All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Sister Struggles
Based on Genesis 29 and 30

Laban gives Jacob his two daughters in marriage and follows the ancient custom of giving each of them a personal assistant from among his maids. But soon it’s clear that Jacob loves Rachel more than Leah, and this bigamous marriage sparks a lifelong conflict between the sisters. Even the names of their children reflect their hopes—and rivalry!

Looking for Love

Our merciful Lord sees that Leah is not loved, so He gives her a son whom she names Reuben (literally, “Behold, a son!”) and cries, “Now therefore, my husband will love me.” She names her second son Simeon (“Heard”), saying, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved He has given me this son also.” Her third son she names Levi (“Attached”), saying, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have born him three sons.” However, she still doesn’t win her husband’s love.

Her fourth son she names, Judah (“Praise”). Notice her focus changes from her problem, to God, as she says, “Now I will praise the Lord” (literally, Yahweh, indicating a strong relationship with Him).


Each time Leah conceives, Rachel’s envy grows. “Give me children or else I die!” she cries. But Jacob answers hotly, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”

Soon Rachel repeats Sarah’s mistake from years ago by giving Jacob her maid. Bilhah bears a son, and Rachel calls him Dan (“Judge”). “God has judged my case,” she says, “and He has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Notice she uses the Hebrew word Elohim for God. This name emphasizes His power, rather than the intimate Yahweh used by Leah. Bilhah bears a second son and Rachel names him Naphtali (“My wrestling”), boasting, “I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.”

a Bad Example

After seeing Rebekah’s maid bearing her children, Leah makes the same mistake and gives her maid to Jacob. Zilpah bears a son, whom Leah names Gad (translated by some from a post-biblical tradition as, “a troop”; however, the Septuagint, a better ancient Greek translation, gives it as “Good fortune”). Leah names Zilpah’s second son Asher (“Happy”), saying, “I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed.”

During the wheat harvest, Leah’s son, Ruben, finds some mandrakes, whose roots are used by pagans to this day in magic rituals. The ancients believed they would stimulate sexual desire and promote fertility, so he brings them to his mother.

Seeing this, Rachel begs for the mandrakes, hoping to remove her infertility. Leah agrees to give them to her in exchange for a night with Jacob, and as a result she bears Issachar (“Wages”), saying, “God has given me my wages, because I have given my maid to my husband.”

She bears another son, Zebulun—(“Habitation”), stating, “Now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.”

However, God remembers Rachel, and she bears Joseph (“He will add”). Triumphantly she proclaims, “God has taken away my reproach,” and predicts, “The Lord shall add to me another son.” Her reference to God now is “Lord,” indicating she’s finally on more intimate terms with Him.

Although Jacob now has 11 sons and at least one daughter (Dinah), he must live with two concubines and two jealous and unhappy wive­s—one who feels unloved, and another who craves more children. He also has a ruthless father-in-law who was constantly trying to take advantage of him. But that’s a story for another day.

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Was I spinning? It must have worked.

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