Monday, March 14, 2016
Desperate housewife number 2: Rachel
This week we will study our second desperate housewife! Her name is Rachel, and you probably remember her from our last study of Leah, her sister.
I cannot imagine the pain and frustration that Rachel must have felt when her father, Laban, revealed his plan to her, and to her sister, Leah. He led Leah, veiled and clothed in Rachel's wedding garments to Jacob's tent, and no one was the wiser until the morning. Jacob must have turned over to reach for his "love at first sight," Rachel, and the Bible says, "Behold, it was Leah." Oh, what a morning filled with tears and recriminations that must have been! I can see Jacob sprinting over to Laban's tent, and accusing him. But his love for Rachel was so great that he agreed to a second term of seven years' work in order to claim her for his own.
Now the two sisters were living together, wives of the same husband. It grated on both their nerves. It bothered Leah because it was obvious from every glance that Jacob adored Rachel. It bothered Rachel because Leah seemed to pop out baby boys so easily, while she remained barren. Why couldn't her happy-ever-after plans with Jacob have come true? With just the two of them as man and wife? This just wasn't like it was supposed to be . . .
So, here we have Leah, unloved but with happy, chubby babies crawling about, and we have Rachel, loved, but terribly alone with no children to cuddle. Two desperate women, indeed.
Rachel's desperation led her to scream at Jacob one day, "Give me children or I'll die!" as though it were up to him, instead of God. It would be very easy to judge Rachel here, for her decision to play the part of the victim . . . but haven't we studied other women who were faced with this situation? They fell prey to the same bad plan: Rachel gave her maid, Bilhah, to Jacob, and she conceived and bore two sons. They were named Dan and Napthali. When Napthali was born, Rachel triumphantly said, "I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won."
But the struggle wasn't over. Far from it. Now Jacob had three women living with him. This was far from the ideal plan that God had conceived for mankind. God had planned for marriage to be a lifelong relationship between one man and one woman; a life of commitment, trust, and love. And there was a lot of uneasiness, and jealousy, and pain in that tent. Jacob had become a pawn, hadn't he? Leah saw what Rachel had done, and she gave him her maid, Zilpah, who bore Jacob two more sons -- Gad and Asher. Four miserable women, one controlled man, and children who will grow up to be suspicious and jealous of each other. Oy. What a mess we humans can make.
Rachel would herself bear a son soon, and our story will reveal more of her character. I hope you will join us when we study her again this week.