Genesis 30

Sunday Morning Bible Study

July 1, 2007

Introduction

Jacob has traveled to a distant land looking for a bride. He got more than he asked for and ended up being tricked by his uncle into marrying two sisters, Leah and Rachel. Though Rachel was the one he loved and the one he wanted, Leah is the one that starts getting pregnant first. She’s already given birth to four sons…

:1-24 The Baby Race Continues

:1 Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die!"

In these ancient days, a woman’s sense of worth came out of the children she gave birth to. It was a great shame to have no children.

Rachel says she will die if she has no children. The irony is that she will die in childbirth.

:2 And Jacob's anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, "Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?"

Lesson

Look to God, not your spouse

(Rom 8:20 NKJV) For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;
We are a part of God’s creation, and we’ve been “subjected to futility” – in other words, there is an emptiness in our lives. Everything we try to fill that emptiness only show us that it can’t be filled.
For some, they try and fill the emptiness with sex, drugs, or alcohol. For others, it’s stuff that seems better, and they try and fill their emptiness with sports, going to the movies, the latest video games, or buy stuff at the mall.
For some, they try and fill the emptiness with a person. They get married and hope that this person will fill that emptiness. Others are looking for a friend.
But there is only one Person who can fill that emptiness. He’s the “hope”.

You aren’t going to fill that emptiness with Sunday-only-Christianity. You are only going to fill that emptiness with a close, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Only He can fill the hole in your heart.

:3-8 Bilhah’s sons

:3 So she said, "Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, and she will bear a child on my knees, that I also may have children by her."

BilhahBilhah – “troubled”

Jacob has a couple of examples he could follow.

Grandpa Abraham did the “maid” thing.  His wife Sarah gave him her maid Hagar.  It was not a good thing.

Papa Isaac did things differently.  His wife Rebekah did not get pregnant right away and it appears that he prayed for twenty years before she got pregnant.

have children by her – Just like Sarah did, Rachel is going to consider all of Bilhah’s children to be her own. Kind of like an ancient “surrogate” pregnancy.

:4 Then she gave him Bilhah her maid as wife, and Jacob went in to her.

:5 And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son.

:6 Then Rachel said, "God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son." Therefore she called his name Dan.

DanDan – “a judge” or “justice”

:7 And Rachel's maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son.

:8 Then Rachel said, "With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed." So she called his name Naphtali.

NaphtaliNaphtaliy – “wrestling”. Rachel saw herself wrestling with Leah for supremacy in the marriage.

:9-13 Zilpah’s sons

:9 When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took Zilpah her maid and gave her to Jacob as wife.

ZilpahZilpah – “a trickling”

Leah seems to be afraid of losing her advantage over Rachel, so she follows Rachel’s example and give her maid to her Jacob. Jacob now has four wives.

As we mentioned last week, this is not God’s design for marriage. Jesus made it clear (Mat. 19) that God’s design was seen in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, one man and one woman.

:10 And Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son.

:11 Then Leah said, "A troop comes!" So she called his name Gad.

GadGad – “troop” I wonder if it could be translated “team”; besides Leah’s four sons of her own this makes five boys, she can now field a basketball team; his email address was “[email protected]

:12 And Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son.

:13 Then Leah said, "I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed." So she called his name Asher.

Asher‘Asher – “happy”; this makes six boys on Leah’s team, if they were short in stature and she has one more boy, they might have been called the “seven dwarves”, hey, they’ve got “happy”, where’s Sneezy?

:14-21 Leah resumes childbirth

:14 Now Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, "Please give me some of your son's mandrakes."

mandrakesduwday – mandrake, love-apple; it is a plant that is a member of the belladonna family of plants that contain the eggplant, potato, tobacco, and chili pepper. The ancients considered the fruit of this plant to be an “aphrodisiac”, kind of like an ancient form of Viagra, and they considered the root of the plant to increase fertility, the very thing to help a barren woman become pregnant. It sounds like just the thing that Rachel needs.

:15 But she said to her, "Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son's mandrakes also?" And Rachel said, "Therefore he will lie with you tonight for your son's mandrakes."

Rachel makes a deal with Leah. Rachel trades a night with Jacob for Leah’s mandrakes.

:16 When Jacob came out of the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, "You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son's mandrakes." And he lay with her that night.

I don’t hear Jacob complaining.

:17 And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.

Rachel has tried to use her own wisdom to get pregnant by getting the mandrakes and letting Leah sleep with Jacob. But Rachel is still not pregnant, and Leah gets pregnant again.

Where does our scheming get us? It often backfires.

:18 Leah said, "God has given me my wages, because I have given my maid to my husband." So she called his name Issachar.

IssacharYissaskar – “there is recompense”

Leah feels like she had to pay a lot by letting Jacob sleep with Zilpah, and now God has rewarded her by letting her have another child. We also see the “wages” idea in how she “hired” Jacob by giving her mandrakes to Rachel.

Is it true that God honored her because she gave her maid to Jacob?

I have a hard time with this idea. It’s interesting all the things we attribute to God.

:19 Then Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son.

:20 And Leah said, "God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons." So she called his name Zebulun.

The words for “endowed” (zabad) and “dwell with” (zabal) both sound pretty close to Zebulun.

Zebulun[email protected] – “exalted” or “dwelling”. It seems like Leah wants a sort of double meaning to Zebulun’s name.

:21 Afterward she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah.

DinahDiynah – (pronounced “Dee-na”, not “Die-na”) “judgment” (like “Dan”)

We aren’t told why this little girl was named this.  When Rachel named Bilhah’s son “Dan”, she felt that God was judging in her favor.  Though there are some scriptures that seem to hint that Jacob had other daughters (Gen. 37:35; 46:7, 15), this is the only one mentioned by name.  We’ll learn more about Dinah when we get to Gen. 34.

:22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.

Rachel finally gets pregnant, and it comes as a result of answered prayer, not mandrakes.

:23 And she conceived and bore a son, and said, "God has taken away my reproach."

:24 So she called his name Joseph, and said, "The LORD shall add to me another son."

JosephYowceph – could be translated “Yahweh has added”, or “Yahweh has taken away”, both relate to what Rachel said at the birth.

It is interesting that now that Rachel has finally had a son, she names him, “I want more”. It seems we’re never satisfied…

Lesson

The blessing of children

Though we see a lot of carnality in Jacob’s family, you have to admit that they have one thing right. They understand the blessing of children.
(Psa 127 NKJV) Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. {2} It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep. {3} Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. {4} Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. {5} Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
There’s an old saying, “The difference between the man with five million dollars and the man with five kids is that the man with the money wants more”.
I think that in God’s sight, that saying stinks. Jacob would agree. Those of you blessed with children, there is nothing more valuable in your family than your kids.
Illustration
…from Bill Cosby's book Fatherhood. He writes:
“Now that my father is a grandfather, he just can’t wait to give money to my kids. But when I was his kid and I asked him for fifty cents, he would tell me the story of his life. How he got up at 5 A.M. when he was seven years old and walked twenty-three miles to milk ninety cows. And the farmer for whom he worked had no bucket, so he had to squirt the milk into his little hand and then walk eight miles to the nearest can. All for 5 cents a month. The result was that I never got my 50 cents. But now he tells my children every time he comes into the house: “Well, lets see how much money old Granddad has got for his wonderful kids.” And the minute they take money out of his hands I call them over to me and I snatch it away from them. Because that is MY money.”
Yet as much as Bill Cosby jokes about how tough it is being a parent, he will also confess, “Nothing I've ever done has given me more joys and rewards than being a father to my five.”
Raising kids is not easy. There are times when you want to pull your hair out. But be careful that you don’t lose sight of the treasures in front of you and the incredible honor and blessing it is to have been entrusted by God to raise, nurture, train, and develop your children.

:25-36 Jacob’s Wage Agreement

:25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, "Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country.

Jacob’s original deal with Laban was to serve him for seven years, after which Laban would give Jacob his daughter Rachel to Jacob for a wife. When Laban tricked Jacob and gave Leah to him instead, the deal was for Jacob to serve Laban for an additional seven years to pay off his marriage to Rachel.

We are now at that fourteen year mark. Jacob is ready to go home, except he doesn’t have much to bring home except a very large family. He’s spent the last fourteen years paying off the loan on the family, now he’s ready to build his own business.

:26 "Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you."

Jacob is ready to leave with nothing but his wives and children.

:27 And Laban said to him, "Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake."

by experiencenachash – to practice divination, divine, observe signs, learn by experience, diligently observe, practice fortunetelling, take as an omen

It seems that Laban has been greatly blessed during the fourteen years that Jacob has been with him. At one point Laban was curious as to why he was doing so well. The word used here could mean that he consulted with someone like a medium who read his tea leaves, or it could be that he stepped back and simply saw for himself what was obvious, that God had put His hand on Jacob and was blessing Laban for Jacob’s sake.

Laban isn’t ready for Jacob to leave.

Lesson

Be a blessing

As believers, we know that God is “with” us. God’s presence in our lives is a blessing and we often see that this blessing of God affects those that are around us.
Abimelech could tell that God was with Isaac:
(Gen 26:28 NKJV) But they said, "We have certainly seen that the LORD is with you…
Joseph as Potiphar’s servant:
(Gen 39:2-5 NKJV) The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. {3} And his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand. {4} So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. {5} So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field.
Even when Joseph was thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit, God was with him and God blessed everything he did (Gen. 39:21-23)
I don’t think this is just because we’re some sort of “lucky charm”, it’s because God’s people ought to stand out among the crowd. They ought to be the hardest working employees a boss has.
(Col 3:22-25 NKJV) Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. {23} And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, {24} knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. {25} But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
(Prov 25:13 NKJV) Like the cold of snow in time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters.

:28 Then he said, "Name me your wages, and I will give it."

Laban doesn’t want Jacob to go, so comes up with a new incentive for Jacob to stay.

From what you know about Laban, do you trust what he says? Remember, this is the man that promised to give Jacob Rachel after seven years of labor, but in the end he switched daughters and gave him Leah instead.

In another six years, Jacob will say:

(Gen 31:7 NKJV) "Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.

:29 So Jacob said to him, "You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me.

:30 "For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the LORD has blessed you since my coming. And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?"

:31 So he said, "What shall I give you?" And Jacob said, "You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks:

Jacob will agree to continue to take care of Laban’s flocks as long as Laban will allow him to take all the off-colored and speckled animals at the end of the agreement.

:32 "Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages.

:33 "So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me."

:34 And Laban said, "Oh, that it were according to your word!"

The funny thing is that it’s not going to be according to Jacob’s “word”, Laban is going to continually change the agreement over the next six years. For now the agreement is to give Jacob the brown, speckled, and spotted, but that will be changing.

:35 So he removed that day the male goats that were speckled and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had some white in it, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and gave them into the hand of his sons.

sons – when Jacob arrived fourteen years earlier, Laban didn’t have any sons.  Now he has sons.

So – could also be translated “but”, which changes the idea …

(Gen 30:35 NLT) But that very day Laban went out and removed …

:36 Then he put three days' journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks.

Laban has taken all the goats that could provide the best breeding stock for Jacob, given them to his sons, and removed them from the picture.

In other words, Jacob is going to start again with nothing. Ripped off again.

:37-43 Jacob’s unusual husbandry tactics

:37 Now Jacob took for himself rods of green poplar and of the almond and chestnut trees, peeled white strips in them, and exposed the white which was in the rods.

whitelaban – white; There’s a play on words here. Laban’s own name means “white”, and here Jacob uses the rods with the “white” strips on them to manipulate the flock.

:38 And the rods which he had peeled, he set before the flocks in the gutters, in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, so that they should conceive when they came to drink.

Apparently Jacob thought he had found a way to encourage the breeding of the goats. These rods somehow got the animals “in the mood”.

Did Jacob actually discover a secret in animal husbandry? Not really. We’ll see in the next chapter that it was really God’s hand on Jacob all along. Jacob could have thrown spit-wads at the goats and it would have done the same thing. God is simply honoring Jacob’s hard work.

:39 So the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted.

Even though Jacob is working with goats that are all white, they have the genes to be able to produce off-colored and spotted flocks. Once the animals began giving birth, brown and speckled goats began to be born.

:40 Then Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the streaked and all the brown in the flock of Laban; but he put his own flocks by themselves and did not put them with Laban's flock.

:41 And it came to pass, whenever the stronger livestock conceived, that Jacob placed the rods before the eyes of the livestock in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.

:42 But when the flocks were feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban's and the stronger Jacob's.

As this white flock began to produce more brown and speckled goats, Jacob began to use selective breeding produce more and stronger brown and speckled goats.

:43 Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

Lesson

Blessed Results

Jacob’s prosperity seems to come from two things:
1. He worked hard

Years ago, there was a big city boy preaching in a small country town. He wanted to learn everything “country” so that he could fit in. As he was searching for Widow Jones’ farm, he got lost on the back roads. He saw a farmer walking into his barn so he stopped for directions. He was just beginning to milk his cow but took time out to tell me how to get to the Jones’ farm. “By the way, “I asked, “Do you know what time it is?” He leaned in to the udder of the cow and said, “12:30.” He started to leave but He just HAD to know. He told him, “Hey, I’ve just moved from the city and I really want to know the ways of the country. How could you tell what time it was?” “Sit right here on this stool, son.” He did. “Now, grab hold of that udder.” He did. (Before this, my closest experience to this was grabbing a milk carton). “Now lean into the cow and lift up on the udder.” He did. “Lean over and look right over there on that wall. See that’s a clock. When the little hand is on the 12...”

There wasn’t much secret farm “magic” to Jacob’s prosperity. He simply worked hard at his business. His goal was to provide for his family. He devised ingenious methods, but he worked hard.

2. God was at work

Back in the dream at Bethel, God had promised to help Jacob.

(Gen 28:15 NKJV) "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you."

Hard work + God’s help = blessed results

This isn’t a key to financial success; it’s a key to having a blessed life.

“Keep doing your best, pray that it’s blessed, and Jesus takes care of the rest” (Keith Green)