Christian Churches of God

No. 281

 

 

 

Rachel and the Law

(Edition 1.0 19981211-19990625)

 

The history of Rachel is full of drama and is one of the proofs that each of the Ten Commandments was fully in force before Sinai. Here we deal with a number of aspects and parallels in the story that normally escape attention. This story has major significance for the Church and the concept of God’s love and intervention in our lives.

 

 

Christian Churches of God

PO Box 369,  WODEN  ACT 2606,  AUSTRALIA

 

Email: secretary@ccg.org

 

(Copyright © 1998, 1999 Christian Churches of God; ed. Wade Cox)

 

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Rachel and the Law

 


The history of Rachel is full of drama and is one of the proofs that each of the Ten Commandments was fully in force before Sinai.  A number of aspects that normally escape attention are dealt with in the story. This is a lesson that every chapter in the Bible is a goldmine in bringing forward surprising and valuable lessons.

 

Although the story of Rachel is one of the favourites for children, adults must also study the story from time to time, as it is not just a story.

 

After Jacob had stolen the blessing of the first-born from Esau, by deceiving his father Isaac, it was no longer safe for him to stay in the land of Canaan and Jacob had to flee for his life.

 

Genesis 27:41  Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, "The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob."  (RSV)

 

Here we see the same mindset in Esau towards Jacob, as existed with Cain towards his brother Abel. Rebekah had heard the words that her elder son Esau had uttered. She warned Jacob and told him to flee before it was too late. She advised him to go far away to Haran, where she had grown up, and she considered this to be a safe place. She also hoped that the fury of Esau would turn away as time passed.

 

Genesis 27:42-44 But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah; so she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, "Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself by planning to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran, 44 and stay with him a while, until your brother's fury turns away; 45 until your brother's anger turns away, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send, and fetch you from there. Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?"  (RSV)

 

The worries of Rebekah that she could lose both sons in such circumstances were not unusual. The killing of Jacob by Esau would be followed by the killing of Esau by the avenger of blood under the Law. This was the same as Cain expected when he had murdered Abel.

 

Genesis 4:10  And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.  (RSV)

 

Genesis 4:13-14 Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me."  (RSV)

 

We see the emphasis necessary here because there was a blood payment on killing, especially of a brother. Here it is clear that the sixth commandment was set since Adam.

 

This commandment was repeated with Noah:

 

Genesis 9:5b-6  of every man's brother I will require the life of man.   6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.  (RSV)

 

Here we clearly see the emphasis on the sixth commandment and the reason why. At Sinai, it was condensed and repeated in a few words:

 

Exodus 20:13 "You shall not kill.  (RSV)

 

Rebekah went to Isaac to have him send Jacob away from the face of Esau, and she approached him in a very clever way, making use of the sentiments of Isaac.

 

Genesis 27:46  Then Rebekah said to Isaac, "I am weary of my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women such as these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?"  (RSV)

 

Esau had married Canaanite wives and they did not have the approval of his parents.

 

Genesis 26:34-35  When Esau was forty years old, he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite; 35 and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.  (RSV)

 

It was also against God's will to marry a Canaanite wife, or to give a daughter to a Canaanite as wife, with clear reasons.

 

Deuteronomy 7:1-4  "When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than yourselves, 2 and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them; then you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them. 3 You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons. 4 For they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.  (RSV)

 

After Esau became aware that Jacob had been sent away, again with a blessing, to find a non-Canaanite wife, he tried to improve the situation by taking other wives that were not from Canaan, but from a related family:

 

Genesis 28:6-9  Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddanaram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he charged him, "You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women," 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddanaram. 8 So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father,   9 Esau went to Ishmael and took to wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham's son, the sister of Nebaioth.  (RSV)

 

The tribes that sprang from Ishmael, the son of Abraham, are akin and do not belong to the Canaanite peoples.

 

Isaac sent Jacob to Paddanaram to have his son take a wife of the daughters of Laban:

 

Genesis 28:1-2  Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, "You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women. 2 Arise, go to Paddanaram to the house of Bethuel your mother's father; and take as wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother's brother.  (RSV)

 

Isaac gave Jacob the order to marry only one of the daughters of Laban. Isaac was a monogamist, having only one wife, and advised his son to do the same. Through circumstances Jacob failed to obey the advice of his father in this.

 

An important issue here is, however, that Isaac also set Jacob up to sin. Knowing the effects of this sin, Jacob failed to disobey the advice of his father in this regard. The sin being that of marriage within the close family:

 

Genesis 28:2  Arise, go to Paddanaram to the house of Bethuel your mother's father; and take as wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother's brother.  (RSV)

 

At Sinai came the expounding of this ordinance:

 

Leviticus 18:4-5 You shall do my ordinances and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my ordinances, by doing which a man shall live: I am the LORD.  (RSV)

 

By doing which a man shall live is immediately followed by the ordinance:

 

Leviticus 18:6  "None of you shall approach any one near of kin to him to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD.  (RSV)

 

This is very clear, and was in effect in the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Transgressing this law will result in barrenness of the wife.  That punishment will make it impossible to obey the commandment to be fruitful and to multiply and leads to many frustrations and problems in marital circumstances. We start with Abraham and Sarah, who was barren and could not produce a child.  They were close akin, half-brother and sister.

 

Abraham said, "I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.   Besides she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.  (Genesis 20:11-12 RSV)

 

A few verses further we see that being barren can be a punishment for sin.

 

Genesis 20:17-18  Then Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.   18 For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.  (RSV)

 

The kinship as existed in the marriage between Abraham and Sarah was not allowed, and is mentioned specifically:

 

Leviticus 18:11 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, begotten by your father, since she is your sister.  (RSV)

 

Because of the punishment of the marriage in this kinship between Abraham and Sarah, she was barren:

 

Genesis 16:1  Now Sarai, Abram's wife, bore him no children….  (RSV)

 

God had promised Abraham and Sarah a child.  The time passed and Sarah did not have faith any more.

 

Genesis 18:10-14 The LORD said, "I will surely return to you in the spring, and Sarah your wife shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?"   13 The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, in the spring, and Sarah shall have a son."  (RSV)

 

Here we see that although it was too hard for men, it was not too hard for God, and in a supernatural way He removed the barrenness.

 

Genesis 21:1-3  The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. 2 And Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.  (RSV)

 

It was not unusual that Isaac sent his son Jacob to Paddanaram to find a wife. His father Abraham had given his servant the solemn commission to find a proper wife for his son Isaac.

 

Genesis 24:1-4 Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. 2 And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, "Put your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell,   4 but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac."  (RSV)

 

…and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac: Here we see that Abraham had fallen into the same pit as he himself had fallen into beforehand. He had given his servant the order to find a wife for Isaac in his own kindred. 

 

Genesis 24:15  Before he had done speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, came out with her water jar upon her shoulder.  (RSV)

 

Genesis 24:50-51 Then Laban and Bethuel answered, "The thing comes from the LORD; we cannot speak to you bad or good. 51 Behold, Rebekah is before you, take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master's son, as the LORD has spoken."  (RSV)

 

Genesis 24:67  Then Isaac brought her into the tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her.  (RSV)

 

This marriage had been arranged by the servant of Abraham. Still, in the beginning the marriage was childless, as Rebekah was barren. She was of the same kindred as Isaac.  God is clear in His ordinances and statutes and commandments.

 

Exodus 20:5 … you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,  (RSV)

 

The visiting of the iniquity of the fathers is not only valid for the second commandment but  also it applies to all of the Law, as James admonishes:

 

James 2:10  For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.  (RSV)

 

However, in this situation Isaac had the right attitude. He prayed to the LORD, and God granted his prayer. This was a very powerful example of the effect of prayer. He stood unique between his father Abraham and his son Jacob in simple faith and the fear of God (Gen. 31:42). 

 

Genesis 25:19-21 These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took to wife Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddanaram, the sister of Laban the Aramean. 21 And Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.  (RSV)

 

The marriage of Isaac and Rebekah had been childless for the first twenty years. Here we see again that the Lord had to intervene supernaturally with Rebekah, as He also did with Sarah. We have no record in the Bible that Abraham prayed for the removal of the barrenness of Sarah. Rather, he accused God in this (Gen. 15:2-3).

 

We will see what the situation was with Jacob's wives.

 

Genesis 28:5 Thus Isaac sent Jacob away; and he went to Paddanaram to Laban, the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother.  (RSV)

 

Genesis 29:1-10 Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east. 2 As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and lo, three flocks of sheep lying beside it; for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well's mouth was large, 3 and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place upon the mouth of the well. 4 Jacob said to them, "My brothers, where do you come from?" They said, "We are from Haran." 5 He said to them, "Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?" They said, "We know him.” 6 He said to them, "Is it well with him?" They said, "It is well; and see, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep!" 7 He said, "Behold, it is still high day, it is not time for the animals to be gathered together; water the sheep, and go, pasture them." 8 But they said, "We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep." 9 While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep; for she kept them. 10 Now when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother.  (RSV)

 

Jacob was very impressed by the appearance of Rachel, and he came immediately into action to water the flock of her father. He fell deeply in love with her.

 

Genesis 29:11  Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud.  (RSV)

 

Why did Jacob weep aloud? Were these the deep emotions of love or the knowledge that marriage with kindred was stricken with barrenness? It had been a family problem. 

 

Genesis 29:12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's kinsman, and that he was Rebekah's son; and she ran and told her father.  (RSV)

 

Family ties are very important. However, they should always been appreciated in the right perspective. The history is understandable. 

 

Genesis 29:13-16  When Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister's son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, 14 and Laban said to him, "Surely you are my bone and my flesh!" And he stayed with him a month. 15 Then Laban said to Jacob, "Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?" 16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.  (RSV)

 

The text appears to imply that Laban is looking for the best for his kinsman. The character of Laban, however, was greedy (Gen. 24:29-30, 53) as Jacob also was to discover in the coming years.

 

Genesis 29:17 Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful and lovely.  (RSV)

 

Here we see a comparison between Leah and Rachel, in that Leah had weak eyes. The KJV translation states this in another way.

 

Genesis 29:17 Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.  (AV)

 

Here it states that the eyes of Leah are tender. This again is seen as a defect, as opposed to the appearance of Rachel. Jamieson, Fausset, give another clue to this:

 

That is, soft blue eyes - thought a blemish

(Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary Old Testament Vol. 1, 1991, Ages, Albany OR)

 

As the eyes are the image of the soul, they are a very important aspect of a person. The eyes may have been blue and weak or myopic.  There is no reason to assume that Leah was not a beautiful woman, as her sister was. It was in the family that the women, even at a high age, were beautiful, even to the extent that their husbands feared for their own lives. 

 

This was the case with Sarai, the wife of Abram, when she was at least 65 years of age.

 

Genesis 12:10-15  Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, "I know that you are a woman beautiful to behold; 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife'; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account." 14 When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.  (RSV)

 

The same type of lie happened out of fear with Isaac and Rebekah.

 

Genesis 26:6-9 So Isaac dwelt in Gerar. 7 When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, "She is my sister"; for he feared to say, "My wife," thinking, "lest the men of the place should kill me for the sake of Rebekah"; because she was fair to look upon. 8 When he had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw Isaac fondling Rebekah his wife. 9 So Abimelech called Isaac, and said, "Behold, she is your wife; how then could you say, 'She is my sister'?" Isaac said to him, "Because I thought, 'Lest I die because of her.'"  (RSV)

 

Laban went into negotiation with Jacob for his wages, and out of greed he sold his daughter Rachel to Jacob. Jacob accepted the wage for seven years of tending the flock.

 

Genesis 29:18-20 Jacob loved Rachel; and he said, "I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel." 19 Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me." 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.  (RSV)

 

Jacob was deeply in love with Rachel, and time flew by for him. However, after the seven years had passed he claimed Rachel to be given to him as his wife.

 

Genesis 29:21 Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed."  (RSV)

 

We see here that despite his burning love for more than seven years, Jacob did not use Rachel sexually. She was still a virgin, which in this permissive world of today is almost unthinkable. We see here there is an example to be followed.

 

Despite the just and honest hope that lay within him and the expectations of his future wife, what then transpired was contrary to the Law of God and was a breach of faith. Her sister Leah fraudulently usurped Rachel in the marriage. It is obvious that Laban and Leah contrived to deceive Jacob and forced Rachel into acquiescent silence or complicity.

 

Leah in her dishonesty and weakness had entered into a fraud, which was to affect her sister and her husband for the rest of their lives and introduce bitterness to the family. She broke a number of commandments. Then the attitudes she had brought in from her and her father’s and brother’s conspiracy and fraud and bitterness flowed on to and affected her younger sister and her husband. It went on to affect the serving maids and the entire foundation of the tribes of Israel.

 

Genesis 29:22-25  So Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. 23 But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. 24 (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) 25 And in the morning, behold, it was Leah; and Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?"  (RSV)

 

And in the morning, behold, it was Leah: It must have been a bitter disillusion when Jacob looked in the, perhaps, blue eyes or weaker eyes of Leah, instead of the dark ones of Rachel. As they were sisters, they may well have had a similar figure. Jacob could not discern the difference in the dark. He was outraged with Laban. However, the cunning Laban explained to him why this had been done in this way, and made another, and, which was for him, a profitable proposal and offered Rachel for the second time for sale to Jacob for a seven years wage.

 

Genesis 29:26-28  Laban said, "It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the first-born. 27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years." 28 Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to wife.  (RSV)

 

Completed her week is the normal time for a wedding feast or marriage. This marriage with Leah was against the Law.

 

Leviticus 18:6  "None of you shall approach any one near of kin to him to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD.  (RSV)

 

Then a week later he was married to Rachel. In the same way, that marriage with Rachel was against the Law and the sin was compounded:

 

Leviticus 18:18 And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is yet alive.  (RSV)

 

Genesis 29:29-30 (Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her maid.) 30 So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.  (RSV)

 

There is another aspect of the Law that was breached, which relates to the inability to call anyone for service within a year of marriage (Deut. 20:7). The matter is not simply one of war; it is of the preservation of the inheritance and progeny. It was breached in the first instance by theft of the rights of Rachel. It was breached in the second instance by the intrusion on the expectations of Leah. However, it is well argued that she brought that on herself.

 

This complication in the marriage resulted in disharmony between Jacob and his wives and between the wives themselves. That was to play an important part in the ongoing family relationships. The relationships were even more stressed, as both women were barren, because of the forbidden marriage between kindred.

 

Genesis 29:31 When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.  (RSV)

 

God intervened in the barrenness of Leah, as Jacob hated her. He did not yet intervene in the barrenness of Rachel. Despite the fact that Leah bore sons for Jacob, he did not love her and gradually Leah lost confidence that Jacob would ever love her, and finally she gave the praise to the Lord.

 

Genesis 29:32-35  And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, "Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; surely now my husband will love me."   33 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, "Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also"; and she called his name Simeon. 34 Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, "Now this time my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons"; therefore his name was called Levi. 35 And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, "This time I will praise the LORD"; therefore she called his name Judah; then she ceased bearing.  (RSV)

 

Now for the first time the character of Rachel was exposed. It did not show the finest character either, and she resembled her father Laban later on in many things. She became very envious of Leah for all her offspring and blamed Jacob for her barrenness.

 

Genesis 30:1 When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or I shall die!"  (RSV)

 

Although Jacob knew very well that Rachel was barren because of the close kinship between him and her, and that the Lord could intervene on her behalf, he did not follow the example of the simple faith that his father Isaac had shown in the case of Rebekah. He did not pray for her, but became angry about the situation. This was countered by Rachel with the same move that Sarah had made with Abraham by giving him the slave Hagar as a wife to bear substitute children. Rachel gave her slave Bilha to Jacob for the same purpose of getting substitute children. To complete the circle, Leah later on gave her slave Zilpa to Jacob as a wife also for having substitute children.

 

Genesis 30:2-13 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?" 3 Then she said, "Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, that she may bear upon my knees, and even I may have children through her." 4 So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife; and Jacob went in to her. 5 And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. 6 Then Rachel said, "God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son"; therefore she called his name Dan. 7 Rachel's maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, "With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed"; so she called his name Naphtali.   9 When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Then Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 And Leah said, "Good fortune!" so she called his name Gad. 12 Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah said, "Happy am I! For the women will call me happy"; so she called his name Asher.  (RSV)

 

The whole situation does not reflect a normal and solid family relationship. Jacob had become a toy of his four wives and his children. 

 

Next follows the intriguing episode with the mandrakes or loveapples. We see here the use of mandrake by the women as was used in the pagan systems, and which is also seen in witchcraft. The Bible is very clear about witchcraft.

 

1Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.  (AV)

 

2Chronicles 33:6  And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.  (AV)

 

Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum L.) originally comes from the eastern Mediterranean area and West Asia. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians started to use it as an anaesthetic. One can find it depicted in Egyptian pyramids.  The mummies were given wreaths of "loveapples" on the journey to the kingdom of death. The fruits of mandrake - loveapples - are also mentioned in the Bible. They were used in concoctions to evoke passion and pregnancies. It belongs to the magical herbs, and it was believed to have supernatural properties and with the help of potions made out of it one could get a person in their power.  It was the root that was considered to have the most magical properties because of its likeness to the human body. The person who owned a mandrakeroot was considered very fortunate – it made sure that the owner would have a good life. One had to sell it though before one died and at a price that was lower than the price paid for it. A person who got it for free could never free himself from the hands of the devil. (www.members.xoom.com, 1998, Bewitching Herbs, Mandrake)

 

Genesis 30:14-16 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, "Give me, I pray, some of your son's mandrakes." 15 But she said to her, "Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son's mandrakes also?" Rachel said, "Then he may lie with you tonight for your son's mandrakes." 16 When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him, and said, "You must come in to me; for I have hired you with my son's mandrakes." So he lay with her that night.  (RSV)

 

Jacob had been outwitted by his wives and he was sold by Rachel for mandrakes that he would lie with Leah. The text does not state that either woman, Leah or Rachel, was practising witchcraft with mandrakes.

 

1Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim. Because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah, he hath also rejected thee from being king.  (ASV)

 

The daughters of Laban appear to have been influenced by these idolatrous practices, as we see from the use of teraphim and of herbs for fertility purposes. However, the mandrakes did not help Rachel. Leah bore more children to Jacob

 

Genesis 30:17-18 And God hearkened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.18 Leah said, "God has given me my hire because I gave my maid to my husband"; so she called his name Issachar.  (RSV)

 

The later blessing of Jacob of his son Issachar reflects the circumstances of his begettal and his future:

 

Genesis 49:14-15 Issachar is a strong ass, crouching between the sheepfolds; 15 he saw that a resting place was good, and that the land was pleasant; so he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a slave at forced labor.  (RSV)

www.members.xoom.com, 1998, Bewitching herbs, Mandrake

After the birth of Issachar, Leah bore Zebulun and Dinah

 

Genesis 30:19-21 And Leah conceived again, and she bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, "God has endowed me with a good dowry; now my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons"; so she called his name Zebulun. 21 Afterwards she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah.  (RSV)

 

Rachel learned the hard way to look to God for help. She had first accused Jacob because she was unable to bear children. Jacob refuted this and pointed out that he was not God.  This was followed by trying to get substitute children through Bilhah. Later on she sought a solution to her problem with the mandrakes she obtained by hiring out Jacob to her sister.  The result was that Leah bore three more children. Finally, she sought the help of God, as she understood now perhaps that it was sin that caused her barrenness and that only God could intervene on her behalf as he had on Leah’s behalf in her sin and misery.

 

Genesis 30:22-24 Then God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her and opened her womb. 23 She conceived and bore a son, and said, "God has taken away my reproach";24 and she called his name Joseph, saying, "May the LORD add to me another son!"  (RSV)

 

After all those years of trying ways opposite to those of God, Rachel has sought the help of God, and He then took away her reproach.  Rachel gave God the credit for this and asked immediately for another son. After several years (at least six years) God gave her another son

 

Jacob considered that the years of working for Laban had passed and that the time had come to return home. We see below that it was twenty years at least.

 

Genesis 30:25-26 When Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, "Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know the service which I have given you."  (RSV)

 

The greedy Laban did not like the idea of losing such a diligent and competent shepherd, and he tried to buy Jacob's services again for an extended period of time. This time Jacob outwitted him.

 

Genesis 30:27-43  But Laban said to him, "If you will allow me to say so, I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you; 28 name your wages, and I will give it." 29 Jacob said to him, "You yourself know how I have served you, and how your cattle have fared with me. 30 For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly; and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?" 31 He said, "What shall I give you?" Jacob said, "You shall not give me anything; if you will do this for me, I will again feed your flock and keep it: 32 let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages. 33 So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my wages with you. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, shall be counted stolen." 34 Laban said, "Good! Let it be as you have said." 35 But that day Laban removed the he-goats that were striped and spotted, and all the she-goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in charge of his sons; 36 and he set a distance of three days' journey between himself and Jacob; and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flock. 37 Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the rods. 38 He set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the runnels, that is, the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, 39 the flocks bred in front of the rods and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. 40 And Jacob separated the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban; and he put his own droves apart, and did not put them with Laban's flock. 41 Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding Jacob laid the rods in the runnels before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the rods, 42 but for the feebler of the flock he did not lay them there; so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's. 43 Thus the man grew exceedingly rich, and had large flocks, maidservants and menservants, and camels and asses.  (RSV)

 

With this sharp increase in wealth within six years, at the cost of Laban, a change in attitude towards Jacob had to be expected from Laban and his sons.

Genesis 31:1-2 Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, "Jacob has taken all that was our father's; and from what was our father's he has gained all this wealth." 2 And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before.  (RSV)

 

Jacob was then told by the Lord to prepare to return. So Jacob called Rachel and Leah and explained the reason why he wanted to leave.

 

Genesis 31:3-13 Then the LORD said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you." 4 So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was, 5 and said to them, "I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know that I have served your father with all my strength; 7 yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not permit him to harm me. 8 If he said, 'The spotted shall be your wages,' then all the flock bore spotted; and if he said, 'The striped shall be your wages,' then all the flock bore striped. 9 Thus God has taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me. 10 In the mating season of the flock I lifted up my eyes, and saw in a dream that the he-goats which leaped upon the flock were striped, spotted, and mottled.   11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob,' and I said, 'Here I am!' 12 And he said, 'Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that leap upon the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go forth from this land, and return to the land of your birth.'"  (RSV)

 

The problem of Rachel and Leah was very clear. They also felt themselves sold as strangers by their father. They showed, perhaps quite understandably, no respect towards him any more. Nevertheless, in their attitude they were disobeying the fifth commandment.

 

Deuteronomy 5:16  "'Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you; that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the LORD your God gives you.  (RSV)

 

Genesis 31:14-16  Then Rachel and Leah answered him, "Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father's house? 15 Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he has been using up the money given for us. 16 All the property which God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children; now then, whatever God has said to you, do."  (RSV)

 

Having obtained the consent of his wives, and therefore their cooperation, Jacob prepared and went away with all he had, without informing Laban.

 

Genesis 31:17-19a  So Jacob arose, and set his sons and his wives on camels; 18 and he drove away all his cattle, all his livestock which he had gained, the cattle in his possession which he had acquired in Paddanaram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. 19 Laban had gone to shear his sheep   (RSV)

 

Then the drama comes to the turning point:

 

Genesis 31:19b … and Rachel stole her father's household gods.  (RSV)

 

Rachel stole the household gods, images – in the Hebrew, Teraphim. This shows that the idolatry of Babylon still clung to Laban's family. In doing this, Rachel was disobedient not only to one commandment but also to all of them.

 

As we see with all the household of Laban, she broke the first commandment by having other gods, the teraphim.

 

Deuteronomy 5:7 "'You shall have no other gods before me.  (RSV)

 

She, and they, also automatically broke the second commandment by having graven idols:

 

Deuteronomy 5:8-10 "'You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 9 you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.  (RSV)

 

Rachel, like Leah before her in the marriage contract, broke the third commandment, as she has been using the name of the Lord in vain (Gen. 31:16) and she was guilty.

 

Deuteronomy 5:11  "'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.  (RSV)

 

Rachel and Leah had broken the first commandment. Perhaps we might deduce, as a consequence, they also broke the fourth commandment by failing at the very least to keep it holy. The fourth commandment is a sign and seal of worship of the One True God.

 

Exodus 20:8-10 "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates;  (RSV)

 

Isaiah 56:1-8 Thus says the LORD: "Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. 2 Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil." 3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely separate me from his people"; and let not the eunuch say, "Behold, I am a dry tree." 4 For thus says the LORD: "To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5 I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off. 6 "And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant-- 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8 Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered."  (RSV)

 

Rachel stole her father's household gods. Out of anger, she did not honour her earthly father in her attitude because he had sold her. Leah was in the same attitude and we might deduce that they were of the same mind but perhaps not in complicity. She had no respect for Laban’s property, although she and Leah saw it as their rightful due of which they had been deprived. Rachel also failed to honour her heavenly Father by breaking all of His commandments, as Leah had done before her.

 

Deuteronomy 5:16 "'Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you; that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the LORD your God gives you.  (RSV)

 

Rachel, as with Leah before her, also broke the sixth commandment by her sins and unrepentant attitude. She was committing spiritual suicide.

 

Deuteronomy 5:17 "'You shall not kill.  (RSV)

 

Rachel also broke the seventh commandment.  As with Leah, who committed fraud and slept with Jacob when he believed it was another woman and his rightful wife, so too Rachel broke this Law spiritually. Although there might have been no physical adultery, she did it spiritually by idolatry, having other gods.

 

Ezekiel 23:36-38  The LORD said to me: "Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominable deeds. 37 For they have committed adultery, and blood is upon their hands; with their idols they have committed adultery; and they have even offered up to them for food the sons whom they had borne to me. 38 Moreover this they have done to me: they have defiled my sanctuary on the same day and profaned my sabbaths.  (RSV)

 

Deuteronomy 5:18 "'Neither shall you commit adultery.  (RSV)

 

It is clear hat Rachel broke the eighth commandment by stealing the idols.

 

Deuteronomy 5:19 "'Neither shall you steal.  (RSV)

 

Rachel did not tell Jacob that she had done so, as we will read in Genesis 31:32. Leah had also stolen the rights of Jacob and her sister by deceit. As Rachel was either pregnant or barren, she was lying to her father about her condition at that moment in Genesis 31:35, and she also broke the ninth commandment:

 

Deuteronomy 5:20 "'Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.  (RSV)

 

So too had Leah committed false witness in these aspects above. Rachel was guilty of breaking the tenth commandment by covetousness, as had Leah before her in marriage. In fact, the breaking of this commandment leads to the breaking of all the others. It controls our whole mind and attitude and all our acts, good or bad.

 

Deuteronomy 5:21 "'Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's.'  (RSV)

 

We have seen that by the theft and fraud of Rachel and Leah they finally became guilty of breaking all the Ten Commandments. Jacob also was not free of theft.

 

Genesis 31:20 And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled.  (AV)

 

It is quite understandable, when Laban noticed that Jacob had stolen away with his wives, children and flock, that he either sought help with his teraphim through divination which he mentions, or simply checked his valuables, and to his outrage noticed that they also had been stolen. Filled with bitter anger he set out to satisfy his revenge. God, however, knowing the danger in this mindset, came to Laban in a dream and warned him not to do any harm.

 

Genesis 31:22-31  When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, 23 he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him for seven days and followed close after him into the hill country of Gilead. 24 But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night, and said to him, "Take heed that you say not a word to Jacob, either good or bad." 25 And Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen encamped in the hill country of Gilead. 26 And Laban said to Jacob, "What have you done, that you have cheated me, and carried away my daughters like captives of the sword? 27 Why did you flee secretly, and cheat me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre? 28 And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? Now you have done foolishly. 29 It is in my power to do you harm; but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, 'Take heed that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.'   30 And now you have gone away because you longed greatly for your father's house, but why did you steal my gods?"   31 Jacob answered Laban, "Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force.  (RSV)

 

Here we have the recognition of the God of Isaac by Laban, and he took heed of the words spoken to him. Despite this, he demanded the return of his idols. This was a remarkable situation. Jacob was convinced that nobody could have stolen the teraphim and he made a solemn vow to this effect, and one that would have far reaching implications.

 

Genesis 31:32  Any one with whom you find your gods shall not live. In the presence of our kinsmen point out what I have that is yours, and take it." Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.  (RSV)

 

Without knowing, Jacob condemned his most beloved wife Rachel to death.

 

Genesis 31:33-35 So Laban went into Jacob's tent, and into Leah's tent, and into the tent of the two maidservants, but he did not find them. And he went out of Leah's tent, and entered Rachel's.   34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in the camel's saddle, and sat upon them. Laban felt all about the tent, but did not find them. 35 And she said to her father, "Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the way of women is upon me." So he searched, but did not find the household gods.  (RSV)

 

When Laban did not find the teraphim, it was a big relief for Jacob, and he felt very much strengthened by this fact and spoke out high words to Laban.

 

Genesis 31:36-43 Then Jacob became angry, and upbraided Laban; Jacob said to Laban, "What is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me? 37 Although you have felt through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two. 38 These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your she-goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flocks. 39 That which was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself; of my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 Thus I was; by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. 41 These twenty years I have been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night." 43 Then Laban answered and said to Jacob, "The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters, or to their children whom they have borne?  (RSV)

 

Laban now realised that he had lost the cause and tried to save his face as best as he could with the proposal of a covenant and left the scene.

Genesis 31:43-55 Then Laban answered and said to Jacob, "The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters, or to their children whom they have borne? 44 Come now, let us make a covenant, you and I; and let it be a witness between you and me." 45 So Jacob took a stone, and set it up as a pillar. 46 And Jacob said to his kinsmen, "Gather stones," and they took stones, and made a heap; and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 Laban said, "This heap is a witness between you and me today." Therefore he named it Galeed, 49 and the pillar Mizpah, for he said, "The LORD watch between you and me, when we are absent one from the other. 50 If you ill-treat my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us, remember, God is witness between you and me." 51 Then Laban said to Jacob, "See this heap and the pillar, which I have set between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass over this heap to you, and you will not pass over this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. 53 The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us." So Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac, 54 and Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain and called his kinsmen to eat bread; and they ate bread and tarried all night on the mountain. 55 Early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them; then he departed and returned home.  (RSV)

 

We leave the episodes of Jacob and Esau, Peniel and Dinah, to be examined elsewhere and continue the history with Jacob at Bethel in which Jacob removed all idolatry from his household.

 

Genesis 35:1-3 God said to Jacob, "Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there; and make there an altar to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau." 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your garments; 3 then let us arise and go up to Bethel, that I may make there an altar to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone."  (RSV)

 

The following moment must have been a terrible shock for Jacob, as all the foreign gods were given to him. This included the teraphim, stolen by Rachel. He must have been thunderstruck and very scared when it turned out to be that Rachel had stolen these and he remembered the vow he had made that the person with whom the teraphim would be found should not live any more. At this very moment, Rachel was pregnant for the second time after all these years

 

Genesis 35:4  So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.  (RSV)

 

The real reason for the taking of the foreign gods may well have been also that the teraphim were not simply the common clay figurines, but in fact items of gold and silver (cf. Jdg. 18:14). We can deduce this aspect also from the arguments put forward by Leah and Rachel, the daughters of Laban, and the censure of Laban by Jacob we see above. There was a genuine deep and abiding resentment on the part of Laban’s daughters and his son-in-law over the treatment he had handed out to them, and they all felt cheated. By his conduct he had incited them all to break the commandments. Laban had commenced this deceit and theft with his eldest daughter, Leah, who commenced this injustice. She knowingly embarked on a breach of the commandments and the dishonouring of her husband and her sister, whom she was first to try and cheat of her husband and her children’s birthright. Ultimately, this was to include her father. This theft was not honoured by God, who in the end transferred the birthright to the sons of Rachel through Joseph. Reuben the first-born dishonoured his father, by lying with Bilhah his father’s concubine (Gen. 35:22), and assisted in effecting the transfer. This matter would have had far reaching effects in the inheritance and birthright of the tribes, and was punished accordingly.

 

This tragedy of breach of Law, also involves a breach of the responsibility under the Law that had to be dealt with in the NT, because of the misapplication of the OT. The injunction is that “you shall not provoke your children to wrath” (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21).

 

Through Michal, David also was to be involved with the use of teraphim in his house. Ultimately, it played a part in saving his life (1Sam. 19:13). For the meaning of the foreign gods and the earrings read the papers: The Origin of the Wearing of Earrings & Jewellery in Ancient Times (No. 197) and The Golden Calf (No. 222).

 

Genesis 35:5-15 And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were round about them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. 6 And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7 and there he built an altar, and called the place Elbethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. 8 And Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel; so the name of it was called Allonbacuth.   9 God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddanaram, and blessed him. 10 And God said to him, "Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name." So his name was called Israel. 11 And God said to him, "I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you.   12 The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you." 13 Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him.   14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured out a drink offering on it, and poured oil on it.  5 So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel.  (RSV)

 

We are now at the climax of the drama. Jacob had once spoken the death sentence over Rachel, without knowing, and it stayed covered for the period. However, by ordering his household to purify itself, it surfaced with the full impact. God had also promised Rachel a second son. She was now pregnant. So Jacob could not execute the death sentence, as the unborn life could not be violated. Nor did he seek to even implement such a penalty.

 

This had nothing to do with the silly type of vow unlawfully made by Jephthah (Jdg. 11:30-35). However, Rachel died in childbirth and the sentence was seemingly tragically fulfilled.

Genesis 35:16-20  Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel travailed, and she had hard labor. 17 And when she was in her hard labor, the midwife said to her, "Fear not; for now you will have another son." 18 And as her soul was departing (for she died), she called his name Benoni; but his father called his name Benjamin.   19 So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), 20 and Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel's tomb, which is there to this day.  (RSV)

 

How cruel it might seem that Rachel should die in childbirth. However, we can argue that it was caused by the serious circumstances of her life, as she was not fully committed to God.

 

The circumstances may have been brought to the surface by the unwitting vow made by Jacob, without any necessity. It might be construed as a tragic example, but there is a profound spiritual lesson to be drawn from this story that transcends all others.

 

It was this purification that Jacob had ordered that was the saving grace of his family and the major lesson we have to learn in this text. Only by purification and turning to God can we become part of the nation of Israel (cf. also Purification and Circumcision (No. 251)). After Jacob had cleansed his family, which was the nucleus of the nation of Israel, at Bethel, he was changed and his family was forgiven and they were taken into the responsibility of the El Bethel or the El of the House of El, the High Priest or El Shaddai (cf. Gen. 35:11).

 

He was renamed Israel or he shall rule as God and his family was blessed and strengthened.

 

Despite this blessing, on the way from Bethel and before they reached Ephrath, Rachel died after giving birth to her second son. She called the child Benoni (SHD 1126) which means son of my sorrow. In this last child of Jacob, now Israel was the travail complete. Israel changed the name of this his last child to Benjamin (SHD 1144), which means left-handed, or the south, or the right. Here we see the transition by gift of God from a state of sin and removal from God to a state of grace as sons of the living God.

 

It was from this last process of moving from Bethel, which means the House of God, that we see the purpose of the story. Israel and the entire household were purified by intervention of the High Priest or El Bethel. In the birth of the child and the death of the woman we get the concept of the birthright promise of the Church and the sons of the promise. Through travail are the sons of sorrow turned to the sons of the promise. On the way to Eprath she died and was buried near Bethlehem where she would point towards the marriage of the sons of the promise to the son of Judah who was Messiah. He would come out of Bethlehem Eprathah, smallest of the clans of Judah. The sons of Leah would be united with the sons of Rachel for the sceptre would come out of Judah and the birthright out of Joseph. The sons of the promise would be all the clans of Israel and all the nations of the world would be joined to them in the same purification of grace under the Messiah.

 

We can learn some valuable lessons from this history.

§  Be always careful and serious when making a vow or prayer request. Many times a vow will be fulfilled according to the vow and prayer, however, often under different circumstances than expected.

§  With the breaking of one commandment, the whole Law will be broken with serious consequences.

§  Keep the first commandment in the first place, as this will safeguard your commitment to the other commandments.

§  The seemingly simple history in the Bible has many parallels regarding the keeping or breaking of the Law.

§  Be always serious with the Law.

§  The paramount lesson is that we are not justified in our own eyes and we are judged by our own deeds.

§  We are disqualified by sin, but we are not justified by the Law.

§  We are saved by Grace.

§  God has made a promise to us through the Patriarchs that will not fail.

§  We keep the commandments of God out of love for Him and because He has revealed Himself to us as he did, through the El Bethel and the Messiah, to both the Patriarchs and to the Church.

 

Revelation 14:12  Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.  (RSV)

 

Take heed regarding what happened with the story of the founding family of the tribes of Israel and the circumstances that affected their establishment, even to the life of Rachel and the establishment of the sons of Israel in their birthright. Rachel was allowed to die that we might have an example of the faith and the promises to Israel of the Messiah and the Church of God.

 

Hebrews 11:6  And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  (RSV)

 

 

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