Lead on, Lord, as I press on. Keep me calm as I trust in You and reassure me as You replenish my reserves.
Read GENESIS 29:31—30:24
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”
33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.
34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.
35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.
30 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!”
2 Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”
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.”
4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, 5 and she became pregnant and bore him a son. 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.
7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.
9 When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad.
12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.
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.”
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.”
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.
17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.
19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 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.
21 Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.
22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” 24 She named him Joseph, and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.”
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
One of the ways by which a person’s commitment to Christ is tested is in their use of their tongue. Our words can build up or tear down, unify or divide. We need the power and wisdom of God to gain control of our tongue (and thereby our words)!
In the conflict between Jacob’s wives over the birth of their sons, the pattern is set for the rest of Genesis. Though all are important, Judah (Leah’s son) and Joseph (Rachel’s boy) go on to be used by God in different ways. The seeds are sown in the circumstances of their birth. Leah has lived in a loveless marriage with the reality of Jacob’s love for her younger sister as a constant reminder, but God chose to give this deeply miserable woman six sons and a daughter, seen as a mark of his blessing (Psa. 127:3–5).
Their names illustrated her changing situation and her continuing trust in God. Meanwhile Rachel, childless and consumed with jealousy, manipulated her husband through the use of extreme and tragically prophetic language (30:1) into doing what she wanted (Gen. 35:16–19). The way we use language, especially when communicating strong emotions, can have a far-reaching impact upon others (James 3:3–12).
The relationship between the two sisters deteriorated further into competition, not just over numbers of children but also the means of having them (30:9–13). With echoes of Jacob having purchased his birthright for a pot of stew (Gen. 25:29–34), an altercation in the fields over mandrake plants, superstitiously thought to induce fertility, resulted in an exchange of plants for sexual favors!
Much of this story is about the relationship between personal insecurity and the use and misuse of power. Both sisters were desperately insecure, one because she knew she wasn’t loved and the other probably fearing losing Jacob’s love if she didn’t have sons. Consequently both vied for the preeminent position through using what power they had—whether over their servants, by the use of emotive language or possession of something the other wanted. Consider, too, the part Jacob played.
Our words can have enormous power in other people’s lives, for good or ill. How do you feel about the words you use?
Mighty God, I know at times I use inappropriate and hurtful words. Teach me to pause before I speak, and to use positive and edifying words.
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.