- 1. And there was a famine in the land, besides the first famine which was in the days of Abraham, and Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech, the king of the Philistines.
2. And Jehovah appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt. Live in the land which I will tell you.
3. “Stay in this land, and I will be with you and I will bless you, for I will give all these lands to you and to your posterity, and I will establish the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.
4. “And I will multiply your posterity like the stars of heaven, and I will your posterity all these lands, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through your posterity;
5. “Because Abraham listened to my voice and kept my observance, and my commandments, and my statues, and my gospel.” 1
6. And Isaac stayed in Gerar.
7. And the men of the place asked about his wife and he said, “She is my sister,” for he feared to say “my wife, for the men of the place might kill me because of Rebekah, because she is good looking.”
8. And it came to pass, that his (Isaac’s) days there were prolonged, and Abimelech the king of the Philistines looked out of the window and saw, behold, Isaac was fondling Rebekah his wife. 2
9. And Abimelech called to Isaac and said, “Surely she is your wife! So why did you say ‘she is my sister?’” And Isaac said to him, “I said that so I would not die because of her.”
10. And Abimelech said, “What is this that you have done to us? One of the people might have lain with her, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”
11. And Abimelech commanded all the people saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife will surely die!”
12. And Isaac sowed that land and that same year reaped a hundredfold, and Jehovah blessed him.
13. And the man increased, and continued to increase, until he became very great.
14. And he had possessions of sheep and possessions of cattle, and many servants, and some Philistines envied him.
15. And all the wells which the servants of his father had dug, in the days of Abraham his father, some of the Philistines closed them and filled them with dirt.
16. And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much stronger than we are.”
17. And Isaac went away from there and camped in the ravine of Gerar and stayed there.
> 18. And Isaac again dug the wells of water which they had dug in the days of his father, Abraham, but some Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. And he named them according to the names his father had called them.
19. And Isaac’s servants dug in the ravine and found there a well of living water.
20. And the shepherds of Gerar contended with the shepherds of Isaac saying, “The water is ours!” And he called the name of the well Esek (i.e. “contention”), because they contended with him.
21. And they dug another well and also contended over it, and he called its name Sitnah (i.e. “hostility”).
22. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not contend over it, and he named it Rehoboth (i.e. “wide spaces”), and he said, “For now Jehovah has made room for us and we will be fruitful in the land.”
23. And he went up from there to Beersheba.
24. And Jehovah appeared to him that night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Do not fear, for I am with you, and I will bless you and multiply your posterity for the sake of Abraham, my servant.”
25. And he built an altar there and called upon the name of Jehovah, and pitched his tent there, and Isaac’s servants dug a well there.
26. And Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath his companion, and Phichol, the leader of his army.
27. And Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and sent me away from you?”
28. And they said, “We clearly saw that Jehovah was with you, and we said, let there be an oath between us and you, and let us make a covenant with you;
29. “That you will not harm us, as we have not touched you and done only good with you, and we sent you away in peace. You are now blessed by Jehovah.”
30. And he made them a feast and they ate and drank.
31. And they arose early in the morning and swore to each other and Isaac sent them away, and they left him in peace.
32. And it came to pass in that day, that Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.”
33. And he called it Shibah. Therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day. 3
34. And when Esau was forty years old he took Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, as a wife, and Basemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite.
35. And they were a bitter spirit to Isaac and to Rebekah.
Chapter 26Back to Top
1. “Gospel” – It can be demonstrated that there was indeed a word for “gospel” in the Old Testament, and that word was Torah. That Hebrew word derives from a root which means “to point out” and hence, “to instruct.” Thus torah refers to the instruction and precepts which the Israelites received from God, and therefore has a semantic value equivalent to that of the word “gospel” in LDS parlance.
2. “Fondling . . .” The Hebrew word used here can mean “laugh” when used intransitively, but here it is used transitively (Hebrew pi‘el form) and in this usage can refer to love-making between a married couple. Moreover, in the Rabbinic commentary known as Or Hachaim, Rabbi Chaim ben Attar (1696-1743) notes in his commentary on this verse that the Hebrew word in question refers to an act of love between a man and his wife, thus justifying the above translation as “fondling.”
3. “Shibah” – The name is obviously related to the “sheba” of Beersheba. Speiser discusses that one could consider three possible meanings of Shibah, 1) a derivation from the word for “seven”, (This is favored by Hamilton, Genesis 18-50, p. 209) 2) a derivation from the word for satiety,( This is the meaning that was used in the Peshitta and the Latin Vulgate.) or 3) a derivation from the word for oath. Speiser believes that the last of these is the right one, because an oath was just made between Abimelech and Isaac. I agree with Speiser, so that Beersheba essentially means “the well of the oath.”
Commentary Chapter 26
Gen. 26:1 As noted previously in Chapter 20, Gerar was (at least later) a Philistine town in the south, central part of modern-day Israel which was not far from Beersheba.
Abimelech – there is a tradition that this Abimelech is the son of the Abimelech with whom Abraham dealt.
Gen. 26:10 Rashi says that the phrase “one of the people” really refers to the king himself.
Gen. 26:20 “Living water” refers to water that is moving as opposed to stagnant water. Living water is therefore fresher and hence coveted by the opposing groups.
Chapter 27Back to Top
- 1. And it came to pass that Isaac grew old and his eyes became too dim to see, and he called Esau, his elder son, and said to him, “My son.” And he said to him, “Here I am.”
- 2. And he said “Behold, I have become old. I do not know the day of my death.
3. “So now, take your implements, your quiver and your bow, and go out into the field and hunt game for me.
4. “And make me tasty food such as I have loved, and bring it to me, and I will eat it, so that my soul will bless you before I die.”
5. And Rebekah heard Isaac speaking to Esau his son, and Esau went to the field to hunt game to bring back.
6. And Rebekah said to Jacob her son, saying, “Behold, I heard your father speaking to Esau your brother, saying,
7. “‘Bring me game and make me tasty food, and I will eat it and bless you before Jehovah before I die.’
8. “And now my son, listen to my voice, to what I am commanding you,
9. “Go to the flock and get for me two good young goats from there, and I will make them into tasty food for your father, as he likes it.
10. “And you will bring it to your father, and he will eat it, so that he will bless you before he dies.”
11. And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, but I am a smooth man.
12. “Perhaps my father will feel me and I will become like a deceiver in his eyes, and I will bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.”
13. But his mother said to him, “Let your curse be upon me, my son, but listen to my voice and go and get (them) for me.”
14. And he went and got (them) and brought (them) to his mother, and his mother made tasty food such as his father loved.
15. And Rebekah took the favorite clothes of Esau, her elder son, which she had in the house, and dressed Jacob, her younger son.
16. And she dressed his hands and the sides of his neck with the hides of the young goats.
17. And she put the tasty food and the bread which she had made in the hands of her son Jacob.
18. And he came to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you my son?”
19. And Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau, your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Come on and sit down and eat some of my game so that your soul may bless me.”
20. And Isaac said to his son, “What is this? You have found (it) so quickly my son!” And he said, “Because Jehovah, your God, appointed it for me.”
21. And Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come closer so that I may feel you my son; whether you are my son Esau or not.
22. And Jacob drew closer to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”
23. And he did not recognize him because his hands were like the hands of his brother Esau, hairy, so he blessed him.
24. And he said, “Are you my son Esau?” And he said, “I am.”
25. And he said, “Hand it to me and I will eat some of the game of my son, so that my soul will bless you.” And he handed it to him, and he ate. And he brought him wine and he drank.
26. And his father Isaac said to him, “Please come closer and kiss me, my son.”
27. And he drew closer and kissed him, and he smelled the scent of his clothing, and he blessed him and said, “Behold the scent of my son is like the scent of the field, which Jehovah has blessed.
28. “And may God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth, and an abundance of grain and wine.
29. “Peoples will serve you and nations will bow down to you. May you be a lord to your brothers, and your mother’s sons will bow down to you. Cursed be they who curse you and blessed be they who bless you.”
30. And it came to pass, when Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had gone out from before Isaac, his father, that Esau his brother came in from hunting.
31. And he also made tasty food and brought it to his father, and he said to his father, “Let my father get up and eat of his son’s game, that your soul may bless me.”
32. And Isaac his father said to him, “Who are you?” And he said, “I am your son, your first-born, Esau.”
33. And Isaac shook greatly and said, “Who was it who hunted game and brought it to me, and I ate of everything before you came, and I blessed him, and he will be blessed!”
34. When Esau heard these words of his father, he cried a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me also my father.”
35. And he said to him, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”
36. And he said, “Isn’t his name Jacob for a reason? For he has reached past me now twice. He took away my birthright, and behold, not he has taken my blessing.” And he said, “Have you not kept back a blessing for me?” 1
37. And Isaac replied and said to Esau, “Behold, I have placed him over you, and I have given him all his brothers for servants, and sustained him with grain and wine, and what will I then do for you my son?”
38. And Esau said to his father, “If you have even one blessing (left), my father, then bless me also, my father.” And Esau raised his voice and wept.
39. And Isaac his father answered and said to him, “Behold, some of the lush places of the earth will be your dwelling, and some of the dew of heaven from above,
40. “And you will live by your sword, but you will serve your brother, and it will come to pass when you get restless, that you will remove his yoke from your neck.”
41. And Esau resented Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are drawing near, and (then) I will kill my brother, Jacob.”
42. And Rebekah was told about the words of her older son, and she sent and called Jacob, her younger son, and said to him, “Behold, your brother, Esau, is taking comfort concerning you, (because) he will kill you.
43. “And now, my son, listen to my voice and arise, flee to my brother, Laban, to Haran;
44. “And stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury subsides;
45. “Until your brother’s anger turns from you, and he forgets what you have done to him. And I will send and get you from there. Why should I be bereaved of both of you in one day?”
46. And Rebekah said to Isaac, “I hate my life because of the daughters of Heth. If Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, such as these, of the girls of the land, why am I living?”
1. The Hebrew verb meaning “reached past” is from the same root as the name Jacob.Chapter 27 Top
Commentary Chapter 27
Gen. 27:13 “Let your curse be upon me . . .” – In this instance, Rebekah offers herself as the victim if Jacob receives a curse instead of a blessing from Isaac. She already offered to give herself to Abimelech in order to save Isaac from harm (Gen. 26:8), and now she offers to take any curse against Jacob upon herself.
Gen. 27:28 The Hebrew words for “grain” and “wine” in this verse are not the usual words for grain and wine, but rather words for the grain and wine which are used for ritual purposes, as becomes evident through their usage in Deuteronomy. 2
This may therefore not be a parallelism (dew of heaven and fatness of the earth corresponding to grain and wine), but rather hint at spiritual blessings in addition to temporal blessings. Hamilton also sees this as a possible jab at Canaanite deities, for the word for grain here is dagan and Dagan was a well-known Canaanite (Philistine) deity; while the word for “wine” is not the normal yayin, but rather tirosh, and Tirosh is also a Canaanite god similar to Bacchus, and the Hebrew word derives from that Canaanite word. But in this case, the text states that these things are give to Jacob by Jehovah, not by any Canaanite gods.
Gen. 27:46 The daughters of Heth is another way of saying “Hittite girls.” We saw in Gen. 26:34 that Esau took two wives who were daughters of local Hittites. This suggests that Isaac had settled in an area where there were many Hittites. And Rebekah’s comment gives one the impression that the Hittites may have even been in the majority in that region. That is why she had reason to fear that if Jacob married a local girl, it would be a Hittite that he married.
1. For a more exhaustive discussion of Rebekah’s saintly actions, see Allen, Christine Garside, “On Me Be the Curse, My Son!” in Encounter with the Text: Form and History in the Hebrew Bible, Martin J. Buss, Editor, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979, pp. 159-172
2. Cf. Speiser, op. cit. p. 209
Chapter 28Back to Top
- 1. And Isaac called for Jacob, and be blessed him and commanded him, saying to him, “You will not take a wife from the girls of Canaan.
2. “Get up and go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s brother, and take yourself a wife from there, of the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.
3. “And may God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and may you become a multitude of peoples;
4. And give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your posterity, that you may inherit the land where you dwell, which God gave to Abraham.”
5. And Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Padan-aram, to Laban, the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.
6. And Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him to Padan-aram to get himself a wife from there, and that in blessing him he commanded him saying, “Do not take a wife from the girls of Canaan;”
7. And that Jacob listened to his father and to his mother, and went to Padan-aram.
8. And Esau perceived that the girls of Canaan were evil in the eyes of his father Isaac.
9. So Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth, in addition to his (other) wives, to be his wife.
10. And Jacob went out from Beersheba and went to Haran.
11. And he reached the place and spent the night there, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and he lay down in that place;
12. And he dreamed, and behold, a stairway was set up on the earth and the top of it reached to heaven, and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 1
13. And behold, Jehovah stood by him and said, “I am Jehovah, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. I will give the earth on which you are lying to you and to your posterity.
14. “And your posterity will be like the dust of the earth, and you will break through to the west and to the east, and to the north and to the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed by you and by your posterity.
15. “And behold, I am with you, and will protect you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done that which I told you.”
16. And Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely Jehovah is in the place, and I did not know it.”
17. And he was afraid and said, “How frightful is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
18. And Jacob rose up early in the morning and took the stone which he had put under his head, and he set it up as a masssebah and poured oil on top of it. 2
19. And he called the name of that place Bethel, but Luz was the name of the city previously.
20. And Jacob vowed a vow saying, “If God will be with me and protect me in this way that I am going, and will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear,
21. “So that I return in peace to the house of my father, then Jehovah will be my God,
22. “And this stone, which I have placed as a massebah will be the house of God, and everything that you give me, I will surely give to you.”
1. “Stairway” – Speiser points out that “. . .a picture of angels going up and down in a steady stream is hard to reconcile with an ordinary ladder.” He also shows that etymologically the root, sll, meaning to “heap up, raise” suggests a solid stairway, Furthermore, in Mesopotamia ziggurats were equipped with flights of stairs leading up to the summit. “Only such a stairway can account for Jacob’s later description of it as a ‘gateway to heaven’.”
( Speiser, Genesis, p. 218)
2. 18 and 22 massebah – see commentary below.
Commentary Chapter 28
Gen. 28:9 Notice that while Jacob goes off to his maternal uncle, Bethuel, Esau goes to his paternal uncle, Ishmael.
Gen. 28:18 and 22 - A massebah was a stone, or group of stones, set up vertically and oriented to the east in places which were considered either the house of a god or one of ancestral spirits. An example of the former is a ninth century B.C. Assyrian document describing King Tukulti Ninurta’s campaign to Lebanon saying that he “camped by the stones in which the great gods are dwelling.” Because of their connection to deity, such messeboth (the plural form) were sometimes used as witnesses to treaties or other important transactions. As Uzi Avner points out, “Masseboth from the biblical period have been found in at least 36 sites, several of which are surely Israelite.” 1
References to these structures occur some 35 times in the Hebrew Bible,2 usually in the context of their being erected for pagan worship, and in those instances they are strongly condemned. For example, Lev. 26:1 warns: “You shall not make for yourselves idols or graven images, and you shall not erect a massebah for yourselves, and you shall not allow any stone image in your land, to worship it, for I am Jehovah, your God!”
And in Deut. 7:5 we read instructions given to the Israelites on how they are to deal with the foreign nations in the promised land: “But thus shall you do to them: you shall pull down their altars, and you shall break their masseboth, and you shall cut down their asherah,3 and their graven images you shall burn with fire.”
In any case, it appears that the use of masseboth was widespread, and could be either acceptable (when used by the patriarchs) or unacceptable (when used by other nations) in the eyes of the OT writers.
1. cf. Uzi Avner, “Sacred Stones in the Desert” in Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2001
2. (Gen. 28:18, 22; 31:13, 45, 51, 52 (x2); 35:14 (x2), 20 (x2); Exod. 23:24; 24:4; 34:13; Lev. 26:1; Deut. 7:5; 12:3; 16:22; 1 Sam. 14:12; 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 3:2; 10:26-27; 17:10; 23:14; 2 Ch. 14:2; 31:1; Isa. 19:19; Jer. 43:13; Ezek. 26:11; Hos. 3:4, 10:1-2; Mic. 5:12; Zec 9:8)
3. The asherah may have been a stylized tree, perhaps even what we would recognize as a cross (the simplest way of representing a tree, and a symbol which occurred in ancient Babylon) and was perhaps identical with the erinnu used by the baru-priests in ancient Babylonia. See my article: “A Note on the Cultic Use of erinnu in barû-Rituals”, Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 23 (1995), 95-98
Chapter 29Back to Top
- 1. So Jacob set out and went to the land of the eastern peoples.
2. And he looked, and behold, a well in the field. And behold, three flocks of sheep were lying by it, for they watered the flocks from that well, but the stone upon the opening of the well was large. 1
3. And all the flocks gathered there and they (i.e. the shepherds) rolled the stone away from the opening of the well, and watered the sheep, and placed the stone again over the opening of the well.
4. So Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?” And they said, “We are from Haran.”
5. And he said to them, “Do you know Laban, the son of Nahor?” And they said, “We know him.”
6. And he said to them, “Is he well?” And they said, “He is well, and behold, Rachel, his daughter, is coming with the sheep.”
7. And he said, “Behold, It is still midday. It is not time for the livestock to be gathered. Water the sheep and go pasture them.”
8. And they said, “We cannot, until all of the flocks are gathered and they roll the stone away from the opening of the well, and (then) we can water the sheep.”
9. While he was speaking with them, Rachel came with the sheep that belonged to her father, for she was tending them.
10. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of Laban, his mother’s brother, Jacob approached and rolled the stone away from the opening of the well, and watered the sheep of Laban, his mother’s brother.
11. And Jacob kissed Rachel, and raised his voice and wept.
12. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father.
13. And it came to pass, when Laban heard the news of Jacob, his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he related to Laban all these things.
14. And Laban said to him, “You are certainly my flesh and none.” And he stayed with him for a month.
15. And Laban said to Jacob, “Since you are my brother, should you serve me for free? Tell me what your reward should be.”
16. Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the elder one was Leah, and the name of the younger one was Rachel.
17. And Leah had soft eyes, but Rachel was shapely and beautiful to look at.
18. And Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel, your younger daughter.”
19. And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you, than that I should give her to some other man. Stay with me.”
20. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they were to him like a few days, because he loved her.
21. And Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for the days are fulfilled, and I will go in unto her.”
22. And Laban gathered all the people of the place and put on a feast.
23. And it came to pass in the evening, that he took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him, and he went in unto her.
24. And Laban gave Zilpah, his handmaid, to his daughter Leah for a handmaid.
25. And it came to pass in the morning that, behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is that that you have done to me? Did I not work for you for Rachel? Why did you trick me?”
26. And Laban said, “It is not done like that in our region, to give the younger before the firstborn.
27. “Fulfill this week, and I will give you Rachel also if you will serve me another seven years.”
28. And Jacob did that, and he fulfilled that week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel for a wife.
29. And Laban gave to his daughter Rachel Bilhah, his handmaid, as her handmaid.
30. And he also went in unto Rachel and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for him another seven years.
31. And Jehovah saw that Leah was despised, and he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.
32. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because Jehovah has seen my affliction, for now my husband will love me.”
33. And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “For Jehovah has heard that I am despised, and he has given me this also.” And she called his name Simeon.
34. And she conceived again and bore a son, and she said, “Now, this time my husband will be joined to me, for I have borne him three sons.” Therefore she called his name Levi.
35. And she conceived again and bore a son, and she said, “This time I will praise Jehovah.” Therefore she called his name, Judah, and she stopped bearing.
1. 3 and 8 “All the flocks gathered” – Speiser (followed by Hamilton) changes the word “flocks” to “shepherds.” This substitution occurs in the Samaritan Hebrew text and some copies of the Septuagint, but in my opinion, it is not necessary as the subject may be presumed to be the shepherds even without making such changes.Chapter 29 Top
Commentary Chapter 29
Gen. 29:18 Normally a suitor must pay a bride-price. This happened when Abraham sent his servant to get a wife for Isaac. But Jacob is empty-handed, suggesting that things were not going well financially for his blind father, so he offers to work off the bride-price.
Gen. 29:21 Why does Jacob say “Give me my wife?” Are they already married? And yet the rest of his statement makes it clear that the marriage has not yet been consummated. This may suggest the kind of engagement that existed between Joseph and Mary in the New Testament before they completed the second stage of the marriage, after which intercourse would be permitted.
Gen. 29:25 In the morning Jacob wakes up and finds he has been given Leah instead of Rachel. There is some poetic justice here, for Jacob perpetrated a deceit on his own father by pretending to be his older brother (at his mother’s instigation), now Leah passes herself off as her younger sister (at her father’s instigation).
Chapter 30Back to Top
- 1. And Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, and Rachel envied her sister, and she said to Jacob, “Give me children, otherwise I will die.”
2. And Jacob became angry with Rachel and said, “Am I God, who withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” 1
3. And she said, “Behold my handmaid Bilhah, come in unto her, so that she will bear upon my knees, and through her I will also be built up.”2
4. And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid as a wife, and Jacob came in unto her.
5. And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son.
6. And Rachel said, God has judged me and he has also listened to my voice and given me a son. Therefore she called his name Dan.
7. And she conceived again and Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, bore a second son for Jacob.
8. And Rachel said, “I have struggled with my sister with Godlike wrestlings. I also prevailed.” And she called his name Naphtali.
9. And Leah saw that she stopped bearing, and she took her handmaid, Zilpah, and gave her to Jacob as a wife.
10. And Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid, bore Jacob a son.
11. And Leah said, “Fortunately!” And she called his name Gad. 3
12. And Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid, bore Jacob a second son.
13. And Leah said, “I am happy, for the girls have called me happy.” And she called his name Asher. 4
14. And Reuben went out during the time of the wheat harvest and found mandrakes in the field, and he brought it to Leah, his mother. And Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” 5
15. And she said to her, “Is it a small thing that you took my husband, and will you also take my son’s mandrakes?” And Rachel said, “Then he will sleep with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.”
16. And Jacob came from the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, for I have hired you (in exchange) for my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.
17. And God heard Leah and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.
18. And Leah said, “God has given me my wages, because I gave my handmaid to my husband.” And she called his name Issachar.
19. And Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son.
20. And Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment, now my husband will dwell with me, for I have borne him six sons.” And she called his name Zebulun.
21. And after that she bore a daughter and called her name Dinah.
22. And God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.
23. And she conceived and bore a son, and she said, “God has taken away my shame.”
24. And she called his name Joseph, saying, “May Jehovah add another son to me.”
25. And behold, when Rachel bore Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, and I will go to my (own) place and to my (own) country.
26. “Give me my wives and my children, for which I worked for you, and I will go; for you know the work I have done for you.”
27. And Laban said to him, “I hope I have found favor in your sight. I have divined and Jehovah has blessed me for your sake.”
28. “And he said, “Determine your wages for me and I will give it.”
29. And he said to him, “You know that I have worked for you and how your cattle turned out with me.
30. “For you had little before I (came), and it increased greatly, and Jehovah blessed you when I arrived. But now, when will I do something also for my (own) household?” 6
31. And he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You don’t need to give me anything, if you will do this for me. I will continue to pasture your sheep (and) watch (them).
32. “I will pass through all the sheep today, removing from there every speckled and spotted lamb, and every brown lamb among the sheep, and the speckled and spotted (ones) among the goats, and that will be my wages.
33. “And my righteousness will answer for me in days to come, for you will come to inspect my wages. Any that is not speckled or spotted among the goats, or brown among the sheep, that one has been stolen by me.”
34. And Laban said to him, “Behold, let it be according to your word.”
35. And in that day he removed the striped and spotted he-goats, and all the speckled and spotted she-goats; every one which had white in it, and every one that was brown among the sheep, and he gave (them) into his hands of his sons.
36. And he put a three days’ journey between himself and Jacob. And Jacob pastured the rest of Laban’s sheep.
37. And Jacob took fresh sticks of white poplar, and almond, and of the sweet chestnut, and peeled white spots in them, revealing the whiteness on the sticks. 7
38. And he placed the sticks which he had peeled in the gutters of the watering troughs where the sheep came to drink, opposite the (other) animals; and they came into heat when they came to drink.
39. And the sheep came into heat by the sticks and the sheep bore speckled, spotted, and striped (offspring).
40. And Jacob separated the ewes and turned the faces of the sheep toward the speckled (ones) and every brown one of Laban’s sheep, and he established flocks for himself and did not place them among Laban’s sheep.
41. And it came to pass that whenever the stronger sheep came into heat, Jacob placed the sticks before the eyes of the sheep in the troughs, to bring them into heat by means of the sticks.
42. But with the weaker sheep, he did not place (them), so that the weaker ones were Laban’s, and the stronger ones were Jacob’s.
43. And the man increased exceedingly, and he came to have many sheep, and maidservants and manservants, and camels and donkeys.
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1. Literally, “Am I in God’s place . . .”
2.“. . . upon my knees . .” The meaning is not clear, but the Targum Onkelos uses the phrase “and I will raise them and be built up.”
3. The Masoretic text has the term baggad (“in fortune”= “fortunately”), but Rashi reads it as ba gad (“fortune has arrived/come”). He also notes that if one reads it as one word rather than two, it could mean “he has betrayed,” but that does not fit will with the name “Gad” which means “good luck/fortune.”
4. “Girls” – this can also be translated as “daughters” but when used without reference to parents, it frequently refers to young, unmarried women. This may be compared to the Arabic bint/banaat.
5. “Mandrakes” – Rashi says this is really jasmine, but even in modern Hebrew דודאים dodaim refers to mandrakes.
6. “. . . when I arrived.” The term is literally “at my feet” but the feet are used as a symbol for travel, either setting out or arriving.
7. “Sweet chestnut” or Castanea sativa
Commentary Chapter 30
Gen. 30:3 Just as Sarah gave her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham, so now Rachel gives Bilhah to Jacob, and soon Leah will give her handmaid, Zilpah, to Jacob as well. However, these are not given to him as concubines, but wives, as explained by Savina Teubal:
“The son of supposed concubines like Bilhah and Zilpah became the heirs of Rachel and Leah, not of their own mothers. This implies that the women had children for each other and that the function of these women was childbearing for a mother, not concubinage for a master. In every instance the woman presents her shifhah to her husband l’ishah (as wife), not as concubine, which in Hebrew is pilegesh.”
Gen. 30:6 “Dan” is also the word for “judge,” hence the reason for the name.
Gen. 30:8 “Naphtali” is a play on the Hebrew word for “struggle/wrestle.”
Gen. 30:11 “Gad” – see translation notes for this verse.
Gen. 30:13 “Asher” means “happy.”
Gen. 30:14 Mandrakes – the question is why Rachel wanted mandrakes. The plant is basically poisonous, containing alkaloids such as atropine and scopolamine. On the other hand, Rashi, as noted above, thought that the plant in question was the jasmine, and that is a beautiful flower that also smells good. Therefore, a jasmine might make more sense in this context.
Gen. 30:18 Issachar – from the root שכר (śakhar) meaning “to hire.”
Gen. 30:20 Zebulun – this is a play on the word for “to dwell.”
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