• | Chris McCann
  • Audio: Length: 26:35
  • Passages covered: Genesis 30:1-4, Genesis 29:31-32, Genesis 16:3-4, James 4:13-16, Proverbs 3:5-7.

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Genesis 30 Series, Study 1, Verses 1-4

Good evening, and welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the book of Genesis.  Tonight is study #1 of Genesis 30, and we are beginning in Genesis 30:1-4:

And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.

I will stop reading there.  Now we saw in the last few verses of chapter 29 that Leah was bearing many sons.  She had four sons, one after another, it seems, and then it said in Genesis 29:35 that she “left bearing.”  So it seems that Genesis 30 is happening after those four sons had been born.  I read one commentary that suggested that Rachel saw that she bear Jacob no children after, perhaps, Leah had the first couple of sons.  That is speculation, and, perhaps, unnecessary speculation.  I think we should just follow the order of the writing here, as God did not say that it was after Leah had two sons that there was this discussion in the first four verses of Genesis 30.  It seems that those four sons were born in a row, so to speak, because Leah does go on to have more sons, so if God was simply listing all the sons that Leah would bear, why not list the last two, because she bear Joseph a total of six sons.  But there were four named in the previous chapter, so I think that is evidence enough, and the way God has recorded this in placing it where we find it here in this account, Leah did have these four sons, probably in four years, and then she left bearing.

I mentioned before that it is likely that Rachel had something to do with Leah not bearing children, and we will get to that later when Rueben went in the days of wheat harvest and found mandrakes in the field; then Rachel desired them, and she allowed Leah to go in unto her husband Jacob in order that Leah would give her some of Rueben’s mandrakes.  And that indicates that Rachel had forbidden Jacob from going in unto Leah, which would explain why she was not bearing children after those four.  She was very fruitful.  The Lord was blessing her in that way, but all of a sudden that stopped.  And the reason was probably that Rachel was envious, so she started making comments to Jacob.  Jacob was the head of the household, and at that time a woman could not go and demand of her husband, but, over the course of time, a woman could let her displeasure be known. 

And that would seem to be the situation, as Leah was bearing these sons for the first few years of marriage to him, while Rachel was also married to him, but unable to have a child.  Probably after the first couple of sons, Rachel was thinking, “I will also bear sons, and Jacob already loves me, so that will be no problem.  He will not care that Leah has born these sons when I start bearing.”  But by the third son, it was beginning to come into Rachel’s mind: “Why have I not had a son?  Why is my sister Leah having so many sons, and I have yet to have one?  I am not even pregnant.”  Then she would start talking to Jacob: “I think you are spending too much time with her.   Do you not love me?  I thought you loved me.”  And Jacob would say, “Yes, you know I love you.  I wanted to marry you.  I did not want to marry Leah, but it is how it worked out because of your father.”  Then he would try to comfort her and, yet, she was getting more and more upset.  Then Leah became pregnant with a fourth child, and that nine-month period must have been extremely grievous to Rachel, and she was getting more and more upset because she was envious of her sister.  She was envious and afraid that her sister’s constant bearing (of children) is going to take away her husband. 

We do not know what Leah was doing over the course of this time to her sister.  Remember, when she was bearing these children, we read back in Genesis 29:31-32:

And when JEHOVAH saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely JEHOVAH hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.

You know, what is in someone’s heart and mind is often expressed, especially in a household like that where one man has two sisters for his wives.  So word would have gotten to Rachel.  This is what Leah was hoping for, that through the bearing of children, Jacob would love her, and Rachel would see that as Jacob not loving her as much.  And there would be friction.  That is what sin always brings – friction and trouble – because they had violated God’s Law.  From the beginning,  marriage was to be a man and a woman, not a man and two women, or three women or four women.  A man and one woman are joined together and become “one flesh.” 

Remember, when we read in the Bible of men who multiplied wives, we read of a troubled man, like Abraham after being given Hagar.  Remember that?  If we go back to Genesis 16, when Sarah saw that she was barren and knowing that the Lord had promised them a son, they developed a plan to have the son through her handmaid.  We see in Genesis 16:3-4:

And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.

Almost immediately, the handmaid Hagar despised her mistress Sarai.  It was as if she was saying, “Well, if I am able to bear children, there is nothing wrong with Abraham, is there?  It must be you.”  And that caused trouble in their home, and wherever else we look in the Bible.  King David had all kinds of grief because he had sons by various women, and these sons did not feel quite as “connected” as brothers should because they had different mothers.  Or, in the case of Solomon, we know that he married a thousand women, and it just ruined him.  So God’s Law is there for our protection, as well as a blessing, and when God says that what He has joined together, let not man put asunder, applies to one man with one woman.  That is the best way of marriage.  It is the only blessed way of marriage.  There can be all kinds of variations, as the world has shown in its sinfulness and, yet, the world suffers constantly because of marriage and divorce, where someone has been married two, three, four or five times, and they have children with this woman and that woman.  The home is “broken,” and the children get in all kinds of trouble, and it just brings problems.

So, too, it was in Jacob’s household.  And we understand that in the Bible God has allowed these things to happen in order to paint spiritual pictures, but that does not absolve the parties involved in transgression in any way.  Every human being is responsible for his own sins.

Here in Genesis 30, when Rachel saw that she bear Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister.  And this would have been after the fourth son Judah was born.  Then she must have had some kind of arrangement with Jacob: “You do not go in unto her, at least until I have a son,” or something like that.  This is speculation, but just knowing people and how people think (because we have the same weaknesses and failings), we can imagine Rachel’s mindset and her attitude about this very difficult situation.  So it led to her envying her own sister, and in her envy, she went to Jacob and said, “Give me children, or else I die.”  She was so distraught, saddened, and worried, and she did not know what to do.  She went to her husband and demanded children: “Give me a child.”  So Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and we read in Genesis 30:2:

And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

And that is a very accurate statement.  God is in control of the fruit of the womb.  God is the one who blesses a couple with children.  God is the one who creates the child in the womb of the woman and brings it forth.  It is part of His creation, and God must do it.  Also, God may not do it.  He may delay childbirth in the lives of some women, for whatever reason, and later on they do bear, and we know that later on, Rachel would bear two sons.  So we know she had the ability to bear children.  The birth of Joseph, followed by Benjamin, proves that she could bear children, but the Lord, for His own purposes, held back the fruit of the womb.  That is what Jacob pointed out: “Who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?  It is not me.”  He is not in God’s stead.  He is not God.  God, alone, has the power to give a child or to hold back a child.  Sometimes, in the lives of some women, God never gives them a child.  They try and try, and they just cannot have a child.  It is not the will of God. 

And there are other women, like Leah, and they have child, after child, after child.  Some women may have six, eight, ten, or a dozen.  It is all according to the will of God for that couple and family, and God works it out according to His perfect will. 

Childbearing is under God’s control.  It is not under man’s control, although in our modern day, men do everything they can to bring it under their control with birth control pills and other means to prevent pregnancy.  And, of course, even after pregnancy, there is the awful sin of abortion, which is the killing or murder of a child, and it is utilized in the nations of the world.  It is man wanting the control: “We are not ready yet,” says the couple.  “We want to go to school.  We are not making enough money.  I am not mentally prepared.”  Whatever it is, man thinks he is God, and he is the one in control of his life and he is the one who will do what he pleases, so he tries to map out the perfect family.  And the institution Planned Parenthood that performs the abortions that kill the children, contains in its name the word “planned,” and it is saying, “According to man’s plan, we will have children.”  Oftentimes, man’s plans go awry.

You know, the last person in the world (if a man had his wits about him) a man would want to plan his life or his family or anything else for himself, would be himself, because man is naturally a fool.  Man is a limited, finite creature.  We cannot see into the future.  We often think, “This is best for me,” and it turns out to be one of the worst things for us.  Or, we think, “This is the right road.”  But look at what the Bible has to say about false gospels and the broad way that leads to destruction, and many go therein.  And it is only the very narrow way that leads to life, and few go down that road.  And even with the free will gospel that emphasizes “accepting Christ” or “deciding for Christ,” it is a path that leads to destruction.  Man chooses to exercise his will or to exercise a work, but the problem is that no man is justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Christ.  You see, if man would get out of his own way, and if man were to be humble and beseech the Lord and say, “O, Lord, I do not know what is best for me.  I do not have wisdom.  I do not want to be the one making the decision concerning this.  May you, by your grace and through your mercy, lead me down the right path. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  That is wisdom when we turn it over to the infinite, eternal, all-knowing God who knows the end from the beginning, and who knows our future.  He knows what tomorrow brings.  We do not.  Remember, in James 4 God points out this fact in James 4:13-16:

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

So God is just pointing out the truth.  People make plans for retirement and plans for marriage and plans for this and that, but they often do not happen.  People who made retirement plans often die before they retire, or people can even die before they marry or before they have children, or whatever.  God is in control.  God is God.  So the wisest and best thing for any person to do in any area of life, especially in the area of family (since this is what we are talking about), is to leave it to God.  Leave it to God.  Just pray, “O, Lord, grant me wisdom, as far as finding a wife, that we might be equally yoked, and as long as we are qualify, may we marry, and while we are married, may we leave the (birth of) children to you.  May we wait on you, and if you give us child, after child, after child, then that is your will.  And may we never stop and say, “Oh, no, we have five children and there are too many bills and we are not making enough money, so we have to interrupt this process and let us start taking the pill.”  No – we must trust the Lord.  That is the life of a Christian, as it says in Proverbs 3:5-7:

Trust in JEHOVAH with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear JEHOVAH, and depart from evil.

Fear JEHOVAH.  Depart from evil.  Be not wise in your own eyes.  Well, in Rachel’s case, we do  not know (because the Bible does not tell us) if Rachel was a true child of God.  It could be she was saved.  God does not make it plain.  He does not spell it out, like he did with Jacob.  We know that Jacob was an elect.  But as far as what is being pictured, her name means “ewe lamb,” and we know that she had four children, two of her own and two by her handmaid, but the four were accredited to her.  And with the eight children her sister had, we see the “one third” and “two thirds” relationship, along with the fact that Jacob loved her, while Leah was hated.  So all the evidence points to her as a picture of God’s elect and, yet, she has taken her eyes off Christ.  She has taken her eyes off the truly important things of life, which is God and His Word.

Some people might say, “No - family is the really important thing of life.”  That is what the world would say, but the truly important thing in life is God and His Word.  Everything else would be secondary.  Everything else comes after that.  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Do not worry about clothing.  Do not worry about food.  Do not worry about marriage.  Do not worry if you are not married: “Oh, I need a wife.”  Or, if you are married: “I need children, and I need this home.”  Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

It is just as God said regarding the two sisters, Martha and Mary.  Mary was sitting at the feet of Christ, but Martha was cumbered about with much serving, and she began to complain about her sister: “Lord, tell her to help!”  And Jesus pointed out, “Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”  Remember, He said, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things,” and that can be true of God’s people because we are still in our fleshly bodies, and we are anxious about this, and anxious about that, and we are troubled about many things that life in this world brings us.  And God would say, “Be anxious for nothing.   Sit down at my feet, and open up the Bible and read. That is the first thing.  That is the most important thing. Keep your eyes on me.  And as far as these other things, cast your cares upon me, for I careth for you.”  And if necessary, wait on the Lord.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Do not lean on your own understanding, which is faulty and erroneous.  Forget your anxious thoughts about the future for next week and next month, and all those things you worry about, and fret not on those things, but look to the Bible.  Look to the Word of God.

Lord willing, in our next study we will come back to these verses and continue looking at this interesting historical situation.