by Robert Brow    (

Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: 2004

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Genesis 30:1-8  
Genesis 30:9-13  
Genesis 30:14-21  
Genesis 30:22-26  
Genesis 30:27-43  

GENESIS 30:1-8      (Rachel obtains two sons through her maid Bilhah)

30:1-2     Leah had born four children (29:31-35), but Rachel was still barren.  When she complained, her husband Jacob was furious.  If God had prevented her from bearing what could he do about it?   We have no record of Jacob praying about this wife’s barrenness as his father did (25:21).  Nor did Rachel ask God for a child (as in 1 Samuel 1:2, 10-11) until years later (see comment on 30:22)

30:3-6   Her solution was to follow the tribal custom of a woman giving her maid to her husband, and when she the baby was born she received it in her arms as her own (as Sarah had done, 16:1-2).    So when Bilhah brought forth her child, Rachel counted him as her own son.  She felt that God had acted in judgment (the verb is diin) on her behalf (against her sister), so she named him Dan (daan).

30:7-8  Bilhah then brought forth a second son for Rachel.   Evidently the two sisters had fought against one another (metaphorical naphthule meaning wrestlings),  and Rachel felt she had won.   So she called the child Naphtali (naphtalti from the the verb paathal, meaning I have twisted or  I have wrestled).


GENESIS 30:9-13    (Leah has  two more sons through her maid Zilpah)

30:9-13   After bearing four sons (29:31-35) Leah had ceased childbearing.  So having seen how Rachel had two sons by her serving maid, Leah gave Jacob her maid Zilpah.   She named the first son that was born Gad (gad means fortune as in the name Gaddiel meaning “El is my fortune”, Numbers 13:10).  The second was named Asher (esher means happiness or blessedness, as in Psalm 1:1; 2:12; 34:8; 84:5, 12; 146:5).


GENESIS 30:14-21    (Rachel obtains some love potions from Leah by a sordid exchange)   

30:14-16   Leah’s son brought in some mandrakes (dudai were aphrodisiac plants, from the verb dod meaning love or beloved, as in Song of Solomon 7:13).   And Rachel so wanted these love potions that she agreed to let  Leah go in to her own husband Jacob that night in exchange for them. 

30:17-20   As a result Leah had a fifth son (in addition to the two by her serving maid, 30:9-13).  She gave him the name Issachar (from the verb saakar to hire, 30:16).  Her sixth son was named Zebulun (from the verb zabal meaning to honor).   She now felt having brought six sons into the world, though she might not enjoy his first love, she at least deserved her husband’s honor.

30:21   Leah’s daughter Dinah was the one who was later raped (34:1-2), and this was treacherously avenged by her two brothers (34:24-26).


GENESIS  30:22-26  (Rachel finally brought forth a son, and Jacob wants to go home)

30:22-24   God does not forget, but for thirteen long years (29:20; 31:41)  Rachel felt that God had forgotten her.  It seems that when she saw her sister’s healthy children and the two she had by  her serving maid (30:3-8) she finally began to look to God for help.     That was when God opened her womb.   When her Joseph was born, he  became the joy of his parents’ heart (with disastrous consequences later, 37:1-4).   She named him Joseph (yoseph from the verb root aasaph which means both to gather and to take away).   God had taken away her reproach for being barren, and now she prays for another son to be added to her. 

30:25-26   Jacob seems to have taken the birth of a son from Rachel as a sign that it was now time to return to his family 400 miles, 500 km, to the south (according the promise in 28:2, 6).   And he asks to be relieved of his duties as chief shepherd in charge of Laban’s flocks.


GENESIS 30:27-43    (Jacob foils Laban’s plans to take away his share of the flocks)

30:27-28   Laban realized that under Jacob’s care God had evidently blessed and multiplied his flocks.  He did not want to lose this valuable family member.     So he asked Jacob to state the wages he would need to be persuaded to stay.

30:29-33   Jacob asked for  the sheep and goats and lambs that were not pure white.  This was so that Jacob’s share could be identified by the animals with black spots or stripes.  

30:34-36    Laban agreed to the terms of this division, but while Jacob was pasturing Laban’s flocks,  Laban got his sons to drive away all the animals with black markings.  They moved them away a three day journey so that Jacob effectively lost all his share of what was agreed.

30:37- 42   We might not understand the purpose of placing peeled rods in the drinking troughs in front of the animals as they were breeding.   People use bodily gestures, hand signs, water in baptism,  a crucifix, emblems on their armor, battle flags, and other insignia.   At their worst these are merely superstitions, but they can also be “outward and visible signs” (sacraments) of genuine faith when looking to God to protect and intervene.     So this may have been a shepherd’s method of expressing his faith in the face of terrible injustice. 

30:43   In any case for whatever reason, Jacob who had come to Haran alone as a refugee,  and with nothing by way of possessions, had now become extremely wealthy.

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