Gems from Genesis: Chapter 30

Family life is messy, and while we saw drama in the family of Isaac, there is double or quadruple that in the family of Jacob. Given the fact that he ends up with four wives, how could drama not happen? Rachel is the cause of much the destress found in chapter thirty, and yet, as messy as this story is, we find gems of God’s grace in several actions sprinkled over the first half of the story. We’ll start with a few verses to give us the context.

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Then she said, “Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to her, so that she may give birth on my behalf, that even I may have children through her.” So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan.

Genesis 30:1-6 ESV

God judged and heard.

While Jacob recognized God’s sovereignty over the womb (I’m sure he knew the story of his own father’s miraculous birth), Rachel was impatient. Like Jacob’s grandmother, Sarah, she takes matters in her own hands and thinks her solution will bring her peace and remove her shame. Yet, as soon as the child was born, Rachel felt the weight of God’s judgment.

In so easily allowing Bilhah to conceive and provide Jacob with a son, Rachel realized that God had a reason for keeping her from children. She knew God had judged her, but she also saw his grace in hearing her prayer for a son through her maidservant. She’d received from God exactly what she planned. Thus, Dan’s name reflected her reality in the moment—judgment.

But God wasn’t finished working in this situation.

God listened and provided.

God not only judged Rachel for trying to get a son through her maidservant, but also by relying on a plant for her fertility needs. She bought mandrakes from Leah for the price of a night with their husband. It seems Jacob had no control over his bed, and Leah’s negotiation with Rachel proved this.

And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. Leah said, “God has given me my wages because I gave my servant to my husband.” So she called his name Issachar.

Genesis 30:17-18

Leah had been on the sidelines after providing Jacob with several children, but in allowing her rival to have the mandrakes, God heard her heart’s desire to have another child and provided.

God endowed.

The amazing thing was that once her womb was opened, Leah found courage to continue relations with her husband. After the birth of Issachar, she bore another son and then a daughter.

And Leah conceived again, and she bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she called his name Zebulun. Afterward she bore a daughter and called her name Dinah.

Genesis 30:19-21

God enabled her to give birth, providing an endowment—a gift—to Jacob on her behalf.

God remembered, listened, opened.

Even with all the gifts given to Leah, God was not done with Rachel.

Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.

Genesis 30:22.

He remembered her. He does not forget us in our trials and despair.

He listened to her prayers. He knew her heart’s desire.

He answered those prayers by opening her womb. God knew the son Rachel would bring into the world, and he had a purpose for him. The years of waiting and struggle would provide the son who ultimately saved his entire family from famine and death. Neither Rachel nor Joseph was perfect, but God uses them just the same.

God took away Rachel’s shame.

She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” And she called his name Joseph, saying, “May the Lord add to me another son!”

Genesis 30:23-24.

In opening her womb, Rachel’s sense of shame and judgment is lifted. Her reproach was taken away, not by anything of her own power, but by the work of God alone.

With all these great works of God, Rachel was not completely satisfied, and her desire for yet another son, reflected in the name Joseph, would be a wish that cost her life after they moved back to the Promised Land.

Acknowledging the work of God doesn’t mean we instantly submit to him.

Both Rachel and Leah suffered for their lack of faith in God and desire to fix things. Their rivalry and constant competitiveness led to heartbreak and familial disfunction. We see that looking at their story, but do we recognize it in our own lives? God is actively at work in our lives, showing us grace beyond grace over and over again, but are we satisfied?

Take time to write down moments in your life when God worked for the good or for judgment. Then write down what you did in response. Did you learn to trust him more or continue to try to solve each new problem or trial? May we learn the lessons that Rachel nor Leah really learned. Only then will we have true…

Grace and Peace

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