Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.1. envied] The desire for children and the dread of the reproach of childlessness are frequently referred to in Scripture, e.g. 1 Samuel 1. In this chapter the childlessness of Rachel should be compared with that of Sarah and Rebekah (Genesis 16:5, Genesis 25:21). It is part of the discipline of the covenant.
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?2. Am I in God’s stead] See Genesis 50:19. For God as the author and giver of human life, cf. Genesis 16:2, Genesis 29:31; 1 Samuel 1:5. A similar exclamation occurs in 2 Kings 5:7.
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.3. bear upon my knees] By this phrase Rachel means that she will recognize and adopt as her own the children by her handmaid, Bilhah. For the phrase, cf. Genesis 50:23; Job 3:12. The child being received on the knees of the parent was regarded as being accepted into the family. The words retain the trace of a primitive ceremony of legitimatization and adoption.
obtain children] Heb. be builded by her. The same figure of a house is used by Sarah, referring to Hagar in Genesis 16:2, where see note.
And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.
And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son.
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.6. judged] Heb. dan, “he judged.” When Rachel says “he has judged me,” she means “God has decided in my favour.” For this use of “judge” in the sense of “vindicate,” cf. Psalm 43:1, “Judge me, O God, and plead my cause”; Psalm 54:1, “Save me, O God, … and judge me.” The name “Dan” is possibly an abbreviation of a longer form, such as Daniel, and Abidan (Numbers 1:11).
Dan and Naphtali, as Bilhah’s children, are associated with the Rachel children in tribal history; cf. Judges 5.
And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.
And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.8. mighty wrestlings] Heb. wrestlings of God. The “wrestlings of God” may mean either “mighty wrestlings,” “of God” being added as an intensive or superlative (cf. Genesis 23:6, “a mighty prince”); or “wrestlings,” i.e. “strugglings in prayer for God’s blessing” of children. The original meaning has probably been lost.
wrestled] Lit. “twisted myself.” The participle niphtâl means “crooked” (Proverbs 8:8).
When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.
And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son.
And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.11. Fortunate] Heb. with fortune! Another reading is, Fortune is come. The versions (LXX ἐν τύχῃ = “with fortune,” Lat. feliciter) follow the reading of the Hebrew text (Ke’thîb). The other reading, followed by the Massoretic tradition (Ḳerî), is found in the Targum of Onkelos. Gad seems to have been the name of an ancient Aramaean god of fortune, whose worship existed among the Canaanites. Cf. the names Baal-gad (Joshua 11:17), and Migdal-gad (Joshua 15:37). The Jews in Babylon made offerings to this god of good fortune; cf. Isaiah 65:11. In Jdg 5:17, Gilead takes the place of Gad.
And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son.
And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.13. call me happy] Heb. asher, to call happy. The “daughters” are probably the daughters of the land. Cf. Song of Solomon 6:9, “the daughters saw her and called her blessed”; cf. Luke 1:48. These two Hebrew traditional etymologies do not exclude the possibility that the names of Asher and Gad may have been drawn from the names of primitive gods of prosperity. Asher, or Aseru, appears in Egyptian inscriptions of the time of Rameses II (14th cent. b.c.) as the name of a district in N. W. Palestine.
And 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.14. mandrakes] R.V. marg. love-apples. The mandrake (mandragora vernalis) is a tuberous plant, with yellow plumlike fruit. It was supposed to act as a love-charm. It ripens in May, which suits the mention (Genesis 30:14) of wheat harvest. It has an odour of musk; cf. Song of Solomon 7:13, “the mandrakes give forth fragrance.” It has been conjectured that the word duda’im is connected with the name of Dudah, the love-god mentioned on the inscription of Mesha (line 12); that Reubenites, adjoining the Moabites, were worshippers of Dudah; and that, on this account, Reuben is spoken of as the finder of the love-apples. The mandrake is called by the native inhabitants of Palestine baid el-jinn, “the eggs of the jinn.”
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.
And 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.
And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.
And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.18. hire] Heb. sâchâr = “wages,” “reward.”
Issachar] The name receives a twofold explanation, in its derivation from sâchâr: (1) as the passive of the verb, in the sense of “he shall be hired or rewarded”; (2) as the combination of îsh, “man,” and sâchâr, “hire,” i.e. “a man of hire.” In Genesis 30:16 Leah “hires” Jacob with the mandrakes given to Rachel; in Genesis 30:18 she calls Issachar the “hire” or wage, which she receives for giving Zilpah to Jacob.
And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son.
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.20. dwell] Heb. zabal, “he dwelt.” In this verse we have two explanations of the name “Zebulun.” In the first clause Leah says “God has endowed (zabad) me with a good dowry (zebed)”; cf. the names Zabdi (Joshua 7:1) and Zebedee (Mark 1:19). In the second clause the derivation is taken from the word zabal, “he dwelt.” Presumably both popular etymologies were current. The interchange of d and l sounds is well known; cf. δάκρυον = Lat. lachryma. Assyriologists suggest a derivation from the Assyrian zabalu, “lift up,” “exalt,” “honour.”
The two tribes of Issachar and Zebulun occupied adjoining territories.
And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.21. Dinah] This name must have been similar in meaning to that of Dan; cf. Genesis 30:6. This is the only daughter of Jacob whose name is mentioned. The “daughters” in Genesis 37:35, Genesis 46:7, may have been daughters-in-law.
It is noticeable that no mention of Dinah is made in Genesis 32:22, where Jacob’s “eleven children” are spoken of; and it has been suggested that her name here is a later editorial insertion to harmonize the list of children with the story of ch. 34.
And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.
And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach:23. God hath taken away] The Hebrew for “hath taken away” (âsaph) is clearly regarded as one etymology of the name Joseph.
my reproach] See note on Genesis 30:1. Cf. Isaiah 4:1, “Take thou away our reproach”; Luke 1:25, “to take away my reproach among men.”
And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.24. add] Heb. jôsêph. This clause gives another etymology of the name Joseph from yâsaph, “he hath added.” These two traditional interpretations of the name are taken, the one from E, the other from J narrative. According to E, the name means âsaph Elohim, “God hath taken away”; according to J, it means yôsêph Jehovah, “may Jehovah add.” This name is very possibly to be read in the list of Thothmes III (No. 78) as Joseph-el (Ysp’r); see p. 273. Similarly Yašupili appears in documents of Hammurabi’s time as a proper name.
And 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.25–43 (J, E). Jacob’s Wages
In this passage and in the following chapter Laban is depicted in the Israelite narrative as the typical Aramaean, a crafty, selfish, grasping man of business. Jacob, however, in spite of Laban’s duplicity, prospers exceedingly. By greater cunning he outwits Laban himself, and God gives him protection and prosperity.
Give 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.26. my wives and my children] Jacob’s request implies that Laban as the head of the family possessed control over his married daughters and their children, who were included in Jacob’s wages.
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.27. If now I have found, &c.] Cf. Genesis 18:3, Genesis 33:10 (J). Laban’s sentence is unfinished. The words “tarry: for” are inserted to complete the aposeiopesis. Laban wishes to retain Jacob, and to propitiate him with flattering words. The bargain so far has been all in his favour.
I have divined] Lit. “I have observed signs.” The word occurs in Genesis 44:5; Genesis 44:15, where it is used of obtaining an answer by means of magic. Here Laban means he has “discerned” by clear indications. Perhaps there may be a reference to the custom of consulting the household gods or teraphim. Cf. Genesis 31:19. LXX οἰωνισάμην, Lat. experimento didici. See also 1 Kings 20:33 marg.
hath blessed me] This is a new feature in the story, and prepares the way for the following section.
for thy sake] LXX τῇ σῇ εἰσόδῳ = “at thy arrival,” reading l’ragl’ka for big’lal ka.
And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.
And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me.
For 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?30. increased] Heb. broken forth. See Genesis 28:14.
whithersoever I turned] Heb. at my foot. For the same idiom, cf. Isaiah 41:2 (text and marg.).
And 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:
I 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.32. I will pass, &c.] Jacob’s proposal to Laban is that he should serve for a wage, to be given, not in money, but in animals. The sheep in Syria are nearly always white, and the goats black; cf. Song of Solomon 4:1. Jacob asks that his wage should consist of the sheep that were not white and the goats that were not black. Laban’s flocks would be, according to this arrangement, the great mass of the animals. To Jacob’s share would fall the exceptions, the spotted and black among the sheep, the spotted and speckled among the goats.
So 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.33. my righteousness] i.e. my uprightness, honesty, and straightness of dealing.
answer for me] i.e. “testify with regard to me”; or, better, as in 1 Samuel 12:3, 2 Samuel 1:16, “witness against me.”
every one that is not] Jacob promises that, when Laban visits his flocks, if he shall find among them any quite black goats or white sheep, he is at liberty to regard them as having been stolen by Jacob. He might at once seize them.
The compact was all in Laban’s favour; but neither of the men trusts the other.
And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.
And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked 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.35. into the hand of his sons] Laban in accepting Jacob’s offer determines to make the very best of the new arrangement. Any parti-coloured goats, and any black sheep in his flock, “he removed that day,” and put into the keeping of his own sons, so that they might not afterwards be claimed by Jacob. Jacob will begin the new term of service with nothing in his favour. All the sheep that he will tend will be white, and all the goats black.
And he set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks.36. three days’ journey] In order to prevent the least possibility of confusion or of intermingling, Laban separates his sons’ flocks by a great distance from those which Jacob is to tend.
And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.37. poplar] R.V. marg. storax tree. The Hebrew name is libneh, and is probably connected with the word laban, meaning “white.” By some it is identified with the styrax officinalis.
plane tree] In the Hebrew ‘armon, i.e. “naked,” a name derived from the annual scaling of the bark of the tree. The platanus orientalis was held in high veneration in the East. Cf. Ezekiel 31:8.
white strakes] Jacob’s trick turns upon the whiteness of the rods; and this supplies a play upon the name “Laban” (= “white”), who is outwitted by Jacob. The device is said to be well known to shepherds. “Strake” is Old English for “streak”; cf. Leviticus 14:37.
And 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.38. over against] Jacob places the white peeled rods in front of the flocks, when they come to drink at the breeding season. It was the popular belief that such objects, being presented to the eye at such a season, would be likely to affect the colouring of the progeny.
gutters] This word is explained by the phrase following, “watering troughs”; cf. Exodus 2:16.
And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.
And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, 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.40. set the faces … Laban] This is a very obscure sentence in the original. It probably describes a second device practised by Jacob. At the breeding time he caused the ewes which belonged to Laban to pasture within view of his own parti-coloured and black animals, in order to increase the tendency of Laban’s flock to produce spotted and parti-coloured lambs. The difficulty, however, of the language has made some scholars suppose that the words “and set … of Laban” are a gloss. As they stand, they seem to contradict Genesis 30:33; Genesis 30:36, according to which Laban had already removed to a distance the parti-coloured animals.
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.41. the stronger] A third device on Jacob’s part. He is careful, at the breeding season, to pick out only the finer animals before which to place the peeled rods. Hence he obtained for his own share the young of the better animals.
But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.42. the feebler … the stronger] These words were a difficulty to the versions. LXX τὰ ἄσημα … τὰ ἐπίσημα, Lat. quae erant serotina … quae primi temporis. So Aq. Sym. πρώϊμα ὄψιμα, and Targum of Onkelos “early” and “late,” referring to the time of breeding. The earlier breeding sheep were the stronger. Pliny, H. N., viii. 187, postea concepti invalidi (quoted by Skinner).
And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.43. increased exceedingly] Cf. the description of the wealth of Abraham and Isaac, Genesis 13:2, Genesis 24:35, Genesis 26:13-14.
Cf. Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Act i. Scene iii.:
“Shy. mark what Jacob did.
When Laban and himself were compromised
That all the eanlings which were streak’d and pied
Should fall as Jacob’s hire.…
The skilful shepherd peel’d me certain wands, …
He stuck them up before the fulsome ewes,
Who, then conceiving, did in eaning time
Fall parti-colour’d lambs, and those were Jacob’s.
This was a way to thrive, and he was blest.”