Rachel. The chosen one. Jacob’s beloved.
So beloved that Genesis 29:20 tells us, “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” (My husband and I also dated seven years. It did not seem like only a few days.)
Genesis 29:30 says, of Jacob, “his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah.” However, the next verse says, “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.”
Though Rachel had Jacob’s love, it left her empty. She became desperate for a child and took out her frustration on Jacob (Genesis 30:1), “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’”
Infertility in biblical times carried a stigma. Many viewed it as God’s disfavor. God’s timing? Yes. God’s training? Possibly. His disfavor? Probably not. In light of cultural pressure to bear children, Rachel’s despair made sense. Would she, like Hannah, another biblical barren woman, take her despair to God?
A common cultural way to deal with infertility was for a wife to give a servant to the husband to bear children in her place. We saw this with Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar with disastrous results. Yet Rachel began the battle of the maidservants. Note the names of the children that Rachel’s servant bore:
“So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son. Then Rachel said, ‘God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.’ Because of this she named him Dan. Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, ‘I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.’ So she named him Naphtali.” Genesis 30:4-8
Dan meant vindication and Naphtali meant my struggle. Just who was Rachel fighting? Leah? The unloved one? Seriously?
Later, Rachel had a child of her own (Genesis 30:22-24), “Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, ‘God has taken away my disgrace.’ She named him Joseph, and said, ‘May the Lord add to me another son.’”
Joseph meant may He add.
Rachel offered God no “Thank You,” just “I want more.”
As she birthed her last child, she named him Ben-Oni, the son of my trouble. Thankfully Jacob intervened and named him Benjamin, son of my right hand. In Rachel we see a life filled with tension, conflict, negativity, and comparison. Though she was loved and favored by Jacob, she missed the greater love of God. Genesis 31:19 and Genesis 35:2 point to the presence of idols in the home. Because the God-shaped hole in her heart remained empty, love from Jacob, and likely anyone else who tried to get close, never satisfied.
Rachel, the girl who had it all, lived empty-handed and empty-hearted.
Workout for the Week: Part 2 Rachel
Memory Verse: “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’” Genesis 30:1
Meditation Passage: Genesis 29-30
Do It: You must fully embrace God’s love to receive the love of others.
The spiritual discipline for June is Simplicity. Jen Hatmaker’s humorous book, The 7 Experiment, walks through Jen’s challenge to eliminate excess in her life.