Genesis 30 Commentary
I’m interested in Jacob’s reaction to Rachel’s problem. Rebekah had the same problem of ‘pain and difficulty’ in child bearing’. Isaac’s reaction was prayer to the LORD of the promise. Jacob reacts in anger and the result is an error very much the same as his grandfather’s. How can Bilhah bear children on behalf of Rachel? Anyhow, Dan and Naphtali are born. So with the first 4 from Leah, we now have 6 out twelve patriarchs that eventually came out of Jacob. Leah also had a servant called Zilpah who she gave to Jacob to bear children on her behalf and so we have Gad and Asher.
The LORD did eventually allow Rachel to conceive and so Joseph and Benjamin were born. The total now stands at 10. Leah would conceive twice after this and Issachar and Zebulun are born. So we have a complete lineup,12 patriarchs in total. These would become the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel. Leah also had a daughter named Dinah.
What happened next is typical of Jacob and we are not surprised. He cheats Laban and that is how he becomes very rich. Was the LORD happy with this transaction? The guess is no. It doesn’t just fit the description of the term blessing. It may be clever. It may be business sharpness. But it cannot be a blessing. It’s like a Christian stealing and buying property out of stolen money. They will have a house and might appear successful but that isn’t as a consequence of the LORD’S blessing. Something else not a blessing.
Jacob’s difficult route to success doesn’t look impressive. It is repulsive. You don’t admire it. You don’t want to have it. Laban is not the best of bosses but again Jacob has enslaved himself by his decisions. We have expected it. Laban is now an old man but in his youth he had hosted Isaac’s marriage emissary and was awe-struck and falling everywhere for the gold presents. Jacob the heir to Isaac’s wealth was now enslaved by Laban and had to cheat his way for success. It gives us a good picture of life without a blessing while being blessed – riches to rags by poor and sinful decisions. It explains to us how a saint with all positional authority and privileges can, by poor decisions, find himself in a mess. All this time Jacob is not shown as setting up altars to his God or indeed calling upon the LORD. He is just very busy with the issues of work and the worries and troubles of his multiple marriages. By sweat, success comes (not by blessing) – not entirely honest sweat though.
Later on Jacob would describe himself as being honest. His own children would use the same words to describe themselves to a disguised Joseph in Egypt. “We are honest men”.