Bible Commentaries
Genesis 30

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-13


Genesis 30:1. Give me children, or else I die.] Heb. “If none, I am a dead woman.” As to the raising up of seed, I shall be as good as dead. An old Jewish proverb says, “The childless are but as the lifeless.

Genesis 30:6. Dan.] Judging. The word is to be understood in a good sense as implying the vindication or deliverance of those who are unrighteously condemned or afflicted. (1 Samuel 24:15).

Genesis 30:8. Naphtali.] Heb. “Wrestlings of God,” i.e., great, urgent vehement.

Genesis 30:11. Gad.] Heb. “A troop cometh.” It is doubtful, however, whether the word really means troop. Most of the earlier versions give the sense of “luck, fortune, or prosperity.” The Chal. has “fortune cometh.” Alford remarks: “The A. V. has followed the Samaritan Pentateuch, which here reads a different word from the Hebrew. The familiar rendering of the latter seems the only expressive way of giving the sense. Where this is the case I have not shrank from using the words. We need not dilute the meaning of the text because the words happen to be in trivial use among us.

Genesis 30:13. Asher.] Heb. “Happy or blessed.” All would call her blessed, seeing she was so rich in sons. There are marked allusions to this. (Proverbs 31:28; Song of Solomon 6:9; Luke 1:48).



Rachel found that, with all her beauty, she was childless. In Oriental countries, where the maternal relation is counted a great glory, a childless marriage is regarded as a shame and calamity. Here we see the character and effects of Rachel’s impatience of her barrenness.

I. It was ungodly.

1. She was the victim of unholy passions. She was full of envy and jealousy of her sister. Not content to enjoy the many blessings still remaining, she increases her trouble by inordinate desire of that which Providence had denied.

2. She took a despairing view of life. Rachel reproaches her husband and says to him, “Give me children, or else I die.” As if everything was gone from life when she was denied this one blessing. This was to take a despairing view of things, to allow one privation or calamity to swallow up all her joy. Such conduct is ungodly, for it is not the habit of the truly religious mind to dwell upon a few evils until they darken the whole of life. True faith in God would produce resignation.

3. She failed rightly to recognise the true Author of all good things. Her husband rightly replied, “Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” How could he give that which God had been pleased to withhold? Rachel did not consider the will of God in this matter, and her husband was filled with righteous indignation at her impiety.

II. It led to the adoption of wrong expedients. She gave her maid to her husband, after the example of Sarah (Ch. Genesis 16:2). In this way she hoped to have children, which she could call her own, in some sense—to become a mother by proxy. This was a blamable expediency, for it showed the impatient haste of unbelief and a want of confidence in Providence.

III. It had an influence for evil.

1. Upon her own character. When her maid had born children, she begins to boast over her sister. (Genesis 30:6; Genesis 30:8.) This was but a delusion, for there was no real ground for such vain glory. It was but a fancied happiness that she enjoyed. She was the victim of unrealities.

2. Upon her sister. Leah ceases to bear children, and therefore adopts the same expedient as Rachel (Genesis 30:9). The proud and challenging assertions of Rachel roused her to emulation. Leah, who had been pious and humble before, now becomes proud and vindictive. Thus radical defects of character tend to propagate their own likeness in others.


Genesis 30:1. Her envy was, no doubt, sharpened in this case by the fact that Leah was her sister, and by the knowledge that she was herself the favourite and elected wife. She must have feared that she should lose her ascendancy over Jacob by the want of children,—(Bush.)

Beauty and barrenness, deformity and fruitfulness: such are the compensations of Providence.
Discontent takes away the glory of life, and prevents us from enjoying the blessings we have.

How different is Rachel’s conduct from Rebekah’s in like circumstances (Ch. Genesis 25:22), and from Hannah’s (1 Samuel 1:11).

Genesis 30:2. Jacob was concerned for the honour of God, and not for any injury or injustice done to himself.

To murmur at the power and providence of the Most High shows a rebellious will.

He that will be angry, and not sin, must not be angry but for sin. Reprove thy wife thou mayest; chide her thou mayest not, unless the offence be against God, as here, and Job 2:10.—(Trapp.)

Genesis 30:3-5. It is a weak greediness in us to bring about God’s blessings by unlawful means. What a proof and a praise had it been of her faith, if she had staid God’s leisure, and would rather have endured her barrenness, than her husband’s polygamy.—(Bp. Hall.)

Genesis 30:6-8. God hath judged me. In this passage Jacob and Rachel use the common noun, God, the Everlasting, and therefore Almighty, who rules in the physical relations of things, a name suitable to the occasion. He had judged her, dealt with her according to His sovereign justice in withholding the fruit of the womb, when she was self-complacent and forgetful of her dependence on a higher power; and also of hearing her voice when she approached him in humble supplication.—(Murphy.)

She regarded the withholding of children as evidence of her lacking God’s favour; and she had been led to wrestlings of prayer to God for the blessing, as between herself and her sister, and she had prevailed. She now regarded the conflict as decided to her advantage.—(Jacobus.)

Genesis 30:9-13. Leah is seemingly conscious that she is here pursuing a device of her own heart; and hence there is no explicit reference to the Divine name or influence in the naming of the two sons of her maid.—(Murphy.)

Verses 14-21


Genesis 30:14. Mandrakes.] “The mandrake is universally distributed in all parts of Palestine, and its fruit is much valued by the natives, who still hold to the belief, as old as the time of Rachel, that when eaten it ensures conception. Wheat harvest is the period of its ripening.” [Tristram’s Natural History of the Bible]. The words occur only here and in Song of Solomon 7:13.

Genesis 30:17. God hearkened unto Leah.] These words presuppose a prayer on her part, or perhaps they are used merely in the more general sense of ch. Genesis 16:11, “The Lord hath heard thy affliction.” (Alford.)—

Genesis 30:18. Issachar.] Heb. “It is a reward.”—

Genesis 30:20. Zebulon.] Heb. “Dwelling.” This vow should be the cause or occasion of the dwelling together of his parents.—

Genesis 30:21. Dinah.] “Dinah, meaning judgment, from the same root as Dan.” This is the only daughter of Jacob mentioned, and that on account of her connection with the history of Jacob. (Ch. 34.) (Jacobus.) Jacob had more daughters: compare ch. Genesis 37:35, with Genesis 46:7.—



I. The type represented by Rachel. This character consists mainly of two elements.

1. Distrust. Rachel had no strong faith in God. There was no disposition to abide by His will, or to wait patiently for its unfolding.

2. The tendency to rely upon carnal devices. Rachel was fruitful in expedients instead of depending upon the favours of Providence. This character is the opposite of that which belongs to the meek. It is the character of the wilful who strive to accomplish their own ends by any means, regardless of what God’s will may decide. The meek humbly submit themselves under the Lord’s hand.

II. The type represented by Leah. This also consists mainly of two elements.

1. Prayerful trust in God. Leah is content to forego the carnal means which would take the matter out of God’s hand. She will pray and trust in Him. “God hearkened unto Leah” (Genesis 30:17), for she prayed, and has again the advantage over Rachel with all her expedients.

2. The spirit of gratitude. Leah ascribes her blessings to God. “God hath given me my hire.” (Genesis 30:18.) “God hath endued me with a good dowry. (Genesis 30:20).


Genesis 30:14-17. Mandrakes, the fruit of the mandragora vernalis, which is to this day supposed to promote fruitfulness of the womb. Rachel therefore desires to partake of them, and obtains them by a compact with Leah.—(Murphy.)

Genesis 30:18. God hath given me my hire. Wherein she was much mistaken, as having not her “senses exercised to discern good and evil.” Here she rejoiceth in that for which she should have repented; and was in the common error of measuring things by the success, as if God were not many times angry with men, though they outwardly prosper. Thus Dionysius, after the spoils of an idol-temple, finding the winds favourable—“Lo,” said he, “how the gods approve of sacrilege!”—(Trapp.)

Genesis 30:19-21. Leah’s election is founded upon Jehovah’s grace. Without any doubt, however, she was fitted to become the ancestress of the Messianic line, not only by her apparent humility, but also by her innate powers of blessing, as well as by her quiet and true love for Jacob. The fulness of her life becomes apparent in the number and the power of her children; and with these, therefore, a greater strength of the mere natural life predominates. Joseph, on the contrary, the favourite son of the wife loved with a bridal love, is distinguished from his brethren as the separated (Ch. 49,) among them, as a child of a nobler spirit, whilst the import of his life is not as rich for the future as that of Judah.—(Lange.)

Verses 22-24


Genesis 30:23. My reproach.] That is, the reproach of my barrenness. (See Luke 1:25; 1 Samuel 1:6; Isaiah 4:1; Isaiah 4:1.)—

Genesis 30:24. Joseph.] “Adding,” or, “he will add.” It may also be rendered in the form of a prayer, “May the Lord add another.” Thus it would be a prophetic declaration of the event which was accomplished in the birth of Benjamin.—



I. It was long delayed. The blessing which Rachel had long desired was, at length, granted. She had not lost the love of God—for that lives on—she had only been denied His favour for a time. God grants His favours as it pleases Him, and yet always with a view to the blessed designs of our discipline. They are bestowed at the best time for us. So it was with Rachel. For upwards of fourteen years of her married life she had been barren. God, at length, “remembered Rachel,” as if she had been forgotten before; for so we may speak of God’s delayed blessings from our human point of view. When the good we seek comes not, we begin to think that we are forgotten; that prayers are of no use when they are not immediately answered. But if we are faithful we shall be blessed according to the time wherein we have been afflicted.

II. It was granted to her after some solemn lessons had been learned. During the long delay Rachel had time to learn some solemn lessons, and which often have to be learned only through painful discipline.

1. The lesson of dependence. She had to be taught that whatever human means are used to gain our ends, all ultimate success depends upon the will of God. All gifts come from His hand. 2 The lesson of patience. She had to wait long for this blessing; and when it was granted, she would see how good it is to be patient. 3 The lesson of faith and hope. She had now learned not to despair because God did not at once grant her desires. It was good to believe and hope. If we abide faithful our confident trust in God will be justified in the end.

III. It awakened gratitude. This spirit showed itself. 1 In a grateful recognition of God’s dealings. She said, “God hath taken away my reproach” (Genesis 30:23). The blessing itself was evident; but she recognised the divine source from whence it came. She did not trace the gift to some irresponsible powers of nature, but to the distinct favour of a personal God. 2 In the heartfelt acknowledgment of God. She called the name of her son, Joseph, saying “The Lord shall add to me another son.” She had previously used the name Elohim, which means the invisible Eternal (Genesis 30:6); now she uses the name Jehovah, signifying the manifest self-existant-God as known in His covenant relation. This was an important advance in spiritual knowledge and feeling. The distant God becomes near. The God of nature becomes the God of providence and grace. This is similar to the experience of Job, (Job 42:5-6). Rachel has now hope for the future, for she feels that she has an interest in the covenant of promise. What a blessed contrast to her former state of despair! (Genesis 30:1).


Genesis 30:22. She began to think that God had forgotten her, because her prayer was not answered. This is a common fault. David bewails it himself. (Psalms 77:0) So the church of old. (Psalms 63:1-5.)—(Trapp.)

Genesis 30:23-24. A sweet and sure way of argumentation. God, that hath thus and thus done me good, will not be wanting to me in anything that may conduce to mine eternal comfort; but “will perfect that which concerneth me.” (Psalms 138:8.)—(Trapp.)

Verses 25-43


Genesis 30:27. I have learned by experience.] This verb is taken from a noun, which means a serpent. It seems to have such a meaning as, “to ascertain by means of a close, subtle, and insidious inspection.” Alford says that the word literally means, “I have used divination, I have learned by consulting omens.”—

Genesis 30:33. So shall my righteousness answer for me.] That is, my honesty shall be vindicated.—

Genesis 30:37. Pilled white streaks in them.] “He pealed off the bark of different trees which were very white under the bark, so that they would be speckled and ring-streaked.” (Jacobus.)—

Genesis 30:40. And Jacob did separate the lambs, etc.] Kalisch translates thus, “And he set the faces of (Laban’s) flocks towards (his own) ring-streaked, and all (his) dark (he set) to the flocks of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and did not put them to Laban’s cattle.”—

Genesis 30:43. And the man increased exceedingly.] Heb. “The man broke forth largely, largely.” On every side he expanded—his prosperity was enlarged.



I. It was entered upon in opposition to his better feelings and convictions. There were ordinary considerations of self interest which would urge Jacob to leave the service of Laban. He felt now that the time had come when he must make an adequate provision for his own house. (Genesis 30:30.) And with Laban’s selfishness there was very little chance of accomplishing this. But in consenting to stay, he had to do violence to better feelings than this of self interest.

1. Natural affection. He longs to see his parents again and to visit the land of his nativity. He had been detained in a strange country for a much longer time than he had expected. The old feelings for home and kindred now grow strong within him. He had to overcome them in consenting—for the present—to stay.

2. Religious faith. Jacob has now reached the age of fourscore years and ten, and as the birthright son he longed to visit the land which God had promised to him and to his seed. He remembered that the land of his sojourning was not the land of his inheritance. He now calls to mind the hereditary hope of his family, the parting benediction of Isaac, the vision at Bethel. He is also full of joy at the birth of Joseph, whom he considered as the Messianic son, and he naturally desires to bring him into the promised land. And if he overcomes these feelings for a time, it was only at the urgent solicitations of Laban, whom he did not like to make his enemy by refusing him. He also wanted to gain some wealth, so that he might not return to his friends in Canaan empty-handed. But his faith grasped the old promise. (Hebrews 11:9; Hebrews 13:14.)

II. It was marked by worldly prudence.

1. That prudence which calculates. Jacob hints at the value of his long services, and Laban is ready to acknowledge how much they had contributed to his own prosperity. (Genesis 30:26-27.) Jacob agrees to remain for a sufficient consideration. (Genesis 30:28-33.) Here was the calculating prudence of a man who was able to survey the whole situation at a glance.

2. The prudence which takes advantage of superior knowledge. Throughout the whole of these long years of Jacob’s service, Laban had been working entirely for his own advantage. He now flatters Jacob, while he is trying all the time to overreach him. When he asks what wages Jacob would require, he makes sure to himself all the time that Jacob’s modesty would dispose him to name a small sum. Laban now thought that he had caught him, but he had to deal with a man of cunning and of deep resources. Jacob took advantage of the superior knowledge, which he had gained from the study and observation of nature, in order to outdo his uncle. (Genesis 30:37-43). Here were cunning and sagacity matched against avarice. This kind of cunning, which makes use of superior knowledge, is often the resource of the weak against the strong. Men who are grasping and treacherous without art are often overmatched by men of unsuspected device and skill. There is much both to praise and to blame in Jacob’s conduct.

(1.) He had justice on his side. His claims were righteous. (Genesis 30:29-30.) He was now only taking advantage of his superior knowledge of nature as an offset to the disadvantage under which he started. But

(2) he is to be blamed for his want of candour. He lacked that openness and simplicity of character which we expect to see in the righteous man. His plan was successful, but the craft of it is not to be wholly commended. However, if we regard the historical order of development in Revelation, we must not severely consider the conduct of Jacob by the Christian standard.


Genesis 30:25. In this declaration there was something more than the mere longing of the natural man for the land of his nativity; we behold in it the strong and influential faith of these ancient patriarchs, believing implicitly the promises of their God, that the land, of which not an acre belonged to them, should, in due time, be wholly theirs; that their seed should be as the stars of heaven, and that from their loins should spring the Saviour of the world. In looking to Canaan, they looked to the heaven which it typified. They saw the promises afar off. (Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:16.)

When the close of our services on earth has arrived, and we have done the work which God has given us to do, then we may look for our pure and permanent home in heaven. We may pray, in all meekness and humility, “Lord, send me away, that I may go to the place and to the country” which Thou has prepared for me through Thy Son.

Genesis 30:26-27. His greedy kinsman expresses his regret at hearing his departure spoken of. But it is not regret at the thought of parting with his daughters and his grand-children; it is not the tender concern of bidding a long farewell to a near relation and a devoted servant; no, it is regret at losing an instrument of gain. It is the sorrow of a man who loves only himself.—(Bush.)

Men of the world often see that the good and pious are a benefit to them, and they prefer such for servants. They often receive temporal benefits of such pious associations and relationships in life.—(Jacobus.)

Genesis 30:28-30. Jacob touches upon the value of his services, perhaps with the tacit feeling that Laban in equity owed him at least the means of returning to his home.—(Murphy.)

Genesis 30:31-33. Thou shalt not give me anything. This shows that Jacob had no stock from Laban to begin with. Remove from thence every speckled and spotted sheep, etc. These were rare colours, as in the East the sheep are usually white, and the goats black or dark brown. And such shall be my hire. Such as these uncommon parti-coloured cattle, when they shall appear among the flock already cleared of them; and not those of this description that are now removed. For in this case Laban would have given Jacob something; whereas Jacob was resolved to be entirely dependent on Divine providence for his hire. And my righteousness will answer for me. The colour will determine at once whose the animal is.—(Murphy.)

Jacob was willing to trust to Providence with an artful use of the means which his experience furnished him.—(Jacobus.)

Genesis 30:34-36. If Laban had been honest, he would have represented to Jacob, that he would be a great loser by this bargain.—(Lange.)

Genesis 30:37-43. In the very shapes and colours of brute creatures there is a Divine hand, which disposeth them to His own ends. Small and unlikely means shall prevail where God intends an effect. Little peeled sticks of hazel or poplar laid in the troughs, shall enrich Jacob with an increase of his spotted flocks, Laban’s sons might have tried the same means and failed. God would have Laban know that He put a difference between Jacob and him; that as for fourteen years He had multiplied Jacob’s charge of cattle to Laban, so now, for the last six years, He would multiply Laban’s flock to Jacob, and if Laban had the more, yet the better were Jacob’s.—(Bishop Hall.)

The attainment of varieties and new species among animals and plants is very ancient, and stands closely connected with civilization and the kingdom of God.—(Lange.)

As regards the morality, however, Jacob seems to have bargained with his secret scheme in view, and consulted only his own interest and avarice, the effect of which was to secure a large portion of the flocks. Laban, discovering this, regarded himself as released from the compact, and changed the terms time after time. This loss to Laban was only a providential punishment for his exaction of Jacob’s service those fourteen years. But Jacob was guilty in relying more upon craft than upon the covenant of God.—(Jacobus.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 30". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.