Genesis 30
Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.
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 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?
Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel for the injury done to himself, and especially for the sin against God, in which case anger is not only lawful, but necessary.

Am I in God’s stead? It is God’s prerogative to give children. See Genesis 16:2 1 Samuel 2:5,6 Psa 113:9 127:3.

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.
She shall bear upon my knees; an ellipsis or short speech; She shall bear a child which may be laid upon my knees, or in my lap, which I may adopt and bring up as if it were my own. See Genesis 50:23 Isaiah 66:12.

That I may also have children by her; for as servants, so their work and fruit, were not their own, but their masters’.

And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son.
cir. 1748

No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
God hath judged me, pleaded my cause, or given sentence for me, as this phrase is oft taken.

And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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

When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son.
No text from Poole on this verse. Cir 1748

And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.
A troop cometh, or, good luck cometh; my design hath well succeeded; a happy star hath shone upon me; and such a star in the opinion of astrologers is that of Jupiter, which by the Arabians is called Gad. This may well agree to Leah and her heathenish education, and the manners of the Chaldeans, who were much given to the study of the stars.

And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son.
cir. 1747 No text from Poole on this verse.

And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.
The daughters of men, i.e. women, as Proverbs 31:29 Song of Solomon 6:9.

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.
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 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.
Jacob either did equally divide the times between his two wives; or rather, had more estranged himself from Leah, and cohabited principally with Rachel, which occasioned the foregoing expostulation.

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.
He ratified their agreement, that he might preserve peace and love amongst them.

And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.
God hearkened unto Leah, notwithstanding her many infirmities. Hence it appears that she was moved herein not by any inordinate lust, but by a desire of children. cir. 1747

And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.
Thus she mistakes the answer of her prayers for a recompence of her error.

And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son.
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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.
cir. 1746 No text from Poole on this verse.

And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.
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And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.
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And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach:
Barrenness was then accounted a great reproach, especially in that race, because it was a kind of curse, whereby such persons were excluded both from the first and general blessing of fructification given to all mankind, Genesis 1:28; and from the special blessing given to Abraham for the multiplication of his seed; and from all hopes of being the progenitors of the blessed Messias.

And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
Canaan, which he calleth his country, in regard both of his former and long habitation in it, and of the right which he had to it by God’s promise: see Genesis 28:13.

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.
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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.
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And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.
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And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me.
How carefully it was managed, and how greatly improved by my care and industry.

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?
For it was little comparatively to what now it is.

Since my coming; Heb. at my foot, i.e. upon my coming; since my feet entered into thy house: or, by my foot, i.e. by my ministry and labour, as this phrase is used, Deu 11:10.

When shall I provide for mine own house also, according to my duty, which also is thy interest?

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:
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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.
Speckled and spotted cattle, which may seem to be thus distinguished; speckled with little spots, and spotted with greater spots or stains, both of diverse colours from the rest of the body. Or, the speckled may be the same with the ring-straked, by comparing this with Genesis 30:35.

All the brown cattle; or black, or dark-coloured; for the Hebrew word signifies also great heat which produceth such a colour.

Of such shall be my hire; or, then shall be my hire; and for then, as is frequent in Scripture. The sense is: Then, when the speckled, and spotted, and brown are separated, and none but white remaining, my hire shall be out of those white ones, and that in such manner as is expressed in Genesis 30:33, all the white young ones shall be thine, and the speckled, and spotted, and brown which shall be brought forth by those white ones shall be mine.

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.
When the cattle shall, contrary to their natural and usual course, bring forth young ones of a contrary colour to their own, it will hereby be evident that this is the work of God, who hereby pleads my righteous cause against a cruel and unjust master. Or thus, When thou shall accuse me of doing thee injury, I shall have this manifest and undeniable evidence of my righteousness or innocency, that I have no cattle but of that colour which is by agreement appropriated to me.

When it shall come for my hire before thy face. When it, i.e. my righteousness, shall come to, or upon my reward, i.e. when my righteousness shall appear in the very colour of that cattle which is allotted to me for my reward or hire;

before thy face, i.e. thou being present and diligently observing whether I have any cattle of another colour. But the Hebrew word tabo is also of the second person, and so the sense seems to be this, When thou shalt come upon my hire or reward, to wit, to observe and see whether I have any other cattle than what belongs to me. And so these words come in by way of parenthesis; and the following words, before my face, are to be joined to the former words, thus, so shall righteousness answer for me in time to come (when thou shalt come upon my hire) before thy face. This I prefer before the other, because the phrase of coming upon his hire seems more properly to agree to a person than to his righteousness.

And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.
Laban trusted to the course of nature, whereby cattle usually bring forth their young of their own colour; and Jacob relied upon the providence of an Almighty God, and his gracious Father.

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.
The he-goats that were ring-straked, which had lines or strakes like bands about them of diverse colours from the rest of their body.

Every one that had some white: this word some is oft understood in other texts of Scripture, and here it is so necessarily; as appears both from the thing itself, as it is related, and from the phrase; for he saith not that was white, but that had white in it, to wit, mixed with other colours.

And he set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks.
Three days’ journey; understand it of the journeying or travelling of sheep, not of men. He did this lest either Jacob should mingle and exchange the sheep, or the sheep, by the contemplation of the diverse coloured ones, should bring forth others like to them.

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.
Jacob took rods: this he did by Divine appointment, as will appear in the sequel, which is sufficient for Jacob’s justification.

Took rods of green popular, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; either because these trees were next at hand, or because he saw these in the Divine vision afterwards mentioned, and would exactly follow his pattern. He

made the white appear, by pilling off the rind which covered it.

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.
When by their refreshment and meeting together, they were most likely to generate and conceive.

And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.
The flocks conceived; Heb. were heated, i.e. inflamed or excited, and disposed to conceive, and this in a more than ordinary manner by the Divine disposal. The event hath some foundation in nature, because of the great power of imagination; and there are divers instances in many authors, both of women and of beasts, who either by the strong fancying, or by the actual and frequent contemplation, of some certain objects, have brought forth young ones exactly of the same colour and complexion, as one did an Ethiopian, &c. But the providence of God was the principal cause of this effect, without which the productions of that kind would neither have been so many nor so certain. This policy of Jacob’s could scarcely be excused from deceit and injustice, if it were not manifest that it was done by the direction and authority of the sovereign Lord of all estates, Genesis 31:9,11, &c., who may take them from one, and give them to another, as it pleaseth him; who also observed Laban’s injustice, and gave to Jacob no more than he abundantly deserved from Laban.

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.
Jacob did separate the lambs, such as were ring-straked and brown from the white, as it here follows. He caused

the ring-straked and all the brown to go foremost, and the white to follow them, that by the continued beholding of them in the time of their conjunction, they might have their colour more imprinted upon their fancies, and thereby convey it to their young ones. He

put them not unto Laban’s cattle; which he did upon the same reason, lest the constant beholding of them should make them bring forth the like, i.e. single-coloured ones.

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.
It is known that the cattle in those parts did conceive and bring forth twice in a year, at spring and in autumn; and it is supposed that the

stronger here mentioned, are such as joined in the spring, and the feeble they that joined in autumn.

But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.
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Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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