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What can we learn from Rachel in the Bible? Oh, so much, my friend!
Before we look at the lessons from Rachel in the Bible (and some interesting facts about her), let’s recap who she was and her story.
(For more in the series of women in the Bible, see this post)
The Story of Rachel in the Bible
Rachel was the youngest daughter of Laban. She also became the wife of Jacob and eventually the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. Of course, led two of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:24, 46:15–18). Her handmaid Bilhah (we’ll get to that in a minute) is the mother of two more of the tribes of Israel (Genesis 35:25, 46:23–24).
Rachel’s story begins when, Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, goes to Mesopotamia to find a wife from the family of his mother, Rebecca (from the line of Terah). On this trip, he encounters a beautiful woman at a well.
The gentleman that he is, he waters her flock then kisses her and announces her kinship (now THAT is love at first sight!).
Jacob is related to Rachel as Laban’s nephew (on his mother’s side) and as a second cousin on his father’s side.
Giddy Rachel, runs home to share about her meeting Jacob and her father invites Jacob to the house. Laban warmly welcomes Jacob as family.
Jacob arranges with Laban to marry Rachel and work for him for seven years to pay her bride price.
Little did Rachel and Jacob know, however, that Laban was about to trick them. At the wedding, Laban sends Leah (Rachel’s older sister) to the marriage tent instead of Jacob’s intended.
He explains that it is the custom to marry the older daughter first and promises to give Rachel to Jacob at the end of the wedding feast week if he agrees to work another seven years to pay her bride price (Genesis 29:15–30).
Jacob, who loved Rachel, agrees. Can you imagine the anger and hurt both Jacob and Rachel must have felt? But their love was stronger than any trick her father could have pulled off.
Rachel, (like Sarah and Rebecca), faced a long period of barrenness.
Leah, truly the unloved wife, was noticed by God and “he opened her womb” (Genesis 29.31). Leah eventually had four sons.
Rachel, on the other hand, struggled with infertility and being jealous of her sister. In anger she demands that Jacob give her children. She says “Give me children or I’ll die!” (Genesis 30:1)
Now, I don’t know about you, but my husband never responds well to commands (except by God). He’s pretty mad and tells her that he can’t do anything about it because only God can give her children.
Rachel decides that the only way to have a child is to have one via a surrogate mother. She gives Jacob her handmade Bilhah as a wife. Bilhah conceives and gives birth to Dan. She named him that because ” “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” (Genesis 30:5-6)
Rachel, who was always competing with her sister, Leah, has Bilhah bear another son with Jacob. She names him Naphtali (“I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.” (Genesis 30:7-8) Naphtali means “my struggle” in Hebrew.
Now, Leah tries to “one-up” Rachel and gives her maid Zilpah to Jacob as a wife. Children symbolize success, long-life and virility. The more children a wife could give her husband, the more she feels favored by God and a successful wife.
Rachel still longs her have her own child, though.
One day, in the field, Leah’s son Rueben comes across mandrakes.
Mandrakes, were often considered to help with fertility and act as an aphrodisiac. Mandrakes are even mentioned in Song of Solomon or Song of Songs, often referred to as the book of romance.
The mandrakes send out their fragrance, and at our door is every delicacy, both new and old, that I have stored up for you, my beloved. – Song of Solomon 7:13
Rachel wants those mandrakes. Leah’s son has those mandrakes. And, Rachel has something that Leah wants even more than those mandrakes: to spend the night with her husband. As Jacobs favored wife, Rachel spent more evenings with her husband than the other wives did.
So Rachel and Leah strike a deal. Leah would get to spend the night with Jacob in exchange for the mandrakes.
The deal was successful for both Leah and Rachel. Leah went on to conceive three more children and finally, Rachel has a child of her own who she names Joseph.
“Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, ‘God has taken away my disgrace.’ She named him Joseph,and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.'” – Genesis 30:22-24
But, instead of being satisfied that God has answered her prayers and blessed her with a child, she wants more.
When both sisters agreed to head to Canaan they told their faith just how angry they were that neither of them were given any of the bride price that resulted in Jacob’s fourteen years of service in exchange for marrying them. (Genesis 31:14-16)
While both sisters were upset, only Rachel did something about it. She took her father’s household gods (Genesis 31:19)
Does anyone else notice a similarity between Rachel’s questionable behavior and that of her husband, Jacob? Remember when Jacob, with his mother’s prompting, took his brother’s birthright? (Genesis 27)
Jacob, of course, doesn’t know what his wife has done and takes an oath defending his wife and family from the accusation of the stolen gods.
“But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.” – Genesis 31:32
Uh-oh! Now Rachel must make sure that Laban doesn’t find the gods she has stolen. She hides them under the seat of the wagon and refuses to get up when he is looking as she claims she has her period. (Genesis 31:33-35)
Not long after, Rachel tragically dies giving birth to her second child Benjamin. Jacob buries her where she passed and not in the family tomb at Machpelah.
What a story, right? We have romance, deception, intrigue, theft, infertility and more. Honestly, the Bible is better than any drama or soap opera!
Lessons From Rachel in the Bible
Now that we’ve recapped about Rachel in the Bible, let’s examine a few lessons that we can take from Rachel and her story.
God is in control
When Rachel faced infertility, she took her frustration out on her husband, Jacob. Jacob, obviously wasn’t happy to be the brunt of her anger and reminded her that God is in control.
“When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’
Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?’” – Genesis 30:1-2
How often have you done this? In your frustration or anger lashed out at someone close to you? Our loved ones should be there to listen and console, but they simply aren’t God. They can pray for us and with us, but they can’t control a situation – only God can.
For a printable PDF with Bible verses about Rachel, click the image below.
2. No one wins with jealousy
There’s sibling rivalry and then there’s Rachel and Leah. Rachel was jealous of Leah as Leah was, it seemed, able to easily conceive while Rachel struggled.
Instead of being happy for her sister, she was resentful of her. She even went so far as to offer up her handmade to her husband in order to bring children to him.
Infertility is hard. There’s no questioning that, but God is in control. If only Rachel had rested in God’s sovereignness and trusted Him with His plan for her life.
Jacob had about enough, too and spend many nights sleeping in the fields with his flocks rather than listening to his complaining and jealous wife.
While Rachel was jealous of her sister’s flourishing womb, Rachel was clearly loved by Jacob more than Leah. Her barrenness made her feel insecure, but from what we read in scripture, Jacob couldn’t have loved her more even if she could bear children.
3. Nagging doesn’t get you anywhere
As mentioned in lesson #2, Jacob was so fed up with Rachel’s complaining that he often resorted to sleeping in the fields. Her nagging didn’t make the situation better. In fact, it made it worse.
Instead of nagging and complaining, think first of how it will affect the recipient. Breathe, pray, give it to God, but don’t nag.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t share things with your spouse. Of course you should. But, if he is not the one to can affect change (and only God can), share your heart then move on. It will be healthier for your relationship in the long run.
4. Love others, even when you don’t feel like it
It wasn’t Leah’s fault that Laban pulled a switcheroo on Jacob and forced him to marry Leah first. But Rachel didn’t like giving up her position as first wife.
Rachel was calling the shots and controlling Jacob’s time. (Remember the mandrake incident?)
She wasn’t very kind to her sister.
Can you think of anyone in your life that you just don’t like? Sadly, I know that I can. But, ya know what? God commands us to love them, anyway. I’m willing to bet that, at times, you can be hard to love, as well. I sure am.
5. Avoid vengeance
It is not for us to take revenge. That is God’s job.
Rachel stole her father’s idols at an act of revenge for what she saw as her father’s mistreatment of Jacob. Had she let God deal with the revenge, it certainly would have prevented Jacob from making that oath and Rachel from lying.
When you experience a wrongdoing against you or a loved one. Give it to God. He will deal with it in His own way and His own time.
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” – Romans 12:19
6. Be satisfied and grateful, not always seeking “more”
When Rachel finally was blessed with a child, instead of being happy and feeling grateful, she was so focused on one-upping her sister that she wanted more. More children. More time of Jacob’s. More money from the bride price.
You may feel like you want or deserve more of something. Why do other people always seem to get this or that?
God has given you exactly what He feels you need. Be grateful for what you have. Thank Him for it. Don’t second guess God and His plans by always seeking more.
Facts About Rachel in the Bible
1. The name Rachel means “ewe”
רָחֵל Rāḥêl, Her father, Laban, was a shepherd and that may be where her name, which translates as “ewe” comes from. Biblical scholars conclude that this name might have been a term of endearment by her father.
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2. Rachel died young, even for biblical times.
She was only thirty-six years’ old when she died during childbirth.
3. She wasn’t buried in the family tomb.
Instead, she was buried in Bethlehem, not in the Cave of the Patriarchs, where the rest of the matriarchs were found their final resting place.
4. She is a national symbol of a praying mother
In the Midrash, Rashi wrote that Rachel cried out from her grave and begged for mercy for her children. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied about Rachel: “A voice is heard on high … Rachel is weeping for her children …” Even after biblical times, “Mother Rachel” continued to be celebrated as a powerful intercessor for the people of Israel.
Recommended Resources About Rachel in the Bible
Rachel (Wives of the Patriarchs) – Jill Eileen Smith
Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Liz Curtis Higgs
Rachel and Leah Bible Study – Nicki Koziarz
What other lessons do you see from the story of Rachel in the Bible? Have you read a good book, fiction or non-fiction about Rachel? Tell me in the comments below.
Because He Lives,