“Battle of the brides”
II. Vs. 1-13 Baby boxing
III. Vs. 14-24 Where’s the baby?
This story before us is a continuation of chapter 29:31-35. Now as you read this story it appears as though we have flipped your T.V. set on to one of those stupid trash T.V. shows. “Sisters who marry the same man, today of Jerry Springer!” There are several reasons why God has seen fit to put this story in the Bible.
To show us what the outcome of polygamy is. Though the Bible records many that disobeyed the teaching of monogamy you will not find one of them in all of scripture that has a happy ending.
Israel took great pride in its “roots” yet upon reading this story there is nothing to be proud of when considering their heritage. This was a fact that Moses would point out some 450 years later in Deut. 7:7-8 saying, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you.”
This section serves as a very practical guide for us today showing what sex outside of God’s plan looks like. We live in a culture that not only sees nothing wrong with sex outside of marriage it promotes it. Leah will learn that no amount of sex would ever earn her the love of her man. Love is not manufactured through sex, sex will produce children but it will never produce love. To some love without sex is frustrating but sex without Biblical love is a tragedy!
II. Vs. 1-13 Baby boxing
Vs. 1-2 Rachael’s beauty lead to the romantic notion that Jacob was willing to work 14 years to have her, yet reading these verses shows that this did not satisfy her. Can you imagine how she would strut around Haran for years believing that she was the most beautiful woman around because a man was willing to work to have her for 14 years? In the last chapter three times we are told that Jacob loved Rachael more than Leah, yet with the knowledge of her husband’s love and his romantic actions towards her did not produce assurance or security. “Loved based upon sex or physical attraction will never satisfy and bring security, instead they will destroy them!” Everywhere girls go in this world they are being told that all they need is a guy’s affection and care, which is based upon how they look. Rachael had the “look” to capture her man but what did it gain her? The planet is full of girls who have given up their bodies to get love only to find themselves discarded as the guy goes after another conquest. Oh, how romantic Jacob’s love must have felt for Rachael but in the end she is just as disillusioned as Leah, she feels just as unloved as her sister did. Guy’s view women as conquests the more they have the more man they are but this too is empty as they may have their conquests but at the price of companionship!
Leah probably would say to herself, “If only I had Rachel’s looks and Rachel would say, If only I had Leah’s sons.” We all have this same problem don’t we looking at how God has blessed others instead of just setting our eyes on Him. Women in this era valued themselves based upon how many children they could produce for their husbands as we see in verse 13 based upon Leah’s words, “I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed.” Look at how fragile Rachel’s pride is when her beauty and love of Jacob turns into nagging envy and jealousy. She blames Jacob for her condition and remember the barrenness of Rebekah and Isaac as they prayed to God to open the womb.
Vs. 3-5 Long before Moses wrote down God’s heart towards marriage a King named Hammurabi wrote down a code of laws to govern people. Under these laws a wife could give her maid to her husband and claim the offspring from such a union as her own. The maid reclined upon the wives lap while her husband impregnated her and when it came time to give birth she would again recline upon her the wife’s lap hence the words “she will bear a child on my knees”. As weird as this practice seems to us think of it as we do today “sex outside of marriage”.
With the deed done the desired outcome is achieved it is thought of as “successful” which is called “situational ethics”. The sole criteria of evaluating what was right is based upon if it worked, “Did it achieve the desired results?” Look how far this reasoning has taken Rachel as she has sunk to the low of use a baby to hit her sister over the head with.
Vs. 6-8 Rachel is quick to attribute the works of her flesh to God, again she does so because it achieved the results she desired not because they were form following God’s word. Nowhere are we told that God opened the womb of Bilhah, yet still she name him “Judged by God”. Bilhah conceives a second time and she names this son “Wrestling” yet interprets struggling against her sister as a victory. Now by my figures the box score still reads 4 to 2 with Leah ahead. The wild thing is that Rachel appears more interested in winning the battle of the babies then what her actions say about her own character. God is not mentioned or praised, she is preoccupied with self and getting something over on her sister.
Vs. 9-13 The last we saw of Leah in this was her growing in love with the Lord as she named her children names that recognized how much greater was God’s love for her then any mans could ever be. Here she has a setback as she goes back into insecurity with head to head competition in the battle of the birthing maids. What has happened to Leah who had seen that it was the Lord who had opened her womb is the same God who has now seen fit to close it. Strikingly missing in Leah’s words is any mention of this work of the flesh of child production as coming from the hand of God. What this suggests is that we who have grown in our understanding of the Lord’s hand in our lives are not immune to slipping back into the flesh and being more concerned with what works instead of what is right.
Now her first four children she viewed as gifts from God now through the work of the flesh and Zilpah she sees them as:
“Good fortune” Gad
“How happy am I” Asher
Her greatest concern is what others will think of her and call her instead of what God thinks of her.
III. Vs. 14-24 Where’s the baby?
Vs. 14-15 Ruben was most likely around five when he goes out to the field to pick his mother some flowers yellow flowers with matching berries. The word actually means “love apples” and there was a superstition that said eating these berries was an aphrodisiac as well as a fertility drug. Leah’s comments her reveals how she saw herself compared with her younger sister. She was Jacob’s legitimate wife and Rachel was his mere romantic boy toy. Rachel’s suggestion appears to be based upon Leah’s perception and is nothing more than prostitution. The two sister want what each other has:
Leah wants the romance that Rachel has.
Rachael wants the offspring the Leah has.
Rachel is so far from trusting God to open her womb that she is seeking “berry juice” therapy rather than trusting in the God who created the berries.
Vs. 16-21 Based upon verse 17 it appears as though Leah prays to God to bless what she has paid for, God blesses her in spite of how she behaved. She thinks this is because she gave her maid to Jacob. Again it amazes me how quick they are to give credit to God for what their own flesh produced and to take credit from God when it was entirely from Him!
She names her fifth son “Reward” but it was the reward of her flesh not the reward of faith. Her sixth and last son is named “Dwelling” as it is the hope of her heart that one day will want to dwell with her as his wife. How foolish is it to seek after someone’s acceptance by means of giving your body for their pleasure. Leah had been satisfied with God’s love for her but now she traded it all away for the hope of the love from a man. According to 37:35 and 46:7, 15 Dinah is not their only daughter but she is mentioned here for what will happen to her in chapter 34.
Vs. 22-24 After all of Rachel’s plans have been exhausted God grants her heart’s desire and open’s her womb. Based upon her words here in verse 23 it appears He did so based upon prayer. All too often we have an attitude that says, “When all else fails pray!” Instead it ought to be when prayer fails pray again. She names her first son of faith “may he add” which means to take away by adding. Far too many people fail to see the wisdom of marriage and staying away from sex outside of the protection of marriage. Even in the Church many folks have taken the used car approach of taking it out for a test drive and see no reason not to live together. For Christians the question is not whether or not two people can live together apart from being married because of coarse they can. The question is whether or not living this way apart from obedience to the word of God they can so live in all the fullness of joy, which is in Christ. The answer is they cannot!