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Mandrakes in the Bible: The What, Where, and Why of Them

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Mandrakes in the Bible appear only twice in quite a similar context. This plant is such a small part of the stories where it is involved but it offers a fresh, deep perspective on the good things of God in a world of Satan’s apple dangling in front of our faces. 

image of mandrake flower with the text mandrakes in the Bible; the what, where and why of them

Mandrakes in the Bible

There are only two mentions of mandrakes in the Bible. The first in the book of Genesis, and the second in Song of Solomon. Each mention of mandrakes has to do with marriage, but in drastically different circumstances. First, we will discover what a mandrake even is, and then we will look at these two passages find out what mandrakes in the Bible mean. 

What are Mandrakes?

A mandrake, also knows as an atropa mandragora, is a plant belonging to the nightshade family, in the potato order, grown in wheat fields and native to the Mediterranean region as well as the Himalayas. This not-so-common plant is  the size of a small apple. The fleshy root of mandrake plants is where the name mandrake comes from, as it is resembles the appearance of the form of human beings.

According to Gotquestions, “mandrake roots were considered an aphrodisiac” in ancient times “and were commonly prepared and eaten as a fertility drug” ( An aphrodisiac is a food, drink, or drug, that stimulates sexual desire. This will help provide great insight when we dig into the passages where mandrake plants are mentioned. 

Mandrakes in Genesis

“In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”

Genesis 30:14-15 (ESV)

In Genesis 30, the first mention of mandrakes, we witness a tumultuous sequence of events that involve sibling rivalry, the blessings of God, and a surprising deal between Jacob and his father-in-law that ultimately leads to great wealth.

In the previous chapter, we saw Jacob, the son of Isaac, marry a set of sisters, both Leah and Rachel. This was not supposed to happen, but rather w, it was orchestrated by Jacob’s father-in-law without Jacob’s knowledge. This left Jacob with two wives and another seven years of labor ahead of him. 

As Leah was not the sister Jacob intended to marry, he harbored a grudge of resentment against her. Because of this grudge, something we know we are not supposed to hold, God made Leah’s womb fruitful, allowing her to conceive sons, while Rachel’s womb was left barren. 

Chapter 30 opens with Rachel, desperate to become a mother, pleading with Jacob to give her children. 

“When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”

Genesis 30:1 (ESV)

Rachel is jealous of her sister Leah, who has already given birth to four sons. Jacob, who does in fact favor Rachel over Leah, reminds Rachel that it is God alone who can grant children. This theme of divine providence is woven throughout the chapter, with both human and animal examples.

Desperate to have children, the barren Rachel follows in the footsteps of her husband’s grandmother Sarah, the wife of Abraham, and gives her servant to Jacob as a wife. Bilhah soon bears Jacob two sons, whom Rachel claims as her own, as was the custom in these ancient times. 

At this time, Leah’s conception of children has slowed. There is not a specific reason accounted for this, but we can infer that it may have been because of Jacob’s attention being adverted to Rachel as she struggled with this envy. So, Leah follows Rachel’s example and gives her servant to Jacob, resulting in two more sons. 

Despite these pregnancies and births, the rivalry between Rachel and Leah persists. This is exemplified when at the time of wheat harvest, Reuben, the first son of Jacob, brings mandrake plants to his mother Leah and Rachel begs Leah for the potato plant. Rachel wanted the mandrakes because they were thought to aid with arousal and fertility. In yet another display of envy, Leah accuses Rachel of taking her husband and now wanting her plants. In her great desperation to bear children of her own, Rachel offers to trade a night with Jacob for the plants, showcasing her power over Jacob as the favored wife.

Both sisters bear children after this exchange. Leah names her fifth son in gratitude for God’s provision, while Rachel finally welcomes her first son, Joseph, with a prayer for another. In the end, despite the ongoing conflict between the wives, God’s blessings in Jacob’s family are evident in the abundance of children and wealth they have gained.

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Mandrakes in Song of Solomon

“The mandrakes give forth fragrance, and beside our doors are all choice fruits, new as well as old, which I have laid up for you, O my beloved.”

Song of Solomon 7:13 (ESV)

The entirety of the book Song of Solomon, also called the Song of Songs, is a lyrical poem that showcases the love between a husband and a wife  as they exemplify a marriage under God’s design. 

Chapter seven, specifically, opens with the husband, who is King Solomon, declaring his wife’s beauty in great detail. 

“How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights! Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters.”

Song of Solomon 7:6-7 (ESV)

In response to her husband’s great love, appreciation, and attraction towards her, the wife pursues intimacy, taking her husband into a vineyard where mandrake plants give off a most agreeable odor of intimacy. 

photo of single mandrake plant for the post mandrakes in the Bible

Significance of the Mandrakes

After going through the two accounts that include mandrakes in the Bible, there does not seem to be much significance to the funky looking potato plant. However, upon further investigating, there is an interesting quality of mandrakes that lends hand to much more meaning. says, “Mandrakes can aid healers with surgeries or calm troubled minds when used properly. When used improperly, they can lead to pain, suffering, the occult, witchcraft, murder, or accidental death”. 

Taking into account their use for the suggestion of intimacy, mandrakes in the Bible exemplify how God’s good and perfect design of the natural world can so easily be twisted by man’s sin. Intimacy is a good thing, beautiful and perfect, but only within the boundaries of God’s design. Intimacy outside of that design, which is within a marriage between a man and a woman, can destroy the mind, body, and soul, which are supposed to be a dwelling place of God. 

This is something that happened in ancient cultures and we continue to see happening in modern times all around us. The world dangles intimacy outside of God’s original design in front of our faces like the devil’s apple to Eve. It is our job to fight this, among other things, with the truth found only in the word of God

Remember, God has provision over everything despite the shortcomings of human beings and the forces of evil spirits, as we saw in the story of Rachel, Leah, and Jacob. No matter what happened in the ancient world, and what happens in modern times, God will prevail and restore the heavens and the earth back to its original, harmonious, and perfect design. 

In the meantime, we are called to adhere to the good things of the truth of God’s word and its commandments. 

You may enjoy this video on Mandrakes in the Bible for further information:

ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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