Here is, I. Leah fruitful again, after she had, for some time, left off bearing. Jacob, it should seem, associated more with Rachel than with Leah. The law of Moses supposes it a common case that, if a man had two wives, one would be beloved and the other hated, Deut. 21:15. But at length Rachel’s strong passions betrayed her into a bargain with Leah that Jacob should return to her apartment. Reuben, a little lad, five or six years old, playing in the field, found mandrakes, dudaim. It is uncertain what they were, the critics are not agreed about them; we are sure they were some rarities, either fruits or flowers that were very pleasant to the smell, Song 7:13. Note, The God of nature has provided, not only for our necessities, but for our delights; there are products of the earth in the exposed fields, as well as in the planted protected gardens, that are very valuable and useful. How plentifully is nature’s house furnished and her table spread! Her precious fruits offer themselves to be gathered by the hands of little children. It is a laudable custom of the devout Jews, when they find pleasure, suppose in eating an apple, to lift up their hearts, and say, “Blessed be he that made this fruit pleasant!” Or, in smelling a flower, “Blessed be he that made this flower sweet.” Some think these mandrakes were jessamine flowers. Whatever they were, Rachel could not see them in Leah’s hands, where the child had placed them, but she must covet them. She cannot bear the want of these pretty flowers, but will purchase them at any rate. Note, There may be great sin and folly in the inordinate desire of a small thing. Leah takes this advantage (as Jacob had of Esau’s coveting his red pottage) to obtain that which was justly due to her, but to which Rachel would not otherwise have consented. Note, Strong passions often thwart one another, and those cannot but be continually uneasy that are hurried on by them. Leah is overjoyed that she shall have her husband’s company again, that her family might yet further be built up, which is the blessing she desires and devoutly prays for, as is intimated, Gen. 30:17; where it is said, God hearkened unto Leah. The learned bishop Patrick very well suggests here that the true reason of this contest between Jacob’s wives for his company, and their giving him their maids to be his wives, was the earnest desire they had to fulfil the promise made to Abraham (and now lately renewed to Jacob), that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude, and that in one seed of his, the Messiah, all the nations of the earth should be blessed. And he thinks it would have been below the dignity of this sacred history to take such particular notice of these things if there had not been some such great consideration in them. Leah was now blessed with two sons; the first she called Issachar (a hire), reckoning herself well repaid for her mandrakes, nay (which is a strange construction of the providence) rewarded for giving her maid to her husband. Note, We abuse God’s mercy when we reckon that his favours countenance and patronize our follies. The other she called Zebulun (dwelling), owning God’s bounty to her: God has endowed me with a good dowry, Gen. 30:20. Jacob had not endowed her when he married her, nor had he wherewithal in possession; but she reckons a family of children not a bill of charges, but a good dowry, Ps. 113:9. She promises herself more of her husband’s company now that she had borne him six sons, and that, in love to his children at least, he would often visit her lodgings. Mention is made (Gen. 30:21) of the birth of a daughter, Dinah, because of the following story concerning her, Gen. 34:1-31. Perhaps Jacob had other daughters, though their names are not registered.
II. Rachel fruitful at last (Gen. 30:22): God remembered Rachel, whom he seemed to have forgotten, and hearkened to her whose prayers had been long denied; and then she bore a son. Note, As God justly denies the mercy we have been inordinately desirous of, so sometimes he graciously grants, at length, that which we have long waited for. He corrects our folly, and yet considers our frame, and does not contend for ever. Rachel called her son Joseph, which in Hebrew is akin to two words of a contrary signification, Asaph (abstulit), He has taken away my reproach, as if the greatest mercy she had in this son was that she had saved her credit; and Jasaph (addidit), The Lord shall add to me another son, which may be looked upon either as the language of her inordinate desire (she scarcely knows how to be thankful for one unless she may be sure of another), or of her faith—she takes this mercy as an earnest of further mercy. “Has God given me his grace? I may call it Joseph, and say, He shall add more grace! Has he given me his joy? I may call it Joseph, and say, He will give me more joy. Has he begun, and shall he not make an end?”
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