1. (1-4) Rachel, out of frustration, gives her maid Bilhah to Jacob in a “surrogate mother” arrangement.
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!” 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?” 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.” Then she gave him Bilhah her maid as wife, and Jacob went in to her.
a. Give me children, or else I die! Despite Rachel’s great beauty, she also was near despair. No doubt, Leah often said, “If I only had my sister’s beauty and the love of my husband, I would be happy.” No doubt, Rachel often said, “If I only had sons like my sister.” Beautiful or plain, we all have our problems.
i. This principle shows us the need to stop looking to how God deals with others and set our eyes on Him.
b. Rachel envied her sister…Give me children, or else I die…Jacob’s anger was aroused against Rachel: The tension in this family was apparent. At least Jacob saw the hand of God in the matter, even though he stated it to Rachel so directly as to be cruel (Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?).
i. It’s likely that Rachel was vain and conceited. She knew that Jacob worked 14 years with no pay out of love for her, and also knew Jacob would not have worked one day for Leah.
c. 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: Much like Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham in a surrogate-mother type arrangement (Genesis 16), Rachel gave her maid Bilhah to Jacob.
i. On my knees refers to the custom where the husband impregnated the surrogate while the surrogate reclined on the lap of the wife, and how she might even recline on the wife as she gave birth. The symbolism clearly showed the child was legally the child of the mother, not the surrogate, who was merely in the place of the wife in both conception and birth.
d. She gave him Bilhah her maid as wife: This did not mean that Jacob actually married Bilhah. It means Jacob did with Bilhah what a man should only do with his wife.
2. (5-6) The birth of Dan.
And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. 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.
a. She called his name Dan: Jacob’s fifth son, born to him through Bilhah the maid of Rachel, was named by Rachel Dan meaning, Judgment. Because of her own envy she viewed this child born of the flesh as a victory and a vindication for her.
b. God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son: “Can a woman get so low that she will hit her sister over the head with a baby? Rachel did.” (Barnhouse)
3. (7-8) The birth of Naphtali.
And Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.
a. She called his name Naphtali: Jacob’s sixth son, born to him through Bilhah the maid of Rachel, was named Naphtali by Rachel meaning, Wrestle. Relationships in this home had broken down to the point where Rachel openly acknowledged the baby competition between her and her sister by naming the new baby wrestle.
b. With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed: This seems strange. How did two sons prevail over four? Perhaps she meant it in the sense that now Leah seemed to have stopped having children.
©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission