Genesis 30:1
And when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said to Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXX.

(1) Give me children, or else I die.—There is an Oriental proverb that a childless person is as good as dead; and this was probably Rachel’s meaning, and not that she should die of vexation. Great as was the affliction to a Hebrew woman of being barren (1Samuel 1:10), yet there is a painful petulance and peevishness about Rachel’s words, in strong contrast with Hannah’s patient suffering. But she was very young, and a spoiled wife; though with qualities which riveted Jacob’s love to her all life through.

Genesis 30:1. Rachel envied her sister — The Hebrew women considered barrenness as one of the greatest misfortunes that could befall them, not only from a natural desire of children, but from their eager wishes to be the means of fulfilling the promise to Abraham, and bringing forth that seed in which all the families of the earth were to be blessed. But Rachel does not seem to have been chiefly actuated by this motive in desiring children, but by envy of her sister; hence she says, Give me children — A child would not content her; but because Leah has more than one, she must have more too. And her heart is set upon it: she repines, and grows impatient with her husband; else I die — That is, I shall fret myself to death; the want of this satisfaction will shorten my days. Observe the difference between Rachel’s asking for this mercy, and Hannah’s, 1 Samuel 1:10, &c. Rachel envied, Hannah wept: Rachel must have children, and she died of the second; Hannah prayed for this child, and she had four more: Rachel is importunate and peremptory, Hannah is submissive and devout; If thou wilt give me a child, I will give him to the Lord. Let Hannah be imitated, and not Rachel; and let our desires be always under the conduct and check of reason and religion.30:1-13 Rachel envied her sister: envy is grieving at the good of another, than which no sin is more hateful to God, or more hurtful to our neighbours and ourselves. She considered not that God made the difference, and that in other things she had the advantage. Let us carefully watch against all the risings and workings of this passion in our minds. Let not our eye be evil towards any of our fellow-servants, because our Master's is good. Jacob loved Rachel, and therefore reproved her for what she said amiss. Faithful reproofs show true affection. God may be to us instead of any creature; but it is sin and folly to place any creature in God's stead, and to place that confidence in any creature, which should be placed in God only. At the persuasion of Rachel, Jacob took Bilhah her handmaid to wife, that, according to the usage of those times, her children might be owned as her mistress's children. Had not Rachel's heart been influenced by evil passions, she would have thought her sister's children nearer to her, and more entitled to her care than Bilhah's. But children whom she had a right to rule, were more desirable to her than children she had more reason to love. As an early instance of her power over these children, she takes pleasure in giving them names that carry in them marks of rivalry with her sister. See what roots of bitterness envy and strife are, and what mischief they make among relations. At the persuasion of Leah, Jacob took Zilpah her handmaid to wife also. See the power of jealousy and rivalship, and admire the wisdom of the Divine appointment, which joins together one man and one woman only; for God hath called us to peace and purity.Bilhah, Rachel's maid, bears two sons. Rachel becomes impatient of her barrenness and jealous of her sister, and unjustly reproaches her husband, who indignantly rebukes her. God, not he, has withheld children from her. She does what Sarah had done before her Genesis 16:2-3, gives her handmaid to her husband. No express law yet forbade this course, though nature and Scripture by implication did Genesis 2:23-25. "Dan." "God hath judged me." In this passage Jacob and Rachel use the common noun, God, the Everlasting, and therefore Almighty, who rules in the physical relations of things - a name suitable to the occasion. He had judged her, dealt with her according to his sovereign justice in withholding the fruit of the womb, when she was self-complacent and forgetful of her dependence on a higher power; and also in hearing her voice when she approached him in humble supplication. "Naphtali." "Wrestlings of God," with God, in prayer, on the part of both sisters, so that they wrestled with one another in the self-same act. Rachel, though looking first to Jacob and then to her maid, had at length learned to look to her God, and then had prevailed.CHAPTER 30

Ge 30:1-24. Domestic Jealousies.

1. Rachel envied her sister—The maternal relation confers a high degree of honor in the East, and the want of that status is felt as a stigma and deplored as a grievous calamity.

Give me children, or else I die—either be reckoned as good as dead, or pine away from vexation. The intense anxiety of Hebrew women for children arose from the hope of giving birth to the promised seed. Rachel's conduct was sinful and contrasts unfavorably with that of Rebekah (compare Ge 25:22) and of Hannah (1Sa 1:11).Rachel being barren, envies her sister, impatiently desires children of Jacob, Genesis 30:1. He is angry, and reproves her, Genesis 30:2. She gives him her handmaid Bilhah, who bears him Dan and Naphtali, Genesis 30:3-8. Leah ceasing to bear, gives Zilpah her maid to Jacob, Genesis 30:9. She bears him Gad and Asher, Genesis 30:10-13. Reuben, Leah’s son, finds mandrakes, and brings them to his mother; Rachel desires them; they bargain, Genesis 30:14,15. Jacob goes in to Leah, who conceives again and bears Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah, Genesis 30:16-21. God remembers Rachel; she conceives and bears Joseph, Genesis 30:22-24. Jacob desires to return unto his own country with his wives and children, Genesis 30:25,26. Laban denies his consent; having learnt by experience that God had blessed him for Jacob’s sake, Genesis 30:27. They make a new contract, Genesis 30:28-36. Jacob’s device, and the success of it, Genesis 30:37-43.

cir. 1749 A speech full of impatience, and bordering upon blasphemy, and striking at God himself through Jacob’s sides; for which therefore she afterwards smarted, dying by that very means whereby she hoped to prevent her death, and prolong her life, Genesis 35:18.

And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children,.... In the space of three or four years after marriage, and when her sister Leah had had four sons:

Rachel envied her sister; the honour she had of bearing children, and the pleasure in nursing and bringing them up, when she lay under the reproach of barrenness: or, "she emulated her sisters" (z); was desirous of having children even as she, which she might do, and yet not be guilty of sin, and much less of envy, which is a very heinous sin:

and said unto Jacob, give me children, or else I die; Rachel could never be so weak as to imagine that it was in the power of Jacob to give her children at his pleasure, or of a barren woman to make her a fruitful mother of children; though Jacob at sight seems so to have understood her: but either, as the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it, that he would pray the Lord to give her children, as Isaac prayed for Rebekah; so Aben Ezra and Jarchi: or that he would, think of some means or other whereby she might have children, at least that might be called hers; and one way she had in view, as appears from what follows: or otherwise she suggests she could not live comfortably; not that she should destroy herself, as some have imagined; but that she should be so uneasy in her mind, that her life would be a burden to her; that death would be preferred to it, and her fretting herself for want of children, in all probability, would issue in it.

(z) "aemulata est", Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, Schmidt.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.Verse 1. - And when Rachel saw (apparently after, though probably before, the birth of Leah's fourth son) that she bare Jacob no children (literally, that she bare not to Jacob), Rachel envied her sister (was jealous of her, the root referring to the redness with which the face of an angry woman is suffused); and said unto Jacob, Give me children (sons), or else I die - literally, and if not, I am a dead woman; i.e. for shame at her sterility. Rachel had three strong reasons for desiring children - that she might emulate her sister, become more dear to her husband, and above all share the hope of being a progenitrix of the promised Seed. If not warranted to infer that Rachel s barrenness was due to lack of prayer on her part and Jacob s (Keil), we are at least justified in asserting that her conduct in breaking forth into angry reproaches against her husband was unlike that of Jacob's mother, Rebekah, who, in similar circumstances, sought relief in prayer and oracles (Kalisch). The brief period that had elapsed since Rachel's marriage, in comparison with the twenty years of Rebekah's barrenness, signally discovered Rachel's sinful impatience. "Fulfil her week;" i.e., let Leah's marriage-week pass over. The wedding feast generally lasted a week (cf. Judges 14:12; Job 11:19). After this week had passed, he received Rachel also: two wives in eight days. To each of these Laban gave one maid-servant to wait upon her; less, therefore, than Bethuel gave to his daughter (Genesis 24:61). - This bigamy of Jacob must not be judged directly by the Mosaic law, which prohibits marriage with two sisters at the same time (Leviticus 18:18), or set down as incest (Calvin, etc.), since there was no positive law on the point in existence then. At the same time, it is not to be justified on the ground, that the blessing of God made it the means of the fulfilment of His promise, viz., the multiplication of the seed of Abraham into a great nation. Just as it had arisen from Laban's deception and Jacob's love, which regarded outward beauty alone, and therefore from sinful infirmities, so did it become in its results a true school of affliction to Jacob, in which God showed to him, by many a humiliation, that such conduct as his was quite unfitted to accomplish the divine counsels, and thus condemned the ungodliness of such a marriage, and prepared the way for the subsequent prohibition in the law.
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