Genesis 30:8
And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.
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(8) With great wrestlings.—Heb., wrestlings of God, but the Authorised Version undoubtedly gives the right sense. (See Note on Genesis 23:6.) By wrestling, some commentators understand prayer, but the connection of the two ideas of wrestling and prayer is taken from Genesis 32:24, where an entirely different verb is used. Rachel’s was a discreditable victory, won by making use of a bad custom, and it consisted in weaning her husband still more completely from the unloved Leah. Now that Bilhah and children were added to the attractiveness of her tent, her sister, she boasts, will be thought of no more.

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.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. With great wrestlings, Heb. With wrestlings of God; either with great and hard wrestlings or strivings, or by wrestling with God in fervent prayer, and by God’s grace and strength. Cir. 1747

I have prevailed; which was not true; for her sister exceeded her both in the number of her children, and in her propriety in them, being the fruit of her own womb, not of her handmaid’s, as Rachel’s were. Here is an instance how partial judges most persons are in their own causes and concernments.

And Rachel said, with great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister,.... Or, "with the wrestlings of God" (a), wrestling and striving in prayer with God; being vehement and importunate in her petitions to him, that she might have children as well as her sister: some render it, "I used the craftinesses of God", or "great craftiness with my sisters" (b); by giving her maid Bilhah to her husband, and having children by her:

and I have prevailed; as she strove in her desires and prayers to have another child before her sister had; in that she prevailed, or she was succeeded in her desires, she had children as she wished to have:

and she called his name Naphtali; which signifies "my wrestling", being a child she had been striving and wrestling for: these two sons of Bilhah were born, as say the Jews, Dan on the twenty ninth day of Elul or August, and lived one hundred and twenty seven years; Naphtali on the fifth of Tisri or September, and lived one hundred and thirty three years.

(a) "luctationibus Dei", Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius, Cartwright. (b) "Calliditatibus Dei, Oleaster, astutiis Dei", Schmidt.

And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, {c} and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.

(c) The arrogancy of man's nature appears in that she condemns her sister, after she has received this benefit from God to bear children.

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).

Genesis 30:8Bilhah'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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