This is our weekly guest devotion written by my mother Estelene. Each week she shares with us scripture and a short devotion to encourage us.
Sibling rivalry leads people down a road that should not be traveled. What is waiting for them: resentment, anger, discontentment, bitterness, and much more that is displeasing to the Lord. In a previous lesson we learned that Jacob married two sisters through deceit. Even though he had asked their father’s permission to marry the younger daughter, he was tricked into marrying the older one first because of a custom practiced in their country. Jacob loved the younger daughter, but he did not love the older one.
This week we watch and listen as these two sisters do whatever it takes to win their husband’s affection. I tend to believe that God did not condone their actions, but he used it to populate the nation of Israel.
Let’s read the Word of the Lord:
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.”
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.
Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.
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!” Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”
Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my maidservant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family.”
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.
When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her maidservant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad. Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.
During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”
“Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”
So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.
God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.
Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.
Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.
Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. 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.” Genesis 29:31-30:24
We are going to skip a few chapters, but we will go back and discuss them at a later time.
Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t be afraid, for you have another son.” As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.
So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb. Genesis 35:16-20
At that time barrenness was considered a disgrace. My heart goes out to the women who desperately want children but are not able to conceive, but I definitely do not think less of them. Motherhood is one of the most precious gifts God has given women. But for those who cannot have children, he can use them to bring happiness and love to children who do not have a mother. You don’t have to be a child’s biological mother to be the mother figure in that child’s life. Many couples adopt children, raise them, and love them as their own.
Some women even go as far as to bear children in hopes that their husbands will love them more or in hopes that they can glue the pieces of their broken marriages back together again. The birth of a child will not accomplish either attempt.
This is what Leah set out to accomplish. She knew that Jacob’s heart belonged to her sister Rachel, yet she desperately wanted to gain his love. But I fear that her dreams were shattered.
Rachel was jealous of her sister because she was able to give Jacob children and Rachel couldn’t. Fear crept in leaving Rachel wondering if Jacob’s love for her would wither away. Jacob even scolded her for somewhat blaming him for her not having children. That is when she decided to take matters into her own hands.
Let the contest begin. Each woman decided to see who could have the most children. Leah had no problem conceiving at first, but then her good fortune stopped. Since Rachel was barren, she gave her maidservant to Jacob so she could bear children for her. This was a very common custom at that time. Once Leah stopped conceiving, she gave her maidservant to Jacob. In the end, all four women had given Jacob a total of twelve sons and one daughter that were recorded.
Jacob obviously did not follow in his father Isaac’s footsteps. If you remember Isaac prayed that God would open Rebekah’s womb and allow her to conceive. His prayers were answered, and twenty years later, Rebekah gave birth to twin sons. Maybe Jacob should have prayed and asked God for guidance instead of getting caught up in the middle of his wives’ battle.
It is heartbreaking to read that Rachel, the woman Jacob loved, died giving birth to her second son who was the youngest. Rachel had two sons: Joseph and Benjamin. Jacob favored those two sons over the other ten.
What will happen next in the lives of Jacob and Esau? Join me next week.