30 Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children by Jacob. So she became jealous of her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” 2 Jacob became angry with her. He said, “Do you think I’m God? He’s the one who has kept you from having children.” 3 Then she said, “Here’s my servant Bilhah. Sleep with her so that she can have children for me. Then I too can have a family through her.” 4 So Rachel gave Jacob her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her. 5 And Bilhah became pregnant. She had a son by him. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has stood up for my rights. He has listened to my prayer and given me a son.” So she named him Dan. 7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah became pregnant again. She had a second son by Jacob. 8 Then Rachel said, “I’ve had a great struggle with my sister. Now I’ve won.” So she named him Naphtali. 9 Leah saw that she had stopped having children. So she gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah had a son by Jacob. 11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad. 12 Leah’s servant Zilpah had a second son by Jacob. 13 Then Leah said, “I’m so happy! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.
This seems to be a classic rivalry of sisters Rachel & Leah, wives of Jacob, as to which one is better. Rachel unable to have children, gives her maid Bilhah to Jacob to see if she can appropriate a family that way. This seems to work well. Leah then thinks she’ll do the same. Jacob has 4 more sons from these arrangements.
I feel like we have read this story before (see Abraham & Sarah Gen 16). To us today this seems a bit messed up or perhaps something we’d see on an American talk show, but in that time & culture this method of making a family, and finding value as a woman, was acceptable & normal.
What hasn’t changed are the emotional responses of the women, the desire to have a family, jealousy, need of love & acceptance by their husband & acceptance by peers. These are all powerful emotions & feelings, along with the need to be valued.
Cultures today aren’t all that different, where the value of a woman is gained through marriage and bearing children, especially boys. As a single woman who has not had children I am so thankful that my value isn’t determined in this way. Even more importantly, I am eternally thankful that my value as a person is found completely in and through Jesus.
Father thank you that you value me, not by what I do, or what I can produce, but I am valued through my relationship with your Son, Jesus.
Written by Suzie Hodgson