Rachel’s Envy (1-2)
Envy is a feeling of discontent and resentment over another’s desirable possessions (Gen. 26:14; 37:11; Matt. 27:18). Rachel envied Leah because Leah could have children and she couldn’t. She was so mad that she threatened Jacob with suicide. She could have prayed, instead, like Hannah did (1 Sam. 1:10-11).
Rachel’s Revenge (3-8)
To get back at Leah, Rachel decided to give Jacob Bilhah, her handmaid, to wife. Bilhah gave him two sons, Dan (meaning “judging”) and Naphtali (meaning “my wrestling”). Just as Sarah ended up with trouble from Hagar’s offspring, Rachel ended up with trouble out of Bilhah’s offspring. There are connections to the anti-christ in Dan’s tribe (Gen. 49:17, serpent [Rev. 12:9]; Deut. 33:22, lion [1 Pet. 5:8]; 1 Ki. 12:28-31, idolatry [Zech. 11:17, Rev. 13:15]). The seal of God does not protect the tribe of Dan in the tribulation (Rev. 7:5-8).
Leah’s Retaliation (9-13)
Not to be outdone, Leah gave her handmaid, Zilpah, to Jacob and she bore him two sons: Gad (meaning “a troop”) and Asher (meaning “happy”).
Rachel’s Desperation (14-21)
Reuben, Leah’s oldest son, found some mandrakes and brought them to his mother. A mandrake is a root plant similar to a carrot, which is too poisonous to eat as food. It possesses stimulating and narcotic properties and was used as an aphrodisiac. It has been called the “love-apple.” The Arabs call it “Satan’s apple.” It still grows near Jerusalem, and in other parts of Palestine.
Rachel demanded the mandrakes, hoping these would solve her problem with infertility. Leah flatly refused, accusing Rachel of taking her husband. Instead, she used the mandrakes herself.
God heard Leah and gave her two more sons: Issachar (meaning “an hire”) and Zebulun (meaning “dweling”). In addition, she had a daughter named Dinah (meaning “judgment”).
Rachel’s Satisfaction (22-24)
Finally, Rachel had a son named Joseph (meaning “adding”) because she prophesied that she would have another son (Gen. 35:16-19). Joseph is the greatest type of Jesus Christ in the Bible. Apparently, Rachel had resorted to praying because “God hearkened to her.”
Jacob’s Stress (25-30)
Jacob had served Laban 14 years for two wives. Yet, he ended up with four wives and a dozen kids all under the age of 7. Jacob desperately needed to start working for himself to provide for his own house. He had already made Laban wealthy.
Jacob’s Proposition (31-36)
Jacob convinced Laban to let him keep all the spotted, speckled, and ringstraked kids and all the brown lambs as his wages. All the rest of the “cattle” would be Laban’s. Laban agreed and removed the ringstraked, spotted, and speckled goats and all of the brown sheep from the flock. He gave them to his sons who separated them from Jacob and the rest of the flock by 3 days’ journey. Thus, Jacob’s wages should have been pretty sparse.
Jacob’s Scheme (37-43)
Jacob set up a six-year breeding program that essentially stripped Laban of all of the best of his flocks. He peeled poplar, hazel and chestnut branches until the white wood appeared. He put these branches in the gutters around the water troughs. Gutters are the grooved out places around the troughs where the animals have been watering. These rods were used as a sort of temporary fencing so that Jacob could control the breeding. He bred the he goats that produced ringstraked, spotted and speckled kids with the stronger she goats. And he bred the rams that produced brown lambs with the stronger ewes.
Of course, he knew which rams and he goats would produce these because he had been with these flocks for 14 years. That way, no matter how Laban renegotiated their agreement, Jacob was guaranteed to get the best lambs and kids out of each year’s crop (Gen. 31:8).
Some men have suggested that the bark that was peeled off the branches was added to the water as an “herbal” supplement to strengthen the she goats and ewes. Others have suggested that looking at the white streaks in the branches caused the flocks to produce ringstraked, spotted, and speckled kids and brown lambs. We don’t know if there is any evidence in breeding that either of these things would actually work.