Genesis 30


‘When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So, she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’ Jacob became angry with her and said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?’ Then she said, ‘Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.’ So, she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son. Then Rachel said, ‘God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.’ Because of this she named him Dan. Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, ‘I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.’ So, she named him Naphtali.’ Genesis 30:1-8

It seems as though Rachel is no desperate to have children and although she knew that Jacob couldn’t do anything to help her, this was God’s department, Jacob seems to at least empathise with her frustration. They both come to the conclusion that the only way she can have children was by doing what Abraham and Sarah did with Hagar, Genesis 16:2.

Rachel gave Jacob her servant Bilhah, so that she could have children which Rachel could raise. After Jacob had slept with Bilhah, she conceived children, Dan was first to be born, whose name means ‘he has vindicated’, and then Naphtali was born, whose name means, ‘my struggle’.

‘When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Then Leah said, ‘What good fortune!’ So, she named him Gad. Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. Then Leah said, ‘How happy I am! The women will call me happy.’ So, she named him Asher.’ Genesis 30:9-13

When we read these passages it’s so easy to wonder why there is so much emphasis on having children. We must remember that having large families was important back then as it was a sign that God was blessing you and it also gives the impression of power.

It seems as though that Leah now recognised, she couldn’t have any more children, so get gets some help from her servant named Zilpah. Jacob then sleeps with her and Zilpah gives birth to a child and names him Gad, which means, ‘good fortune’, and then she has another child named Asher, whose name means ‘happy’.

‘During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’ But she said to her, ‘Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?’ ‘Very well,’ Rachel said, ‘he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.’ So, when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. ‘You must sleep with me,’ she said. ‘I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So, he slept with her that night. God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. Then Leah said, ‘God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.’ So, she named him Issachar. Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, ‘God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honour, because I have borne him six sons.’ So, she named him Zebulun. Sometime later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.’ Genesis 30:14-21

The reason Reuben went to find some mandrake plants was because at the that time they believed that these would help with fertility. Although Rachel still couldn’t have children, Leah went on to have a fifth child and he was named, Issachar, which means ‘reward’. Sometime later she gave birth to her sixth child and named him Zebulun, which means, ‘honour’.

Later still, she had another child whose name is Dinah, which means ‘judgment’, this was Jacob’s only daughter.

‘Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, ‘God has taken away my disgrace.’ She named him Joseph, and said, ‘May the LORD add to me another son.’ Genesis 30:22-24

Here we see that God blessed Rachel and her frustration was over. God opened up her womb, she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Joseph, which means ‘he may add’. This is Rachel’s first son and Jacob’s eleventh. This was all part of God’s plan, Isaiah 55:8-9.

‘After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.’ But Laban said to him, ‘If I have found favour in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you.’ He added, ‘Name your wages, and I will pay them.’ Jacob said to him, ‘You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?’ ‘What shall I give you?’ he asked. ‘Don’t give me anything,’ Jacob replied. ‘But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-coloured lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-coloured, will be considered stolen.’ ‘Agreed,’ said Laban. ‘Let it be as you have said.’ That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-coloured lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.’ Genesis 30:25-36

Jacob knows it is time to go home and he knows where he belongs. There’s no doubt that Laban was a selfish man because he deceived Jacob into working for him for an extra seven years. Here he asks Jacob to stay with him only because he has been richly blessed by God for Jacob stay with him all this time.

In other words, he only wanted Jacob to stay because he though Jacob was the reason, he was being so blessed.

It’s now Jacob’s turn to get something from Laban, and so, Jacob took the offer so that he could get the best animals from Laban’s flocks. Jacob wanted to reject the speckled, spotted, not dark coloured, and the spotted and speckled goats, because these animals were considered the inferior breed of the flocks.

He would use these dark coloured sheep and goats to develop his own flocks. The reason for doing this is simple enough, it would make it easier to spot which animals belonged to Laban and which animals belonged to Jacob.

Sadly, we see once again the kind of character Laban is, on the very day that the deal was made, he secretly removed from his flocks the coloured goats and sheep that Jacob had said he wanted.

‘Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-coloured animals that belonged to Laban. Thus, he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals, so they would mate near the branches, but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So, the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.’ Genesis 30:37-43

There isn’t anything superstitious about what Jacob does here, this is God’s work. We know this is God’s work because later he tells his wives, this is God’s work, Genesis 31:10-12.

What Jacob was doing was in the breeding process, was restraining the breeding with the males that had irregular colouring. When the goats and sheep gave birth, he separated the irregular coloured ones in order that they alone be raised for breeding among themselves.

He kept the spotted and speckled animals for himself and left the other animals for Laban. As a result of this breeding process, Jacob’s livestock increased abundantly.

Go To Genesis 31



"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!"

Psalm 133:1