Rachel is Proof that the Bible Hides Nothing!

Posted on September 7, 2019

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By David Ettinger

Straight Forward
One reason I love the Bible is that it does little to smooth over the many faults of its major personalities. One case in point is Rachel, wife of Jacob, and mother of Joseph.

The biblical account of Rachel is not flattering. Unfortunately, we are only given glimpses of her life, but what is recounted does not frame the Hebrew beauty in a favorable light.

When we meet Rachel, she is accompanying her father Laban’s flocks to the watering hole. At least that’s one good thing to be said for her – as a shepherdess, she was hardworking. We also know that Jacob immediately falls in love her, a case of love at first sight. What we’re not told, however, is how Rachel felt about Jacob. Did she love him as much as he loved her? We don’t know.

LeahJacobRachel
A scene from the 1994 TV movie, “Jacob.”

Next, through no fault of her own, Rachel is thrust into a terrible marital situation when Laban tricks Jacob into marrying Rachel’s older sister Leah.[1] From there, Rachel becomes entangled in a bitter war of childbearing, one she decidedly loses. Even though Rachel was the wife Jacob loved, it was Leah whom God favored with children while Rachel was barren. And she didn’t take it well. Unlike the barren but virtuous Hannah, who poured out her sorrow to God, Rachel pitched a jealous fit and blamed her barrenness on her husband. “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Genesis 30:1).

Though her frustration is understandable, her behavior was inappropriate. That Leah was so fruitful was evidence that Rachel’s barrenness was not due to any lack on Jacob’s part. Instead, Rachel revealed herself as a spoiled woman who spiraled into a rage every time she didn’t get her way.

Baby Wars
To remedy the situation, Rachel gave her servant Bilhah to Jacob with the hope he would impregnate her. The giving of a slave or servant to the husband to produce children which would be reckoned as his wife’s was common practice of the day, as exhibited by Abraham, Sarah, and Tamar.[2]

Bilhah gave Jacob two sons, Dan and Naphtali. Following the second birth, Rachel proclaimed, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won” (Genesis 30:8). Again, Rachel’s disappointment and grief is understandable. After all, barrenness in biblical times was a tremendous burden, some husbands regarding their wives as dead because of it. But Rachel had her husband’s love, so that wasn’t an issue. To her, it was about outdoing her sister, and reckoning childbearing as competition was immature and selfish.

At last, God showed His graciousness to Rachel by enabling her to conceive. To her credit, Rachel acknowledged God’s goodness by saying, “God has taken away my disgrace. May the LORD add to me another son” (Genesis 30:23). It would appear that the birth of Joseph and Rachel’s giving God the glory for it represented a turning point in her life. Perhaps she was growing up and ready to start acting like a proper adult woman.

Sadly, this was not quite the case.

Still Deceitful
It is disappointing to read that about two or three years later, when Jacob decided to move the family back to Canaan and away from Laban, Rachel “stole her father’s household gods” (Genesis 31:19). These gods were small figurines, usually of nude goddesses. Why would Rachel want these odious pagan symbols? There are several possibilities.

She may have thought they would bring protection and blessing. She may have believed these gods were assurances of greater fertility. Possession of the family idols also represented inheritance rights, so perhaps Rachel was seeking an advantage over her siblings when Laban died.

Whatever the reason, the theft of her father’s idols pointed to two disturbing aspects of Rachel’s character. One, despite her 20-year association with Jacob (13 in marriage), she had little regard for his God. Her pagan roots ran deep, and she was not willing to sever them just yet. Two, she was a thief. This was hardly the action of a respectable woman!

And to make matters worse, when Laban hunted down Jacob seeking the return of his idols, Rachel concealed them in her saddlebag on which she sat. In order to deceive her father, Rachel lied to Laban by telling him she could not rise because she was having her period. One act of dishonesty led to another.[3]

Our last picture of Rachel is a sad one, dying painfully in childbirth while delivering Benjamin.

Hers was a sad life, much of it brought on by her own bitterness. She chose selfishness, childlike behavior, and a heathen lifestyle over generosity, maturity, and worship of the true God.

Generally well-known to Bible readers over the centuries, Rachel was a very flawed woman, and the Bible does nothing to hide that fact.

1 Genesis 29:21-30

2 Genesis chapter 16

3 Genesis 31:35