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Genesis  ◦   Chapter 30

1When Rachel realized that she was not having any children for Jacob, she became insecure as his wife and envied her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, for without them I might as well be dead.”

2Jacob was upset that she placed this responsibility on him, and said, “I have done my part, but I am not God, and he has not yet chosen to enable you to get pregnant.”

3Taking matters into her own hands, she said, “Then take my maidservant Bilhah and impregnate her as my surrogate – then she can bear children for me, so that I too can build a family.”

4So she gave him her servant Bilhah as her surrogate. Jacob had sex with her, 5and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. 6Then Rachel exclaimed, “God has heard my request and answered me favorably!” Therefore, she named him Dan (which means ’God judges favorably’).

7Rachel’s servant Bilhah became pregnant again and bore Jacob a second son. 8Then Rachel said, “I have fought hard to give my husband sons so I can be equal to my sister, and I have finally done it.” So she named him Naphtali (which means ’my fight’).

9When Leah realized that she had stopped having children, she took her maidservant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as her surrogate. 10Zilpah, Leah’s servant, bore Jacob a son, 11and Leah said, “How lucky I am to give my husband a troop of sons!” So she named him Gad (which means ’good fortune’).

12Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob another son, 13and Leah said, “I am so happy! Now all the other women will call me the most blessed.” So she named him Asher (which means ’happy’).

14During the harvest, Reuben found some mandrake plants in a field and gave them to his mother Leah. Mandrakes were believed to increase fertility, so when Rachel saw them, she said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”

15Denying her marital duplicity, and focusing on her legal status as first married, rather than focusing on the bonds of love, she projected her guilt onto Rachel, saying, “He was my husband first, and you stole his love from me. Isn’t that enough for you? Do you want my son’s mandrakes too?”

Desperate for anything that might help her get pregnant, Rachel said, “Okay, I’ll let him sleep with you tonight if you give me your son’s mandrakes.”

16Leah met Jacob when he came in from the fields that evening and said, “Rachel and I made a deal: Reuben brought me mandrakes, and I traded them with her; and she agreed for you to sleep with me tonight.” So he slept with her that night.

17God answered Leah’s prayer, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me, just as if giving my maidservant to my husband was right.” So she named him Issachar (which means ’God rewards’).

19Leah again became pregnant and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20Then Leah proclaimed, “God has given me a precious gift. Now that I have borne my husband six sons, he will surely honor me.” So she named him Zebulun (which means ’honor’).

21Later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.

22God never forgot Rachel, and he answered her prayer by healing her infertility and thus enabling her to have children. 23And she became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my shame – 24may he add to me another son.” So she named him Joseph.

25After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob went to Laban and said, “Release me to go back to my homeland. 26You know I have served you faithfully, and the work I have done has fulfilled our agreement, so release my wives and children, and I will be on my way.”

27But Laban tempted him to stay, saying, “If you care about me, then show me your favor and stay. I have learned from experience that the Lord blesses you, and through you I am blessed. 28So, name what wages you want, and I will pay it.”

29Jacob replied, “You do know the quality of my work and how your flocks and herds have flourished under my care. 30Indeed, the little you had before I arrived has markedly increased, for the Lord has blessed you ever since I walked into your life. But now I must consider – when will my work provide for my own household?”

31Laban immediately asked, “What can I give you to get you to stay?”

“I don’t want you to give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you agree to this one condition, then I will agree to stay and work for you, tending your flocks:
32Let me go through your flocks each year, starting today, and every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat will be my wages. 33In the future, whenever you check on my wages, it will be easy for you to see my honesty. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored will be understood to have stolen in amongst mine.”

34“Agreed! The terms will be just as you have stated them,” Laban replied. 35Seeking to lower Jacob’s wages by reducing any cross-breeding, Laban went that very same day and removed all the male goats with streaks or spots, all the female goats that were speckled or spotted or with any white on them, and all the dark-colored lambs. He placed them in the care of his sons, 36who took this flock a three-day’s journey away from Jacob. Jacob stayed and continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.

37Jacob, in order to increase his own wages, took freshly-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and peeled back strips of bark, exposing stripes of the white wood beneath the bark. 38Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, allowing the nutrients to leach into the water that the breeding flock would drink. When it was breeding season and the flocks came to drink, 39they would mate among the troughs with the peeled branches, and they gave birth to young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 40Jacob separated the streaked, speckled or spotted young from the rest of the flock, and during breeding season he placed the ewes before the streaked and dark-colored animals in Laban’s flock. In this way he built up his own flock that he kept separate from Laban’s animals. 41During breeding season, Jacob would place the striped branches in the water of the strong females, 42but would not place the branches in the water of the weak animals. Thus, the stronger ewes gave birth to strong offspring that were streaked, speckled or spotted and went to Jacob, while the weaker animals went to Laban. 43In this way Jacob became very wealthy, owning large flocks, many male and female servants, and camels and donkeys.