Rachel (Hebrew: “ewe”) was the favorite wife of Jacob – 1 of the 3 Biblical Patriarchs, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. She was the daughter of Laban, and the younger sister of Leah, Jacob’s first wife.
Marriage to Jacob
– Jacob’s Love for Rachel (Gen. 29:1-17)
Rachel is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 29 when Jacob happened upon her as she was about to water her father’s flock. She was the second daughter of Laban, Rebekah’s brother. Jacob had traveled a great distance to find Laban. Rebekah had sent him there to be safe from his vengeful twin brother, Esau.
It was love at first sight. Rachel was a “head-turner”… yet, when taken as a whole, we will see some unattractive qualities. She will prove to be jealous… demanding… desperate… conniving.
We live in a culture obsessed by youth and beauty. But, beauty really is more than skin deep… and outer beauty eventually fades.
Inner beauty is what God looks for… and inner beauty will ALWAYS eventually shine through. The longer and closer we walk with God, the more attractive we will become!
* It’s possible to be “good-looking”, and not very attractive at the same time.
– Jacob’s Labor for Rachel (Gen. 29:18-30)
Jacob agreed to work 7yrs for Laban in return for her hand in marriage. On the night of the wedding, the bride was veiled and Jacob did not notice that Laban had substituted Leah, Rachel’s older sister, for Rachel. Whereas “Rachel was lovely in form and beautiful,” “Leah had tender eyes“.
Later, Jacob confronted Laban, who excused his own deception by insisting that the older sister should marry first. He assured Jacob that after his wedding week was finished, he could take Rachel as a wife as well, and work another 7yrs as payment for her.
Why did God allow multiple wives? It certainly wasn’t His preferred plan, but men like Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon, and others had more than one wife. While it wasn’t God’s preferred plan:
– it helped populate the earth quicker,
– it ensured the continuation of family lines, and
– it provided for women who might otherwise have remained single in a warlike culture where men were frequently killed in battle.
But polygamy always resulted in tension and bitterness in families.
Even when God must work around – and within – a culture of sin, He still works His will to result in the best.
That’s also true in your life and mine!
After Leah had given birth to 4 sons, Rachel remained unable to conceive. She became jealous of Leah, and gave Jacob her maidservant, Bilhah, to be a surrogate mother for her. Bilhah gave birth to 2 sons that Rachel named and raised (Dan & Naphtali). Leah responded by offering her handmaid Zilpah to Jacob, and named and raised the 2 sons (Gad and Asher) Zilpah bore.
After Leah conceived again, Rachel was finally blessed with a son, Joseph, who would become Jacob’s favorite child. Joseph would become the leader of Israel’s tribes between exile and nationhood.
When we struggle (with infertility, financial trouble, family issues, a setback, etc.), we tend to notice those around us who are doing well. We become envious. In time, we might even become bitter, falling into the trap of thinking happiness – or even life itself – hinges in whether or not our problems are being solved to our satisfaction.
A better response in the midst of difficulty is to look to God. He is all we really need. His Presence is far more valuable than anything else.
* Jealousy keeps us from remembering what really matters.
After Joseph’s birth, Jacob decided to return to the land of Canaan with his family. Fearing that Laban would deter him, he fled with his 2 wives, Leah and Rachel, and 12 children without informing his father-in-law. Laban chased him, and accused him of stealing his idols. Indeed, Rachel had taken her father’s idols, hidden them inside her camel’s seat cushion, and sat upon them. Not knowing that the idols were in his wife’s possession, Jacob pronounced a curse on whoever had them: “With whoever you will find your gods, he will not live” (Gen. 31:32). Laban proceeded to search the tents of Jacob and his wives, but when he came to Rachel’s tent, she told her father, “Let not my lord be angered that I cannot rise up before you, for the way of women is upon me” (Gen. 31:35). Laban left her alone, but the curse Jacob had pronounced came true shortly thereafter.
Death and Burial
Near Ephrath, Rachel went into a difficult labor with her second son, Benjamin. The midwife told her in the middle of the birth that her child was a boy. Before she died, Rachel named her son Ben Oni (“son of my mourning”), but Jacob called him Ben Yamin/Benjamin (“son of the right/south”… since Benjamin was the only one of Jacob’s sons born in Canaan, which is to the south of Paddan Aram; or “son of my days,”… as Benjamin was born in Jacob’s old age).
Rachel was buried by Jacob on the road to Efrat, just outside Bethlehem.
You can read Rachel’s story in Genesis 29-35.