Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Genesis 30:1-8 Battle of the Babies

"Give me children or I'll die," declares Jacob's wife Rachel, as she observes Leah with her four sons,while she herself remains barren. (v.1)  Jacob naturally becomes angry about this behavior, and basically tells Rachel that he is not God and has no control over the situation.  He recognizes that it is the Lord who has kept Rachel from having children. (v.2)

Rachel is obviously not satisfied with this answer.  Instead, she presents her maidservant Bilhah to Jacob, and tells Jacob to sleep with the woman "...so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family." (Genesis 30:3 NIV)  In spite of the trouble that this type of arrangement caused for his grandparents Abraham and Sarah, Jacob complies with her request.  Jacob sleeps with Bilhah and soon she becomes pregnant:

  • Bilhah's first son was named Dan (He has vindicated) by Rachel, because she said, "...God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son." (Genesis 30:6 NIV)
  • Next, Bilhah conceives again and bears Jacob another son, whom Rachel named Naphtali (my struggle).  "Then Rachel said, 'I have had a great struggle with my sister and I have won.' (Genesis 30:8 NIV)
I can't help but wonder what Bilhah thought of this whole situation, and how she felt about her sons being named in reaction to Rachel's sibling rivalry with Leah.  I do not think that she had much say in the matter because of her status as Jacob's concubine.  Her children, I believe, would be considered as belonging to Rachel.

Not to be outdone, Leah takes her maidservant Zilpah and gives her to Jacob as a concubine, too.  "Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son.  Then Leah said, 'What good fortune!'  So she named him Gad." (Genesis 30:10-11 NIV) Gad can mean 'good fortune' or 'a troop'.  It sounds like Leah was prepared to settle in for a lengthy battle with her sister!

"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." (Genesis 30:12-13 NIV)  Asher, of course, means 'happy'.  It is somewhat strange that neither Leah nor Rachel seems to feel threatened by their servants having children with their husband.  This is probably because these children increased Rachel and Leah's standing in the family and community, and because a concubine's status was clearly understood as less when compared to a wife.

What a mess!  Four women, eight children (so far!)  -- yet, 'the battle of the babies' seems from being over.

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