The rivalry between Rachel and Leah continued, and Rachel eventually gave birth to Joseph.
The mandrakes give forth fragrance,
and beside our doors are all choice fruits,
new as well as old,
which I have laid up for you, O my beloved. (Song of Solomon 7:13)
The mandrake is a root, called the love apple in Hebrew. They were thought to increase fertility in women (and still are among some peoples). Because Leah had the mandrakes, she knew Jacob would have relations with her, believing there was a greater likelihood she would become pregnant.
We don’t know if the effect of the mandrakes was something biological or if it worked more as a placebo. Under the guiding hand of God, the mandrakes seemed to work in the case of Leah and Jacob. Whatever strange agencies God may allow to be used (such as mandrakes), the real factor was His sovereign will (God listened to Leah).1
From the above photo and others I found, the roots can resemble the human body and perhaps a pagan idol. “Used in small quantities like opium, it excites the nerves and is a stimulant. The Arabs call it “devil’s apple,” from its power to excite voluptuousness.” “It grows in Palestine and Mesopotamia, the fragrant fruit ripens in early May, and is about the size of a small apple.” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)
6) Hostility between the sisters affects Jacob and their sons.
Is it any wonder that this family had a history of strife and bloodshed? Children reflect the atmosphere of the home. (Barnhouse)1
When I think of how the rivalry between the sisters affects their sons, the incident where Joseph is sold as a slave comes to mind.
I always thought Reuben just came across the flowers by accident. ESV translation says “Reuben went and found mandrakes” and the Voice translation says “Reuben went out and found some mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Rachel heard about this and approached her sister.”
It seems his search was intentional. Rachel heard about it and bartered with Leah for some of the mandrakes. She granted Leah a night with Jacob as payment. What a painful predicament this family found themselves in!
This confirms the wisdom of God’s original plan, as expressed in Genesis 2:24: one man to be joined to one woman in a one-flesh relationship. Later, Leviticus 18:18 forbade the marrying of sisters, and this shows why.1
Leah conceived because God listened to her. She thought it was because “God has given me my wages because I gave my servant to my husband.” She gave birth to Jacob’s fifth son, Issachar, which sounds like the Hebrew for wages or hire.
She conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son, saying “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will honor me.” She named him Zebulun which sounds like the Hebrew for honor.
And again she conceived and gave birth to a daughter she named Dinah. One source says Dinah is the feminine form of Dan, meaning to judge or plead.
7a) Then God remembered Rachel.
God listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and gave birth to a son she named Joseph.
Joseph means may he add, and sounds like the Hebrew for taken away. (ESV3 footnote)
b) God is merciful
God is merciful and gracious. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Psalm 103:8)
Remembers our sins no more. “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”(Isaiah 43:25)
Remembers that we are dust. “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14)
Promise keeper. “Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” (Joshua 21:45 WEB)
In hope [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body. . .or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. . .he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promise. (Romans 4:18-21)
8) God wants us to learn to trust and obey Him.
Someone posted a meme that says “God loves to be almost too late.” Can anyone else relate to that?
We humans are so impatient. I can see many reasons why a delayed answer to prayer is going to do more damage than good, but God’s perspective is different.
Jacob had lessons to learn. The sisters’ story gives a good example of why God’s original plan in Genesis 2:24 is one man joined to one woman in a one flesh relationship. Later, Leviticus 18:18 forbids a man to marry sisters.
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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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