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Jacob's Seed Multiplies through Polygamy | Genesis 30

In chapter 29 we read about how Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. Then had to serve Laban another 7 years for Rachel. During that time God had compassion upon Leah because Jacob didn’t love her like he loved Rachel. She was being neglected. So God opened up Leah’s womb and she began having children while Rachel’s womb remained closed.

Now in this chapter we are going to see a competition between Rachel and Leah, to see who can have the most children. They are even going give their handmaids to Jacob as wives to produce children for them. I have no doubt, all of this was orchestrated by God to begin fulfilling the blessing that was given to Abraham, that his seed would be as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands of the sea.

Genesis 30:1 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.

Rachel envied her sister- Kind of a normal thing that you would expect in a polygamous relationship – jealousy and envy. Leah has four children right now to Rachel’s zero and Rachel is really down about this. She wants children badly.

You know it’s interesting how important having children was to women back then. In fact, it seemed to be the most important blessing one could receive. Abraham’s greatest blessing was that his seed would be as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands of the sea. But today, children are often looked upon as burdens instead of blessings. Maybe that’s because so many families have both parents working outside the home and any more than two children then becomes a huge financial expense with day care and things like that.

Years ago, when my wife and I began having children we decided we didn’t want to be limited to only two, and we didn’t want other people raising our children. Since I had started a Bible Study ministry and she worked locally as a nurse at our local hospital, we decided that I would work from home running the ministry and homeschool our children. That way were not limited to having only two children together, we now have 5. Sure it costs a little more in food and sports. But we’re always thinking of ways to get our children helping out with chores, cooking, etc., so that they are an asset instead of a liability.

Think about it, just a generation or two ago many families would have 10 children. That’s almost unheard of today. But it made sense back then, if you worked on a farm or ran a business, these children were valuable helping hands. They were great assets to the family.

I believe the unfortunate result of the norm of both parents working outside the home has had a negative impact on the size of families as well as families in general. It’s now easier to run from a troubled marriage instead of working to solve issues because in many cases there are only two children involved. Think about it, if there were 10 children involved divorce doesn’t seem like such a convenient option anymore. Moreover, having a large family is no doubt also a natural deterrent against unfaithfulness. It’s quite a bit less tempting to do something stupid if you have so much to lose.

Give me children or else I die- Now Rachel is so upset that she is blaming this on Jacob.

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?

It is God who opens and closes wombs. Today, many people try to find medical ways around this. I think that is risky business. Because in this situation God purposely closed Rachel’s womb because He had a bigger picture in mind. First off, He no doubt was humbling Rachel, to cause her to lean upon Him. Secondly, God was opening the womb of Leah so that she would not be neglected by Jacob. Had Rachel began bearing children at the same rate or greater than Leah it would have been too devastating for Leah. Bottom line, we must put our trust in God when it comes to these matters and not in modern medical advances.

Genesis 30:3 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.

Genesis 30:4 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.

Genesis 30:5 And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son.

Genesis 30:6 And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.

Any child Rachel’s handmaid Bilhah had would in essence be Rachel’s. Rachel would be the adoptive mother. Dan would count as Rachel’s first child. Notice, Rachel was a believer in God, she had evidently been praying for some time.

Genesis 30:7 And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.

Genesis 30:8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.

Quite the competition going on here, now Rachel feels as though the tide has changed now that she has two adopted sons.

Genesis 30:9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.

Now Leah’s womb is closed, at least for the time being. But she doesn’t want to be outdone by her sister so now she too gives her handmaid to Jacob to produce children for her.

Genesis 30:10 And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son.

Genesis 30:11 And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.

Wow! This is a bit of a taunt. Leah is telling Rachel that although she has a couple of adoptive children that she will have an army of children through her own handmaid Zilpah.

Genesis 30:12 And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son.

Genesis 30:13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.

Genesis 30:14 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.

Evidently these mandrakes were thought to be a plant or flower that helped to increase fertility.

Genesis 30:15 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 trades her night to be with Jacob to Leah for the mandrakes. Evidently she hoped this trade would cause her to conceive a child with Jacob the next time it was her turn to be with him.

Genesis 30:16 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.

Genesis 30:17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.

Now Leah’s womb is opened again. And she has child number five of her own to make a total of 7 if we include her adoptive children.

Genesis 30:18 And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.

Genesis 30:19 And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son.

Genesis 30:20 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.

Genesis 30:21 And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.

Genesis 30:22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.

Again, we see here, God opens and closes the womb.

Genesis 30:23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach:

Genesis 30:24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.

Rachel’s first biological son! Later on this son would be a very special tribe of Israel. God can make up for lost time.

Genesis 30:25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country.

Jacobs Children

Genesis 30:26 Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee.

Jacob wants to be free and to call his own shots without having his father-in-law and uncle overseeing him. This is a natural desire. Jacob certainly earned it.

Genesis 30:27 And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake.

Genesis 30:28 And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.

Laban doesn’t want to let him go, Jacob has been such an asset to him financially.

Genesis 30:29 And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me.

Genesis 30:30 For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and the LORD hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?

Jacob acknowledges that he, with God’s blessing upon him, made Laban a wealthy man. But now he wants to be free to provide for his own family.

Genesis 30:31 And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock:

Genesis 30:32 I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.

This was a good deal for Laban. At least at this point there were less speckled and spotted cattle than the others.

Genesis 30:33 So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me.

Genesis 30:34 And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.

Agreement made.

Genesis 30:35 And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons.

Genesis 30:36 And he set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks.

Genesis 30:37 And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.

Genesis 30:38 And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.

Genesis 30:39 And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.

The beginning of this chapter was all about the conception of Jacob’s children, now it’s about the conception of his livestock.

Genesis 30:40 And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban's cattle.

Genesis 30:41 And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.

Genesis 30:42 But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.

Genesis 30:43 And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.

Jacob was rich with God’s blessings and his hard work ethic.


God has ways of making His will come to pass. Perhaps God was using the envy of the sisters as a motivator to help increase the number of Jacob’s children. Though pologamy is now frowned upon, think about the situation they were in back then. Most of the women and the bloodlines at this time had been contaminated. Laban’s family seemed to have been the only other godly line left for Jacob to produce children with. It is probable that having children with 4 different women was a means of having enough of a DNA mix to produce a solid healthy DNA pool.

Today we know that 1st cousins DNA is so similar that the chances of birth defects is much greater. Had Jacob only had children with Rachel there might have been a high risk.

In His Service,
Pastor Ben Heath
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