Gen 30:1 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”
‘Sterility was a great burden in biblical times. A childless couple was pitied by all. When Leah suffered a temporary period of sterility, she sent her son, Reuben, to the field to obtain mandrakes. Her barren sister, Rachel, also asked for some of the mandrakes. (Ge 30:9-24 ) The root of the mandrake was widely used in the ancient world to promote conception, although there is no reason to believe it was truly effective. It was also used as a narcotic.’ (Holman)
‘To be a wife without bearing children has always been regarded in the East, not only as a matter of regret, but as a reproach which could lead to divorce. This is the cause of Sarah’s despairing laughter (Gn. 18:12), Hannah’s silent prayer, (1 Sam 1:10ff ) Rachel’s passionate alternative of children or death (Gn. 30:1) and Elizabeth’s cry that God had taken away her reproach. (Lk 1:25 ) The awfulness of the coming judgment on Jerusalem is emphasized by the incredible statement, ‘Blessed are the barren … ’. (Lk 23:29 ) It was believed that the gift of children or the withholding of them indicated God’s blessing or curse (Ex 23:26; Dt. 7:14), as also did the barrenness or fruitfulness of the land.’ (Ps 107:33-34 ) (NBD)
Gen 30:2 Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”
Gen 30:3 Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my maidservant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family.”
Gen 30:4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her,
Gen 30:5 and she became pregnant and bore him a son.
Gen 30:6 Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan.
Gen 30:7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son.
Gen 30:8 Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.
Gen 30:9 When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her maidservant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife.
Gen 30:10 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son.
Gen 30:11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad.
Gen 30:12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son.
Gen 30:13 Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.
Gen 30:14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
Mandrake plants – cf. v1n. Mandrakes were thought to enhance fertility. ‘The outcome was ironical, the mandrakes doing nothing for Rachel, while Leah gained another son by parting with them.’ (Kidner)
Gen 30:15 But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” “Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”
This ‘is a further example, in this family, of trading in things that should be above trade, and resorting in trouble only half-heartedly to God.’ (Kidner)
Gen 30:16 So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.
Gen 30:17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son.
Gen 30:18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.
Gen 30:19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son.
Gen 30:20 Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honour, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.
Gen 30:21 Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.
Gen 30:22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb.
Gen 30:23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.”
Gen 30:24 She named him Joseph, and said, “May the LORD add to me another son.”
Gen 30:25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way so that I can go back to my own homeland.
Gen 30:26 Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.”
Gen 30:27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favour in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you.”
Gen 30:28 He added, “Name your wages, and I will pay them.”
Gen 30:29 Jacob said to him, “You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care.
Gen 30:30 The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?”
Gen 30:31 “What shall I give you?” he asked. “Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them:
Gen 30:32 Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-coloured lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages.
Gen 30:33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-coloured, will be considered stolen.”
Gen 30:34 “Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.”
Gen 30:35 That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-coloured lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons.
Gen 30:36 Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.
Gen 30:37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.
Gen 30:38 Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink,
Gen 30:39 they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted.
‘In displaying the striped rods at breeding time [Jacob] acted on the common belief that a vivid sight during pregnancy or conception would leave its mark on the embryo … No doubt some of his success came from selective breeding (40-42), but by itself this would have worked very slowly, as Laban reckoned it would. Clearly God intervened (see Gen 31:9-12) to fulfil the hopes Jacob placed in the rods, using them as he used the arrows of Joash or the bones of Elisha, as the means (or the occasions) of working miraculously.’ (Kidner)
Gen 30:40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-coloured animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals.
Gen 30:41 Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so that they would mate near the branches,
Gen 30:42 but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob.
Gen 30:43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and maidservants and menservants, and camels and donkeys.