Thursday, December 30, 2010

Genesis 30:17-21 Three Gifts for Leah and One for Rachel

Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a fifth son.  She named him Issachar (which sounds like the Hebrew for 'reward') saying, "...'God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband.'..." (Genesis 30:18 NIV)  I don't believe that God was rewarding her for that, but the text does imply that she had been praying to God for more sons (v.17), which was at least better than relying on mandrakes.

Then Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son.  Leah recognizes this son as being a gift from God:  "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." (Genesis 30:20 NIV)  Zebulun's name is usually said to mean 'honor'.  I have also read that it could mean 'dwelling', as in 'surely my husband will dwell with me, now that I have given him so many sons'.  Leah still doesn't seem to be resigned to the fact that if Jacob didn't love her from the beginning, even 100 sons were not going to change that fact.

"Some time later, she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah." (Genesis 30:21 NIV)  No special mention is made of her name's meaning, but Cruden's Unabridged Concordance (Revell, 1977, pg. 579) says that it means 'judgement' or 'who judges'.

"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 ('may he add') and said, 'May the Lord add to me another son.' " (Genesis 30:22-24 NIV)

  1. First of all, let me say that when the text says "God remembered...", this does not mean that He forgot someone previously!  This is just a way of saying that God acted on the person's behalf, whether in response to his/her prayers or just because of His sovereign ways.  Here are some other places where "God remembered" is used:  Genesis 8:1 (Noah), Genesis 19:29 (Abraham).  Cruden's (pg. 392, see above) has a great way of explaining this concept as well:  " 'Remember' when referred to God, signifies, To care for one, to pity, succour, and save him; or, when, after some delays and suspensions of his favour, he returns and shews kindness to him."  The language used in that definition may be archaic, but the words give a great sense of the depth of meaning behind these words.
  2. We may scoff at all of the maneuvering that these women went through to win Jacob's favor.  However, keep in mind that having children was one of the few ways that women of that day had of acquiring significance in their community, and of the great disgrace that it was considered to remain childless, as though one's inability to have children meant that one was unworthy of this blessing.  Then, even though it is wrong to use children as bargaining chips or to compete with a sister over someone's affection, perhaps we can look upon the desperate squabbling between the sisters with a bit more compassion. 

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