Genesis 29:31
And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.
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(31) Leah was hated.—We must not soften this down too much; for plainly Leah was not the object of love at all. It was her fruitfulness which gave her value in her husband’s eyes, and when this ceased, Jacob utterly neglected her (Genesis 30:15).

Genesis 29:31. When the Lord saw that Leah was hated — That is, loved less than Rachel, in which sense it is required that we hate father and mother, in comparison with Christ, Luke 14:26, then the Lord granted her a child, which was a rebuke to Jacob for making so great a difference between those he was equally related to; a check to Rachel, who, perhaps, insulted over her sister upon that account; and a comfort to Leah, that she might not be overwhelmed with the contempt put upon her.

29:31-35 The names Leah gave her children, expressed her respect and regard, both to God and to her husband. Reuben, or See a son, with this thought, Now will my husband love me; Levi, or joined, expecting, Now will my husband be joined unto me. Mutual affection is both the duty and comfort of the married relation; and yoke-fellows should study to recommend themselves to each other, 1Co 7:33,34. She thankfully acknowledges the kind providence of God in hearing her. Whatever supports and comforts us under afflictions, or tends to our deliverance from them, God must be owned in it. Her fourth son she called Judah, or praise, saying, Now will I praise the Lord. This was he, of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. Whatever is the matter of our rejoicing, ought to be the matter of our thanksgiving. Fresh favours should quicken us to praise God for former favours; Now will I praise the Lord more and better than I have done. All our praises must centre in Christ, both as the matter of them, and as the Mediator of them. He descended after the flesh from him whose name was Praise, and He is our praise. Is Christ formed in my heart? Now will I praise the Lord.Leah bears four sons to Jacob. "The Lord saw." The eye of the Lord is upon the sufferer. It is remarkable that both the narrator and Leah employ the proper name of God, which makes the performance of promise a prominent feature of his character. This is appropriate in the mouth of Leah, who is the mother of the promised seed. "That Leah was hated" - less loved than Rachel. He therefore recompenses her for the lack of her husband's affections by giving her children, while Rachel was barren. "Reuben" - behold a son. "The Lord hath looked on my affliction." Leah had qualities of heart, if not of outward appearance, which commanded esteem. She had learned to acknowledge the Lord in all her ways. "Simon" - answer. She had prayed to the Lord, and this was her answer. "Levi" - union, the reconciler. Her husband could not, according to the prevailing sentiments of those days, fail to be attached to the mother of three sons. "Judah" - praised. Well may she praise the Lord; for this is the ancestor of the promised seed. It is remarkable that the wife of priority, but not of preference, is the mother of the seed in whom all nations are to be blessed. Levi the reconciler is the father of the priestly tribe. Simon is attached to Judah. Reuben retires into the background.

Reuben may have been born when Jacob was still only eighty-four, and consequently Judah was born when Jacob was eighty-seven.

- Jacob's Family and Wealth

6. דן dān, Dan, "judge, lord."

8. נפתלי naptālı̂y, Naphtali, "wrestling."

11. גד gād, Gad, "overcoming, victory." בגד bāgād, "in victory or" equals גד בא bā' gād, "victory cometh." גוּד gûd, "press down." גדוּד gedûd, "troop."

13. אשׁר 'ǎashēr, Asher, "prosperity, happiness."

18. ישׂשכר yı̂śāskār, Jissakar, "reward." The second Hebrew letter (ש s) seems to have been merely a full mode of writing the word, instead of the abbreviated form ישׂכר yı̂śākār.

20. זבלוּן zebulûn, Zebulun, "dwelling." There is here a play upon the two words זבד zābad, "to endow" and זבל zābal, "to dwell," the latter of which, however, prevails in the name. They occur only here as verbs.

21. דינה dı̂ynâh, Dinah, "judgment."

24. יסף yôsêph, Joseph, "he shall add." There is, however, an obvious allusion to the thought. "God hath taken away (אסף 'āsap) my reproach." Double references, we find, are usual in the giving of names (see Genesis 25:30).

This chapter is the continuation of the former, and completes the history of Jacob in Haran. The event immediately following probably took place after Leah had borne two of her sons, though not admitted into the narrative until she had paused for a short time.

31. Leah … hated—that is, not loved so much as she ought to have been. Her becoming a mother ensured her rising in the estimation both of her husband and of society. Leah was hated comparatively to Rachel, less loved, slighted. So that word is oft used, as Deu 21:15 Matthew 6:24 10:37, compared with Luke 14:26 John 12:25. Thus variously doth God distribute his favours, that all may be contented and none despised.

And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated,.... Not properly and simply hated by Jacob, as appears by his doing the duty of an husband to her, but comparatively; she was less loved than Rachel: and there are many things to be said for it; she was not beautiful as Rachel was; she was not Jacob's choice, as she was but imposed upon him through deceit, and he was forced to marry her, or he could not have Rachel his beloved wife: but the Lord had pity on her, and that she might have a share in her husband's affections:

he opened her womb; or gave her conception; as Onkelos paraphrases it:

but Rachel was barren; bare no children as yet, and for many years after, Genesis 30:22.

And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he {k} opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

(k) This declares that often they who are despised by men are favoured by God.

31. hated] By this is meant that Jacob had less affection for Leah than for Rachel. Cf. Deuteronomy 21:15, “if a man have two wives, the one beloved and the other hated.” In order to prevent the evil effects of jealousy, the marriage by one man of two sisters is forbidden in Leviticus 18:18. See, also, Malachi 1:2-3, “I loved Jacob, but Esau I hated.”

Genesis 29:31 to Genesis 30:24. Birth of Jacob’s Children

31–35 (J); Genesis 30:1-24 (J, E and P)

In this section is narrated the account of the birth of eleven sons and one daughter. Six of the sons, viz. Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun, and the daughter Dinah, are the children of Leah; Gad and Asher are the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid; Dan and Naphtali are the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid; and Joseph is the son of Rachel. These are all born to Jacob in Haran. The only son born in Canaan is Benjamin (see Genesis 35:16-19).

It has been conjectured that this account not only furnishes the popular etymology of the names of the tribes of Israel, but may also symbolize, under the terms of family life, the growth of Israelite clans into a united, though composite, people in the land of Mesopotamia, before the migration into Canaan.

The explanation of the meaning of the names is of the usual popular kind, based upon resemblances of sound. The fact that in some cases more than one etymology is given reflects the composite nature of the narrative (cf. Genesis 30:16; Genesis 30:18; Genesis 30:20; Genesis 30:23-24).

Verse 31. - And when the Lord saw - literally, and Jehovah saw. As Eve's son was obtained from Jehovah (Genesis 4:1), and Jehovah visited Sarah (Genesis 21:1), and was entreated for Rebekah (Genesis 25:21), so here he again interposes in connection with the onward development of the holy seed by giving children to Jacob s wives. The present section (vers. 31-35) is by Davidson, Kalisch, and others assigned to the Jehovist, by Tuch left undetermined, and by Colenso in several parts ascribed to the Elohist. Kalisch thinks the contents of this section must have found a place in the earlier of the two documents - that Leah was hated, - i.e. less loved (cf. Malachi 1:3) - he opened her womb (cf. 1 Samuel 1:5, 6; Psalm 127:3): but Rachel was barren - as Sarai (Genesis 11:30) and Rebekah (Genesis 25:21) had been. The fruitfulness of Leah and the sterility of Rachel were designed not so much to equalize the conditions of the sisters, the one having beauty and the other children (Lange), or to punish Jacob for his partiality (Keil), or to discourage the admiration of mere beauty (Kalisch), but to prove that "the origin of Israel was to be a work not of nature, but of grace" (Keil). Genesis 29:31Leah's First Sons. - Jacob's sinful weakness showed itself even after his marriage, in the fact that he loved Rachel more than Leah; and the chastisement of God, in the fact that the hated wife was blessed with children, whilst Rachel for a long time remained unfruitful. By this it was made apparent once more, that the origin of Israel was to be a work not of nature, but of grace. Leah had four sons in rapid succession, and gave them names which indicated her state of mind: (1) Reuben, "see, a son!" because she regarded his birth as a pledge that Jehovah had graciously looked upon her misery, for now her husband would love her; (2) Simeon, i.e., "hearing," for Jehovah had heard, i.e., observed that she was hated; (3) Levi, i.e., attachment, for she hoped that this time, at least, after she had born three sons, her husband would become attached to her, i.e., show her some affection; (4) Judah (יהוּדה, verbal, of the fut. hoph. of ידה), i.e., praise, not merely the praised one, but the one for whom Jehovah is praised. After this fourth birth there was a pause (Genesis 29:31), that she might not be unduly lifted up by her good fortune, or attribute to the fruitfulness of her own womb what the faithfulness of Jehovah, the covenant God had bestowed upon her.
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