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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Genesis

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FRAMEWORKS: Genesis 30: A Race for Children & Cheats at war


v.1-3 Rachel becomes Jealous

v.4-8 Rachel's servant, Bilhah, bears two sons

v.9-13 Leah's servant, Zilpah, bears two sons

v.14,15 Rachel & Leah negotiate

v.16-21 Leah has two more sons and a daughter

v.22-24 Rachel eventually has a son

v.25-26 Jacob asks to leave and go home

v.27-34 Laban & Jacob negotiate over flocks

v.35,36 Laban cheats Jacob

v.37-43 Jacob counter-attacks and becomes rich



v.1-3 Rachel becomes Jealous


v.1 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I'll die!”

v.2 Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”

v.3 Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.”


[Notes: Rachel becomes very upset with this situation and blames Jacob who, of course can't do anything about their child-bearing capabilities. So Rachel gives him her servant girl, Bilhah, to have a son by proxy.]



v.4-8 Rachel's servant, Bilhah, bears two sons


v.4,5 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son.

v.6 Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan. [5th Son: Dan here means he has vindicated]

v.7 Rachel's servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son.

v.8 Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali. [6th Son: Naphtali means my struggle]


[Notes: Bilhah promptly has two sons.]


v.9-13 Leah's servant, Zilpah, bears two sons


v.9 When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife.

v.10 Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son.

v.11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad. [7th Son: Gad can mean good fortune. ]

v.12 Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son.

v.13 Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher. [ 8th Son: Asher means happy.]


[Notes: Leah feels she has stopped being able to have children and so copies her sister and hands over her servant to have children for her, again by proxy. She too has two sons.]



v.14,15 Rachel & Leah negotiate


v.14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son's mandrakes.” [mandrakes were plants thought to increase fertility]

v.15 But she said to her, “Wasn't it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son's mandrakes too?” “Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes.”


[Notes: A somewhat strange interlude. Mandrakes were strange plants that apparently increased fertility and so, after Reuben having collected some, Rachel barters with Leah to have them [presumably to help her conceive]. The price was allowing Leah back into bed with Jacob.]


v.16-21 Leah has two more sons and a daughter


v.16 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.

v.17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son.

v.18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar. [9th Son: Issachar sounds like the Hebrew for reward.]

v.19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son.

v.20 Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honour, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun. [10th Son: Zebulun probably means honour]

v.21 Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.


[Notes: Leah now has two more sons and a daughter. Meanwhile the mandrakes don't seem to be doing much for Rachel.]



v.22-24 Rachel eventually has a son


v.22 Then God remembered Rachel ; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive.

v.23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.”

v.24   She named him Joseph, [11th Son: Joseph means may he add.] and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.”


[Notes: After Leah has finished having children, Rachel does eventually conceive and Joseph is born.]



v.25-26 Jacob asks to leave and go home


v.25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland.

v.26 Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I've done for you.”


[Notes: By now Jacob has had enough of working for Laban and yearns to go home.]



v.27-34 Laban & Jacob negotiate over flocks


v.27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favour in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.”

v.28 He added, “Name your wages, and I will pay them.”

v.29 Jacob said to him, “You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care.

v.30 The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?”

v.31 “What shall I give you?” he asked. “Don't give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them:

v.32 Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-coloured lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages.

v.33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-coloured, will be considered stolen.”

v.34 “Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.”


[Notes: Laban knows when he is a good thing and barters with Jacob to carry on working. Jacob suggests they divide the flocks so he will take the ones looking or considered less perfect and they agree to this.]



v.35,36 Laban cheats Jacob


v.35 That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-coloured lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons.

v.36 Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban's flocks.


[Notes: Laban being the deceiver that he is, sneaks out all of those good ones and takes them away while Jacob has to continue caring for the remaining flocks, having to wait for more of that description to be born.]



v.37-43 Jacob counter-attacks and becomes rich


v.37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.

v.38,39 Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted.

v.40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-coloured animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban's animals.

v.41,42 Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob.

v.43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

[Notes: However Jacob is also a schemer, remember, and so he devises a strategy whereby he dyes or marks the strongest sheep so that when they reproduce they appear to be the defective ones. Whether this works or whether he marks them the moment they are born, is uncertain. Nevertheless, the outcome is that he gets the best and the most and becomes richer.]



Lessons or Challenges to Ponder from Genesis Chapter 30


1. A chapter of more competition and cunning – which God simply allows. The Lord, having given us free will, allows us to use it, even if badly, and He will work good through it for His greater purposes (Rom 8:28). Be positive in the midst of negatives and, as Jesus taught, love and pray for those who are against you. This opens the door for his kingdom to be revealed.

2. The cunning of Jacob to increase his flocks in competition with his uncle, is slightly mysterious but seems to achieve his goals. The truth is that God has given minds and intellect to good and bad alike, but how much better to use it with God's guidance. (see Jas 1:5).



Continue to Chapter 31