which he patiently served for her, in which the seven years ‘ seemed to him but a few days, for the love he had to her;' their marriage at last, after the cruel disappointment through the fraud which substituted the elder sister in the place of the younger; and the death of Rachel at the very time when, in giving birth to another son, her own long-delayed hopes were accomplished, and she had become still more endeared to her husband; his deep grief and ever-living regrets for her loss (Genesis 48:7) — these things make up a touching tale of personal anid domestic history which has kept alive the memory of Rachel — the beautiful, the beloved, the untimely-taken-away — and has preserved to this day a reverence for her tomb; the very infidel invaders of the Holy Land having respected the traditions of the site, and erected over the spot a small, rude shrine, which conceals whatever remains may have once been foulnd of the pillar first set up by her mourning husband over her grave. Yet, from what is related to us concerning Rachel's character, there does not seem much to claim any high degree of admiration and esteem. The discontent and fretful impatience shown in her grief at being for a time childless, moved even her fond husband to anger (Genesis 30:1-2).
She appears, moreover, to have shared all the duplicity and falsehood of her family, of which we have such painfll instances in Rebekah, in Laban, and, not least, in her sister Leal, who consented to bear her part in the deception practiced upon Jacob. See, for instance, Rachel's stealing her father's images, and the ready dexterity and presence of mind with which she concealed her theft (ch. 31): we seem to detect here an apt scholar in her father's school of untruth. From this incident we may also infer (though this is rather the misfortune of her position and circumstances) that she was not altogether free from the superstitions aind idolatry which prevailed in the land whence Abraham had been called (Joshua 24:2; Joshua 24:14), and which still to some degree infected even those families among whom the true God was known. The events which preceded the death of Rachel are of much interest and worthy of a brief consideration. The presence in his household of these idolatrous images, which Rachel, and probably others also, had brought from the East, seems to have been either unknown to or connived at by Jacob for some years after his return from Haran; till, on being reminded by the Lord of the vow which he had made at Bethel when he fled from the face of Esau, and being bidden by him to erect an altar to the God who appeared to him there, Jacob felt the glaring impiety of thus solemnly appearing before God with the taint of impiety cleaving to him or his, and ‘ said to his household and all that were with him, Put away the strange gods from among you' (Genesis 35:2). After thus casting out the polluting thing from his house.
Jacob journeyed to Bethel, where, amid the associations of a spot consecrated by the memories of the past, he received from God an emphatic promise anid blessing, alnd, the name of the Supplanter being laid aside, he had given to him instead the holy name of Israel. Then it was, after his spirit had been there purified and strengthened by communion with God, by the assurance of the divine love and favor, by the consciousness of evil put away and duties performed — then it was, as he journeyed away from Bethel, that the chastening blow fell and Rachel died. These circumstances are alluded to here not so much for their bearinmg ulpon the spiritual discipline of Jacob, but rather with reference to Rachel herself, as suggesting the hope that they mav have had their effect in bringing her to a higher sense of her relations to that Great Jehovah in whom her husband, with all his faults of character, so firmly believed." The character of Rachel cannot certainily be drawn from the few features given in the history; yet Niemeyer (Charak. ii, 315) thinks tliat sufficient ground exists for preferring the disposition of Leah to that of her sister, Those who take an interest in such interpretations may find the whole story of Rachel and Leah allegorized by St. Augustine (Contra Faustum Manichoeum, 22:51-58, vol. 8, 432, etc., ed. Migne) and Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho, c. 134, p. 360; see also Archer, Rachel a Type of the Church [Lond. 1843]). (See JACOB).
In Jeremiah 31:15-16, the prophet refers to the historical event of the exile of the ten tribes (represented by "Ephraim") under Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, and the sorrow occasioned by their dispersion (2 Kings 17:20), under the symbol of Rachel (q.v.), i.e. Rachel, the maternal ancestor of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, bewailing the fate of her children. This lamentation was a type or symbol of another connected with the early history of our Lord, which met with its fulfilment in the mournful scene at Bethlehem and its vicinity, when so many infants were slaughtered under the barbarous edict of Herod (Matthew 2:16-18).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Rachel (2)'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​r/rachel-2.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.