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Scripture reading – Genesis 30

Today’s Scripture reading is Genesis 30 and 31, and my devotional will be published in two parts. The first will focus solely on Genesis 30, and the second will be issued on Genesis 31.

Our study in Genesis 29 concluded with God blessing Leah, the lesser favored wife of Jacob (29:31-35). The LORD, ever compassionate, “saw that Leah was hated (despised or shamefully treated)” and “opened [Leah’s]womb: but Rachel was barren” (29:31).

Twelve sons were born to Jacob, and they would become the fathers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Leah, Laban’s oldest daughter, became the mother of Jacob’s first four sons: Reuben (29:32), Simeon (29:33), Levi (29:34), and Judah (29:35).

Genesis 30 – Jacob’s Family: Twelve Sons, Less One

Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, was barren (a cultural stigma in those days) and jealous of her sister who had borne her husband four sons (30:1a). Provoked by jealousy, Rachel demanded of Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die” (30:1b). Betraying his frustration of living in a home with two unhappy wives, Jacob answered Rachel in anger and said, “Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” (30:2).

Rather than trusting the LORD to bless her with a son, Rachel followed cultural norms and demanded Jacob give her children through her maid Bilhah. Choosing to pacify his beloved Rachel (2:23-24), Jacob complied with Rachel’s insistence, further complicating his home’s spiritual and emotional dynamics. As a result, Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, conceived and gave birth to the fifth and sixth sons of Jacob, Dan (30:1-6), and Naphtali (30:7-8).

Fearing she might no longer conceive sons by Jacob (30:9), Leah insisted he raise children by her maid Zilpah. As a result, Zilpah conceived and gave birth to Jacob’s seventh and eighth sons, Gad and Asher (30:9-13). Yet, God once again blessed Leah, and she conceived Jacob’s ninth and tenth sons, Issachar and Zebulun (30:17-20), and a daughter she named Dinah (30:21).

Let’s consider the dynamics in a home that disregarded God’s plan for marriage to be the union of “one flesh.” (i.e., one man and one woman, Genesis 2:24).

Although Leah was the mother of six sons, she was not genuinely content. She longed for something she would never have: to be first in her husband’s affections (30:20). For Rachel; there was a perpetual spirit of jealousy, disappointment, bitterness, and sorrow between her and her sister. Rather than calling upon, waiting, and trusting the LORD to hear and answer her longing for a son, she bargained for mandrakes, a fruit that purportedly contained fertility properties (30:14-16). Two years passed before we read, “God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. 23And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: 24And she called his name Joseph [Jacob’s eleventh son]; and said, The Lord shall add to me another son” (30:22-24). In a later study, Rachel will die giving birth to Jacob’s twelfth son, whom he will name Benjamin, 35:16-19).

With the birth of Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son, his obligation of servitude to Laban was fulfilled. He had served fourteen years for his marriages to Laban’s daughters (29:20, 30). Finally, Jacob announced his intention to return to his family in Canaan (30:25-26).

Laban, however, ever the sly one, had become a wealthy man and realized God’s special blessing rested on Jacob. He determined to bind Jacob to himself and continue to profit from his presence and labor (30:27-30a). Jacob, however, now the father of eleven sons, and a daughter, reasoned, “the Lord hath blessed [Laban] since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?” (30:30)

Nonetheless, Laban constrained Jacob to remain in his household and asked, “What shall I give thee?” (30:31) Jacob, wise to the ways of a deceiver, was unwilling to be indebted to Laban and said, “Thou shalt not give me any thing” (30:31b).

Closing thoughts – Evidencing wisdom and discernment of husbandry and genetics, Jacob suggested that distinctive physical markings on the sheep, goats, and cattle would providentially mark them as his personal property and serve as his wages (30:31-32). Laban agreed, and Jacob continued caring for his father-in-law’s flocks, even as God blessed him, making him rich. Therefore we read that Jacob “increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses” (30:43).

Reflecting the providence and blessings of the LORD, in six years, God took Jacob from serving Laban as a poor hireling shepherd to a man of great wealth.

* A second bonus devotional will be published for Genesis 31.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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