Introduction: Genesis chapter 30 is a case study on the evils that come from jealousy. This includes both the jealousy that stems from a person having multiple marriages and / or sexual partners and the jealousy that stems from coveting another person’s blessings and /or wealth. In Genesis chapter 29, God blessed Leah, the unloved wife, as an act of mercy and grace with four sons. In contrast, the seven boys born in chapter 30 come through a jealous competition that Jacob created between Rachel and Leah. Jacob’s dispute with Laban is also rooted in jealousy. Each was jealous of the other. Laban was jealous of Jacob’s blessings. Jacob was jealous of Laban’s wealth. Each then tried to deceive the other to obtain the other’s blessing or wealth.
This chapter should be read on three levels. First, it reveals the origin of seven of the 11 tribes of Israel. Second, through God’s sovereignty, it shows how He can cause all things to work together for good for His glory (Ro. 8:28). Although polygamy is against His law, He used the jealous competition that Jacob created to build up the 12 tribes of Israel. Third, He reveals seven lessons regarding the evils that can come from jealousy in both relationships and with wealth.
First, after God blessed Leah with four sons, the barren Rachel seethed with jealousy toward her sister. She also blamed her husband Jacob. Jacob then blamed God. Here, Jacob’s family reaped what he had sowed. From Rachel’s jealousy, God reveals that jealousy and strife are the fruit of multiple marriages and / or sexual partners. Second, Rachel failed to turn to God. Instead, like Sarah, Rachel attempted to address her infertility by having Jacob sleep with her maidservant Bilhah as a surrogate mother. The names of the first two surrogate sons through Bilhah were Dan and Naphtali. Their names translated as “judgment” and “wrestled.” Rachel thought that the children showed that God had judged in her favor in her open competition with her sister. Yet, she was mistaken. God instead judged her in her struggle with her sister and in her later idolatry. She would later die while giving birth to her second and Jacob’s 12th son, Benjamin. From this, God reveals persons with multiple spouses or partners will face both His judgment and discontent. Third, also out of jealousy, Leah asked Jacob to sleep with her maidservant Zilpah. Zilpah’s two sons, Gad and Asher, are translated as “fortune” and “happiness.” Leah thought that two more children through this fourth wife would bring her fortune and happiness. Yet, her worldly joy was only temporary. From this, God reveals that persons with multiple spouses or partners typically find only brief fortune and happiness. Fourth, rather than turning to God, Rachel turned to a pagan aphrodisiac called a mandrake. God then withheld His blessings from Rachel for three years and instead blessed Leah with two additional sons, Issachar and Zebulun. These were Jacob’s ninth and tenth sons. The names Issachar and Zebulun are translated as “reward” and “dwelling.” Leah thought that these sons were her reward and that her unloving husband would finally dwell with her. Yet, she was mistaken. The rewards of the flesh are temporary and leave only insecurity. Fifth, out of mercy and grace, God blessed Rachel with Jacob’s eleventh child Joseph. At that time, Rachel gave thanks that her perceived reproach had been taken away. Yet, not satisfied with this gift, she pleaded for God to add another child to her. From this, God reveals that persons who live according to the flesh will feel shame. Only Jesus can take away this shame. Sixth, Laban was jealous of Jacob’s blessings. He was willing to deceive his own children to steal this blessing. From this, God reveals that jealousy and covetousness can lead to greed. Finally, Jacob was also jealous of Jacob’s wealth. Rather than trusting God, he turned to superstition to obtain the best of Laban’s flocks. From this, God reveals that jealousy and covetousness can lead to idolatry.
Rachel’s jealousy at her sister’s blessings of fertility. After seeing her sister Leah give birth to Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, Rachel became jealous and blamed Jacob. Jacob responded with anger and implied that it was God’s fault: “1 Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or else I die.’ 2 Then Jacob’s anger burned against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’” (Gen. 30:1-2). Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and later Hannah all struggled with infertility. Yet, they and their husbands handled this common problem differently. Here, Jacob created jealousy by marrying two sisters. He then failed to show compassion or encourage his wife to turn to God for help.
Rachel became jealous of Leah1
Jacob’s failure to pray or encourage Rachel. God opened Leah’s womb because she was “unloved.” (Gen. 29:31). Jacob’s biting response showed no love as well for Rachel. In contrast, Elkanah showed great compassion for Hannah in her sorrow over being barren: “Then Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?’” (1 Sam. 1:8). As the leader of his house, Jacob should have encouraged Rachel to turn to God. “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11). “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29). Do your words encourage or condemn those who struggle in the flesh?
Multiple marriages and / or sexual partners produces marital discord. Jacob caused Rachel’s jealousy by taking her on as a second spouse. Abraham also caused Sarah to burn with jealousy when he consented to having a child through her maidservant Hagar. Like Rachel and Jacob, this also caused marital discord between Sarah and Abraham: “And Sarai said to Abram, ‘May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the Lord judge between you and me.’” (Gen. 16:5). If you have multiple sexual partners, you will also sow jealousy.
Multiple marriages and /or sexual partners are against God’s law. Both Jacob and Abraham thought that they were acting appropriately because the world at that time sanctioned both polygamy and concubines. Abraham viewed Hagar as Sarah’s maidservant. Yet, after he slept with her, God called Hagar his “wife.” (Gen. 16:3). Abraham also had six children through Keturah. Abraham called her his “concubine” (1 Chr. 1:32). God, however, also referred to her as his “wife” (Gen. 25:1). Jacob also viewed Zilpah and Bilhah as part of his concubine. Yet, God also called them wives. “ 4 So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife” (Gen. 25:4). “9 Leah . . . took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife.” (Gen. 25:9). Today, people may have consecutive marriages instead of concurrent marriages. They might have adulterous relationships. Or, they might have many partners outside of a marriage. In God’s eyes, each such relationship is a marriage. In God’s eyes, if you have had ten partners, you have had ten marriages. Critics of the Bible often imagine that God must condone polygamy because so many men in the Old Testament had more than one wife. This view, however, is rooted in ignorance. In reference to God’s leaders, the Bible warns that the leaders “must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.” (1 Tim. 3:12). A married man and woman further become “one flesh.” (Mk. 10:8). Jesus’ standards of sexual morality also did not change between the Old and New Testaments: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8). Without exception, every man who acted out of the flesh to take on a second wife suffered long-term negative consequences. Jacob and Abraham both suffered in their marriages. Their children and the 12 tribes of Israel also suffered from jealousy and conflict. David also suffered conflict after he took another man’s wife, Bathsheba, through lust. The many wives of Solomon also turned his heart from God (1 Kgs. 11:4). If you feel tempted to have an affair, stop and think about how that road turned out for others.
Don’t be jealous. Jealousy is a deadly sin. It is prohibited under the Tenth Commandment against coveting (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). It is also one of “the deeds of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). It is an anger that comes from someone else having something that you want or feel entitled to. Cain’s jealousy of Abel led him to kill him in an act of rage (Gen. 4:8). Solomon warns: “For jealousy enrages a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance.” (Prov. 6:34). It is a more deadly emotion than wrath: “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Prov. 27:4). “For jealousy enrages a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance.” (Prov. 6:34). James also warns: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” (Jam. 3:16). Paul further warns that jealousy is the sign of someone walking according to the flesh and not the Spirit: “for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:3; Ro. 13:13). At work, in family or in social settings, are you jealous of the things that other people have?
Pray with faith when faced with problems of the flesh. Through prayer, God had Abraham restore Abimelech from a plague of infertility (Gen. 20:17-18). Isaac later learned from Abraham. He prayed for 20 years for God to heal Rebekah’s womb and grant them children. God then blessed them with twins, Esau and Jacob (Gen. 25:19-21). In contrast, both Sarah and Rachel failed to trust God. Just as Rachel blamed Jacob for her infertility, Sarah blamed God: “2 So Sarai said to Abram, ‘Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. . .” (Gen. 16:2(a)). Like Isaac, Hannah instead used prayer to address her infertility: “She made a vow and said, ‘O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.’” (1 Sam. 1:11). “It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I have asked him of the LORD.’” (1 Sam. 1:20). Yet, if you are praying with doubt, don’t expect your prayers to be answered any time soon (Jam. 1:6). Do you encourage those who struggle in the flesh to pray with conviction for God to heal them?
God also requires your patience in waiting on His timing. Isaac was 40 years old when he married (Gen. 25:20). He was 60 years old before God gave him children (Gen. 25:26). Thus, Isaac and Rebekah still had to pray for 20 years before God fulfilled His promise. Abraham had to wait until he was 100 years old to see God’s promise of a son with his wife fulfilled (Gen. 21:5). Jacob was also at least 60 years old before he left Haran with his children. Many give up on praying for family members, friends, addictions, or other problems. Do you patiently wait for Him to answer your prayers?
Only God can transform you. Like the dead wombs of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, you were also once dead to sin. “ . . . you were dead in your trespasses and sins,” (Ep. 2:1). Like their restored wombs, you must also be born again of the Spirit through faith in Christ: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”’ (Jo. 3:3). Are you spreading this message to others?
Rachel directs Jacob to sleep with her maidservant Bilhah, who gives birth to Dan. Rachel reacted to her infertility by having her husband sleep with her maidservant Bilhah. After Bilhah gave birth, Rachel named her surrogate son “Dan” “3 She said, ‘Here is my maid Bilhah, go in to her that she may bear on my knees, that through her I too may have children.’ 4 So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. 5 Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. 6 Then Rachel said, ‘God has vindicated me, and has indeed heard my voice and has given me a son.’ Therefore she named him Dan.” (Gen. 30:3-6). Jacob’s marriage to Rachel after marrying Leah violated God’s law: “You shall not marry a woman in addition to her sister as a rival while she is alive, to uncover her nakedness.” (Lev. 18:18). Dan was the fifth son of Jacob. His name meant “judged.” Like Rachel, Sarah had Abraham sleep with her maidservant instead of trusting God: “Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” (Gen. 16:12(b)). In both cases, God judged the families of Jacob and Abraham. In both cases, the spouses quarreled and faced discontent. In both cases, their children also quarreled and faced discontent. In Rachel’s case, she would also be judged by suffering death during the birth of her son Benjamin. She also would not be buried in the tomb of the patriarchs (Gen. 35:18-20). If you have multiple spouses or have an adulterous relationship, you will not lose your salvation. Yet, you will face judgment on Earth.
Let God find only righteousness when He judges your conduct. David was also a sinner. Yet, he repented of his sins. He then turned to God and invited Him to examine his heart and judge his transformed heart: “A Psalm of David. Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.” (Ps. 26:1). “The LORD judges the peoples; vindicate me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me.” (Ps. 7:8). “O LORD, You have seen my oppression; judge my case.” (Lam. 3:59). If you repent of your sins, God is faithful to forgive you (1 Jo. 1:9). If you have repented of your sins, do you invite God to examine your heart and judge you?
God’s grace in blessing for Dan. Like Gad, Asher, and Naphtali, Dan was a child of the flesh. He later wanted to kill Joseph out of jealousy. Yet, out of grace, Jacob blessed Dan as a future tribe of mighty warriors whom God would use to judge the wicked: “16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a horned snake in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider falls backward. 18 for your salvation I wait, O Lord.” (Gen. 49:16-17). His tribe was listed out of order in the census as the tenth tribe (Nu. 26:42-43; 1:38-39). Even though it had origins in the flesh, it used God’s grace to live righteously and grow in the wilderness. It grew from 62,700 to 64,000 fighting men (Nu. 1:39; 26:43). This was an increase of 1,700 or 2.71%. Like Jacob, Moses blessed Dan as a tribe of mighty soldiers in God’s army: “22 Of Dan he said, “Dan is a lion’s whelp, that leaps forth from Bashan.” (Dt. 33:22). Samson was from the tribe of Dan. Although a wayward judge, God used him to start a war with the Philistines. David would later win that war. Thus, even though Dan was the offspring of an evil union, God is sovereign and used this act for His glory. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28). When you see evil around you, do you trust that God is still in control?
Rachel again directs Jacob to sleep with Bilhah, who gives birth to Naphtali. Out of jealousy, Rachel again had Jacob sleep with Bilhah. This time Bilhah gave birth to Naphtali: “7Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 So Rachel said, ‘With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and I have indeed prevailed.’ And she named him Naphtali.” (Gen. 30:7-8). Naphtali was the sixth son of Jacob. His name meant “wrestled.” Rachel did not credit God with her child. Instead, she only saw this child as victory in her struggle with her sister for supremacy in the family.
God’s grace in blessing Naphtali. Naphtali was also a child of the flesh. Naphtali, Dan, Gad, and Asher would today be considered illegitimate children. Naphtali later also wanted to kill Joseph out of jealousy. Yet, out of grace, Jacob later blessed Naphtali for his beautiful words: “Naphtali is a doe let loose, he gives beautiful words.” (Gen. 49:21). Naphtali, however, abused his grace and blessings. His tribe was listed out of order in the census as the twelfth tribe (Nu. 26:48-50; 1:42-43). His tribe also declined from its sins while in the wilderness. It declined from 53,400 to 45,400 fighting men (Nu. 1:43; 26:50). This was a decrease of 8,000 or 14.98%. This tribe shows that some who are chastened in life will never use that humility to grow in the Lord. Their bitterness will instead merely fuel further acts of rebellion and their further decline. Yet, God is patient and quick to forgive (2 Pet. 3:9). Out of grace, Moses again blessed the tribe with fertile farm lands: “23 Of Naphtali he said, “O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord, take possession of the sea and the south.” (Dt. 33:23). The tribe later took the farm lands along the western edge of Galilee, which has some of the best farm lands in Israel. Although the product of an unholy union, God used the tribe of Naphtali to build the nation of Israel. Like Naphtali, God can still bless you, even if you come from ignoble origins or stumble in your walk. If you come from a checkered past, do you trust that God has a good plan for you?
Leah directs Jacob to sleep with her maidservant Zilpah, who gives birth to Gad. While Leah had turned to God with her first four children, her jealousy of her sister then caused her to also ask Jacob to sleep with her maidservant Zilpah: “9 When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, ‘How fortunate!’ So she named him Gad.” (Gen. 30:9-11). Gad was also Jacob’s seventh son (Gen 30:11). Leah thought that Gad would bring her fortune. Yet, it did not last long. Jacob continued to ignore her.
Be content with God’s blessings in your life. Leah should have been content with God’s gift of four children. The two children that Rachel had through her maidservant did not surpass the blessings that God had already given Leah. In her jealousy, she failed to call upon God’s name and praised Him as she did with her first four children. The Bible warns that sin offers only “passing pleasures” (Heb. 11:25). “I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind.” (Ecc. 4:4). If you have embraced a sin of the flesh, it may also give you a passing pleasure. Yet, it will not last. If you place your hope in Him, He will offer a joy that will not fade. “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” (Phil. 4:11; Heb. 13:5). Are you content with God’s gifts?
God’s grace in blessings Gad. Gad also was a child of the flesh. Like his other brothers, he was also guilty of selling Joseph into slavery out of jealousy. Yet, out of grace, Jacob prophesized that Gad would be a great tribe of warriors: “As for Gad, raiders shall raid him, but he will raid at their heels.” (Gen. 49:19). God further gave Gad’s tribe the honor of being the third tribe in the census (Nu. 1:24-25; 26:15-18). Yet, the tribe of Gad kept bad company, and it stumbled in its walk. Gad guarded behind Reuben on the southern flank of the tabernacle and became influenced by its sins (Nu. 2:14-15). While in the wilderness, the fighting men of Gad declined from 45,650 to 40,500 (Nu. 1:25; 26:18). This was a decrease of 5,150 or 11.28%. By their decline, they likely participated with Reuben in Korah’s rebellion (Nu. 16:41-50), the complaints about the lack of water at Meribah (Nu. 20:2-5), the complaints against God’s manna (Nu. 21:5), and the Jews’ acts of temple prostitution (Nu. 25:1-9). Yet, God is gracious to those who repent, even after they backslide many times. Like Jacob, Moses again prophesized that Gad would be a great tribe of warriors. God also promised to bless those who “enlarge” Gad’s domain: “20 Of Gad he said, “Blessed is the one who enlarges Gad; he lies down as a lion, and tears the arm, also the crown of the head. 21 Then he provided the first part for himself, for there the ruler’s portion was reserved; and he came with the leaders of the people; he executed the justice of the Lord, and His ordinances with Israel.” (Dt. 33:20-21). Yet, Gad did not seize God’s blessings. After receiving God’s many blessings in Jordan, the tribes of Reuben and Gad noticed that they had “an exceedingly large number of livestock.” (Nu. 32:1). They also noticed that the conquered land of Amorite Kings Sihon and Og east of the river Jordan “was indeed a suitable place for livestock.” (Nu. 32:1, 4). After realizing the comfort of God’s blessings, the tribes of Gad and Reuben pleaded with Moses: “do not take us across the Jordan.” (Nu. 32:5). They only sought after their own interests. Moses then chastised both tribes. In exchange for their agreement to help with the conquest of the Promised Land, Moses granted Gad and Reuben the lands of the Amorite Kings Sihon and Og east of the river Jordan (Nu. 32:16-27). Yet, centuries later after the tribes returned to Israel from Babylon, there was no land for the people of Gad to return to. They became a lost tribe. The lesson is that believers should never squander God’s grace as a license to sin. Like Gad, if God has repeatedly forgiven you, have you misused His mercy and grace as a license to sin?
Leah again directs Jacob to sleep with her maidservant Zilpah, who gives birth to Asher. Out of jealousy, Leah again had Jacob sleep with Zilpah, who then gave birth to Asher. “12 Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, ‘Happy am I! For women will call me happy.’ So she named him Asher.” (Gen. 30:11-13). Asher was Jacob’s eighth son. His name meant “happy”. He brought Leah happiness. Yet, it was temporary.
Coveting cannot be satisfied through sin. Leah coveted her husband’s love and thought that her children would bring it. Yet, by giving into sin, her coveting could not be satisfied: “Sheol, and the barren womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, and fire that never says, ‘Enough.’” (Prov. 30:16). Have you tried to fulfill your sorrows by trying to fulfill your covetous desires? If so, your happiness will be only temporary. Your coveting will also grow as you try to feed it. Do you look to Jesus or the things of this world for happiness?
God’s grace in blessing Asher. Asher was also a child of the flesh. Jacob, however, later blessed Asher with rich farmland and food: “As for Asher, his food shall be rich, and he will yield royal dainties.” (Gen. 49:20). His tribe was humbled to be the tenth tribe in the census count (Nu. 26:44-47; 1:40-41). In humility, Asher used God’s mercy and grace to seek after His righteousness. While in the wilderness, it had the third highest growth rate of the tribes. It grew from 41,500 to 53,400 fighting men (Nu. 1:41; 26:47). This was an increase of 11,900 or 28.67%. Moses responded to their righteousness by granting it even greater blessings. Many who are last will be first (Matt. 19:30). It would walk in the Spirit and be favored by its brothers: “24 Of Asher he said, “More blessed than sons is Asher; may he be favored by his brothers, and may he dip his foot in oil. 25 Your locks will be iron and bronze, and according to your days, so will your leisurely walk be.” (Dt. 33:24-25). The oil referenced here alluded to the oil trees where it would reside near the Mediterranean Coast. Oil was also a symbol of the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13). The metals also symbolized the strength and protection that God would give it. Consistent with its name of “happiness” and / or “contentment”, it would be a blessing to its brother tribes. It would also be protected and content with God’s blessings. There is again a lesson for believers. When you walk in the Spirit, you can be a blessing to others by being content with God’s gifts. “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” (1 Tim. 6:6). Knowing that God is protecting you, you can focus on serving others. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ep. 2:1). Like Gad, God can also bless you and bring you happiness even if you come from a sinful past.
Rachel bargains with Leah over an idol, and Leah gives birth to Issachar. Out of jealousy, Rachel bargained with her sister over a pagan aphrodisiac called a mandrake. In an act of what might be called prostitution, Leah gave her son’s mandrake to Rachel in exchange for Leah’s right to sleep with Jacob. This suggested that Jacob was living with Rachel. Out of mercy and grace, God blessed Leah (but not Rachel) with another pregnancy: “14 Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’ 15 But she said to her, ‘Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son’s mandrakes also?’ So Rachel said, ‘Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.’ 16 When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, ‘You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night. 17 God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, ‘God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband.’ So she named him Issachar.” (Gen. 30:14-18). Issachar was Jacob’s ninth son. His name meant “reward”. Rachel found no reward in her idolatry. God kept her womb closed for three more years. In contrast, He rewarded Leah. Yet, because she was also motivated by the flesh, her reward was only a fleeting joy.
Leah gives birth to Zebulun and Dinah. Also out of mercy and grace, God blessed Leah with an additional son and daughter. “19 Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob. 20 Then Leah said, ‘God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.’ So she named him Zebulun. 21 Afterward she bore a daughter and named her Dinah.” (Gen. 30:19-21). Dinah is introduced here because she is later discussed in a rape story (Gen. 34). Zebulun was Jacob’s tenth son. His name meant “dwelling.” Leah hoped that her sixth son would cause her unloving husband to want to dwell with her. Yet, she erred by placing her hope in her children or in her husband.
Your true reward for your faith is the opportunity to dwell with Jesus in heaven. Instead of laboring for the approval of mankind, labor for Jesus. He will then reward you: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Col. 3:23-24). He offers you a reward that cannot be taken away. He will dwell with you in heaven and show love to you: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,”’ (Rev. 21:3). Is the reward you hope for to dwell with Jesus in heaven?
God’s blessings to Zebulun and Issachar. Issachar and Zebulun were the ninth and tenth sons in terms of birth order. Both sons sinned against God by wanting to kill Joseph out of jealousy (Gen 37:27-28). Yet, out of grace, Jacob promised a blessing for both sons. After initially settling elsewhere, Zebulun would one day inhabit fertile lands near the seashore near Sidon in Southern Lebanon: “Zebulun will dwell at the seashore; and he shall be a haven for ships, and his flank shall be toward Sidon.” (Gen. 49:13; Josh. 19:10-16). Although Jacob also promised Issachar prosperous lands (believed to be near Mount Tabor), he warned that Issachar would be subdued by the sins of its Canaanite enemies: “14 Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds. 15 When he saw that a resting place was good and that the land was pleasant, he bowed his shoulder to bear burdens, and became a slave at forced labor.” (Gen. 49:14-15). Both tribes received the honor to appear out of order in the census listing as the fifth and sixth tribes (Nu. 1:28-31; 26:23-27). Both tribes used God’s grace to grow while in the wilderness. The tribe of Zebulun grew from 57,400 to 60,500 fighting men (Nu. 1:31; 26:27). This was an increase of 3,100 or 5.40%. The tribe of Issachar grew from 54,400 to 64,300 fighting men (Nu. 1:29; 26:25). This was an increase of 9,900 or 18.19%. Moses later blessed both tribes with future prosperity. Yet, he blessed them together, which meant that they needed to work together to seize God’s blessings: “18 Of Zebulun he said, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going forth, and, Issachar, in your tents. 19 They will call peoples to the mountain; there they will offer righteous sacrifices; for they will draw out the abundance of the seas, and the hidden treasures of the sand.” (Dt. 33:18-19). The lesson for believers is that they must also work together in the fullness of God’s Spirit to seize His blessings: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:2-3, 13; Col. 3:14; 1 Pet. 3:8). Are you striving to bless other believers by building them up? Is your church working with other churches?
Rachel gives birth to Joseph. Finally, out of mercy and grace, God blessed Rachel with her first of two sons: “22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. 23 So she conceived and bore a son and said, ‘God has taken away my reproach.’ 24 She named him Joseph, saying, ‘May the Lord give me another son.’” (Gen. 30:22-24). Joseph was Jacob’s 11th of 12 sons. Rachel’s idolatry in turning to a mandrake most likely caused God to delay His blessings for her for three years. He most likely would not have acted when the glory would have gone to a pagan idol. In Hebrew, his name “יוֹסֵף” is pronounced as “Yosef.” His name meant “the Lord will increase.” Like Rachel’s shame, he would later be “taken away” to Egypt. Yet, God would later add him back to Israel. The first eleven tribes were all born outside the Promised Land as sons of a bondservant. They would all later be taken outside the Promised Land where their descendants became servants. Yet, God would later add them back by bringing them out of bondage in Egypt.
Rachel and Leah found self-worth in family and were unsatisfied with God’s gifts. Rachel thought that a son could take away her shame. She found worth only in being a mother. Thus, instead of being content with this gift, she pleaded for another. She thought she would die without children: “‘Give me children, or else I die.’” (Gen. 30:1). She would receive one more child. Yet, she would die having this last son (Gen. 35:18-19). In contrast, Leah sought her self-worth in her husband’s love. Neither sister was satisfied with God’s blessings. God wants you to find your self-worth in Him, not your children, your spouse, or your family. Thus, Jesus warns that your love for your family cannot come before Him: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matt. 10:37). “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Lk. 14:26). Does your spouse, your children, or your parents come first in importance before your relationship with Jesus?
Only Jesus can take away your shame. Rachel was mistaken in believing that a son could take away her shame. Only Jesus can do that: “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.” (Lk. 1:25). “He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.” (Is. 25:8). “for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:17). If you feel shame over your past, have you turned to Jesus to cleanse you?
God may wait until you are ready to be blessed. When she conceived, Rachel praised God for the first time (Gen. 30:22). If God had blessed her sooner, she might not have praised Him. God may also wait to bestow blessings upon you until you are ready to receive them. Do you take credit for your accomplishments? Or, do you give God the glory?
God’s blessings for Joseph. Joseph was later attacked by 10 of his brothers and sold into slavery. Yet, Jacob blessed him with greatness beyond both his brothers and his ancestors because Joseph later remained steadfast in his faith while a prisoner in Egypt (Gen. 49:22-26). Moses later repeated and expanded upon Jacob’s blessings. Moses blessed this tribe with “the choice things of heaven,” which included the fullness of the blessings of the Spirit (Dt. 33:13-17). Joseph received a double blessing when God gave him his own land and the land that would have belonged to Levi. Joseph received this double blessing through his first two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen. 41:51-52). The fullness of God’s blessings include the nine fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Do you use all of God’s blessings for His glory?
Laban’s desire to cheat his daughters to obtain his son-in-law’s blessings. After completing 14 years of servitude to his father-in-law, Jacob felt God’s calling to return to the Promised Land. Yet, through divination, Laban learned that his blessings were due to God’s blessings upon Jacob. Thus, he used flattery to try to deceive him one more time: “25 Now it came about when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me depart; for you yourself know my service which I have rendered you.’ 27 But Laban said to him, ‘If now it pleases you, stay with me; I have divined that the Lord has blessed me on your account.’ 28 He continued, ‘Name me your wages, and I will give it.’ 29 But he said to him, ‘You yourself know how I have served you and how your cattle have fared with me. 30 For you had little before I came and it has increased to a multitude, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned. But now, when shall I provide for my own household also?’ 31 So he said, ‘What shall I give you?’ And Jacob said, ‘You shall not give me anything. If you will do this one thing for me, I will again pasture and keep your flock: 32 let me pass through your entire flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted sheep and every black one among the lambs and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages. 33 So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come concerning my wages. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, will be considered stolen.’ 34 Laban said, ‘Good, let it be according to your word.’ 35 So he removed on that day the striped and spotted male goats and all the speckled and spotted female goats, every one with white in it, and all the black ones among the sheep, and gave them into the care of his sons. 36 And he put a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.” (Gen. 30:25-36). Although Laban was a pagan who practiced in the occult, he received God’s blessings by providing Jacob with a family and protection from Esau: “And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3). Laban should have been glad that his daughters and grandchildren were in a blessed family. But he was instead jealous of Jacaob’s blessings. His coveting and jealousy led to his greed and his desire to deceive Jacob again. This would later lead to a curse upon Laban’s livestock.
Laban becomes jealous of Jacob and tries to deceive him2
Laban’s plan to deceive Jacob. Laban was not a believer in Yahweh. He only learned of Yahweh’s blessings through divination and the occult (Gen. 30:27). Laban knew that he no longer had the leverage of a daughter to hold Jacob any further. Thus, he first used flattery to try to trick his son-in-law to stay and serve him longer. He most likely offered to let Jacob name his wages knowing that he would later change the terms. Jacob later complained that Laban changed his wages 10 times over the 20 years that he was there (Gen. 31:41). When Jacob offered a plan that involved him keeping only the rare spotted sheep, Laban accepted knowing that he would try to thwart Jacob’s plan. On the same day he entered into the agreement, Laban removed all the spotted sheep and moved them away by three days.
Greed and coveting violate God’s Tenth Commandment. Coveting violates the Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). Coveting, like the other Commandments, are sins of the heart that defile you: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, . . . deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, . . All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mk. 7:21-23). God warns us that: “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:10). “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him.” (Prov. 28:22). “A faithful man will have many blessings, but one in a hurry to get rich will not go unpunished.” (Prov. 28:20). Do you praise God when others receive blessings? Or, do you become jealous?
Jacob resorts to an idol to obtain God’s blessings. Like Laban, Jacob was also driven by jealousy and covetousness. He desired to obtain his father-in-law’s wealth. Like, Laban Jacob planned to deceive his father-in-law. He compounded this sin by employing idolatry under the false belief that he could place things in front of the sheep’s eyes to breed spotted sheep. Only out of mercy and grace did God allow Jacob to prosper: “37 Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white which was in the rods. 38 He set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, even in the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink; and they mated when they came to drink. 39 So the flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. 40 Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban; and he put his own herds apart, and did not put them with Laban’s flock. 41 Moreover, whenever the stronger of the flock were mating, Jacob would place the rods in the sight of the flock in the gutters, so that they might mate by the rods; 42 but when the flock was feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s. 43 So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys.” (Gen. 30:37-43). Jacob never thanked God or gave Him the credit. He was no better than Laban. It was only God’s mercy and grace that gave Jacob the blessing of wealth.
Jacob and the Flocks of Laban3
Idolatry violates the Second Commandment. Jacob’s actions were no better than Laban’s actions. His greed also violated the Tenth Commandment. His superstitious idolatry also violated the Second Commandment (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10). Jacob’s use of superstition was not his only form of idolatry. His greed was also a form of idolatry: “greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5). Like everyone else, Jacob did not deserve God’s blessings.
Every good and perfect thing is from above. Jacob failed to recognize that his blessings came from God. (Ja. 1:17). Had he done so, he never would have resorted to superstition to obtain his wealth. He should have instead returned home and trusted God. He already had an inheritance in Isaac’s wealth. He did not need anything from Laban. Just as Abraham rejected King Sodom’s gifts (Gen. 14:21-24), Jacob should have rejected Laban’s wealth.
God is faithful even when we are not. God previously promised to bless Jacob (Gen. 28:10-17). He showed that He was faithful even when Jacob was not (2 Tim. 2:13). When you fail in your walk, do you thank God that He remains faithful to you?