Bible Women: Leah

In the previous story, you read about how Jacob married two of the daughters of Laban: Leah and Rachel, and you also briefly met their handmaidens, Bilhah and Zilpah (recall how Hagar was the handmaiden of Sarah). Now you will learn about how the sons of Jacob were born through his relations with these four different women.

Meanwhile, for more about Leah, see the article at Wikipedia.

Note the reference to the mandrake roots here as a fertility charm. The mandrake is a plant that is rich in folkloric associations; you can read more about mandrakes at Wikipedia.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Bible Women unit. Story source: King James Bible (1611): Genesis 29 and Genesis 30 [LIBRIVOX AUDIO], and Genesis 35 [LIBRIVOX AUDIO].

Leah and Rachel

And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, "Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me."

And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, "Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also." And she called his name Simeon.

And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, "Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons." Therefore was his name called Levi.

And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, "Now will I praise the LORD." Therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.

And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die."

And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, "Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?"

And she said, "Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees that I may also have children by her." And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son.

And Rachel said, "God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son." Therefore called she his name Dan.

And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son. And Rachel said, "With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed." And she called his name Naphtali.

When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son. And Leah said, "A troop cometh." And she called his name Gad.

And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son. And Leah said, "Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed." And she called his name Asher.

And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah.

Then Rachel said to Leah, "Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes."

And she said unto her, "Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also?"

And Rachel said, "Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son's mandrakes."

And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, "Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son's mandrakes." And he lay with her that night.

And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son. And Leah said, "God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband." And she called his name Issachar.

And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son. And Leah said, "God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons." And she called his name Zebulun.

And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.

And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, "God hath taken away my reproach." And she called his name Joseph; and said, "The LORD shall add to me another son."

[Eventually, Jacob takes his family and leaves Laban's land.]

And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, "Fear not; thou shalt have this son also."

And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin.

And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day.

(700 words)

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