Rachel envied Leah’s ability to bear children and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”
3a) The rivalry between Leah and Rachel
It is likely that Rachel was vain and conceited. She knew that Jacob worked 14 years with no pay out of love for her, and also knew Jacob would not have worked one day for Leah.1
In the very next verse, Rachel tells Jacob to go into her servant, Bilhah so she could be the surrogate mother of a child on her behalf, just as Sarah did with Hagar. We don’t see Rachel asking the Lord for a baby.
When Bilhah gave birth to a son, Rachel named him Dan which sounds like Hebrew for judged. She said, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.”
Bilhah conceived again and gave birth to another son. Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings [with God]3 I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.” “Because of her own envy, she viewed this child born of the flesh as a victory and a vindication for her.”1
Rachel named this son, Naphtali which means wrestle. With this name she openly acknowledged the baby competition.
“Can a woman get so low that she will hit her sister over the head with a baby? Rachel did.” (Barnhouse)1
Leah took notice and had Jacob sleep with her servant, Zilpah who bore Jacob a son. She named him Gad, which means a troop comes or good fortune! She didn’t praise the Lord, this time. Guzik says she lost the peace she had at Judah’s birth.
Her servant gave birth to another son Leah named Asher which means happy. She was happy because of the status the son brought to her, more than about the child himself.
b) I relate more with Leah than Rachel.
I didn’t have a sister, but our dad favored my younger brother above me. We didn’t develop a rivalry per se, but I did try harder to please my dad hoping he would notice and appreciate me.
Thankfully, our parents were godly people who loved the Lord.
My heart goes out to Leah and Rachel. To Jacob, too.
4a) Jacob’s response
Jacob responded to Rachel in anger saying, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Although harsh, it was the word of the Lord.
b) Jacob didn’t remember that Isaac prayed when his mother Rebekah was barren.
God first made a promise to Abraham about a homeland for his offspring. When Sarai suggested they try the surrogate mother plan, a rivalry erupted between Sarai and Hagar. Abram turned the situation over to Sarai and Hagar left. (Genesis 16:1-6) God rejected Ishmael.
Even though it took 25 years, Abraham never doubted that God would fulfill His promise. They received a literal, miraculous fulfillment.
Abraham even prayed for Abimelech and his household and they were able to bear children again. (Genesis 20:17)
“And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.” (Genesis 25:21)
Prayed in this verse means—To burn incense in worship, intercede (Strongs Concordance)
5a) Family and others may fail me, but the Lord is faithful.
Thankfully, I had a heart for the Lord and read my Bible from an early age. That pattern has sustained me and brought me back to Him through difficult times in my life. He never forsakes me.
b) God is faithful and hears our prayers.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
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1 EnduringWord.com used by written permission.
2 AWM Living Commentary used by written permission.
3 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations from *The ESV Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
4 Strong’s Concordance, public domain.
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