Genesis 30:14
And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray you, of your son's mandrakes.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Reuben went . . . —When Leah ceased from bearing, there would be a considerable interval before she and Jacob gave up all expectation of further seed by her. Slowly and unwillingly she would substitute Zilpah for herself, and there would then be a further period of three or four years, to give time for the birth of Gad and Asher: and as Jacob at this time utterly neglected Leah, we do not know but that even a longer space intervened. Moreover, Jacob had other daughters besides Dinah (Genesis 37:35), and probably by these handmaids. We may well believe, therefore, that Reuben at this timewas from fifteen to twenty years of age, and might be trusted to wander at his will over the wild uncultivated waste.

In the days of wheat harvest.—This is mentioned to fix the time, namely, early in May. As Laban led a settled life, he may have grown wheat, as Jacob did in Canaan (Genesis 37:7), but mandrakes would most assuredly not be found on tilled land.

Mandrakes.—Heb., love-apples. It is generally agreed that the fruit meant is that of the Atropa mandragora, which ripens in May, and is of the size of a small plum, round, yellow, and full of soft pulp. The plant belongs to the same family (the Solanaceœ) as the potato, and the egg plant, the fruit of which is largely used as a vegetable in North America.

The mandragora has a long carrot-shaped root, from which grows a mass of leaves of a greyish colour, not unlike those of the primrose, but larger, and which lie flat upon the ground, and from among them rise blossoms, singly, of a rich purple colour. Canon Tristram (Nat. Hist. of Bible, p. 467) says that the fruit is not unpleasant, and that he has often eaten of it without experiencing any soporific or other bad effect. But in the East it has been, and is, the subject of many superstitions, and its Hebrew name arose from the popular belief that it was a specific against barrenness. Rachel, therefore, who still hankered after children of her own, was anxious to obtain some of the fruit, and Leah consents only upon the proffered condition that Jacob shall spend the night in her tent.

Genesis 30:14. Found mandrakes — The word דודאים, thus rendered, is only found here and Song of Solomon 7:13; and it is not agreed among interpreters whether it signifies a fruit or a flower. It is thought, however, by many, that mandrake-apples are here meant, which, according to Pliny, are of the size of filberts. They were pleasant to the smell, (Song of Solomon 7:13,) and probably also desirable for food. Whatever they were, Rachel could not see them in Leah’s hands, but she must covet them.30:14-24 The desire, good in itself, but often too great and irregular, of being the mother of the promised Seed, with the honour of having many children, and the reproach of being barren, were causes of this unbecoming contest between the sisters. The truth appears to be, that they were influenced by the promises of God to Abraham; whose posterity were promised the richest blessings, and from whom the Messiah was to descend."Reuben" was at this time four or five years of age, as it is probable that Leah began to bear again before Zilpah had her second son. "Mandrakes" - the fruit of the "mandragora vernaIis," which is to this day supposed to promote fruitfulness of the womb. Rachel therefore desires to partake of them, and obtains them by a compact with Leah. Leah betakes herself to prayer, and bears a fifth son. She calls him "Issakar," with a double allusion. She had hired her husband with the mandrakes, and had received this son as her hire for giving her maid to her husband; which she regards as an act of generosity or self-denial. "Zebulun." Here Leah confesses, "God hath endowed me with a good dowry." She speaks now like Rachel of the God of nature. The cherished thought that her husband will dwell with her who is the mother of six sons takes form in the name. "Dinah" is the only daughter of Jacob mentioned Genesis 46:7, and that on account of her subsequent connection with the history of Jacob Genesis 34. Issakar appears to have been born in the sixth year after Jacob's marriage, Zebulun in the seventh, and Dinah in the eighth.3-9. Bilhah … Zilpah—Following the example of Sarah with regard to Hagar, an example which is not seldom imitated still, she adopted the children of her maid. Leah took the same course. A bitter and intense rivalry existed between them, all the more from their close relationship as sisters; and although they occupied separate apartments, with their families, as is the uniform custom where a plurality of wives obtains, and the husband and father spends a day with each in regular succession, that did not allay their mutual jealousies. The evil lies in the system, which being a violation of God's original ordinance, cannot yield happiness. cir. 1748

Mandrakes: the word is only found here and Song of Solomon 7:13, whence it appears that it is a plant or fruit of pleasant smell, such as the mandrake is said to be by Dioscorides and Levinus Lemnius, and by St. Austin upon his own experience. If it be said this was too early for mandrakes to be ripe, it being now but wheat-harvest; it may be replied, that fruits ripen much sooner in those hot countries than elsewhere, and that they are not here said to be ripe, but only to be gathered.

Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes; which she might desire, either because they were pleasant to the eye or taste, or because they were thought helpful to conception. And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest,.... Leah's eldest son, who is supposed to be at this time about four or five years of age (e), who went out from the tent to the field, to play there perhaps; and this was at the time of wheat harvest, in the month Sivan, as the Targum of Jonathan, which answers to part of our May; a time of the year when the earth is covered with flowers:

and found mandrakes in the field; the flowers or fruit of mandrakes, mandrake apples, as the Septuagint. This plant is said to excite love, provoke lust, dispose for, and help conception; for which reasons it is thought Rachel was so desirous of these "mandrakes", which seem to have their name "dudaim" from love: the word is only used here and in Sol 7:13; where they are commended for their good smell, and therefore cannot be the plant which goes now by that name; since they neither give a good smell, nor bear good fruit, and are of a cold quality, and so not likely to produce the above effects ascribed unto them. It is very probable they were lovely and delightful flowers the boy picked up in the field, such as children delight in; some think the "jessamin", others lilies, and others violets (f); it is not easy to determine what they were; See Gill on Sol 7:13,

and brought them unto his mother Leah; as children are apt to do, to show what line flowers or fruit they have gathered:

then Rachel said to Leah, give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes; being taken with the colour or smell of them; for as for the notion of helping conception, or removing barrenness and the like, there is no foundation for it; for Rachel, who had them, did not conceive upon having them; and the conception both of her and Leah afterwards is ascribed to the Lord's remembering and hearkening to them.

(e) Shalshaley Hakabala, fol. 3. 2. (f) Vid. T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 99. 2. & Gloss. in ib.

And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found {e} 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.

(e) Which is a kind of herb whose root has a likeness to the figure of a man.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.”Verse 14. - And Reuben (at this time four or five years old) went (probably accompanying the reapers) in the days of wheat harvest (in the beginning of May), and found mandrakes - דּוּדָאים, μῆλα μαδραγορῶν, (LXX., Josephus), apples of the mandragora, an herb resembling belladonna, with a root like a carrot, having white and reddish blossoms of a sweet smell, and with yellow odoriferous apples, ripening in May and June, and supposed, according to Oriental superstition, to possess the virtue of conciliating love and promoting fruitfulness (vide Gesenius, p. 191, and cf. Rosenmüller's 'Seholia,' and Kalisch in loco) - in the field (when at his childish play), and brought them unto his mother Leah (which a son of more mature years would not have done). Then Rachel (not exempt from the prevailing superstition) said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes (in the hopes that they would remove her sterility). Bilhah's Sons. - When Rachel thought of her own barrenness, she became more and more envious of her sister, who was blessed with sons. But instead of praying, either directly or through her husband, as Rebekah had done, to Jehovah, who had promised His favour to Jacob (Genesis 28:13.), she said to Jacob, in passionate displeasure, "Get me children, or I shall die;" to which he angrily replied, "Am I in God's stead (i.e., equal to God, or God), who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?" i.e., Can I, a powerless man, give thee what the Almighty God has withheld? Almighty like God Jacob certainly was not; but he also wanted the power which he might have possessed, the power of prayer, in firm reliance upon the promise of the Lord. Hence he could neither help nor advise his beloved wife, but only assent to her proposal, that he should beget children for her through her maid Bilhah (cf. Genesis 16:2), through whom two sons were born to her. The first she named Dan, i.e., judge, because God had judged her, i.e., procured her justice, hearkened to her voice (prayer), and removed the reproach of childlessness; the second Naphtali, i.e., my conflict, or my fought one, for "fightings of God, she said, have I fought with my sister, and also prevailed." אלהים נפתּוּלי are neither luctationes quam maximae, nor "a conflict in the cause of God, because Rachel did not wish to leave the founding of the nation of God to Leah alone" (Knobel), but "fightings for God and His mercy" (Hengstenberg), or, what comes to the same thing, "wrestlings of prayer she had wrestled with Leah; in reality, however, with God Himself, who seemed to have restricted His mercy to Leah alone" (Delitzsch). It is to be noticed, that Rachel speaks of Elohim only, whereas Leah regarded her first four sons as the gift of Jehovah. In this variation of the names, the attitude of the two women, not only to one another, but also to the cause they served, is made apparent. It makes no difference whether the historian has given us the very words of the women on the birth of their children, or, what appears more probable, since the name of God is not introduced into the names of the children, merely his own view of the matter as related by him (Genesis 29:31; Genesis 30:17, Genesis 30:22). Leah, who had been forced upon Jacob against his inclination, and was put by him in the background, was not only proved by the four sons, whom she bore to him in the first years of her marriage, to be the wife provided for Jacob by Elohim, the ruler of human destiny; but by the fact that these four sons formed the real stem of the promised numerous seed, she was proved still more to be the wife selected by Jehovah, in realization of His promise, to be the tribe-mother of the greater part of the covenant nation. But this required that Leah herself should be fitted for it in heart and mind, that she should feel herself to be the handmaid of Jehovah, and give glory to the covenant God for the blessing of children, or see in her children actual proofs that Jehovah had accepted her and would bring to her the affection of her husband. It was different with Rachel, the favourite and therefore high-minded wife. Jacob should give her, what God alone could give. The faithfulness and blessing of the covenant God were still hidden from her. Hence she resorted to such earthly means as procuring children through her maid, and regarded the desired result as the answer of God, and a victory in her contest with her sister. For such a state of mind the term Elohim, God the sovereign ruler, was the only fitting expression.
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