Jacob is now married to Laban’s two daughters Rachel and Leah. Leah has had sons and Rachel has had no children. Rachel demands children and melodramatically claims she will die otherwise. Jacob rightly tells her he’s not God and isn’t in the place to give her children. She takes a note from Sarah, even though it didn’t end well, and gives her maid to be Jacob’s wife. In this story, we never hear how the maids feel about all this. The tension is all between the two sisters. It’s a little different this time since the coveted firstborn position has already been filled by Reuben.
Leah gets jealous of the competition and offers her maid as yet another wife. She wrongly thinks she will not have any more children and wants to keep producing for her team. She does seem to give up on the idea of earning his love. By the end of it, she does start hoping he will show her honor and respect for all the sons she bore. Jacob is treated like a piece of meat, almost as their slave with the job of producing sons. He’s even bought for an evening by Leah. He just goes along with it all. He seems to either like the idea or have long ago given up having the authority over it all. It might have been a very smart thing to try and stay out of the sister-wives drama created by Laban. Rachel finally has a son, Joseph. Instead of showing gratitude, she names him something like, “May I have another.”
What’s going on here? We know that these sons will become the twelve tribes of Israel, the fathers of the nation of Israel. Jacob is the father of them all, the father of all Israelites. What is the heritage? A broken family with a lot of issues? Jealousy, multiple wives, and all born out of selfish desires. The sisters want sons to show each other up. They aren’t seeking the Lord’s will. Rachel doesn’t wait on the Lord. We never hear about Jacob calling out to the Lord on her behalf for children as Isaac had done for Rebekah.
Rachel is wrapping her very life around having children. That makes them an idol to her. It became all-consuming to the point she’d thought she would die if she didn’t have children. Leah wasn’t immune even though she had kids. It consumed her too. Rachel asks for fruit and Leah uses it as a bargaining tool to get another son. It was on her mind. It was what was important to them.
You could consider having children a godly desire, but it’s nothing of the sort when it comes from a selfish heart. No desire, no matter how “good” of a thing it is, can become consuming to us. It becomes an idol if it is what we are seeking after. We need to stop and confess if we realize that something is taking our attention, our time, our focus, our longing. What are we thinking about, talking about? If it’s not the Lord, then something else has our hearts and we need to repent.