Genesis Chapter Thirty


Read Genesis 30:1-13 – Jacob’s Sons by Handmaidens


v.1And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.”


            During this study we will begin to see some of the problems and troubles that will visit Jacob because of having multiple wives.  As we saw in Genesis 29:31, Rachel was barren and could not produce children.  Consequently jealousy and envy arose in Rachel against her sister, Leah.  Jealousy and envy are dangerous emotions and can lead to many things, most of them sinful and unpleasant. 


Job 5:2For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one.”


So Rachel demands a son from Jacob.


v.2And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?”


            The result is Jacob’s anger.  He probably is just as frustrated as Rachel since she is the wife that he loves.  In their argument he demands to know how he can overcome the fact that she is barren, he is not God.


v.3And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.”


            So Rachel does somewhat the same as Sarah did with Abraham.  She tells Jacob to take her maid, Bilhah, and through her produce a son that Rachel could claim as her own.  One of the things that we can note here is the status of a slave, even in the house of a man of God.  They were as a chattel, they were owned body and soul and could be used or abused as their master determined.  Here one is used as a surrogate mother, nothing being indicated about her wishes or what her preferences might be in the matter.  Here again we also see the effects of envy between sisters.  Either the envy between Leah and Rachel was so strong they could not share the joy of Jacob’s sons or Rachel would rather share Jacob with a handmaid than share the sons of her sister.


v.4-5And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. 5And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son.”


So Rachel gave her handmaid to Jacob as another wife, she conceives and bears Jacob another son.


v.6And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.”


            So Rachel in receiving the son that she wanted through Bilhah in convinced that God has judged her actions, approved of them and responded favorably.  Consequently she names him Dan, a name that means “judgment”.


v.7-8And Bilhah Rachel’s maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son. 8And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.”


            It would almost appear that all of Jacob’s sons will be born as a result of the contentions and rivalry between Lean and Rachel.  Bilhah bears another son, another to be claimed and adopted by Rachel.  Because of her rivalry with Leah characterized here as wrestling or a contest of strength she names this boy Naphtali which means wrestlings.


v.9When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.”


            Leah has borne four sons for Jacob as we saw in chapter 29.  She has ceased to be able conceive but she can’t stand to see Rachel and Bilhah getting Jacob’s attention.  Since she is no longer able to provide Jacob with children; now Leah also decides to give Jacob a handmaid for a wife and claim their offspring as does Rachel those of Jacob and Bilhah.


v.10-11And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a son. 11And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.”


            As a result of Leah now having given her handmaid to Jacob for a wife Zilpah bears a son.  Lean, apparently because she is hoping for a troop of children, or a troop even of sons, she names his Gad, which means troop.


v.12-13And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a second son. 13And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.”


Zilpah now bears Jacob yet another son and Leah is happier still.  She now has brought six sons to Jacob and feels that her neighbors and other women will look with favor on her accomplishments.  She is now happy and names this son Asher which means happy.


Read Genesis 30:14-21 – Further Contention between the Leah and Rachel


v.14And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.”


            Leah’s eldest son Reuben, now a growing boy, finds in the fields mandrake plants and brings them to his mother Leah.  Rachel, seeing this, asks Leah to give her the gift that her son has brought her.  Does she want these plants because of the contentions between her and Leah or for another purpose?

            The mandrake is a variety of nightshade plant.  There are several different plants in the category that grow wild in parts of central Europe and the Middle East.  All parts of the plant, the flower, stalk and berry that produces are poisonous but have been used in pagan rituals and for other purposes throughout history.  One variety, however, was called a “love plant” in Hebrew and Young’s Literal Translation in this verse calls them love-apples.  It was believed by eastern cultures that they would ensure conception and thus the more likely reason that Rachel wants them.


v.15And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes.”


            Leah is not agreeable.  Apparently because of his love for her; Rachel now has control over Jacob’s activities related to the household and his various wives.  Leah accuses Rachel of taking her husband away from her and apparently she has because of the bargain that we see struck between these two women in this verse.  Rachel offers to trade a night with Jacob to Leah for the plants that she wants and Leah agrees.


v.16And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.”


When Jacob comes out of the field in the evening he is met by Leah and made aware of the bargain between his wives.  Leah has literally bought from Rachel the right from her sister to share their husband’s bed for the night.  We’re not told what Jacob might think about the contentions and controversy between his wives but we are told that he complies with their wishes.


v.17-18And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son. 18And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.”


            Leah now bears Jacob another son.  Because she sees him as being a reward or repayment for giving her handmaid to Jacob and for agreeing to give Rachel the mandrakes she wanted; she names him Issachar which means “to hire”.


v.19-20And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son. 20And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.”


            Perhaps because of Leah’s success in giving him sons, perhaps because there may have been somewhat of a reconciliation between Leah and Rachel; Leah has opportunity to bear yet a sixth son to Jacob.  She names him Zebulun which means dwelling and says that now God has given her a good dowry or gift for which she is thankful.


v.21  And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.”


            Though it is quite likely that Jacob had other daughters in addition to his sons we are told only about Dinah.


Read Genesis 30:22-24 – Rachel Bears a Son


v.22And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.


            God remembered Rachel.  God in his own good time and in his own way will provide that which he has promised.  Rachel has been praying, conniving, plotting, pushing her husband into taking other wives but now she is about to receive as a gift from God her fondest desire.  She will conceive and bear the son that she has longed for.


v.23-24. “And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: 24And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.


            Being barren was viewed as being a reproach or a punishment from God.  Not only was this true about Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel but by the mother of John the Baptizer as well:


Luke 1:24-25And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.


Now this reproach, this burden has been lifted and Rachel, to her joy, has borne a son for Jacob.  She names him Joseph which means “may he add”, hoping or perhaps realizing that now God has removed her curse and there can be more sons.


Read Genesis 30:25-36 – Jacob Seeks to Return to Canaan


v.25And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country.”


            Haran is not the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and their descendants.  Jacob has now apparently served out the 14 years that was required to acquire the two daughters of Laban as his wives and now he wants to return to Canaan.  Since he is serving Laban he asks permission to leave.  This reminds me somewhat of when my parents first determined to leave my grandfather’s farm that we sharecropped.  We got about the same response as Jacob got.


v.26Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee.”


            Jacob has served out the time that he committed to Laban and more.  His service has been above any reproach or complaint.  He simply asks that his wives and children be allowed to accompany him with Laban’s blessing.


v.27. “And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake.”


            Laban asks Jacob not to leave.  Just as in Missouri in 1955 Granddad knew that if we left his farm his source of prosperity would be going away; Laban understands that it is because of Jacob and the fruit of Jacob’s labors that God has blessed him richly.


v.28And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.”


            Laban basically says name your price.  Tell me what wages that you want and I will pay them.


v.29-30And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me. 30For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and the LORD hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?”


            Jacob reminds Laban that he didn’t have much when Jacob came to Haran.  It has been through the work of Jacob and the blessing of God that Laban has become rich in herds and flocks.  Jacob has been like that faithful and wise servant in the words of Jesus:


Matthew 24:45-46Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 46Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.”


Jacob says that now it is time that he begins to provide for his own house, his own family, and wages just aren’t going to provide what is required.  He has been serving Laban to secure the Leah and Rachel as his wives, apparently taking only what was needful to sustain his family without building any abundance for himself.  Now, either through common sense or through a revelation that was not recorded he understands that which Paul records for our instruction:


But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” I Timothy 5:8


v.31And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock.”


So Laban asks Jacob again, what do you require?  Jacob makes him a proposition.  He is somewhat like Abraham when he and Lot parted their flocks and herds:


And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. 9Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Genesis 13:8-9


Jacob agrees to continue to keep Laban’s flocks but wants to share their increase and makes a proposal that would allow him to take the least desirable of their offspring, those that were not pure in color.


v.32I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.”


            As we would describe it today Jacob is taking the short end of this agreement.  But in order to protect himself he is taking the animals that can be readily distinguished from the others in Laban’s flocks and herds.  They may very well not produce speckled, brown or spotted offspring but Jacob apparently has a plan for that as well.


v.33So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me.”


            Jacob is so confident in his own righteousness and that God is with him that he makes a pledge to Laban.  Any animal in his flocks that does not show the characteristics of those separated from Laban’s flocks and herds may be considered stolen.  David also wrote of that kind of confidence in God in:




            Trust in God, David says, commit to follow His ways and your righteousness will shine as a light and your relationship with him will be as obvious as something seen under the noonday sun.


v.34-36And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word. 35And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstreaked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons. 36And he set three days’ journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.”


            Laban agrees to Jacob’s proposal and they both make preparation to take advantage of each other and at the same time to guard against each other.  Laban separates his flocks and herds, setting aside those animals given to Jacob and has his sons take his flocks three day’s journey away so that there is no opportunity for them to mix together again.  If Laban’s animals were predominantly of solid colors, as apparently they were, it isn’t likely that they would produce offspring with the color patterns of those given to Jacob.  Likewise if the ringstraked, spotted and multicolor animals were from stock of a solid color it is likely that they would produce animals of a solid color.  Laban thinks he has the advantage.


Read Genesis 30:37-43 – Jacob’s Flocks Prosper


v.37And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chestnut tree; and pilled white streaks in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.”


            Now we know that there is no magic in the wood of green poplar, hazelnut or chestnut trees.  Other translations show them as poplar, almond and plane trees.  We also can learn from other translations that when he peeled them he made them streaked green and white, not completely white.  Jacob has a purpose that we don’t understand but apparently one that works.


v.38-39And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink. 39And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstreaked, speckled, and spotted.”


            Jacob places these partially peeled rods before his flocks and herds in their watering troughs when they come to drink.  They conceive and their offspring show the marks of Jacob’s animals, they are ringstreaked, speckled and spotted.  We do note that there is a translation error in verse 39.  Flocks don’t bring forth cattle as cattle are in gathered in herds.  Flocks bring forth sheep or goats or animals that are gathered in flocks.  All other reliable translations show the flocks bring forth more flocks, flocks of the colors and patterns that marked Jacob’s flocks.  This translation difference continues through the balance of the chapter.


v.40And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstreaked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban’s cattle.”


            Apparently the agreement that the ringstraked, spotted and speckled that were born to Laban’s flocks continued to become the property of Jacob and the solid colored animals in Jacobs flocks were to be Laban’s.  So Jacob, who kept both his and Laban’s animals, continuing in Laban’s service, placed his animals where Laban’s solid colored animals could see them and they also brought forth offspring that could be claimed by Jacob under their agreement.


v.41-42And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. 42But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.”


            Jacob further enhanced his own flocks by only using the striped rods in the water troughs when the strongest animals watered.  Therefore the multi-colored and patterned animals were born to the strongest and most productive, the weaker animals he allowed to produce offspring that matched the animals that belonged to Laban.


v.43  And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.”


            God blessed Jacob with great wealth just as he had done his father before him:


And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: 14For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him.” Genesis 26:13-14


God has now provided Jacob with the means to support his very large family.  But with wealth in any family there frequently also comes problems and troubles.  The families of Laban and Jacob will not escape either.