1And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. 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? 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.*n14 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. 5 And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. 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.*n2 7 And Bilhah Rachel’s maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son. 8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.*n3*n4 9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. 10 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a son. 11 And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.*n5 12 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.*n6*n7
Leah had hoped to win over the affection of her husband but it had not worked, but at the same time she had grown closer to the Lord in the process. Rachel, however, had different feelings and we see the very complicated and unnecessary result of polygamy. She envied her sister and told Jacob that she would die if he didn’t giver her children. This could have been the first time that she had ever envied her sister and it was driving her crazy. Ironically, it was childbirth that will eventually kill her.
She gives her handmaid to Jacob and they conceived two children. Notice how the names display different intentions between the two sisters
5. Dan – Judge
It seems that Rachel is saying that God has seen her trouble and He is now on her side
6. Naphtali – My Wrestling
Rachel was stating that she was catching up with her sister
Now Leah decides to giver her handmaid to Jacob for more children
7. Gad – Troop
It was as if she was saying “I’m not finished yet, I have more to contribute!”
8. Asher – Happy
Leah was happy and expressed her joy over having so many children and being blessed by God.
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.*n8 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.*n9 21 And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.*n10
The mandrake, or “love apple” was a rare, small plant that that was highly valued. It was believed that this plant was an aphrodisiac and that it would enhance a woman’s fertility.
Reuben finds some in the fields, so Rachel schemes and manipulates a way for her to gain access to it by giving her spot with Jacob to Leah in return for the plant. The funny thing is that it seems to backfire, because it was Leah who ultimately has children next.
9. Issachar – Hire
She must have seen him as payback or reward for her having given her handmaid to her husband
10. Zebulun – Habitation
This name could possibly reflect Leah’s desire to finally have security in the love of Jacob.
22 ¶And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. 23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: 24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.*n11
God remembers Rachel and she finally conceives a baby for Jacob.
11. Joseph – May God add
Rachel is saying, “I want more.” She wasn’t happy with the fact that God had opened her womb and He had blessed her. Her only concern was that she wanted more. How sad but truly reflective of our human nature to never be satisfied.
Rachel says “I want more children!” and she had complained to Jacob, “Give me children or I will die!” and her words came back to haunter her.
16 ¶And they journeyed from Beth–el; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.*n3 17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. 18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben–oni: but his father called him Benjamin.*n4*n5 19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Beth–lehem.
The last son born to Jacob had two names.
12. Benoni – Son of my sorrow
Rachel wasn’t saying “Praise God for making this barren woman conceive two children. The last word on her lips was “sorrow!”
Jacob renames his son “Benjamin” which means “Son of my right hand.”