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30 When Rachel realized she couldn’t have Jacob’s children, she grew envious of her sister and complained to Jacob.

Rachel: I’ll just die if you don’t give me children!

Jacob became angry with Rachel.

Jacob: Am I God? He’s the One responsible for you not getting pregnant, not me!

Rachel: Here’s my servant, Bilhah. Sleep with her so she can be a surrogate for me. I’ll have my children through her.

What Rachel suggests is not at all improper for her time. As you may recall, Sarah and Abraham had a similar situation with Hagar (16:1–4). Custom allows for these kinds of arrangements, just as technology today allows for an infertile woman to have a child through a surrogate. Any child born to Bilhah is regarded as Rachel’s, because she has the right to name the child. As we have seen, the naming of a child carries great significance.

So she gave Jacob her servant Bilhah to be another one of his wives, and Jacob slept with her. Bilhah conceived and gave birth to Jacob’s son.

Rachel: God has absolved me. He has heard my plea and has given me a son after all!

So this is why Rachel named her son Dan. Rachel’s servant Bilhah soon conceived again and gave birth to a second son for Jacob.

Rachel: I have had to wrestle with my own sister as I’ve wrestled with God, but I have prevailed.

So Rachel named this son Naphtali.

When it seemed Leah was not going to have any more children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob to be a wife as well. 10 So Leah’s servant Zilpah gave birth to a son for Jacob.

Leah: 11 Good fortune has arrived!

This is why she named him Gad.

12 Then Leah’s servant Zilpah gave birth to a second son for Jacob. 13 Leah named him Asher to express her joy.

Leah: I am so happy! All of the women can see how happy I am!

14 When it came time to harvest the wheat, Reuben went out and found some mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Rachel heard about this and approached her sister.

Rachel: Would you please give me some of the mandrakes your son found?

Leah: 15 You know it is no small matter that you’ve stolen the attentions of my husband. Now you want my son’s mandrakes too?

Rachel: Then he can sleep with you tonight in exchange for some of your son’s mandrakes!

16 So when Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him.

Leah: Tonight you must sleep with me because I have hired you for a good price—some of my son’s mandrakes.

So he slept with her that night. 17 God listened to Leah and showed her His favor, and after many years she again conceived and gave birth to her fifth son for Jacob.

Leah: 18 God has paid me my wages, since I gave my servant to my husband.

This is why she named her son Issachar.

19 And God’s favor didn’t stop with him; Leah conceived again and gave birth to a sixth son for Jacob.

Leah: 20 God has given me a plentiful gift. Now my husband will surely honor me, because I have given him six sons.

This is why she named her sixth son Zebulun. 21 And at last after that, she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.

22 Then God remembered Rachel. He heard her prayer and made her fertile. 23 She conceived and gave birth to her first son.

Rachel: God has taken away my shame.

24 She decided to name him Joseph.

Rachel: May the Eternal One add to me another son!

25-26 After Rachel had given birth to Joseph, Jacob asked Laban for release.

Jacob: It’s time for me to return home, to my own people and country. Please release me with my wives and my children. I have worked for you a long time to obtain them, and you know how well I have served you.

Laban: 27 If you look upon me with favor, please stay here. You are a good omen. The Eternal One has blessed me because of you. 28 Name your price, and I will give it to you.

Jacob: 29 You know how well I have served you. You have seen your livestock flourish and your herds grow under my supervision. 30 You had little before I arrived, but your wealth has increased significantly since the Eternal One has blessed you in whatever I did for you. But now, when will it be time for me to provide for my own household?

Laban: 31 What do you want me to give you?

Jacob: I don’t want you to give me anything. I only ask for one favor. Do this for me, and I’ll keep on feeding and taking care of your flocks. 32 Let me go through the flock today and put aside for myself every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and also the spotted and speckled goats, and this is how you can pay me. 33 My honesty will be evident when you come to check on me. If you find one lamb or goat among my flocks that isn’t speckled, spotted, or black, then you may count it as stolen.

Laban: 34 Agreed. Do this exactly as you have said.

35 But that day, Laban secretly removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted—every one with any white on it at all—and every lamb that was black. He put them under the watch of his sons. 36 Then he set off with his sons and those mottled animals a three-day distance away from Jacob to make sure the flocks would stay separated. Meanwhile Jacob was pasturing the rest of Laban’s flock.

Jacob soon figures out what Laban has done. The deceiver has once again been deceived.

37 But Jacob cut some fresh branches of poplar, almond, and plane trees; and he striped off the bark in streaks exposing the white wood beneath. 38 He set the striped branches in front of the flocks in the troughs—the water troughs, that is—where they came to drink. Since they would mate when they came to drink, 39 the flocks mated in front of the branches and produced young that were striped, speckled, and spotted. 40 Jacob separated these newly born lambs from Laban’s flock, and when they mated again he faced Laban’s animals toward the striped and black animals. He kept his own droves separate from Laban’s. This is how he increased his own flock. 41 Whenever the stronger females of the flock were ready to mate, Jacob laid the striped branches in the troughs right in front of them, so that they would breed among them. 42 But when he saw the feebler animals ready to mate, he didn’t lay the rods out so that in the end, the feebler of the animals became Laban’s and the stronger became Jacob’s. 43 In this way, Jacob grew extremely rich, and he ended up with very large flocks, male and female slaves, and camels and donkeys too.

30 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children,(A) she became jealous of her sister.(B) So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”

Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God,(C) who has kept you from having children?”(D)

Then she said, “Here is Bilhah,(E) my servant.(F) Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.”(G)

So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife.(H) Jacob slept with her,(I) and she became pregnant and bore him a son. Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me;(J) he has listened to my plea and given me a son.”(K) Because of this she named him Dan.[a](L)

Rachel’s servant Bilhah(M) conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.”(N) So she named him Naphtali.[b](O)

When Leah(P) saw that she had stopped having children,(Q) she took her servant Zilpah(R) and gave her to Jacob as a wife.(S) 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah(T) bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!”[c] So she named him Gad.[d](U)

12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me(V) happy.”(W) So she named him Asher.[e](X)

14 During wheat harvest,(Y) Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants,(Z) which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”

15 But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough(AA) 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.”(AB)

16 So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.”(AC) So he slept with her that night.

17 God listened to Leah,(AD) and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.”(AE) So she named him Issachar.[f](AF)

19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor,(AG) because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.[g](AH)

21 Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.(AI)

22 Then God remembered Rachel;(AJ) he listened to her(AK) and enabled her to conceive.(AL) 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son(AM) and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.”(AN) 24 She named him Joseph,[h](AO) and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.”(AP)

Jacob’s Flocks Increase

25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way(AQ) so I can go back to my own homeland.(AR) 26 Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you,(AS) and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.”

27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes,(AT) please stay. I have learned by divination(AU) that the Lord has blessed me because of you.”(AV) 28 He added, “Name your wages,(AW) and I will pay them.”

29 Jacob said to him, “You know how I have worked for you(AX) and how your livestock has fared under my care.(AY) 30 The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I have been.(AZ) But now, when may I do something for my own household?(BA)

31 “What shall I give you?” he asked.

“Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: 32 Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat.(BB) They will be my wages.(BC) 33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored,(BD) will be considered stolen.(BE)

34 “Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.” 35 That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs,(BF) and he placed them in the care of his sons.(BG) 36 Then he put a three-day journey(BH) between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.

37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond(BI) and plane trees(BJ) and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.(BK) 38 Then he placed the peeled branches(BL) in all the watering troughs,(BM) so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat(BN) and came to drink, 39 they mated in front of the branches.(BO) And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted.(BP) 40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals(BQ) that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. 41 Whenever the stronger females were in heat,(BR) Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches,(BS) 42 but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob.(BT) 43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.(BU)


  1. Genesis 30:6 Dan here means he has vindicated.
  2. Genesis 30:8 Naphtali means my struggle.
  3. Genesis 30:11 Or “A troop is coming!”
  4. Genesis 30:11 Gad can mean good fortune or a troop.
  5. Genesis 30:13 Asher means happy.
  6. Genesis 30:18 Issachar sounds like the Hebrew for reward.
  7. Genesis 30:20 Zebulun probably means honor.
  8. Genesis 30:24 Joseph means may he add.

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