Through the Word: Love, Rivalry and Mandrakes

Genesis 30:1-24

The race between Leah and Rachel for children has intensified. Envying her sister, Rachel said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!” If Rachel sounds dramatic she must have been at her wits end, as Jacob already has four sons by Leah – Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.

Finally deciding to use her maid as a surrogate, Rachel said, “Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, and she will bear a child on my knees, that I also may have children by her.”

Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son who Rachel named Dan.

Dan means “judge” as Rachel said, “God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son.

Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son who Rachel named Naphtali.

Naphtali means “my wrestling” as Rachel said, “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.”

Not to be outdone, when Leah saw that she’d stopped bearing, she took Zilpah her maid and gave her to Jacob as wife.  And Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son Leah named Gad.

Gad means “troop” as Leah said, “A troop comes!”

And Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son who Leah named Asher.

Asher means “happy” as Leah said, “I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed.”

Rachel hired Jacob to Leah for mandrakes, and there’s more about that later. After that Leah conceived and had a fifth son who she named Issachar.

Isaachar means “wages” as Leah said “God has given me my wages, because I have given my maid to my husband.”

Then Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son who she named Zebulun.

Zebulun means “dwelling” as Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.”  

Afterward Leah bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah meaning judgement.

Rachel

“Then God remembered Rachel.” I don’t think he ever forgot her. There’s a proverb that says,

There are three things that are never satisfied, Four never say, “Enough!”:
Sheol,
The barren womb,
The earth that is not satisfied with water—
And the fire never says, “Enough!”

Proverbs 30:15-16

Finally conceiving, Rachel bore a son who she named Joseph.
Joseph means “He will add” as Rachel said, “God has taken away my reproach. The Lord shall add to me another son.”

I wonder if the mandrakes Rachel wanted so badly worked? Lets see.

Mandrakes

In the days of the wheat harvest, Reuben found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Genesis 30:14-16

Reuben may have given the mandrakes to his mother for their scent, as the scent of their flowers is mentioned in the Song of Songs, 7:13.

This is a strange plant, it has no stem and the roots can resemble human figures.

Perhaps the mandrake roots were used in their culture and belief system for fertility.

Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”

But Leah said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?”

It was Rachel’s turn to have Jacob so she hired him out to Leah for the mandrakes.

When Jacob came out of the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” And he lay with her that night. Genesis 30:16

This was before Leah birthed Isaachar, her fifth son. Leah had two more children, Zebulun and Dinah before Rachel finally conceived Joseph.

“The Lord will add to me another son,” Rachel declared prophetically after Joseph was born. her faith now in the Lord rather than the mandrakes.

What’s in a name?

The names of the sons spell out a message, one that is not assembled yet. The message is explained in my book “The End, the Wayfarer’s Guide to the Apocalypse” and it’s a gold nugget.

Meanwhile, not mentioned in the book are the names of the four mothers of Israel;

The name Leah means to be weary or grieved.

The name Rachel means Ewe, but not any old sheep.

Still, it must be noted that sheep and such are mentioned very often in the Bible — Israel was an agricultural society, after all — yet our word occurs only four times. This suggests that it doesn’t simply refer to any old ewe but rather a special kind or one in a rare fix. What fix that might be is unknown, but it this rare word that is so famously used in Isaiah 53:7: “Like a sheep — רחל (rahel) — that is silent before its shearers, so did he not open his mouth”.

Abarim Publications

The name Bilhah means trouble, calamity. Her name turned out to be true after Reuben slept with her, we’ll get to that in Genesis 35:22 and 49:4.

The name Zilpah means a drop.

Leah and Dinah

In the naming of her last child Dinah, meaning “judgement,” we can see the hope Leah had die. I think Leah represents all the unloved who have lost hope.

God and Jezreel

But after judgement comes a new day; a day where the earth is no longer cursed and people who have not been loved will be firmly planted in a place where they belong.

“In that day I will respond,” declares the Lord—
“I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth;
 and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and the olive oil,
    and they will respond to *Jezreel.
I will plant her for myself in the land;
    I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.”

Hosea 2:21-23

*Jezreel means “God plants.”

LOVE

It brings to mind the song “What the world needs now” by Dionne Warwick.

What the world needs now is love sweet love,
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of,
What the world needs now is love sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.

One thought on “Through the Word: Love, Rivalry and Mandrakes

  1. Pingback: Through the Word: Joseph and his Dreams | The Kingdom

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