When young couples engage in premarital counseling, they discuss topics like family, finances, communication, and—of course—conflict. Scripture is full of passages that can guide the newlyweds through difficult days, but Genesis 29:31–30:24 is not one of them. This passage records how God began to provide a family for Jacob, but things did not go as hoped. New obstacles to God’s covenant arose, and conflict ensued.
Leah became pregnant quickly and often, providing Jacob with four sons. The names she gave her first three babies revealed her desperation to be loved by Jacob (29:34). But the name of her fourth son, Judah (“This time I will praise the Lord”), was a departure (v. 35). Perhaps this was evidence of growth. Then Leah stopped having children (v. 35). Whether Jacob no longer spent nights with her or God closed her womb, we do not know.
Tensions ran high in the household, as Rachel was unable to conceive (30:1). Each sister envied the other. Leah had children. Rachel had love. Rachel’s jealousy grew until she gave Jacob an ultimatum, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (v. 1). Although Jacob felt anger, his words communicated God’s sovereignty. “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” (v. 2). Rachel offered her handmaid to Jacob—to provide a child on her behalf. The plan “worked,” and Rachel named the child Dan (“vindication”) (v. 6). Tensions continued to mount. Eventually, God remembered Rachel (v. 22). He opened her womb, and she gave Jacob a son—a boy named Joseph. The original audience would have understood his importance. Again we see that God is the main actor here. God’s grace alone will bring His covenant to pass—regardless of human scheming and despite familial conflict.
>> Are you involved in a conflict that you need God to resolve? What is your role? Can you release any jealousy or anger that might be standing in the way?