The Essence of Rachel
This story is a continuation of last week’s devotion about Leah, except today’s devotion, is from the younger sister, Rachel’s perspective. At the beginning of the story…
Every afternoon, this young woman watered her flock of sheep at a well near Haran, an outpost of the ancient city of Ur. It is thought she was around 18 years old. At such an age, a girl might be given adult responsibility in a family that did not have sons.
Wells were covered with a broad flat stone, too large for one man to move. So the shepherds who gathered there waited until there was a group to move it.
Jacob arrived at the well and began talking with the shepherds, telling them that his family had originally come from the area. The shepherds pointed towards a woman approaching in the distance, saying that her name was Rachel and that she was the daughter of his mother’s brother.
When Rachel got closer, Jacob was immediately smitten. In an act of bravado, he removed the great stone single-handed, hoping to impress the young woman. He was indeed successful.
Rachel ran to her father’s house and told him about the young man. Her father, Laban, ran out to meet Jacob, welcoming him warmly.
Jacob stayed with Rachel’s family for a month, and during this time he fell deeply in love with her. Jacob approached Laban for permission to marry her.
Laban quickly pointed out that the older sister in a family was usually married before her younger sister. Neither of the young lovers understood the implications of this statement.
A prospective bridegroom was expected to give financial compensation to the family of the bride, to make up for the loss of their daughter. But Jacob came empty-handed, and could not produce the normal bride-price for Rachel.
Remember from last week, Jacob agreed to Laban’s terms to work for 7 years in order to have Rachel as his bride. When the seven years were over, Jacob had fulfilled his obligation and was ready to wed Rachel. Laban began preparing for the wedding feast.
The bride was dressed in the finest clothes, including a rich head-dress and veil that covered her face.
To his surprise, Laban had sent his older daughter, Leah, to marry Jacob instead of Rachel. When Jacob confronted him, he offered to give Rachel to Jacob as well, if he would work for seven more years. Jacob did not have to wait seven more years to marry Rachel, only one week. He had to work seven more years without pay after marrying her.
The marriage of Rachel and Jacob was one of the most captivating unions recorded in the book of Genesis. A true story of love triumphing over lies.
Rachel knows she has Jacob’s heart. She knows she is loved. Although Rachel’s story is different it is also filled with much disappointment, just as Leah’s was.
She knows that in their culture, having babies is what makes a woman valuable. No matter how she prayed to God, no matter how much she was loved by Jacob, Rachel did not conceive. She watches helplessly as her sister delivers many sons for Jacob. Year after year, each month, she is reminded of the pain of her infertility. One day, feeling helpless and angry, she lashes out at Jacob in what would become a prophetic cry: “Give me children or I’ll die!” But her usually loving husband responds harshly: “Am I God who has kept you from having children?”
In desperation, her maid, Bilhah, was given to Jacob so that she could conceive a child as a surrogate mother for Rachel.
Bilhah had a son, whom Rachel named Dan. Then she had a second son, and Rachel called him Naphtali. In response, Leah gave her own maid Zilpah to Jacob, and this resulted in yet more sons: Gad and Asher.
A bitter rivalry grew up between the two women.
Finally, there is a blessing for her when God opens her womb after 26 years. She gives birth to Joseph, one of the most important figures of the Old Testament, who saved the nation of Israel during a famine. Joseph’s arrival also marks a turning point in Jacob’s life; after this son is born, he begins seeking to return to the Promised Land.
In receiving the blessing of her first son, Rachel expresses a profound faith that God will continue to show mercy to her. Joseph would be his father’s favorite from all of the other sons. Do you remember the beautiful coat of many colors that Jacob gave him? It was the same coat that the brothers stained with goat’s blood to show their Father and let him think that his beloved Joseph was dead.
Altogether, these four women, Leah, Rachel, and the two maidservants bore 12 sons and one daughter, Dinah. Those sons became the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Rachel’s family moved and on the way to Ephrath, she went into labor. This time things did not go well for her. The pains were very bad, and Rachel suffered terribly. To comfort her the midwife told her it would be a boy. It was, but Rachel would not live to see him grow. She died in childbirth at the approximate age of 39.
Earlier in the story, Rachel said she would die if she had no sons. In the end, it was having sons that killed her.
She was a faithful wife to Jacob and loved him dearly.
The Hope of Patience – today
Rachel has seen the way Jacob loves her and has worked for so long to marry her. She has most likely grown to love him too. However, through her father’s trickery, her older sister gets to be with her husband first. Rachel comes in as Wife #2
Does deception occur in your modern world today?
Is it alright to tell a lie for a good cause?
Does it matter?
Why, why not?
One of the themes of this story is the foundation of the twelve tribes of Israel. They are united (they have a common origin) and separate (the descendants of Jacob’s twelve very different children)
The other is the consequences of sin – in this case, lying. Laban’s deception causes destructive rivalry – between two women, the beautiful Rachel and her sister Leah, and between two men, Jacob and his father-in-law Laban.
Have you ever gone through disappointments and pain without seeing how it will be redeemed?
What is God teaching you during this time of waiting?
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12
Surely the God who made you has a wonderful, beautiful plan for your life!
“When the time is right, I, the Lord, will make it happen” Isaiah 60:22
He loves you as you are, and He has great purposes for you no matter where you are on your journey of life.
Lord, give me strength and joy in the days to come. I trust your Word that says that these ‘light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”. Bring your comfort and peace as only You can. Because of Your promises and great love for me, I can be patient in these seasons of waiting.