Hi Girls. I’m back after a busy day at the university. This is Easter week, so I’m tossing aside our “regular schedule” for now and we’ll probably only do two women this week. Rachel’s story has brought up so much that I want to linger here just a little longer.
Why does “popular opinion” focus on Rachel when Leah birthed the tribe of Judah? Well, to the Jewish people that is not a noteworthy distinction. And beautiful Rachel is their beloved. Lots of Jewish commentary and myth surrounds Rachel as a character of near mythic proportions. I read some in the book “Water from the Well” by Anne Roiphe – interesting, but its important to keep returning to the text to compare.
Reading an “aerial view” of Rachel’s story can raise more questions than it answers. So I wanted to go “down on the ground” and attempt to see things through Rachel’s eyes.
I am the “baby” of my family. That means I was never the first to do anything … everyone was always ahead of me in life. Likewise, Rachel had an older sister who was always the first. I can image Rachel in Leah’s hand-me-down clothes with the olive oil stain that won’t come out, roaming the fields, herding the sheep, and dreaming of a handsome man that would one day notice her - first. Enter Jacob at the well … finally, she would have her first. What’s more, even after he comes to her house and meets her older sister, Jacob still wants her – and her Daddy agrees. Life was looking very promising to Rachel. She would get married, get out from Leah’s shadow, and have her very own family – she wanted nothing more!
Only things didn’t go that way at all. Leah was the first to marry Jacob, the first to sleep with Jacob, and by a long shot the first to start a family with Jacob. That was her plan. He was supposed to be her husband, not Leah’s. And though Rachel was highly favored by Jacob, Rachel still felt she couldn’t get out from Leah’s shadow. It troubled her heart.
Her father was no source of comfort; he’s the one that had gotten her into this mess. Her husband was caught in the middle – he never intended to take Leah as a wife but was tricked. According to the text, Jacob demands of Laban the next morning: “What kind of trick is this?” “I worked seven years for Rachel. What do you mean by this trickery?” (Gen 29:25). Still, Jacob can’t cast Leah out if he and Rachel want any hope of being able to officially marry another seven years from now. Laban has the upper hand here.
While the world says, how fortunate Rachel to have a man that would work another seven years to get her, Rachel probably just felt disgraced. Her sister had her husband. And a week later, her father allowed Jacob to begin sleeping with Rachel, meaning she was now no longer a virgin but still not officially a wife either. To make matter worse, soon Leah was having Jacob’s baby. They were all trapped in this triangle.
So Rachel determined Jacob would make his home in her bed, not Leah’s. You need to sleep with me each night, not her because you’ve already given her children and you haven’t given me any yet, Rachel insisted. That seemed logical and was fine by Jacob as Rachel was his love and much prettier. Yet there had to be times each day that Jacob would interact with Leah and their sons. And surely, he felt something for Leah through all this. It burdened Rachel’s heart.
Rachel remained barren while growing more jealous of her sister, and more possessive of her husband. Rachel blamed Leah for not telling Jacob who she was before he slept with her that first time. Leah could have prevented this. She could’ve told Jacob, or dropped him a hint so he would find out the truth before anything was consummated. Rachel felt she couldn’t fully trust her sister. She refused to forgive her sister and her father for the wedding night trickery that had ruined her life plan.
Rachel couldn’t escape them, all living here at this ranch together. The whole situation drove her mad. She had so much frustration and resentment. The only time she could shake those feelings was when she was daydreaming. She’d think, If only I could have a baby … surely then I will feel better. I will raise my children differently … I would never do this to my child. Rachel - forced to share her husband with her sister - desperately wanted someone that was all hers.
Do you see the desperation that drove Rachel in her quest for a child? Do you see what drove her icy treatment of her sister? Do you see what drove her to take the idols from her father when she left? Can you find it in your heart to sympathize just a moment with Rachel?
I knew you could.
So why didn’t Rachel just trust God with her dream for children instead of giving Jacob her maid, trying to control things, and bartering her husband for mandrake roots? I wonder if she thought maybe God didn’t see her – maybe He didn’t notice her there in Leah’s shadow.
After all, God had let her husband marry Leah. God had given children to her husband and Leah. God has made a promise to Jacob to bring many blessed descendants through him, and Rachel didn’t appear to be any part of that. And she certainly didn’t feel blessed. She felt tricked. Tricked by her family. And she felt infertile, with no help from God. She believed in Jacob’s God and would pray to Him, but she wasn’t entirely sure that He saw her, or heard her, or remembered her, or cared.
“Then God remembered Rachel’s plight, and answered her prayers by giving her a child.” Rachel birthed Joseph and said, “God has removed my shame. May the LORD give me yet another son” (Gen. 30:22-24). Which He did.
One last thing … about those idols Rachel gets flack for taking. Remember this was BEFORE Moses and the ten commandments explained that God does not want us to have idols. The idols were small figurines passed down from family head to family head. Like rabbits' feet or four leaf clovers, they were meant as good luck - meaning wealth and children. Its entirely possible Rachel took them believing that they would help her have children. But notice that Joseph was already born at this point, so she already knew she was able to have children, even though she wasn’t doing much of it at the time.
Also, notice the conversation between Jacob, Rachel, and Leah in Genesis 31 right before she swipes those idols and they leave. Jacob is explaining to his wives how their father has swindled him many times. So Rachel may have taken the idols to punish her father and reward her husband. Possession of those idols could someday allow her, Jacob, and Leah to lay claim to her father’s estate, which she probably felt they deserved. Did she come clean about stealing them when challenged? No. Would you if your husband had just declared death for whoever took them?
What fascinates me is that a peace treaty was created when Laban did not find any stolen idols - what would’ve happened had he found them under Rachel’s skirt? And finally, as we’re all discovering, we sometimes sit on idols too!
I hope this helps shed some more light on "Rachel’s plight" that God remembered. Tomorrow, if time allows, I’ll post some about Leah before assigning our final woman of the week.