1When Rachel saw that she had not borne children to Jacob, she became envious of her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children or I shall die!”a 2Jacob became angry with Rachel and said, “Can I take the place of God, who has denied you the fruit of the womb?”b 3She replied, “Here is my maidservant Bilhah. Have intercourse with her, and let her give birth on my knees,* so that I too may have children through her.”c 4So she gave him her maidservant Bilhah as wife,* and Jacob had intercourse with her. 5When Bilhah conceived and bore a son for Jacob, 6Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; indeed he has heeded my plea and given me a son.” Therefore she named him Dan.* 7Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah conceived again and bore a second son for Jacob, 8and Rachel said, “I have wrestled strenuously with my sister, and I have prevailed.” So she named him Naphtali.*
9When Leah saw that she had ceased to bear children, she took her maidservant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as wife. 10So Leah’s maidservant Zilpah bore a son for Jacob. 11Leah then said, “What good luck!” So she named him Gad.* 12Then Leah’s maidservant Zilpah bore a second son to Jacob; 13and Leah said, “What good fortune, because women will call me fortunate!” So she named him Asher.*
14One day, during the wheat harvest, Reuben went out and came upon some mandrakes* in the field which he brought home to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” 15Leah replied, “Was it not enough for you to take away my husband, that you must now take my son’s mandrakes too?” Rachel answered, “In that case Jacob may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.” 16That evening, when Jacob came in from the field, Leah went out to meet him. She said, “You must have intercourse with me, because I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So that night he lay with her, 17and God listened to Leah; she conceived and bore a fifth son to Jacob. 18Leah then said, “God has given me my wages for giving my maidservant to my husband”; so she named him Issachar.* 19Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob; 20and Leah said, “God has brought me a precious gift. This time my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons”; so she named him Zebulun.* 21Afterwards she gave birth to a daughter, and she named her Dinah.
22Then God remembered Rachel. God listened to her and made her fruitful. 23She conceived and bore a son, and she said, “God has removed my disgrace.”d 24She named him Joseph,* saying, “May the LORD add another son for me!”
Jacob Outwits Laban.* 25After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban: “Allow me to go to my own region and land. 26Give me my wives and my children for whom I served you and let me go, for you know the service that I rendered you.” 27Laban answered him: “If you will please! I have learned through divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you.” 28He continued, “State the wages I owe you, and I will pay them.” 29Jacob replied: “You know what work I did for you and how well your livestock fared under my care; 30the little you had before I came has grown into an abundance, since the LORD has blessed you in my company. Now, when can I do something for my own household as well?” 31Laban asked, “What should I give you?” Jacob answered: “You do not have to give me anything. If you do this thing for me, I will again pasture and tend your sheep. 32Let me go through your whole flock today and remove from it every dark animal among the lambs and every spotted or speckled one among the goats.* These will be my wages. 33In the future, whenever you check on my wages, my honesty will testify for me: any animal that is not speckled or spotted among the goats, or dark among the lambs, got into my possession by theft!” 34Laban said, “Very well. Let it be as you say.”
35That same day Laban removed the streaked and spotted he-goats and all the speckled and spotted she-goats, all those with some white on them, as well as every dark lamb, and he put them in the care of his sons.* 36Then he put a three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob was pasturing the rest of Laban’s flock.
37Jacob, however, got some fresh shoots of poplar, almond and plane* trees, and he peeled white stripes in them by laying bare the white core of the shoots. 38The shoots that he had peeled he then set upright in the watering troughs where the animals came to drink, so that they would be in front of them. When the animals were in heat as they came to drink, 39the goats mated by the shoots, and so they gave birth to streaked, speckled and spotted young. 40The sheep, on the other hand, Jacob kept apart, and he made these animals face the streaked or completely dark animals of Laban. Thus he produced flocks of his own, which he did not put with Laban’s flock. 41Whenever the hardier animals were in heat, Jacob would set the shoots in the troughs in full view of these animals, so that they mated by the shoots; 42but with the weaker animals he would not put the shoots there. So the feeble animals would go to Laban, but the hardy ones to Jacob. 43So the man grew exceedingly prosperous, and he owned large flocks, male and female servants, camels, and donkeys.
* [30:3] On my knees: in the ancient Near East, a father would take a newborn child in his lap to signify that he acknowledged it as his own; Rachel uses the ceremony in order to adopt the child and establish her legal rights to it.
* [30:4] As wife: in 35:22 Bilhah is called a “concubine” (Heb. pilegesh). In v. 9, Zilpah is called “wife,” and in 37:2 both women are called wives. The basic difference between a wife and a concubine was that no bride price was paid for the latter. The interchange of terminology shows that there was some blurring in social status between the wife and the concubine.
* [30:6] Dan: explained by the term dannanni, “he has vindicated me.”
* [30:8] Naphtali: explained by the Hebrew term naftulim, lit., “contest” or “struggle.”
* [30:11] Gad: explained by the Hebrew term begad, lit., “in luck,” i.e., “what good luck!”
* [30:13] Asher: explained by the term be’oshri, lit., “in my good fortune,” i.e., “what good fortune,” and by the term ye’ashsheruni, “they call me fortunate.”
* [30:14] Mandrakes: an herb whose root was thought to promote conception. The Hebrew word for mandrakes, duda’im, has erotic connotations, since it sounds like the words daddayim (“breasts”) and dodim (“sexual pleasure”).
* [30:20] Zebulun: explained by the terms, zebadani…zebed tob, “he has brought me a precious gift,” and yizbeleni, “he will honor me.”
* [30:25–43] Jacob’s deception of Laban. Jacob has been living in Laban’s household as an indentured worker paying off the bride price. Having paid off all his obligations, he wants to settle his accounts with Laban. His many children attest to the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise of numerous progeny; the birth of Joseph to his beloved Rachel signals the fulfillment in a special way. To enter into the Lord’s second promise, the land, he must now return to Canaan.
* [30:32] Dark…lambs…spotted or speckled…goats: in the Near East the normal color of sheep is light gray, whereas that of goats is dark brown or black. A minority of sheep in that part of the world have dark patches, and a minority of goats, white markings. Laban is quick to agree to the offer, for Jacob would have received only a few animals. But Jacob gets the better of him, using two different means: (1) he separates out the weaker animals and then provides visual impressions to the stronger animals at mating time (a folkloric belief); (2) in 31:8–12, he transmits the preferred characteristics through controlled propagation. It should be noted that Jacob has been told what to do in a dream (31:10) and that God is behind the increase in his flocks.
* [30:35] By giving the abnormally colored animals to his sons, Laban not only deprived Jacob of his first small wages, but he also schemed to prevent the future breeding of such animals in the flock entrusted to Jacob.
* [30:37] Plane: also called the Oriental Plane, a deciduous tree found in riverine forests and marshes.