Biblical History Part 6


Jacob's Family

Copied  from the Sermon notes of Pastor Don Elmore

December  18, 2016

Scripture Reading: Genesis 30:1-2:

1) “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’

2) Jacob became angry with her and said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?’”

If you believe that the modern soap operas that are visible on television daily are bad; if you believe that the representatives of the people in the executive, legislative and judicial branches are bad; if you believe that the modern morals of the nation are bad; if you believe that the past three sentences are true, what will you believe about Jacob’s family?

The first two verses in our scriptural reading give us a short glimpse at an ongoing argument between Rachel and Jacob. Rachel was blaming her husband for the fact that she was not bearing him any children. Jacob replied that it wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t closed her womb. What is going on here?

Why is this chapter in the Bible anyway? In fact, why are the details of this very dysfunctional family in the Bible? Jacob had how many wives? Two. And who cares if one wife (Rachel) was jealous of the other wife (Leah)? And the wives were also sisters. And who cares if the other wife (Leah) felt that she was not loved by her husband (Jacob) as much as he loved her sister (Rachel)? And what is the big deal about all the children? What wife bore what child to Jacob?

What kind of family did you grow up in? Was it a loving Christian family or was it a chaotic mess that you couldn’t tolerate until you could legally leave when you turned 18 years old. What if your mother was not loved by your father? How would that affect you?

My mother’s family had 12 people in it, 10 children and two parents. Of the 10 children, eight were girls and two were boys. They grew up on a small farm until they were evicted in the great depression. Five of the eight sisters sang together in five-part harmony—the McGuire sisters and the Andrews sisters sang in just three-part harmony.

My mother, Hester, along with her sisters, Alma, Eugenia, Lois and Irene sang on WLW radio in a time when you had to go there in person and sing directly into a large microphone. They were popular church singers as churches all around the northern Kentucky area requested them to come and sing in their places of worship. They sang every time they got together.

I remember when Tom, my sister’s husband, first met most of the sisters at my parent’s home. They all asked him to play the piano as they sang their songs. They sang that night for several hours.

A little background to this Bible story. This family consisted of 13 children and 5 adults—one husband and two wives along with two handmaids who also acted as two surrogate mothers. It was a dysfunctional family from the beginning--and it didn’t change until after it had experienced a whole lot of tragedy, including many very disappointing moments.

To provide a dowry for his bride, Jacob agreed to work seven years for her father, Laban. After completing seven years of work for him, the marriage ceremony was held. Laban, had his daughter dress for the ceremony in a veil which covered her face, and after they repeated their vows they danced and ate and drank wine. Then they went to the bedroom.

Jacob had loved Rachel from the first time that he saw her. The seven years that he labored for her passed very quickly. He was probably drunk when he slept with his bride that first night, but when he woke up he realized that Laban had pulled a fast one on him. He thought that he had slept with Rachel, but had slept with her older sister. What in the world had happened? Laban had given in marriage his eldest daughter instead of Rachel!

Now, where was Rachel during the marriage ceremony that was supposed to have her as the bride? Where was she? She had to be told that she was not going to be wedding her loved one that day. Who told her and where was she while this wedding was being held? Was she attending all the wedding ceremonies that were supposed to be for her, but were for her sister? Was she dressed in a disguise so she could stay hidden from the attendees at the party? Or was she sitting in her room weeping because she was in love with Jacob too?

Rachel was betrayed by her father at this event. The Bible doesn’t tell us where she was, but we can imply that she wasn’t very happy. She had to know what was happening because she wasn’t the bride. What a traumatic situation! How mad could she have been at her father? What bad feelings did she have towards her sister who was now Jacob’s wife? What terrible feelings did she have that honeymoon night when her supposed-to-be-husband was married to her sister?

“You reap what you sow” is the only way I can explain this very strange “soap opera” wedding situation. Jacob had deceived his twin brother when he bought the covenant from him for a bowl of lentil soup. Later, when their mother came to him with the proposal that Jacob should disguise himself as his twin brother to steal the covenantal blessing from Esau, he didn’t object—he did it. Isaac blessed Jacob thinking that he was blessing Esau! What a confalutin mess!

Now, Jacob is getting paid back. He had told his father that he was Esau and now he is deceived thinking that Leah was Rachel! What would you do if you were in Jacob’s situation? Would you just stay married to Leah and not marry Rachel? Jacob didn’t. He immediately protested to his new father-in-law. He demanded that he be married to Rachel.

Laban told Jacob that after the ceremonial week was over, he could marry Rachel in another wedding ceremony and that he would have to work seven more years to provide for her a dowry too. Jacob agreed. So, after a week of marriage to one sister, he married the sister that he loved and who he thought he married the first time. But Jacob now had two wives—he was a polygamist.

In addition, Leah was given a handmaid for a wedding present from her father. Her name was Zilpah. Rachel was also given the same present at her wedding, a handmaid whose name was Bilhah.

I don’t know how Jacob worked this, having two wives. Who did he sleep with? Did he sleep with one wife one night and the other the next? Did he alternate nights? Did he alternate weeks? Maybe he didn’t sleep with either one on a regular basis. The Bible doesn’t tell us the details.

The Bible instructs the reader that he loved the more beautiful Rachel, and he didn’t love Leah. In fact, it says that he hated her.

Now who do you think produced most of the children of Jacob? Leah or Rachel?

Genesis 29:31: “And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.”

So, Leah conceived first and had a son by the name of Reuben. What did Leah now think that this would do in her relationship between her and Jacob? She thought that her husband would love her now because she gave him a son.

But Jacob still hated her, even though she bore him his first son. So, God gave Leah a second son who was named Simeon. Then she gave her husband his third son whose name was Levi. She thought that Jacob would become attached unto her because she had borne him three sons. Reuben, Simeon and Levi were born to Leah. Rachel was still barren. But Leah was still hated by Jacob and Rachel was still loved.

Who would give her husband that next child? It would be Leah again. She bore Jacob his fourth son whose name was Judah and then ceased bearing for a time. Reuben was the first born, Simeon, Levi and Judah all followed in that order. Jacob now had four sons.

Genesis 30:3-13:

3) “Then she [Rachel] said, ‘Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.’

4) So she [Rachel] gave him [Jacob] her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her,

5) And she became pregnant and bore him a son.

6) Then Rachel said, ‘God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son. Because of this she named him Dan.’

7) Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son.

8) Then Rachel said, ‘I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.’ So she named him Naphtali.

9) When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife.

10) Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son.

11) Then Leah said, ‘What good fortune!’ So she named him Gad.

12) Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son.

13) Then Leah said, ‘How happy I am! The women will call me happy.’ So she named him Asher.”

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel became envious of her sister, Leah. She complained to Jacob to “Give me children or else I die” (Genesis 30:1). Jacob then was angry at Rachel and told her that he wasn’t God. Rachel then told Jacob that he should go into her handmaid, Bilhah, that she could be her surrogate mother. So, he did, just like his grandfather, Abraham, had done. And Bilhah produced two more sons for Jacob: Dan and Naphtali.

And when Leah saw that she had ceased bearing, she did the very same thing that her sister had just done. She gave to Jacob her handmaid, Zilpah. And Zilpah produced the same number of sons for Jacob: Gad and Asher.

It was like a big game to the two sisters. Who could provide their same husband with the most sons? It is certainly different from the mindset of today’s world. Homosexuals can’t produce any children between themselves. So, their marriages are completely bogus because they are incapable of producing what a marriage is to produce--children.

Let us review. So far:

  • Leah (Jacob’s first wife) had borne Jacob his first 4 sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah,
  • Rachel’s handmaid, Bilhah, had borne the next 2 sons: Dan and Naphtali, and
  • Leah’s handmaid, Zilpah, had borne the last 2 sons: Gad and Asher for a total of 8,
  • Rachel (Jacob’s second wife) had borne Jacob no children, for she was still barren.

Now, Rachel was barren and Leah had ceased bearing. Jacob was receiving all the pain that he had caused his twin brother when he tried to manipulate God in granting to himself what God would have given him in His own way and time. Look what happened next.

Genesis 30:14-21:

14) “During the wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’

15) But she said to her, ‘Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?’ ‘Very well,’ Rachel said, ‘he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.’

16) So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. ‘You must sleep with me,’ she said. ‘I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he slept with her that night.

17) God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son.

18) Then Leah said, ‘God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.’ So she named him Issachar.

19) Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son.

20) Then Leah said, ‘God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.’ So she named him Zebulun.

21) Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.”

Reuben, the first-born child of Leah, found mandrakes (aphrodisiacs) in the field and brought them to his mother. Rachel saw him do this and asked her sister for some of the mandrakes. Leah agreed to give Rachel some of the mandrakes if she agreed that she could sleep with Jacob that night. The deal is made. Rachel is desperate to bear children for Jacob.

God hearkened unto Leah and she bore Jacob Issachar. And later she bore him another son who she named Zebulun. After the birth of this last son, Leah said that her husband would dwell with her since she had borne him six sons. But he didn’t. Jacob still loved Rachel over Leah.

Then she bore him his only daughter, Dinah. So, Leah produced for Jacob seven children; her handmaid produced two children and Rachel’s handmaid produced two children—total 11 children. Who did Jacob love? Rachel. Rachel had produced him no children. Leah still was without the love that she wanted from her husband.

Genesis 30:22-24:

22) “Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive.

23) She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, ‘God has taken away my disgrace.’

24) She named him Joseph, and said, ‘May the Lord add to me another son.’”

These children were born in the land of their mothers: Paddan-aram (modern day Syria). Jacob lived in that land 20 years, working off his debt to Laban for his 2 wives (14 years) and for his cattle (6 years). Jacob decided that it was time for him and his family return to the land of his mother and father.

There were several important events in this journey back home that the Bible mentions. First, Rachel stole the images that were her father’s and when he came after them and searched for them Rachel lied to her own father saying that she did not take them. This shows us that both Rachel and her father were serving other gods.

Jacob was then met by his twin brother, Esau. Jacob feared Esau, for it was in Esau’s heart for 20 years to slay his brother. Jacob sent his wives and all his children over the Jabbok River. Jacob was left alone. There he wrestled all night with an angel. Jacob would not let him go until the angel blessed him. It was then that Jacob’s name was changed to Israel.

And the next morning, when “Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother” (Genesis 33:1-3).

When Jacob saw, Esau coming towards him and his family, he put the children of the handmaids first, followed by the children of Leah and last Joseph with his mother Rachel. What do you think that Esau did next? “And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (Genesis 33:4). God had intervened and saved Jacob and his seed from destruction.

There are several other things that occurred, like the defiling of Dinah, but eventually Jacob returned to the land of his father. It is then that the last child of Jacob is born. He was born near Bethlehem and his name was Benjamin. Rachel was his mother, but she died right after she gave birth to her second son. Benjamin was the only child of Jacob (now Israel) who was born in the land in which his father and grandfather lived.

Below is a chart which hopefully will help you remember the children of Israel and who their mothers were.

Jacob's Family
Leah (wife #1) Zilpah (concubine) Bilhah (concubine) Rachel (wife #2)
1. Reuben 7. Gad 5. Dan 12. Joseph
2. Simeon 8. Asher 6. Naphtali 13. Benjamin*
3. Levi
4. Judah
9. Issachar
10. Zebulun
11. Dinah (daughter)

*Rachel died in child-birth when delivering Benjamin. He was born in Bethlehem. Benjamin was the only child amongst his siblings that were born in the land of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. All the other children were born in Syria.

Did Jacob love all his children equally? No. He loved the sons of Rachel the best.

Map of Canaan - 12 Tribe PortionsSo far, the story has sounded as I said before, a modern-day soap opera. Abraham had 8 sons; only one carried on the covenant that God had made with him. Isaac was the only son that he had with his wife, Sarah. Isaac was the one that God said would be the one that would carry on the covenant blessings. Isaac only had 2 sons, twins. The elder would be the one that would carry on the covenant. The elder twin was Esau.

When the twins had grown up, there is a recorded incident in the Bible that tells of why Esau despised his birthright that was guaranteed by the covenant that God had made with Abraham and later confirmed to his son Isaac. Esau was physically exhausted when he saw that his brother was boiling a large pot of soup. Esau asked Jacob to feed him as he was at the point of death. Esau also said “What profit shall this birthright do to me?” (Genesis 25:32).

Esau didn’t know the importance of having the birthright promises of the covenant. He couldn’t die now because he didn’t have anyone to pass the blessings on to. He didn’t have any pure seed to continue the covenant. He despised the covenant, so he agreed to sell it to his brother.

Later, the scriptures inform us that Esau married two Hittite (Canaanite) women which “were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.” It was after Esau had married these two women who were forbidden for any covenant son to marry that Jacob stole the covenant blessings from Esau. This split the family apart in a big way.

Jacob’s mother told her husband that she was weary of her life because of the Canaanite wives that Esau had married. And if Jacob married another one of the Canaanite women who were living in the land, what good shall her life be? (Genesis 27:46). This verse is very strange and very hard for the people in Judeo-Christianity circles to answer for it opposes their main doctrine that all races are equal.

Thereafter, Jacob’s father calls for Jacob and instructs him that he shall not make the same mistake that Esau had made. He shall not take a Canaanite for his wife. He shall go to Paddan-aram to this mother’s father’s house, and take a wife from one of the daughters of Laban, his mother’s brother (Genesis 28:1, 2).

When Esau heard what his parents had told Jacob, he didn’t divorce his two Canaanite wives, he married a daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son. But this wasn’t the right seed either. Esau truly despised the covenant. How could Esau carry on the covenant when his seed was a hybrid mix of Canaanites and Ishmaelite’s with the pure seed of God?

What was the difference between the two twins? Esau had married the wrong women. His seed was corrupted forever. His wife and mongrel children could never hear the words of God.

Jacob had wrongfully stolen the blessings from his brother; he should have waited and received them from God. He didn’t have to steal them. But Jacob had married the correct seed. The women that he married would not be a grief of mind to his parents. His family could believe God’s words. Esau’s family couldn’t. They were goats instead of sheep.

Which son of Jacob would carry on the birthright of the covenant? The first-born. Who was the first-born? The first-born son of Jacob was Reuben from Leah. What happened to Reuben?

There’s a verse that tells of Reuben’s disqualification from being the birthright recipient. “…when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine: and Israel (Jacob) heard it” (Genesis 35:22b). We are not told of the importance of Reuben’s sin until you read in 1 Chronicles 5:1 that “Now the sons of Reuben, the first-born of Israel (Jacob) for he was the first-born: but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birth-right was given unto the sons of Joseph, the son of Israel…”

Reuben lost the birthright because he had defiled his father’s bed. He had relations with Rachel’s handmaid, Bilhah. What a totally mixed-up dysfunctional family. Reuben had relations with his half-brothers; (Dan and Naphtali) mother. This is even worse than most soap operas.

Since Reuben lost the birthright, who was it given to? The other first-born son. The first-born son of Rachel who was the next to last of all the children borne to Jacob. It was Joseph who received the birthright.

Levi the third-born received the priesthood and Judah, the fourth-born son, received the rulership. The covenantal blessings were divided among three of the brothers.

Now who do the Jews say that they are descended from?

Let’s get the information from their own writings:

  1. “The people known as Jews are the descendants of the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with a certain number of the Tribe of Levi. So far as is known, there is not any further admixture of other tribes. The Ten Tribes have been absorbed among the nations of the world.” (Dr. Hertz -- Chief Rabbi of the British Empire. 1918).

    The Chief Rabbi tells us that the Jews are descended from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi only and that the other ten tribes have been absorbed among the nations of the world that they were living with. The Jews are descended then from the Southern Kingdom of Israel.

  2. “The Jews do not claim to represent the Twelve Tribes for the Ten Tribes never returned from captivity and are lost to history” (Rabbi Aaron Werner, when asked by Dr. Schiffner, ‘Do the Jews represent all 12 tribes’).

If there are no descendants of Joseph in the world today, then there is no birth-right. But the Bible plainly says that the birthright was Joseph’s.

And what about all the prophecies given by Jacob to each of his sons shortly before he died in the end of the book of Genesis? For example, what about Zebulun?

Genesis 49:13: “Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships, and his border shall be unto Sidon.”

Where did the descendants of Zebulun settle? Let’s look at the map. They settled far from the Mediterranean Sea. They were in western Galilee with no water as a border. They were as land-locked as the state of Kentucky is.

But where are many of the descendants of Zebulun now? Could it possibly be that the Chief Rabbi was wrong? Remember, Jesus Christ called all of the Rabbi’s seed, “Liars.” The truth is that Zebulun was not absorbed by the other nations. Zebulun still exists today.

The Jews say that they are descended from the tribe of Judah. Some add the tribes that were in the Southern Kingdom too. But almost all Jews limit their family tree to Judah. And they are liars, but they are telling a “half-truth.”

Judah married a Canaanite woman too. He had three sons by her. What was the difference between this case and Esau’s? Judah’s first son was given an Israelite to marry, but before the marriage could be consummated, God killed Judah’s first son because he was so evil.

Judah’s second son, was given the first son’s wife, but he was divinely killed because he spilled his seed on the ground. This left Judah’s third son, Shelah. He was too young for marriage so the Israelite young lady, Tamar, is told to go home and wait and she would be notified when the third son would be ready to marry her. When the third son grew up and was ready to marry, Judah was out of town, his Canaanite wife gave Shelah a Canaanite woman to marry. Shortly after this happened, Judah’s wife died. This left the Israelite woman without a husband.

But unlike Esau’s situation, Judah had relations with a pure-blooded Israelite and produced two twin boys. The pure-blooded Israelite that he had relations with was the woman that he had given to his first two sons. She disguised herself and tricked him into laying with her. Judah provided the husband-to-be for Tamar. Tamar saved Judah from becoming nothing more than another Esau.

The story of Tamar and Judah’s family lies right between the story of Joseph. It interrupts what happened to Joseph in the 37th and 39th and beyond chapters. It is like a big parenthesis. Joseph is sold into captivity at the suggestion of Judah in the 37th chapter, then the story of Judah’s family in the 38th chapter, and then Joseph is innocently thrown into prison on a false charge in the 39th chapter. Joseph resists the sexual advances of Potiphar’s wife, despite the penalty he faces for doing so. Joseph does not practice a double standard: he lives holy, no matter what the cost. Eventually he rises to be the second in power in all of Egypt when it becomes the most powerful nation of the world.

After Joseph is exalted, Pharaoh gives Joseph his signet-ring (Genesis 41:42), inviting us to remember Judah who lent his ring to what he thought was a prostitute (Genesis 38:11). Those who live sinful lifestyles may prosper in the short run, but eventually they suffer; by contrast, those who remain faithful to God may suffer at first, but in the end, they will be blessed.

Most Judeo-Christians have never heard of Shelah and his descendants. It was these Shelahites that became part of the mixed-multitude of the Israelites. Genesis 46:12 and Numbers 26:20 record that the half-breed son Shelah, accompanied Judah into Egypt, and in the following centuries left many descendants. They were in the exodus, and accompanied the armies of Israel into the Promised Land. However, they bred true to type. They were half-breed Canaanites, lacking the spiritual insight which the LORD gave to His own people, so these mongrels remained idolaters, Baal worshipers.

In I Chronicles 4:21 you will find them referred to as the house of Ashbea. Ashbea is a corruption of Ishbaal, meaning man of Baal, and shows they were still idolaters, unable to perceive the God of Israel. So, these Shelahites, half-breeds, formed one of the people of the land who were part of the Jews in the time of Jesus Christ. Some of them eventually went, around 1500 BC to the island of Ireland. These people call their home “ERIN” or “ER’s Land” after their forefather “ER”. The passages in 1 Chronicles 3:21-23 teach us that the descendants of Shelah and ER were skilled workers in fine linen, pottery, plants and hedges. This is an accurate description of modern Ireland which is known world-wide for Irish lines, Behileh China, and a love for gardening.

The Jews are partly correct. Some of them are descended from Judah—but it is from Shelah and not Pharez or Zarah. If you read the scriptures carefully, you can see how both men changed 1800 as they grew older, i.e. Jacob and Judah. Jacob, after grieving for over 20 years over his favorite son’s supposed death, became united with his family in Egypt. Judah took the lead in selling his half-brother Joseph into slavery, rather than kill him as his brothers had suggested. Judah became the surety for Joseph’s only full-blooded brother, Benjamin. He even was the spokesperson who pleaded with Joseph about his father’s situation with the “dead” Joseph and his brother. He didn’t even finish his speech, as Joseph cried and revealed himself to his brethren.

Genesis 45:5, 7:

5) “Now therefore be not to be grieved or angry with yourselves, that ye sold me here; for God did send me before you to preserve life

7) “For God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

Jacob had learned his lesson. Let God work things out. Trust in Him and you will receive great blessings.

And where was Jacob buried? Was he buried:

  1. With his first wife, Leah?
  2. With his second wife, Rachel?
  3. With Rachel’s handmaid, Bilhah?
  4. With Leah’s handmaid, Zilpah?
  5. With all of them?
  6. With none of them?

Genesis 49:29-31:

29) “Then he charged them and said to them: ‘I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,

30) In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite as a possession for a burial place.

31) There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife, there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried _____.’”

The missing word that goes in the blank is “Leah.” Jacob was buried with his wife Leah.

It kind of shows the progress that Jacob made in his life. He is buried next to Leah. The end of Jacob’s life is quite different from the beginning and middle of his life. All the tragedies and tribulations produced faith in following the God of their fathers. No wonder Jacob was chosen to be the recipient of the covenant of God and not Esau who made no effort to correct his huge, fatal mistake.

Blessed be the LORD God of Israel.

To be continued.