Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Genesis 30:14-16 Mandrakes and Maneuvers

Leah's son Reuben finds some mandrake plants out in the fields and brings them to his mother.  Rachel is very interested.  "...Rachel said to Leah, 'Please give me some of your son's mandrakes.'  (Genesis 30:14 NIV)

Mandrakes had a taproot which resembled parts of a man's anatomy and thus were considered to have the power to increase fertility.  All parts of the plant were poisonous, however, and therefore it was not that Rachel wanted to concoct some type of medicinal substance from the plant.  Rather, people would keep it nearby, or sleep with it near the bed.  To me, this seems to be more of a magical use of the plant.

Leah, however, is not inclined to cooperate with Rachel's scheme.  "But she said to her, 'Wasn't it enough that you took away my husband?  Will you take my son's mandrakes too?'..." (Genesis 30:15a NIV)  I find it very interesting that Leah believes that Rachel  has taken Jacob from her, when Leah herself was the one who had been rather deviously given to Jacob in the first place.  To be fair, that had been her father Laban's doing, but regardless, Rachel, not Leah, has always been the one Jacob loved.  However, I suppose that Leah considers herself the first, and therefore the most legitimate, wife.

Rachel offers Leah something which even she can not resist:  time with Jacob.  Judging from the children born to the family, Jacob has been dividing his time fairly between the wives and concubines he has taken, but no doubt everyone knows that he would much rather be with Rachel.  "Very well," Rachel said, "he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes." (Genesis 30:15b NIV)  "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." (Genesis 30:16 NIV)  Isn't there something sad about those verses?  Intimate times have to be scheduled, Jacob has become a commodity to be bargained for, and the futility of ever being a true husband to either of the women is evident.  It is plain to see that God's original intent for marriage -- one man, with one woman -- is truly the best course.


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