“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!”Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.”So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son. 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.Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!”So she named him Gad.12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.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.”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.”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.17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.21 Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” 24 She named him Joseph, and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.”

As a general introduction to and overview of chapter 30, consider these words from Warren Wiersbe’s little gem of a book, ‘With the Word’, p.36: ‘There are two major themes in this chapter:the building of Jacob’s family (vv.1-24), and the building of Jacob’s fortune (vv.25-43). Various people (including Jacob) thought they were in control of the situation, but all of it was in the hands of God.’

He also says:

‘The building of Jacob’s family was vitally important to God’s plan of salvation, for God would use the nation of Israel to give the world the Bible and the Redeemer.’

I think it helpful to hold on to this big picture. In addition I will make three other points:

  1. Even in the most loving and caring of marriages we cannot (and we must not) become each other’s ‘gods’ (1,2). Only God is God. Human beings cannot bear such a weight of expectation being placed on them. We will inevitably let each other down. The obvious truth is we are not God! We have to be crystal clear in our understanding of, and our submission to, Jesus as Lord. He is the only One who can meet our deepest needs; He is the only One who can stay with us forever; He is the only One who is worthy of our worship. We look to Him together;
  2. No good can come from such competition between siblings (7,8 and following verses). It is sad to see such in-fighting, but nothing has changed. Families are still tragically riven by petty squabbles and in-fighting;
  3. And yet…we see God graciously and mercifully overruling and answering prayer (e.g.22-24). We can take heart as we read this. God was working with the rawest of raw materials. These people were so flawed. They didn’t have to be perfect for God to bless them. In His sovereignty God was even, wonderfully and mysteriously, using their sins to further His own purposes. He was working out something far bigger than their personal wants and wishes.

PRAYER: Lord, I repeatedly find myself reading your Word and feeling so grateful that ‘’this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end’’ (Psalm 48:14). For if I examine myself honestly, I know I am as bad as many of these frail characters – if not worse. I count on your ‘’goodness and mercy’’ to ‘’follow me all the days of my life’’