14 While the wheat harvest was being gathered, Reuben went out into the fields. He found some mandrake plants. He brought them to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” 15 But Leah said to her, “Isn’t it enough that you took my husband away? Are you going to take my son’s mandrakes too?” Rachel said, “All right. Jacob can sleep with you tonight if you give me your son’s mandrakes.” 16 Jacob came in from the fields that evening. Leah went out to meet him. “You have to sleep with me tonight,” she said. “I’ve traded my son’s mandrakes for that time with you.” So he slept with her that night. 17 God listened to Leah. She became pregnant and had a fifth son by Jacob. 18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me because I gave my female servant to my husband.” So she named the boy Issachar. 19 Leah became pregnant again. She had a sixth son by Jacob. 20 Then Leah said, “God has given me a priceless gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor. I’ve had six sons by him.” So she named the boy Zebulun. 21 Some time later she had a daughter. She named her Dinah. 22 Then God listened to Rachel. He showed concern for her. He made it possible for her to have children. 23 She became pregnant and had a son. Then she said, “God has taken away my shame.” 24 She said, “May the Lord give me another son.” So she named him Joseph.
Sometimes reading the narratives in the Bible is like watching soap operas! People messing with each other in an attempt to get what they want. Rachel (Jacob’s favourite wife!! This can’t be good…) is consumed with her desire to have a child, she feels shame at not being able to. On top of that her sister (!!!) Leah produces healthy baby boys but she is not Jacob’s favourite wife (how weird is it for two sisters to be married to the same man let alone having the whole favourites deal going on?). Then they introduce the mandrake (love-apple, superstition suggests they aid conception) and we get more drama. Rachel – in her desperation to get pregnant puts her faith in a plant – that her sister’s son has found. To get the plant she “sells” her sister a night with “their” husband – which Leah wants because Jacob spends his nights with Rachel! Does trusting a mandrake work out? Absolutely not. It has the reverse effect with Leah getting pregnant, again, and Rachel doesn’t.
Why are these peoples stories recorded? Messy, broken lives. They are there to paint a picture of what my life looks like when fear and shame take control. Just like Rachel can’t fix her infertility – neither can I fix the things in my life that frighten and bring me shame. But God can and He does! In verse 22-24 it tells us that God “hears” Rachel’s prayer. She finally turns to God, and regardless of what has gone on before – God gives her a son.
Lord – You are beyond understanding in your great love and compassion. You give – freely – to demonstrate your love – despite my brokenness and self-reliance. Help me depend on You today!
Written by Ps. Linda Quinn