Design By Humans

Genesis 30. Ridiculous Reproduction

Genesis 30.

1 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.

    So Rachel is jealous of Leah having children when she does not. I knew this whole two wives thing would be troublesome. I'm a little concerned by the "or else I die" statement. I'm hoping that it's just hyperbole intended to demonstrate the gravity of the situation and not a threat of suicide.

2 And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

    Jacob is a little quick to anger. It doesn't appear from the verse above that Rachel is in any way blaming Jacob for her childlessness but Jacob takes the whole thing as an affront to his manhood. For some reason having assumed that the blame is being placed on him, he instead passes the blame off to God. In the last chapter, the ability to bare children was needlessly and without reason assumed to be God's to give or take away. Now in this chapter it seems that a bad assumption has been cemented into a false certainty, a certainty that Jacob is now using to defend himself against accusations of inadequacy that haven't actually been issued but rather he has imagined for himself.

3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.

    So Rachel, out of desperation and in a move that echoes the desperate actions of Jacob's paternal grandmother (who incidentally is also Rachel's great-aunt), decides that since she has not been able to become pregnant, that she'll give Bilhah, her maid-servant (indentured? Owned?) to Jacob in order that he can make her pregnant. Now I've said this while commenting on Genesis 16 but I still can't see how a maid-servant who was gifted from one person to another, which implies ownership, can possible give consent to the sexual act required to produce a pregnancy. There was no way that Bilhah, like Hagar before her could possible say no to this offering made by Rachel to Jacob.

4 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.

    By any reasonable measure, Jacob has raped Bilhah.

5 And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son.

    Which has produced a son...

6 And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.

    ...which Rachel claims as her own and names him Dan. I suppose this is better than when Sarah became jealous of Hagar and had her kicked out, but not much. What of Bilhah? Has she no entitlement to her son?

7 And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.

    Jacob must be enjoying Bilhah, has she consented to this? Is she in her position as property even capable of reliably consenting?

8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.

    OK. So what we have here is a terrible case of sibling rivalry. Rachel has set her self up in competition with her sister Leah to provide the most offspring for Jacob, so for fun, let's keep score.

Rachel: 2 - Leah: 4.

9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.

    Leah has accepted the challenge so she also, in complete disregard for the humanity of her 'property', gives her maid-servant Zilpah to Jacob to rape in order to conceive.

10 And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son.
   
    Success! this new rape produces a son.

Rachel: 2 - Leah: 5.

11 And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.

    Claiming the rape-victim's child for herself, with no concern for the mother's feelings, Leah names the boy Gad.

12 And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son.

    Jacob seems to be enjoying the carnal fruit of his wives' competition and impregnates Zilpah a second time.

Rachel: 2 - Leah: 6.

13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.

    Leah calls the new baby Asher. Come on Rachel, You're lagging a fair bit.

14 And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes.

    Well, families share things right? If Reuben has found some mandrakes, it seems reasonable that he might share them with his aunt/step-mother.

15 And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son's mandrakes.

    Leah doesn't think sharing is fair, no, she rather thinks this is an opportunity to leverage an advantage in the baby-making race. Rachel agrees to have Jacob sleep with Leah that night. Does Rachel have this kind of control over Jacob?   

16 And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son's mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.

    I'm not certain that I like the idea of bartering produce for sexual congress, but that is what Leah has done and Jacob plays along.

17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.

    Leah conceives and bares her fifth son for Jacob, with the two her servant bore him she secures her lead.

Rachel: 2 - Leah: 7

18 And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.

    I'm not even certain that her reasoning makes any sense here. Does she believe that God has rewarded her for forcing her maid-servant to hump her husband?

19 And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son.

    Surely not from the same night's passion? That's some durable sperms Jacob has. Anyway...

Rachel: 2 - Leah 8

20 And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.

    Right you are... I think.

21 And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.

    Does that count to the score? I'm guessing not as to Jacob a daughter is only worth what he can sell her for.

22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.

    Is 'God did x' just a euphemism for 'x unexpectedly happened'? Why the attribution to God? He hasn't turned up in person for two generations. Is he still about?

23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach:

Rachel: 3 - Leah: 8

24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.

    She's confident.

25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country.

    OK, Jacob's familly has grown such that he needs a country to expand into.

26 Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee.

    Is he still bonded to Laban?

27 And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake.

    Hmm, Laban has learned by experience that the LORD has blessed him? What experience? Is he certain that his experiences have anything to do with the LORD? Has he any evidence that it is Jacob's presence that has influenced his fortune?

28 And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.

    Laban offers to finally start paying Jacob for his work.

29 And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me.

    I think Jacob is going to make a shrewd play for Laban's cattle.

30 For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and the LORD hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?

    Why is he invoking the LORD in the multiplication of the herd? Biological procreation and adequate food is responsible, little else. No LORD is required.

31 And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock:

    Alright, I have the feeling that "Thou shalt not give me any thing" will result in Laban giving Jacob a fair amount.

32 I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.

    This is fairly complicated language but it looks like Jacob shall take all of the speckled and spotted cattle, all of the brown sheep and all of the speckled goats. Now I'm no stranger to livestock and if the appearance of livestock then is anything like it is now then he's going to take the majority of Laban's herds in return for feeding the rest.

33 So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me.

    He further offers that any livestock that doesn't fit that description, if found among the livestock he takes should be considered as stolen from Laban. I'd say this seems fair.

34 And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.
    Laban agrees. One would hope that he has gone out and surveyed the herds so that he has some idea of the number of animals he is giving to Jacob. Not a very shrewd man.

35 And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons.

    Jacob, not wanting to actually herd the animals anymore hands over the acquired livestock to his sons. What good are sons if they can't tend your herds for you.

36 And he set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks.

    As agreed.

37 And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.

    Oh No! Is Jacob about to deceive Laban by marking the livestock that didn't match his description so that they do? What will he do now?

38 And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.

    What strange biology is this? This one line description hidden away at the bottom of a chapter largely concerned with human breeding, seems to describe the most odd description of how livestock come to conceive. So let me get this straight. Jacob takes some rods of wood and marks some animals that were otherwise unmarked, he then takes the rods he made the marks with and puts them in the drinking water of the animals that he has marked and, now here comes the interesting bit, the animals become pregnant by drinking the water. This isn't reported as an assumption that Jacob has made but as an event that happened. Can we really be expected to believe that this is a likely sequence of events?

39 And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.

    It gets more interesting. Not only have these animals become pregnant by drinking water with sticks in but their offspring have inherited the marks made by the rods on their parents. I am not a geneticist, or an evolutionary biologist but as far as I know being marked by sticks does not alter the genetic material that is passed on to offspring. This not only looks as though this book is glorifying yet another con perpetrated by the tribe of Abraham but in this case the story teller has invented bizarre and impossible biology to carry the narrative. Is it that important that Jacob is shown to be a shrewd and cunning cheat that the circumstances of his blessed hood-winkery have to be fabricated?

40 And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban's cattle.
    The mechanism of the theft continues, he separates his manufactured speckled and striped animals from Laban's herd to keep for himself.

41 And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.
    He's doing it again. Why are we expected to believe this ridiculous rod trick?

42 But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.

    Jacob's cunning increases. He deliberately only makes marked animals from the strongest of Laban's flock so that he gets strong animals and Laban's herd ends up being the weak remainder. What a nice honest man Jacob is.

43 And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.

    I'm not surprised. When Jacob first set out and didn't find a king to swindle, I initially thought that he didn't have the same flair for dishonesty and trickery as his father and grandfather, however it seems that after fourteen years of work he really comes into his own taking the family con-man business to new heights by swindling his uncle. This is not just any swindle, no ordinary trickery, the real skill of Jacob seems to be that in order to pull off this con he's perverted the course of natural procreation with magic impregnation water and somehow managed to manipulate genetic inheritance by marking animals with wooden sticks.

So what have we learned?

Well far more than I was expecting...

  • Jacob, Like his grandfather is not above the raping of his wives' slaves. Unlike his grandfather though, he doesn't even have the excuse that he didn't yet have any male heirs.
  • To excuse your own inadequacies it is perfectly fine to blame God! He's completely behind any attempt to lie your way out of a situation.
  • Competing with your sister for your husbands love seems to be a legitimate reason to hand over your slave to be raped and impregnated.
  • A few plants can buy you a night of passion
  • stealing your slave's children for your own is fine.
  • Again we see that lying, cheating and general being an unpleasant swindle-merchant are qualities to be praised and aspired to. If you want to become rich, cheat!
  • Cows, Sheep and goats can all become pregnant by drinking water and if the animals have been marked by sticks and then those same sticks are put into the drinking water the results of the pregnancy will be animals with marks that reflect the ones made upon their asexually reproducing parent with the sticks.

Questions.

  • Why is this book telling us the story of a tribe of despicable, lying, raping, cheating, thieves as though they were virtuous.
  • Are we expected to believe any of it?
  • Can this story be any more fanciful?

Let's find out in Genesis 31.

1 comment:

  1. Jacob was 91 when he had Joesph.
    Age of Jacob at death 147
    Years in Egypt 17
    Start of famine 2 years prior
    7 years of plenty
    Age of Joesph at start of years of plenty 30
    147-17-2-7-30=91

    ReplyDelete

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