Rachel: Wife of Jacob, Sister of Leah

Despite her beauty, Rachel suffers a difficult life of grief and envy.

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Rachel: Wife of Jacob, Sister of Leah

Rachel is the youngest daughter of Laban.  She is first mentioned in Genesis 27 when she meets Jacob as she getting water for Laban's flock of sheep. Jacob was fleeing the wrath of his twin brother, Esau, and looking for a wife. He fell in love with Rachel at first site and worked for Laban for seven years for the right to marry her.

The day after Jacob's wedding he made a disturbing discovery. The heavily-veiled woman he married was not the love of his life, but was actually Laban’s oldest daughter Leah. Laban had tricked him and substituted his older daughter for Rachel.

Upset, Jacob agreed to work for Laban for another seven years for the right to marry Rachel. In the meantime, he and his first wife, Leah had children.

Seven years later, Jacob finally married Rachel. Unfortunately, it seemed the Rachel could not have children.

Both sisters were fraught with jealousy and envy.  Leah was devastated that her husband favored her sister and Rachel was heartbroken that she could not have a child. Out of desperation, Rachel gave Jacob her servant Bilhah as a wife. By ancient custom Bilhah's children would be credited to Rachel. Bilhah bore children to Jacob, causing Leah to give her servant Zilpah to Jacob, who had children with her.

Eventually, Rachel was blessed with a son, Joseph, who became Jacob's favorite child. Rachel then conceived a second son, but tragically, she died giving birth to him. Before her last breath, she named her new son Ben Oni, "son of my mourning" but Jacob named him Benjamin.

The four women bore 12 sons and one daughter, Dinah. Those sons became the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Here is Rachel's life story from the Bible:

• Rachel is the beautiful daughter of Rebekah’s brother, Laban.
He said to them, “Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?” “Yes, we know him,” they answered. Then Jacob asked them, “Is he well?” “Yes, he is,” they said, “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.” “Look,” he said, “the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.” “We can’t,” they replied, “until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.” When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. (Genesis 29:5-10, NIV).

• Rachel married Jacob after he was tricked into marrying her sister Leah.
After working for Laban another seven years, Jacob marries Rachel
Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. Laban also gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid. So  Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years. (Genesis 29:28-30 NIV).

• Rachel was unable to have children and jealous of her sister Leah who had many sons.
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!" (Genesis 30:1, NIV)
Rachel stole her father's household idols. (There is no further explanation given for why this is done.)
When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father's household gods (Genesis 31:19)

• Rachel gives birth to Joseph, Jacob's favorite child.
Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. So she conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” She named him Joseph, saying, “May the LORD give me another son.” (Genesis 30:22-24, NIV)

• Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin
As she breathed her last--for she was dying--she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin. (Genesis 35:18, NIV)

Read 10 Remarkable Women of the Bible.

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