Jacob’s wives, sons & daughters

In Genesis 25, we read about sibling rivalry in the womb! Even before they were born, Jacob and Esau were struggling with each other. Rebecca was con-cerned, and “went to inquire of YHWH” why this was so.[1] Where did she go to inquire? The Scrip-tures are silent on this. However, it is apparent that she went to somebody. The Rabbis say she went to a ro’eh (translated seer, from the shoresh – root word – for “see”). She was told that two nations were in her womb, and that the older would serve the younger. In other words, Esau would serve Jacob.

     Decades later, in Genesis 27, Rebecca hears that Isaac wants to bless his sons before he dies. She knows that Isaac prefers Esau, and she prefers Jacob. God also prefers Jacob, as was shown in chapter 25:23. However, she apparently doesn’t trust HaShem to keep the promise given earlier. Therefore, she seeks to deceive Isaac, using Jacob as her accomplice. I believe she should have believed in the promises of Adonai. It wasn’t necessary for her to deceive poor old Isaac to do it. God would have found a way to fulfill His promises. Nevertheless, her plan worked, and Isaac ended up blessing Jacob with the blessings that he intended for Esau, including, “Let people serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you.” [2]

     Naturally, Esau wasn’t very happy that Jacob had basically stolen the blessings that were meant for him. He begged dear old Dad to also give him a blessing, but the “blessing” he received (Gen. 27:40) was more like a curse than a blessing. “And by your sword you shall live, and shall serve your brother…” Gee, thanks a lot, Dad!

     It isn’t too surprising that Esau was waiting for Isaac to die, and then he would kill dear brother Jacob. Even though Isaac was already blind with age, Esau would have had to wait many more years. Isaac died when he was 180 years old, as we learn in Genesis 35:27-28.

     Rebecca learns of Esau’s plans for revenge, and conspires to have Jacob sent away, supposedly to find a good wife, but primarily to keep him safe from Esau. He is sent away to Haran (close to modern-day Turkey), where he is told to find wife from the daughters of Laban, the brother of Rebecca. In other words, he was told to marry one of his cousins. This is not forbidden in Scripture, although if continued for many generations, this results in birth defects. In Islamic cultures, the preferred marriage partners are between cousins, which results in many physical and mental problems with the children of these centuries of inbred relationships.

     Jacob departed from his home in Beersheba, and headed toward Haran in northern Mesopotamia (Padan-aram). In Genesis 28:12, we read that he had a dream,[3] and saw a ladder with it’s top reaching into heaven.

He sees the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Since we read of the angels first ascending, the Rabbis say that these angels had been accompanying Jacob on his journey. Jacob also saw God above the ladder (Gen. 28:13), saying, “I am YHWH, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie, I will give to you and your descendants.”

     Jacob, however, remains the conniver, kind of like his mom, Rebecca. He made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in the way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then shall YHWH be my God… and of all that You shall give me, I will surely give a tenth to You (Gen. 28:20-22).”

     Jacob arrived in Haran, virtually penniless, having left behind his possessions, as well as his beloved parents. However, things began to look up a bit for him. In Genesis 29, the very first young lady he met was the lovely Rachel, who had come to the well to water her flocks. She was the daughter of Uncle Laban. Jacob rolls the huge rock from the mouth of the well to water Laban’s flock. Then he kissed Rachel (on the first “date”?) and wept, knowing that Adonai had blessed his journey. He told Rachel that he was her cousin. She ran to tell Laban, apparently leaving Jacob at the well by himself. Uncle Laban ran back to the well to see Jacob, kissed him,[4] and brought him to his house.

Jacob’s Wedding Surprise

Jacob moved fairly quickly. He asked for Rachel to be his wife, and offered to work seven years for her. Laban felt he had a good deal, and agreed to it. You know the story. Jacob worked seven years, finally the wedding day arrives! He fully expected that the bride beneath the veil was his beloved Rachel. He went into the tent and consummated the wedding. However, in the morning, in the full light of day, he discovered that Uncle Laban had tricked him! He had just spent the night with the less than lovely Leah, the sister of Rachel. In another deal, Laban gets Jacob to complete the wedding week with Leah, and he would then give Rachel also as a wife for Jacob. However, as a precondition to getting another bride, at the conclusion of the second wedding week, he would work another seven years for Laban.

     Adonai saw that Leah was unloved. Therefore, He opened up her womb. In Gen. 29:32-35, she produces four sons for Jacob: Reuben, Shimon, Levi, and Judah. In Judaism, all these names mean something. Reuben (Ruven – “see, a son”), Simeon (Shimon – from sh’ma, Hebrew for “hear”), Levi (from lavah for “join”), and Judah (Yehudah – “praise YHWH”). In the Hebrew tradition, you give the child a name that means something, not just a name that sounds nice.

     It started getting rough for Jacob. Leah stopped bearing children, so Leah asked Jacob to go to her handmaid Zilpah. Jacob had no choice, poor boy, so he went into Zilpah. Zilpah produced two sons, Gad and Asher, who would be considered the sons of Leah, as they were born on Leah’s knees.[5]

     Then Leah again became fertile, producing two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun. Afterwards she produced a daughter named Dinah. Many falsely assume that Dinah was the only daughter that Jacob had. Dinah was simply the only daughter who was named. And the only reason that Dinah is mentioned by name is because of the tragic rape that happened to her in Genesis 34. In Genesis 34:21, Hamor suggests that his family and Jacob’s family merge, saying, “Let us take their daughters in marriage, and give our daughters to them.” Years later, Jacob was in mourning, assuming that his beloved son Joseph had been killed by wild animals. “And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him.” [6]

     In Genesis 46:7, Jacob moves to Egypt with “his sons, his daughters, and his son’s daughters, and all his descendants….” Again, we see that Jacob had daughters. In fact, he had more daughters than sons. In Genesis 46:15, we read that Jacob had 33 sons and daughters. We already know that he had 12 sons. Simple arithmetic tells us that Jacob also had 21 daughters. However, the tribes could only be led by men, the twelve sons of Jacob. Therefore, the sons are named, whereas the daughters are not named.

     In Genesis 46:27, we learn that there were 70 persons members of Jacob’s family that came to Egypt. They are named in Genesis 46:8-26. Sixty-six out of 70 of the names are male. There were also many females that also went into Egypt, including the wives of Jacob’s 12 sons, who are also mentioned in Genesis 46:27, although they are not named. I’m sorry to say this, ladies. But the ladies were not considered important enough to even number, nor were their names given. We are blessed to live in an age in which the ladies are given their honor due. HaShem loves the females amongst us. When God chose to send His only begotten Son into the world, He chose a young Jewish virgin to accomplish the task. Joseph (much to his early chagrin) had nothing to do with it.

However, I digress. Let us get back to the competition between Jacob’s wives. After Dinah was born, HaShem opened up Rachel’s womb, and she finally produced a son, whom she named Joseph. This was the first and only son that Rachel would have for several years. However, she finally became pregnant for a second time, and produced another son as the family was on the way to Bethlehem (Beit Lechem – House of Bread). She began to die while giving birth, and named her second son “Ben-oni,” son of my sorrow. After Rachel died, Jacob gave the boy a new name, Benjamin (Ben-yamin – son of the right hand).

     The tomb of Rachel remains a holy place to this day. Regretfully, Bethlehem was given to the Palestinian Arabs as one of the gifts of the Oslo “peace” process. However, Rachel’s tomb has been walled off and protected as a Jewish holy site. Jewish women with barren wombs have gone to Rachel’s tomb for many centuries to pray for their wombs to be opened. Many claim that it works! However, it seems curious to go to Rachel’s tomb for such prayers, as she had such difficulty in conceiving.

     Jacob went to Haran, supposedly to get a wife with greater spirituality than the women of Canaan. He gained not one, but two wives, along with two concubines. This is not the biblical ideal. We see that Adam was given one woman, not two or three. However, the Bible tells it like it is. The Bible does not sugar-coat the great men and women of scripture. The Bible tells about their strengths, as well as their warts and blemishes.

     And although Rachel might have been beautiful, she was far from perfect. Jacob spent 20 years working for Uncle Laban. He was a very hard and intelligent worker, and ended up prospering more than any of the sons of Laban. And as has been common in Jewish history, when Jews prosper, other peoples become jealous. This was the case with Laban’s sons, as well as Laban himself, all of whom were jealous of Jacob.

     It was time for Jacob to leave. In Genesis 31:3, HaShem tells Jacob to leave Padan-Aram. Jacob arrived with only the clothes on his back and his staff. He secretly left Padan-Aram with his wives, concubines, sons, daughters, and many possessions.

     When Uncle Laban discovered that Jacob had secretly fled with his daughters and many possessions, he and his kinsmen went searching for Jacob. They finally caught up with Jacob and his family. However, God had come to Laban in a dream, warning him to not harm Jacob. Laban expressed his great displeasure that his daughters and grandchildren had been taken away from him, without him even having had the chance to say farewell.

     Something else was disturbing Laban. All of his household gods had been stolen! And he assumed that Jacob had something to do with it. Jacob was of course very offended. He wanted nothing to do with Laban’s gods. Jacob had his own God: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! However, he permitted Laban to search through all of their tents and belongings. He said that if these idols were discovered, that Laban had the right to kill whoever was in possession of them.

     However, Jacob did not realize that Rachel was the thief! Rachel had stolen her father’s household idols. She hid them in her camel’s saddle, and sat on the saddle. She was obviously living outside of the covenant. Laban never found his idols, which further enraged Jacob, as he felt completely vindicated.

     Jacob and Laban ended up making a covenant with each other. They erected a heap of stones. Laban spoke Aramaic and called it Y’gar-sahadutah (“the heap of witness”), whereas Jacob still preferred Hebrew, calling these same stones Gal-ed (also meaning “heap of witness”). It was also called Mitspah (“watchtower”). A mitspah (or mizpah) is sometimes written on pieces of jewelry, in which young men and women demonstrate their love for each other, with the scripture from Genesis 31:49, saying, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent from each other.” However, in original context, this was not a statement of friendship, but of mutual distrust.

[1] Genesis 25:22.

[2] Genesis 27:29. (See also Gen. 12:3)

[3] It was common in Scripture for God to speak to people in dreams and visions. However, be careful! Some dreams are because of too much pizza.

[4] It was common for men to kiss each other. It was totally non-sexual.

[5] It should be noted that in biblical times, women gave birth vertically, sitting on a birth stool (Exodus 1:16) or on the knees of another human. For instance, children were also born on Joseph’s knees (Gen. 50:22). This continues to be the case in so-called “primitive” cultures, in which gravity helps in the birthing process. Having the expectant mom on her back is only for the convenience of the doctor, but making the birthing process more difficult – to this very day.

[6] Genesis 37:35.

Source: https://petahtikvah.com/Articles/JacobsWivesSonsandDaughters.htm#_ftn6

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