Genesis Study 12

Bible Class – Study #12 (Gen 29-30) – Notes and Discussion questions

Genesis Study #12: The multiplication of Jacob

Main passage of study:  Gen 29:31 – 30:41

Related passages:  For Pt

A: Ge 11:30, 25:21; Ex 3:7, Dt 21:15-17

B: Ge 16:2; 25:21; 49:16; 1Sa 1:4-8

C: Ge 49:19-20

D: Ge 37:35, 46:7; 49:13-15; So 7:13

E: Ge 35:17-18; 49:22; Lu 1:25

F: Ge 29:30; Ho 12:12

G: 1Sa 26:23

H: Ge 24:35; 26:13-14; 31:8-12

Outline & Notes

  1. Offspring by compensation – Gen 29:31-35
    1. The Lord’s arbitration – Gen 29:31
    2. Leah’s affliction – the birth of Reuben – Gen 29:32
    3. Leah’s appreciation – the birth of Simeon – Gen 29:33
    4. Leah’s aspiration – the birth of Levi – Gen 29:34
    5. Leah’s adoration – the birth of Judah – Gen 29:35
  2. Offspring by desperation – Gen 30:1-8
    1. Rachel’s complaint – Gen 30:1-2
    2. Rachel’s contingency – Gen 30:3-4
    3. Rachel’s consolation – the birth of Dan – Gen 30:5-6
    4. Rachel’s contention – the birth of Naphtali – Gen 30:7-8
  3. Offspring by counteraction – Gen 30:9-13
    1. Leah’s reciprocation – Gen 30:9
    2. Leah’s reaction – the birth of Gad – Gen 30:10-11
    3. Leah’s rejoicing – the birth of Asher – Gen 30:12-13
  4. Offspring by transaction – Gen 30:14-21
    1. Leah’s deal – Gen 30:14-16
    2. Leah’s due – the birth of Issachar – Gen 30:17-18
    3. Leah’s dowry – the birth of Zebulun – Gen 30:19-20
    4. Leah’s daughter – the birth of Dinah – Gen 30:21
  5. Offspring by supplication – Gen 30:22-24
    1. Rachel’s appeal answered – Gen 30:22
    2. Rachel’s reproach removed – Gen 30:23
    3. Rachel’s desire declared – the birth of Joseph – Gen 30:24
  1. Appraisal & appeal – An impassioned defence – Gen 30:25-30
    1. A request for release – Gen 30:25-26
    2. A ready response – Gen 30:27-28
    3. A reasoned requirement – Gen 30:29-30
  2. Proposal & permission – An irresistible deal – Gen 30:31-34
    1. Jacob’s proposed arrangement – Gen 30:31-32
    2. Laban’s presumed advantage – Gen 30:33-34
  3. Strategy & success – An ingenious design – Gen 30:35-43
    1. Laban’s insurance – Gen 30:35-36
    2. Jacob’s ingenuity – Gen 30:37-39
    3. Jacob’s increase – Gen 30:40-43

Jacob fades somewhat into the background in the portion where his wives amid their rivalry and bitterness in childbearing take centre-stage in the narrative.  It reads as somewhat of a sad story – a tale of two women seeking individual fulfilment and purpose in a life they are forced to share.  The ensuing bitter rivalry produces strife, sin and sorrow in the family unit.  Nevertheless, God is still able to dispense His blessings and fulfil His promises to Abraham as the foundation of “a great nation” is laid. The birth of the eleventh son, Joseph, coincides with the end of fourteen long years of servitude.  Jacob desires a discharge from his duties to Laban so that he may return home and settle down with his growing family.  The ever-shrewd Laban, however, would like to continue to take advantage of Jacob’s service.  The negotiations end in an arrangement, proposed by Jacob, which would seem to heavily favour Laban.  Yet Jacob has something that Laban lacks – the promises and the power of God.

Textual notes

  • The names given to Jacob’s sons each have a significance particular to the context of their birth (in particular that of Leah and Rachel). Sadly, some of the names reflect the ongoing rivalry and bitterness between the two wives.
    • Reuben – “See a son”
    • Simeon – sounds like the Hebrew for “heard”
    • Levi – sounds like the Hebrew for “attached/joined”
    • Judah – sounds like the Hebrew for “praise”
    • Dan – “He judged”
    • Naphtali – sounds like the Hebrew for “wrestlings”
    • Gad – “A troop” or “fortune”
    • Asher – sounds like the Hebrew for “happy”
    • Issachar – sounds like the Hebrew for “wages”
    • Zebulun – “dwelling”
    • Joseph – “May he add” and sounds like the Hebrew for “taken away”
  • Dinah comes from the feminine form of the Hebrew word for ‘justice’ so it probably shares the same root word with the name “Dan” – ‘he judged’.
  • Leah was hated(Gen 29:31) probably sounds too harsh in our English translation (KJV/ESV).  A better rendering would be “unloved” or “not preferred”.
  • When Bilhah (Gen 30:4) and Zilpah (Gen 30:9) are given to Jacob as wives, it was as secondary wives or concubines, just as in the case of Hagar being given to Abraham.  This is never sanctioned by God in Scripture but was a common practice in the culture of the day to use female servants as surrogate mothers.
  • Mandrakes (Gen 30:14) were an orange-coloured fruit believed to be an aphrodisiac and whose root could be pinched into the shape of a man.
  • When Laban says in Gen 30:17, “I have learned by experience”, the Hebrew word means ‘divination’ so it is likely that he used some kind of occult practice.

Discussion questions

1. From our passage, it is obvious that there was deep resentment between Leah and Rachel. Bitterness, envy and conflict between believers is one of the devil’s most effective tools.  How can we guard against such interpersonal conflict with other believers?

2. Leah and Rachel often reference the blessing of God in the naming of their children. Do you think this was appropriate, given the circumstances?

3. God’s blueprint for marriage was obviously not followed in Jacob’s household. Aside from the rivalry and bitterness between the wives, what are some other negative consequences of veering from God’s standard?

4. Leah and Rachel seemed to consider the blessing of bearing children as a personal badge of honour to flaunt and a source of pride.  How can we foster a godly attitude towards both our own and others’ fruitfulness for God and blessing by God?

5. The events of this passage obviously took place over several years.  How do we avoid becoming adversely preoccupied with a single issue over an extended period of our lives??

6. We would never have written the story of the founding of God’s earthly people in this way.  What can we learn about God and His ways from the dysfunctional context into which the sons of Jacob were born?

7. Jacob seemed to be pulled back to the land promised to him by God, knowing that that was where he was supposed to be.  How can we live in this world, engaged in necessary secular occupations without losing sight of where we truly belong?

8. Given that the second seven-year arrangement had been fulfilled, why do you think that Jacob didn’t just leave rather than go to Laban for permission?

9. Is Jacob’s proposal and subsequent breeding methods an act of faith or just Jacob “the supplanter” up to his old tricks?

10. What do we learn about the importance of honesty and integrity in business dealings from this episode between Jacob and Laban?

11. It is hard to say just how much Jacob’s methods contributed to his prosperity as the Lord’s hand was surely upon him but he had evidently learned much from his years of experience as a herdsman.  What are some positive spiritual benefits to plying one’s trade well?  What are some potential cautions to heed when it comes to secular career development?

12. Some of the reasoning to Jacob’s methods was attributable to the impression made through the eyes of the animals – see Gen 30:37-42.  What spiritual application can we make to ourselves of this principle?