Chapter 30:14-24 (ESV) - 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 son's 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.” When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have hired you with my son's mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. Leah said, “God has given me my wages because I gave my servant to my husband.” So she called his name Issachar.
And Leah conceived again, and she bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she called his name Zebulun. Afterward she bore a daughter and called her name Dinah.
Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” And she called his name Joseph, saying, “May the Lord add to me another son!”
Question to consider: What is the source of strife between the sisters?
There is a lot of speculation on why Rachel would have asked for some of Reuben’s mandrakes. There’s everything from the rarity of them in Paddan-aram to a superstition that mandrakes would increase fertility. It’s possible that Reuben just brought his mother some pretty flowers, and Rachel was desperate enough to become pregnant that she sought a superstitious remedy since her prayers didn’t seem to be working.
It’s obvious that despite the sweet smell of the mandrakes, there was an air of bitterness between the sisters. Leah envied Rachel for being Jacob’s favorite, and Rachel envied Leah for the sons she bore. Even after the sixth son, Leah still hung on to the idea that Jacob may one day love her.
Obviously the mandrakes did not “work” for Rachel because Leah bore two sons and a daughter before she finally conceived. There’s no reason given why God chose this time to give Rachel a child, but we don’t need to know the “why,” just that it was not the mandrakes but God who brought Joseph into the world. Even then, Rachel did not seem to be grateful for God’s goodness but immediately asked for another.
It’s no wonder that there was contention and strife among the children of Jacob. Instead of leading his household in the ways and worship of God, he seemed to spend his days in service to Laban and limited his relationship with his wives to helping them conceive children.
Dear Lord, You are the author of life and the source for our contentment. Please bring us comfort and joy in our relationship with You instead of seeking happiness in the abundance of things or the affirmation of other people. Please inspire the fathers in our land to know You better and lead their families to do the same. Amen.