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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Rachel - A Woman Scorned

The story of Rachel reads like the script of a modern-day soap opera, one in which the authors decided to give free rein to their over- active imaginations. But Rachel was a real woman who became the wife of Jacob, grandson of Abraham, Sarah's husband, whom I wrote about in my last post. Rachel was also Jacob's cousin, daughter of his uncle, Laban. The Bible tells us she was very beautiful, and from the minute Jacob laid eyes on her, he was smitten. And Rachel shared the same feeling. So everything should go well, but it didn't.

Enter Leah, Rachel's older sister. Not pretty, but older, and therefore according to tradition, she should be the first to marry. And here's where things get interesting. Laban initially agreed to give Rachel to Jacob in exchange for seven years of labor, but at the end of the seven years, Laban gives him Leah instead. When Jacob wakes the next morning, there is Leah in his bed.

I have heard many explanations for this mix-up, if you want to call it that, some very comical, but for Jacob this was no comedy.  

So Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?" Genesis 29: 25.

 Laban tells Jacob to stay with Leah for the week and he will then give him Rachel, but he must work for him another seven years. Jacob agrees and at the end of the week he gets his beloved.

 Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years (v 30).

Will they live happily ever after? As in true soap-opera style, things become more complicated. It's bad enough to have to share your man with another woman, even worse when that other woman is your sister. But Rachel's woes don't end there.

  When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, "It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now." (v 31- 32).

Leah gives birth to three more sons, Simeon, Levi and Judah. By this time, Rachel can no longer contain her jealousy. She cries out to Jacob, "Give me children, or I'll die!" (30: 1).

But Jacob lashes back at her, "Am I in the place of God? Did I shut up your womb?" (v 2)

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The mandrake plant
Desperate, she does like Sarah (Genesis 16: 3) and gives her maid Bilhah to Jacob so she can have children through her. Bilhah bears Jacob two sons, Dan and Naphtali. This is some consolation to Rachel, but she still wishes she could bear her husband a son. One day, she spots Reuben coming in from the field with some mandrakes, a plant to which was attached some superstition. Among other things, it was believed to help with fertility. Rachel makes a deal with Leah - give her some of the mandrakes and Leah can spend the night with Jacob. Leah agrees, but the deal backfires. Leah gets pregnant and gives birth to Issachar, then Zebulun and finally a daughter, Dinah. 

 After all this, Rachel finally gives birth to Joseph (22 - 25).  She conceives again, but dies giving birth to Benjamin. Poor Rachel. Despite her beauty and the love of her husband, she was a woman scorned. She resorted to stealing and lying when she took her father's idols and sat on them. When her father came to search for them Rachel said to her father, "Don't be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I'm having my period." (31: 35).

Laban was a trickster, and so was she. Laban obviously believed in those idols, and so did Rachel otherwise she would not have stolen them. She went to great lengths to allow Leah to sleep with Jacob in exchange for the mandrakes. But God showed her that no charm or sorcery was match for His will.

"It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy," (Romans 9: 16). 

Many of us are like Rachel, doing everything necessary to get what we want instead of leaving it up to God. If you have been striving and longing for some things to happen in your life, ask God to help you to wait on Him and accept His will. God bless.
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