Saturday, December 09, 2017

A child is born 9: Leah bears Issachar and Zebulun

Genesis 30. 14-20
And God heeded Leah and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son…And Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son.

The extraordinary story of Jacob’s tangled family continues with another episode in the sisterly rivalry of Rachel and Leah. Leah’s son Reuben finds some mandrakes , plants thought to aid fertility, and brings them to Leah. Rachel asks to have them – she has still not been able to have a child. The price Leah demands is a night with Jacob, who has evidently stopped sleeping with her; he prefers Rachel. Jacob is told that this is the deal and he goes along with it. Leah conceives, though it had seemed she was past childbearing, and bears a fifth and then a sixth son.

This story exposes some of the complexities of polygamy, heightened in this case by Rachel and Leah being sisters. The Bible later forbids a man from marrying his wife’s sister Leviticus 18.18, but polygamy itself is never outlawed. It continues throughout the Biblical period, though it gradually became less popular as it is displaced by the Roman custom of serial monogamy. In Roman societydivorce was relatively easy, but you could only marry one spouse at a time.

·         Jacob seems oddly passive throughout Rachel and Leah’s manoeuvring. What impression have you formed of him as you have read the stories over the last few days?

·         Why do you think so many societies have been polygamous across history (many still are today)?  Why might they have thought (and still think) this was a good way to live?

·         Mandrakes were thought to be aids to fertility. Pray for those undergoing modern fertility treatment, and those hoping to foster, adopt or have children through surrogacy today.

Rochester Diocese is part of an initiative to encourage fostering and adoption. Find out more at  Families of all shapes and sizes, including single people and same-sex couples can be considered as foster or adoptive families.

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