Welcome back to another week delving into the story of Rachel and Leah (you can catch up last week’s summary post here). We’ve been following the whole crazy, mixed up situation these two women find themselves in, and this week things start to get desperate (for both of them). We spent the week meditating on this verse:
“But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” “Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” Genesis 30:15
what on earth is going on here?!
Ok, so I have to admit that my first thought was “What on earth?!!”. This seems such an odd story, that I knew there must be more to it than just a very strange bartering exchange for a night of sex. We see this scene where Reuben, one of Leah’s sons, comes home one day having found some mandrakes.
Firstly, it is possible that Reuben is only 4 or 5 years old at this time and might have no clue what these plants are . Maybe he just thought they were pretty and brought them home to bless his mother (my five year old often presents me with a bouquet of daisies!), or perhaps his mum had been telling him to look out for them. Whatever the case, Reuben brings them home and it starts up another spat between the two women.
At this point in the story, both women aren’t conceiving. Now what makes this more interesting is what mandrakes were known for in the middle east at that time. Mandrake plants, although very pretty, had a carrot style root that contains certain chemicals. At the time they were linked to fertility (although there were also lots of witchcraft and other uses for them as well). So as soon as both women saw this plant they obviously wanted them to help with their fertility and win that war of who was the best wife.
When you step into Rachel’s shoes you can totally understand her desire to have these plants. When you have been childless for a long time, you start grasping at straws, anything at all, that might help you conceive and have the child you so desperately want. But once again, we see her turning to something powerless and superstitious rather than relying on God to help her. Rachel is willing to trade her husband for them (which is obviously complicated given that he is also Leah’s husband), showing just how desperate she is. She is willing to temporarily lay down her place as the favoured wife to win this war. I feel so sad for Rachel that she feels she has no other options, whilst also shouting at her to turn to God!!! But then, how many times do we try to solve our own problems in the worlds ways, trying every possible option before we FINALLY turn to prayer??
Stepping into Leah’s shoes, you can feel her desperation too. As she is the unloved and unfavoured wife, she probably doesn’t get much time with her husband. And now that she has given him children, he probably feels he has done his duty to her so he can now enjoy the wife that he loves without needing to spend time with Leah. She is probably ignored and left to deal with her kids on her own. So when she sees a chance to get a night with him, she jumps at it! Even at the expense of hurting her sons feelings (if I traded my son’s daisies for chocolate cake I’m pretty sure he would be mortified). Leah is so fixated on still being on top in terms of kids that she is willing to trade her way there. I feel sad for Leah too that she feels this is the way to get the best out of a life she didn’t really want and that her father’s deception led her into.
What’s the lesson here?
The lesson I am taking for this verse is to try to remember to turn to God in the first place. The more we get wrapped up in doing things the worlds way, the bigger a mess we make, the more people get dragged into our mess and nothing really gets solved. Instead of trying to win the war, lay your needs and desires down and see what outcome God wants instead.
I am loving digging deeper into this story (even if some of the verses aren’t particularly quotable!!!) and the verse for next week is:
“Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.” Genesis 31:35
There is a whole story surrounding this verse, and the lovely Naomi will be leading us through it over in our Facebook Community – do join us!