For Jacob the last seven years of exile were a burden, and yet, these were also the most fruitful years. In them, Jacob will father 11 of the 12 children who will become the ancestors of God’s people.
This section constitutes the center of Jacob’s story (Genesis 25:19-35:26), and it begins and ends with the key phrase God “opened her womb,” referring to Leah (Genesis 29:31) and to Rachel (Genesis 30:22). Each time this statement is followed by births, the evidence is that these births are the result of God’s miraculous action.
Read Genesis 29:31-30:22. How are we, today, to understand the meaning of what takes place here?
God opened Leah’s womb, and she had a son Reuben, whose name contains the verb ra’ah, which means to “see.” Because God “saw” that she was unloved by Jacob (Genesis 29:31), this child was compensation for her in her pain and suffering.
In addition, she gives the name of Simeon, which contains the verb shama‘, “heard,” to her second son, because God had “heard” (shama‘) the depth and the humiliation of her pain and, thus, had pity on her just as He had heard Hagar’s affliction (Genesis 29:33).
Leah’s son “Simeon” will also resonate with the name of Hagar’s son “Ishmael,” which means “God will hear” (see Genesis 16:11). When Leah gives birth to her last son, she calls him Judah, which means “praise.” Leah does not refer to her pain or even her blessing anymore. She just focuses on God and praises Him for His grace.
Strangely, it is only when Leah cannot give birth again that God “remembers” Rachel and opens Rachel’s womb (Genesis 30:22). Rachel, the loved wife, had to wait seven years after her marriage, and 14 years after her betrothal with Jacob, to have her first son (Genesis 29:18, Genesis 29:27; compare with Genesis 30:25). She gave him the name of “Joseph” to signify that God had “taken away [’asaf] my reproach” and “shall add [yasaf] to me another son” (Genesis 30:23-24, , NKJV). However wrong some of these actions were, God was still able to use these actions, even if He didn’t condone them, in order to create a nation from the seed of Abraham.
|In what ways does this story reveal that God’s purposes will be fulfilled in heaven and on earth, despite human foibles and errors?|