Reading between the lines (which translates into "Don't put any theological weight behind this thought"), I think Jacob must have felt something like a gigilo during the years which cover the first twenty-four verses of this chapter. What with sleeping with Rachel's servant, Leah's servant, Leah (after she "bought" him with mandrakes), and Rachel herself, I wonder how he got any work done during the day!
Looking at this through 21st Century American eyes, he appears to be nothing more than a stud, and the women are obsessed with babies. Even if you can get yourself into the culture of the time, there's still some pretty desperate wrangling going on here.
Remember how Chapter 29 ended? Leah had stopped bearing chilren. Gen. 30 opens with Rachel telling Jacob to give her children or she'll die...because she is jealous of Leah. Rachel might have Jacob's love, but Leah is having all the children. After Rachel bears a couple children (through her maidservant), Leah wants to jump back in the act.
Wait a minute. Didn't we just decide Leah had been provided for by the hand of God? Hadn't she, after the birth of her fourth son, named him Judah in praise to God? How come she is locked in this baby battle with Rachel? How many more sons does she need?
I'm so grateful the Bible is full of real characters. I think I would find it both nauseating and unbelievable if the lessons learned in one chapter of life were always carried over into the heat of the next chapter. Instead, Leah and Rachel have become such bitter rivals, every thought of God's great love and provision has clean jumped out of Leah's head.
What about Rachel, you ask? Hmmm, well she wasn't doing much better. Do you know why she was so desperate to get the mandrakes Rueben had found? Because, according to superstition, they would induce fertility. Plus, I think we can safely assume Rachel has had something to do with Leah not bearing children anymore. Why else would Leah say, "Is it not enough you have taken my husband from me, will you take my son's mandrakes as well?"
Rivalry, jealousy, superstition, hatred, manipulation...it's all in there.
Yet out of this dog fight come sons, lots of them, who in turn have lots of sons, who then become a people so full of sons they cannot be counted, thus fulfilling God's promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to make them a great nation as numerous as the grains of sand or stars. Specifically, Jacob's sons become the twelve tribes of Isreal.
Isn't God amazing? Despite our failings, He is faithful to his promises. I am comforted in knowing I can never mess up so badly God can't redeem it.
Until next time,