Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Genesis 35:16-20 Rachel's Death

Genesis 35:16-20 is a portion of Scripture that recounts the death of Jacob's wife Rachel.  After the family had moved on from Bethel, they headed toward Ephrath, which is another name for Bethlehem.  "...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." (Genesis 35:16-18 NIV)

(By the way, Ben-Oni means 'son of my trouble' and Benjamin means 'son of my right hand'.)

Jacob had recently declared the God of Abraham and Isaac to be his God as well.  However, that did not mean that he would not experience the normal troubles and losses that are common to mankind.  Sometimes as believers we may assume that we should escape such things, but that is not what God has promised.  God is with us, though, as we go through these hard times.

"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 35:19-20 NIV)

The travelers were too far from the family burial site at the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron to bring Rachel's body there.  I suppose that Rachel's body could have been embalmed, but perhaps the circumstances did not allow for the time it would have taken to do so, while still caring for flocks and people.  Perhaps the grazing in the area would not support the great number of flocks for that length of time.  So Rachel is buried along the way.  However, Jacob sets up a pillar to mark the spot.  I am sure that Jacob grieved greatly for his beloved Rachel.  However, we see a glimmer of faith and trust in Jacob's naming his son Benjamin rather than the name Ben-Oni, which would have focused upon the death which had occurred.
I also find it interesting that it is Leah, Jacob's 'unloved' wife, who ends up being buried with Jacob in the Cave of Machpelah eventually.  Although we normally associate Rachel with Jacob, and although Laban had deceived Jacob into marrying Leah instead of Rachel originally, Leah was, at least technically, Jacob's first wife.

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