Understanding Genesis 30: Dwell With Me
Read the entire chapter 30 of Genesis on your own. You can read a variety of versions, from contemporary English to literal translations. You can download bible apps, websites (blueletterbible.org or biblegateway.com) or buy one from your local bookstore. I will use King James Version because some of the nuances are missing from other translations. When you read the chapter, don’t just read it—study it with questions and try to make sense of it.
Jacob's Second Wife
And 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? And 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. And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. Genesis 30:2-4
After spending “days” working for Rachel’s hand in marriage, the reality of his marriage is setting in. He never intended to have two wives, but not able to stay faithful to God’s will; he must now contend with the sisters’ anger, bitterness and hatred toward each other. Leah, as the first wife, is entitled to the household respect and loyalty. But as the less-loved wife, it’s hard to hold her head up high in the face of her sister’s anger. Rachel, as the second wife, is regarded less and then even lowers herself further by making equal the servant girls who become Jacob’s concubines; but the household knows that Jacob loves Rachel.
Rachel, growing up in a heathen city, does not fully know her husband’s God. Her understanding of gods, are based on pagan worship and theology. Give something, to get something: please the gods and get a reward; displease gods, get punished. Rachel feels that her barrenness is a punishment from Jacob’s God, and perhaps Jacob’s guilt has subconsciously relayed that to Rachel.
He must know that God is not pleased with his choice to take Rachel as a wife. He knows he cannot put aside Leah; and the nights that he spends with Rachel, are adultery toward his true wife. While living among his heathen relatives, Jacob’s sense of guilt colors his relationship with God. He starts to think like the heathens and wonders if God is still with him.
Then Rachel, compounding his mistake, coerces him to sleep with her maidservant. Jacob knew what was good and right in God’s eye; but even more—he knew the history of his grandparents. He knew the mistake Abraham had made, taking Hagar to bed; he knew the misery his grandmother and Hagar had both suffered—yet, to appease his lover, Jacob took the servant girl as a concubine. Now Rachel had to compete for her husband’s attention with another woman and Jacob added more problems to his troubled marriage.
Unwilling to Forgive
And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan. And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali. Genesis 30:6,8
Rachel, in her religious ignorance, names the baby, Dan—claiming God has been appeased, and has given her a “son.” But the reality is that she is unable to love God or her son. He is not her true son, and her ignorance of God, even if He had gifted her a “son,” festers an underlying bitterness toward Him; because God is withholding something good from her, and punishing her for marrying Jacob. The name she gives to Naphtali, reveals continuous bitterness toward her sister: claiming the baby as a prize, more than a blessing.
Her married life is revealed to be a battleground, where the children are the weapons. As much as she may still love Jacob, and their children, her bitterness will not allow her to understand grace or forgiveness.
The Slow Descent to Sin
And 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. Genesis 30:15
By now, bearing children has become an all-consuming issue with Leah and Rachel. Both use their servant girls to bear Jacob’s children. Not much is given about Jacob’s feeling during this period, but being a man of Faith, he knows he is falling deeper and deeper into sin. As Rachel bargains with Leah, he has become a stud in their eyes, and Jacob must now face that his holy life has degenerated to become just like the heathen neighbors.
Dwell With God
And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar. And 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. Genesis 30:18,20
The continual tug of war with Rachel has damaged Leah’s understanding of God. It’s hard to put away the teachings that were learned from youth. Leah sees Issachar’s birth as a reward from God, for giving Zilpah to Jacob. How often do we misunderstand who God is? God does not delight in evil, and does not reward evil with good. "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" Isaiah 5:20,21
As Leah bears another son, you see her heartfelt plea, where she hopes that her “husband will dwell with me.” Jacob at this point does not have four different settlements, his wives living in separate homes. They are all living together in one household, but Leah is wishing her husband’s heart would stay with her, his true wife. Leah is calling to mind that even though they all live together, by being with Rachel and the two concubines, Jacob physically and emotionally is not dwelling with Leah. Unwilling to forgive, Jacob is creating a household of bitterness, hate and violence (chapter 34). If he had been able to forgive Leah and live peaceably with her, what a blessing this marriage would have been to his heathen neighbors.
This is the cry of God toward us. He wants to be our sole spouse, but we look to the secular world or rebel against His will for us. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19 "Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, eventhe most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling." Psalm 91:9-10 "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them." Exodus 25:8 "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." John 15:4
Contentment at All Times
And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. “God has removed my disgrace,” she said. And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son. Genesis 30:22-24
God had not forgotten Rachel. In fact, He knows the number of hair on her head. "Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows." Luke 12:7
As Rachel watches her sister give birth 3 more times, Rachel is emotionally lost. Years have passed, and her sister and servants are able to bear Jacob children, but she is still unable. She struggles with her faith, questions what sin she had committed that she should be “punished.” "And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" John 9:2 This is a question we still ask today.
When situations become untenable, we question God and ask “why?” We don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, or see Him helping us through the difficulties.
God was not ignoring Rachel throughout her years of anger. He was not waiting for her to have a better relationship with Him. In fact, she still does not understand God, when she names the baby Joseph which means, “The LORD shall add to me another son.”
The miracle was that she was able to have a baby, yet she’s not satisfied, she wants more. Having a child has become an issue of pride with her. Being loved more than the other women is not enough, she must be equal at child-bearing also, and remove the “disgrace.” The gods must bless her, just like her deceitful sister.
Whether in want or in plenty, we should trust God at all times. "Not that I [Paul] was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13 Rachel finally has the child she’s been praying for, perhaps desires more than her husband, since she can so easily give him up for a night—but she’s still not happy. It begs the question: would she have been happy with twenty children of her own?
Still God of Jacob
And 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. And 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. Genesis 30:41,43
Seven years, Jacob worked as a bachelor, happily looking forward to marrying Rachel. Seven more years, he worked as a married man, working again for Rachel’s hand. But the second seven years were difficult, because of the unhappiness of both his wives.
As the seven years came to an end, he asks Laban to let him leave. However rich Laban was, his wealth increased noticeably that he recognized God’s hand in Jacob’s life. "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." Genesis 30:27
Unfortunately, Jacob is miserable and unable to have any Godly discernment. Whether bitter at Laban’s deception, at his withholding of any payment for 14 years of labor, or just unhappy in his current situation, Jacob decides to deceive Laban.
Laban, a heathen, recognized God’s blessing. But Jacob, who should know God, decides to take matters into his own hands…again. The lessons learned from his previous deception is forgotten and he rebels not just against Laban, but against God. "And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Genesis 28:14 The struggle within us is not listening to the good angel or the devil. It’s listening to God or our selfish desires. Jacob after being promised a blessing while at the wilderness, after being blessed in his labor, decides he will do better than God, and reap his own riches.
How gracious God is towards Jacob, Leah and Rachel. Time and again, Jacob loses faith and is willful, going his own way. Leah has no one to turn to, but slowly learns who Jacob’s God is. Rachel, is prideful and resentful of God, but He still accepts her as part of Jacob’s family. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
"And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations." Exodus 3:15 Even after all the mistakes Jacob has made, God still claims Jacob as His child. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 We are all imperfect people, but how loving God is towards us.
- Understanding Genesis 31:Seeking False Gods
A Bible Study of Genesis 31.