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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 30

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 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. The maternal relation confers a high degree of honour in the East, and the want of that status is felt as a stigma, and deplored as a grievous calamity.

Else I die - either be reckoned as good as dead, or pine away, from vexation. Besides the general desire for a family in the East, the intense anxiety of Hebrew women for children arose also from the hope of giving birth to the promised seed. Rachel's conduct was sinful, and contrasts unfavourably with that of Rebekah (cf. Genesis 25:22) and of Hannah (1 Samuel 1:11). But some allowance must be made for her natural feelings, produced by the tone of sentiment, and by the social usages prevalent around her. 'At every marriage a party of men and women convey a trousseau by torchlight to her new home; and among the mast conspicuous objects is a wooden cradle painted blue, red, or yellow. This piece of furniture is regarded in the East as the most important item of a trousseau; and she is an unhappy wife who does not soon see rocking in the gaudy cradle an infant son, whose name she may take (cf. John 2:1, last clause), and through whom she may be honoured among women' (Miss Rogers' 'Domestic Life in Palestine').

Verses 2-3

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?

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 4

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

She gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife. Rachel, following the example of Sarah with regard to Hagar, an example which is not seldom imitated still, adopted the children of her maid.

Verse 5

And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

Dan - i:e., judge.

Verse 7

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

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 8

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

Naphtali - i:e., wrestling. In bestowing this name she had a reference, in the opinion of some, to her bitter contentious and rivalry with her sister, but in the judgment of others, to her wrestling with God in prayer.

Verses 9-11

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

Leah ... took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. Leah took the same course as Rachel had done with her own maid, who bore a son; and this child, being adopted by Leah, received the name of Gad.

A troop cometh - [Hebrew, baagaad (H1410); Septuagint, en tuchee, in good luck, fortunately, or (Qeri') baa' (H935) gaad (H1409), prosperity, good fortune cometh.] This was Leah's exclamation on the birth of Zilpah's son, and the reason assigned for his being called Gad. The ancient Paraphrasist, Jonathan, and Onkelos read, 'the happy star, or good fortune is come' [cf. Isaiah 65:11, Hebrew text, where allusion is made to two Babylonian idols-gaad, the god of Fortune, and mªniy, the god of Destiny. Monsieur Jurieu says, 'that these two were believed to be the stars that overruled nativities' ('Hist. des dogmes et des cultes,' p. 701; also Henderson's Isaiah 65:11)].

Verse 12

And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 13

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

Asher - i:e., happy, blessed.

Verses 14-16

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.

Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes, [Hebrew, duwdaa'iym (H1736); Septuagint, meela mandragoroon] (cf. Song of Solomon 7:13) (Atropa mandragora, Linnoeus) - a plant resembling the Belladonna, a beet-like root-with fragrant blossoms of a white and reddish hue, which are universally believed by the Orientals to possess the property of aiding conception. The literature on this subject is immense; and the different views entertained regarding the identity of the plant are too many even for enumeration. The following description of it by a traveler of great intelligence, as well as extensive opportunities of observation, may suffice:-`The mandrake is conspicuous by its broad leaves and green apples. Reuben gathered them in wheat harvest on the Mesopotamian fields; and it is then, also, that they are still found ripe and eatable on the lower ranges of Lebanon and Hermon, where I have most frequently seen them. The apple becomes of a very pale yellow colour, partially soft, and of an insipid, sickish taste. They are said to produce dizziness; but I have seen people eat them without experiencing any such effect. The Arabs, however, believe them to be exhilarating and stimulating even to insanity' (Thomson, 'Land and Book').

Verse 15. Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? ... A bitter and intense rivalry existed between Leah and Rachel, all the more from their close relationship as sisters: and although they occupied separate apartments with their respective families, as is the uniform custom where a plurality of wives obtains, and the husband and father spends a day with each in regular succession, this arrangement did not, it seems, allay the mutual jealousies of Laban's daughters. The evil lies in the system, which, being a violation of God's original ordinance, cannot yield happiness. 'Experience in polygamous countries has shown that those run great risk who marry two members of one family, or even two girls from the same town or village. The disadvantages of such unions are well understood. I have often witnessed the quarrels, disputes, and jealousies which arise in harems, where the several wives of one man are nearly related to each other. The more remote the connection or relationship among the women in a harem, the more chance there appears to be of peace within its walls' (Miss Rogers' 'Domestic Life in Palestine').

Verse 17

And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

She called his name Issachar - [Hebrew, Yisaaskaar (H3485). The constant Qeri', Yisaakaar, bought with a hire or reward. The Kethibh may be read either yeesh (H3426) saakaar (H7939), there is a hire or reward, or yisaasaakaar for yisaa' (H5375) saakaar (H7939), he brings a reward. The Septuagint has: ekalese to onoma autou Issachar, ho esti misthos, she called his name Issachar, which is hire or reward.] The import of the name, therefore, is, either that she had hired her husband, or that she had received her hire (i:e., a happy result) from God.

Verse 19

And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

Zebulun - [Hebrew, Zªbuluwn (H2074) or Zªbuwluwn (H2074) (habitation), either from zªbuwl (H2073), dwells, or, as some think, from zebed, a gift or dowry, the name being a paranomasia or play upon both words] The birth of a son is hailed with demonstrations of joy, and the possession of several sons confers upon the mother an honour and respectability proportioned to their number. The husband attaches a similar importance to the possession, and it forms a bond of union which renders it impossible for him ever to forsake or to be cold to a wife who has borne him sons. This explains the happy anticipations Leah founded upon the possession of her six sons.

Verse 21

And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.

Afterwards ... a daughter, [Hebrew, Diynaah (H1783)] - i:e., judged, vindicated. The inferior value set on a daughter is displayed in the bare announcement of the birth.

Verses 22-23

And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 24

And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son. Joseph - [Hebrew, Yowceep (H3130), may he add, from yaacap (H3254), to add. But there is a paranomasia on this verb and 'aacap (H622), to take away, in the preceding clause, so that the name presents the birth of this son in the twofold light of removing the reproach of barrenness from the mother and adding a son (Genesis 30:23-24)]. This name, and those of Issachar and Zebulun, have been fastened upon by De Wette and Knobel as showing in the Mosaic record of them duplicate and contradictory etymologies; but the objections are groundless, as a combination of different and independent ideas in one name is quite in accordance with that fondness for alliteration, of which the Hebrew writings furnish so many examples. In this register of the successive births in Jacob's family, there is a circumstance deserving of notice-namely, the frequent introduction of the divine name in different forms.

The historian may have adopted this style of narration from a pious wish to recognize the direct agency of God in the origin of the Israelite nation (see the note at Genesis 29:31), and the names "Lord," "God" have been used by him indifferently. But if the words, as recorded, were actually uttered by the respective mothers, they must be regarded as indicating the variable state of their religious feelings in the circumstances-Leah being at first impressed with a sense of the goodness and grace of Yahweh in making her "a mother in Israel," but apparently losing sight of Him through the influence of jealousy, and talking only of God (Genesis 30:18; Genesis 30:20); while the proud, worldly-minded Rachel speaks only of Elohim, until she was at length led to trace the agency of Yahweh (Genesis 30:24). Rachel looks to natural means only. And yet, though employing love-apples as a stimulant, she remains sterile, while Leah, who resorts to no such expedients, is again blessed with productiveness. On the whole, the two principal wives of Jacob seem to have been but imperfectly instructed in the revealed knowledge of God; while He, by denying offspring to the favourite wife, and bestowing that privilege on Leah, who had the distinguished honour of being the chief foundress of the house of Israel, showed them, in a manner not to be mistaken or misunderstood, that the children they obtained were not the fruits of nature, but the gifts of grace.

Verse 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.

When Rachel had born Joseph. Shortly after the birth of this son, Jacob's term of servitude expired, and, feeling anxious to establish an independence for his family, he probably, from knowing that Esau was out of the way, announced his intention of returning to Canaan (Hebrews 13:14). In this resolution the faith of Jacob was remarkable, because as yet he had nothing to rely on but the promise of God (cf. Genesis 28:15).

Verse 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. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

Laban said ... I have learned. His selfish uncle was averse to a separation, not from warmth of affection either for Jacob or his daughters, but from the damage his own interests would sustain. He had found, from long observation, that the blessing of heaven rested on Jacob, and that his stock had wonderfully increased under Jacob's management. This was a remarkable testimony that good men are blessings to the places where they reside. Men of the world are often blessed with temporal benefits on account of their pious relatives, though they have not always, like Laban, the wisdom to discern, or the grace to acknowledge it.

Verse 28

And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.

Appoint me thy wages. The Eastern shepherds receive for their hire not money, but a certain amount of the increase or produce of the flock; but Laban would at the time have done anything to secure the continued services of his nephew, and make a show of liberality, which Jacob well knew was constrained.

Verse 29

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

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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?

The Lord hath blessed thee since my coming - literally, in my footsteps; i:e., has caused prosperity to attend me in every department of my labour in your service.

Verse 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.

Jacob said, Thou shalt not give ... A new agreement was made, the substance of which was, that he was to receive remuneration in the usual way, but on certain conditions which Jacob specified.

Verse 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.

I will pass through ... - [Septuagint, parelthetoo panta ta probata sou-let thy flocks pass by.] Eastern sheep being generally white, the goats brown [ chuwm (H2345)], black, or burnt up, and spotted or speckled ones comparatively few and rare, Jacob proposed to remove all existing ones of that description from the flock, and to be content with what might appear at the next lambing-time. The proposal seemed so much in favour of Laban that he at once agreed to it. But Jacob has been accused of taking advantage of his uncle, and though it is difficult to exculpate him from practicing some degree of dissimulation, he was only availing himself of the results of his great skill and experience in the breeding of cattle. His plans were crowned with remarkable success.

Verse 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.

So shall my righteousness answer for me - rather, testify against me (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 19:18; 1 Samuel 12:3; 2 Samuel 1:16, etc.).

Verse 34

And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 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.

He removed ... the he-goats that were ringstraked - [Hebrew, `ªqudiym (H6124), marked with stripes; variegated, especially on the feet; pied-footed: Septuagint, tous rantous (Symmachus, leukopodas).]

And spotted, [Hebrew, wªhaTªlu'iym (H2921)] - having large spots like patches on their bodies (cf. Joshua 10:5); the goats and sheep are here spoken of together, being usually intermingled in the same flock, as they are in the present day (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 2:, p. 169).

Verse 36

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

He set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob. A day's journey is reckoned in the East at the present day at four geographical miles, which is probably about the same distance as is denoted by that measure in Scripture (Exodus 5:3; Exodus 8:27). Three days' journey will then be twelve geographical miles.

Verse 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.

Jacob took him rods (Hebrew, a rod) of green poplar, [Hebrew, libneh (H3839), a poplar] - so called from the whitish colour of its bark or leaves, storax (cf. Hosea 4:13).

And of the hazel, [Hebrew, luwz (H3870)] - more probably the almond tree. [So the Septuagint has: karuineen]. Taking the word as in our translation, there are many varieties of the hazel, some of which are more erect than the common hazel, and it was probably one of the varieties Jacob employed. The styles are of a bright red colour when peeled; and along with them he took wands of other shrubs, which, when stripped of the bark, had white streaks. These rods, kept constantly before the eyes of the females at the time of gestation, Jacob's observation had taught him would have an influence, through the imagination, on the future offspring.

And chesnut tree, [Hebrew, `ermown (H6196)] - not the chesnut tree (Castanea fagus), because it grows only on dry mountain slopes; whereas the other trees mentioned here delight in low, humid situations. It was in all probability the plane, or, according to some, the maple tree (Platanus Orientalis). [So the Septuagint has platanos].

Verse 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.

Watering troughs - usually a long stone block hollowed out, from which several sheep could drink at once, but sometimes so small as to admit of one only drinking at a time.

Verse 39

And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.

And the flocks conceived - literally, were in heat. The verb is in the plural masculine, and the meaning is, that the rams and bucks rutted; whereas in the preceding clause (end of Genesis 30:38) the verb, being feminine, applies to the ewes and she-goats.

Verse 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.

Set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked ... in the flock of Laban. This was the same stratagem continued by different means. Formerly he had made use of peeled rods of diverse colours; but now that ringstraked and black (brown) sheep had made appearance in Laban's flock, he set the faces of his white she-goats and ewes toward them, and the anticipated result followed.

Verses 41-42

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.

Whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive. 'The sheep of those lands yean twice a year. In the autumn, when they have particularly rich pasture, then the stronger cattle did conceive;' accordingly, lambs which fall in February are the most esteemed. In the spring, when the pasturage is not so rich, and the sheep themselves are weakened by the damp and moisture, they do not conceive lambs of so good a quality. Jacob therefore took care to lay his rods in the gutters in the autumn, but did not do so in the spring' (Gerlach).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 30". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/genesis-30.html. 1871-8.
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