April 5, 2015

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART: III HISTORY OF ISAAC AND JACOB (Gen. 25:19-36:43)

 

Topic #C:  JACOB'S RESIDENCE IN PADANARAM. (Gen. 29:1-30:43)                

 

 

      Lesson III.C.5: Leah Bears Two More Sons and a Daughter (Gen. 30:14-21)

 

 

 

Genesis 30:14-21 (KJV)

 

14 And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes.

15 And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son's mandrakes.

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

17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.

18 And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.

19 And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son.

20 And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.

21 And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.

 

 

Introduction

 

The desire for children is good in itself, but in the case of Rachel and Leah the longing to be the mother of the promised Seed, with the honor of having many children, and the reproach which comes from being barren, were causes of this unbecoming contest between the sisters. The truth appears to be that they were influenced by the promises of God to Abraham; whose posterity were promised the richest blessings, and from whom the Messiah was to descend.


Commentary

 

14 And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes1 in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes[1].

 

When “Leah” ceased to have children, there would have been a considerable interval before she and Jacob gave up all expectation of having more children by her. Slowly and unwillingly she would substitute Zilpah for herself, and there would then be a further period of three or four years, to give time for the birth of Gad and Asher; and since Jacob at this time utterly neglected Leah—we do not know—but there may have been an even longer interlude. Moreover, Jacob had other daughters besides Dinah (30:21; Genesis 37:35[2], 46:7[3]), and probably by these handmaids. We may well believe, therefore, that “Reuben” at this time was from fifteen to twenty years of age, and might be trusted to wander at his will over the wild uncultivated wasteland, where they made their home.

 

Interpreters do NOT agree whether “mandrakes” signifies a fruit or a flower. It is thought, however, by many, that mandrake-apples are what is meanthere, which, according to one source, are the size of filberts[4]. They were pleasant to smell [“The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved” (Song of Solomon 7:13).], and probably also desirable for food. Whatever they were, “Rachel” desperately wanted them, and therefore she must have coveted them.

 

“Reuben found” these “mandrakes” “and brought them unto his mother Leah” during the time when the “wheat harvest” was in full-swing, which in Galilee is in the month of May. It wasabout this time that the mandrakes displayed their fruit.Since Laban had settled down in Paddan Aram, he may have grown wheat, as Jacob did in Canaan (Genesis 37:7), but mandrakes would most definitely not be found on tilled land; Ruben probably found them in a place where the ground had not been worked.

 

Both the Greeks and Orientals held this plant in high regard, claiming that it helped conception; and they were also used to make love potions, magic potions, and charms. It was presumed that eating them enhanced matrimonial relations; and that is probably why Rachel desired them.

 

 

15 And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son's mandrakes.

 

Rachel said to Leah, “Thou hast taken my husband.” It appears from this that Rachel had found a means to monopolize all of Jacob's affection and spare time, and that she now agreed to let him visit the tent of Leah for one night, as payment for her receiving the fruits or plants which Reuben had found.

 

We have already been made aware of the tension and strife in the home created by Jacob having four wives. It is in full-view here, for Leah speaks to Rebekah in a snooty manner, because she had been exasperated with the living arrangements for so long that she could no longer converse calmly and courteously with her sister. Perhaps the sisters were not so combative by nature; but God put up with them arguing and competing with each other, so that the punishment due to polygamy might be exhibited to future generations. And don’t doubt for a second that this private domestic quarrel brought great grief and torment to Jacob. But the reason why he found himself in such a regrettable circumstance is that he had broken the unity of the conjugal bond.

 

 

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

 

“Leah went out in the field to meet Jacob” as he returned home from feeding and watering his flocks,knowing full well the time he used to come home,  and she said to him, “I have hired thee,” which may indicate that she was no different from other Jewish women in her intense desire to have children; and it seems to have been produced, not from excessive affection for children, but through the hope of having a share in the blessing of Abraham, by bringing into the world the one in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed.

 

She said to him, “Thou must come in unto me”; into her tent, for the women had separate tents from the men, andeach of Jacob’s wives had their own tent and were thus separated from one another: for surely I have hired thee with my son's mandrakes” that is, she had paid Rachel (or “hired” Jacob, depending on how you look at it) with the “mandrakes” her son Reuben had brought out of the field, for the privilege of spending that night with Jacob. Jacob had no objections and was willing to do it, since he could please both his wives, who he perceived had made this agreement between themselves:

 

“And he lay with her that night,” and that night only, at least for the present, for it seems as if he did not stay with her after that, but went, as he did before that evening, to Rachel's tent.

 

 

17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.

18 And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.

 

“And God hearkened (“listened;” or gave heed) unto Leah.” Moses expressly declares this, in order that we may know how leniently God dealt with that family. For who would have thought, that, while Leah was hatefully denying her sister the fruits gathered by her boy, and was purchasing, by the price of those fruits, a night with her husband, there would be any place for prayers? And, because it says that “God hearkened unto Leah,” we know that she had prayed for God’s blessing upon her re-union with her husband.

 

Moses is teaching us that pardon was granted for these faults, to prove that the Lord would not fail to complete His work even though such great hostility existed between these two sisters. But Leah ignorantly boasts that her son was given to her as a reward (“dowry”; 30:20) after she had sinned by violating the commitment of holy wedlock, when she introduced a fresh concubine to oppose her sister. She is so far from confessing her error, that she proclaims her own merit. She is wrong, of course, because what she says is the reason behind her blessing, is not the reason at all. But I believe her conduct can be somewhat justified, for she implies that she was not so much excited by lust, as she was by her modest love for Jacob, and most importantly she desired to increase her family and to fulfill the duty of an honorable mother of a family. But though this excuse is false it may appear true in the eyes of some men, yet the desecration of holy marriage cannot be pleasing to God.

 

Leah will be blessed with two more sons, the first of whom she called “Issachar” (hire), reckoning herself well repaid for her mandrakes (which was a strange interpretation of the providence of God) and rewarded for giving her maid to her husband. She called the other child Zebulun (a dwelling or cohabitation). Jacob had not endowed her with gifts when he married her; but she considers a family of children a good dowry indeed.

 

The attitude displayed by Leah is an error which is too prevalent in the world today, for men to think the free gifts of God are their own reward; even to boast that they deserve them, when they are condemned by the word of God is foolish and dangerous.

 

As is so often the case with Hebrew names, there is a double play in the word Issachar”: first, it alluded to the strange fact that Jacob had been hired (better, “borrowed”) from Rachel with the mandrakes; and, secondly, Leah gives it a higher meaning, “for God,” she says, “hath given me my hire.” In her eyes the birth of her fifth son was a Divine reward for her self-sacrifice and years of Jacob paying no attention to her.

 

Leah and Rachel were uneducated and untrained country women, whose sole desire was to have offspring. Leah was the most religious and best disciplined of the two; and the shame was that she had to buy her husband’s attentions.

 

 

19 And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son.

20 And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.

 

“Leah” gave birth to another son,and she named him “Zebulun[5](a dwelling or cohabitation). She had given Jacob six sons, which she referred to as her “dowry”; now she expected Jacob to live with her as he had been living with Rachel.

 

With the birth of her sixth son, she exhibits a greater understanding of the divine goodness, when she gives thanks to God, for his kindness, for afterwards her husband would be more closely united to her (verse 20). For although he had lived with her before, he had been so strongly attached to “Rachel” that he was almost entirely alienated from “Leah.” It has been saidbefore, that children born in lawful wedlock are bonds to unite the minds of their parents.

 

Because a woman’s value in the East rises with each son, “Leah” now hoped for more love from her husband, and she doesn’t seem to have been disappointed.

 

 

21 And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.

 

Leah had a “daughter” later on, and she called her “Dinah” (judgment). Rachel had called her son by Bilhah Dan (Genesis 30:6), so Leah calls her daughter Dinah; God having judged and rewarded her, as he did her sister in the preceding lesson.

 

Jacob had other daughters (Genesis 37:352; Genesis 46:73), though none are mentioned. However, it is not uncommon in Scripture, when genealogies are recorded, to omit the women, since they do not bear their own name, but lie concealed under the shadow of their husbands. The birth of a girl is regarded in the East as a misfortune; no feast is made, and no congratulations offered to the parents. Meanwhile, if anything worthy of commemoration occurs to any woman, special mention is then made of them. The birth of “Dinah” is chronicled because it led to Simeon and Levi forfeiting the birthright; more will be said about this later.

 

 


[1] Mandrakes are the fruit of the Mandragora officinarum, a member of the Solanaceae or potato order, closely allied to the Atropa belladonna. It is a common plant all over Palestine, flourishing particularly in the spring and ripening about the time of the wheat harvest (Genesis 30:14). The plant has a rosette of handsome dark leaves, dark purple flowers and orange, tomato-like fruit. The root is long and branched; to pull it up is still considered unlucky (compare Josephus, BJ, VII, vi, 3). The fruit is called in Arabic baid el-jinn, the "eggs of the jinn"; they have a narcotic smell and sweetish taste, but are too poisonous to be used as food. They are still used in folklore medicine in Palestine. The plant was well known as an aphrodisiac by the ancients (Song of Solomon 7:13). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

[2] (Genesis 37:35, KJV) “And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.”

 

[3] (Genesis 46:7, KJV) “His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.”

 

[4] Filberts: Authorities are divided between whether filberts refer to the nut of the hazel or the almond tree.

[5] Zebulun is said by some Bible scholars to mean, “salvation of the night, or a good dowry,” and “a dowry of the night,”

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