Today we begin Genesis Chapter 30
For the Complete Jewish Bible, click here.
For the King James Version, click here.
From the perspective of our modern sensibilities, I imagine this chapter is just chock filled with cultural oddities and strange behavior.
This section opens with Rachel strongly voicing her woes concerning her barrenness to Joseph.
Again, keep in mind that in this era, the sole source of a woman’s self esteem was connected to her ability to bear children, especially a son.
Not being able to bear children was considered to be a curse from God.
So at the peak of her frustration, she levels the blame onto Jacob who retorts back angrily “Am I instead of God, who has denied you fruit of the womb?”.
What happens afterwards is a repeat incident of what happened with Abraham and Sarah.
Rachel takes her slave girl (or concubine) named Bilhah and has Jacob sleep with her.
As a result, two children are born, Dan and Naphtali.
And thus begins the child birthing fertility war.
Leah quickly follows suit and hands over her own slave girl Zilpah to Jacob.
This produces two more children Issachar and Zebulun.
Reuben (Leah’s first born son), who apparently over the years had internalized his mother’s pain brings his mother some plants called mandrakes.
These plants were a tomato-shaped fruit used for medicinal purposes at the time and were also thought to be an aphrodisiac.
In Hebrew, mandrakes is “duda’im“.
This word stems from the Hebrew word “dodai” meaning “love”.
It is also interesting to note that the nickname of Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, was “The Lady of the Mandrake”.
So Rachel fearing the potency of the mandrakes and that she is about to be outdone again, requests to Leah that she give her some of the mandrakes.
Leah initially resists but gives in on the condition that she be the one to sleep with Jacob that night.
The result of that one night union produces two more male children Issachar and Zebulun and one daughter who is named Dinah.
Finally, at long last, Rachel gives birth to a son named Joseph who will soon become the central character in the book of Genesis.
So at this point, between Rachel, her slave girl Bilhah, Leah, and her slave girl Zilpah, 11 pure Hebrew children have been born.
In a later chapter, Rachel will give birth to Benjamin thus completing the births of those children who will go on to form the 12 tribes of Israel.
A quick snapshot of the births that have happened thus far are as follows:
The Children of Leah (The unloved wife)
Reuben–The first born who will be declined first born rights due to rebellion against his father.
Levi–Will become the Levitical priests
Judah–From this line will come the messiah and the savior of the whole world.
Issachar–means “God brings reward”.
The Children of Zilpah (Leah’s slave girl)
Gad–means “Good fortune”
The Children of Rachel (The loved wife)
Joseph–The meaning of Joseph’s name is a little tricky because there are two root Hebrew words embedded in Joseph’s name.
The words are “Yosef” and “Asaf“.
The meaning of “Yosef” is “to add” and “Asaf” has the opposite meaning of “to subtract”.
This name is prophetic because Joseph was taken away from his father and then added back in. (We’ll read about this later.)
The Children of Bilhah (Rachel’s slave girl)
Dan–means “To judge”
Naphtali–means “wrestling” or “contest”