Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Woman of the bible - Rachel

The first we read of beautiful Rachel came from the mouths of Shepherds. They said of her to Jacob with an exquisite delight, as if to be very proud of her; “and see,  Rachel his (Laban’s) daughter is coming with the sheep.” 

Rachel was a shepherdess. We may ask what distinction is there between a shepherd and a shepherdess? None at all, except one be male and the other female. As a shepherdess, Rachel was open to the dangers of the open field from the wild beasts; and if one of her father’s sheep went missing, she was required as a shepherdess, just as a shepherd, to search for them. 

The Lord Jesus once asked the Pharisees; "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?" Rachel does not stay with the ninety-nine, she goes and finds that one sheep. We can also say of Rachel, although much of it is imagination, but fitting, because her father has trusted her with the care of his sheep, namely that she will tend his flock like a shepherdess; her father was sure that Rachel will gather the lambs in her arms; she will carry them in her bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. In short, she will care exceedingly for them, and in doing her duty, that is leading the sheep to be watered by the well, was when she first met Jacob.

Jacob’s immediate sight of Rachel as she drew near, was one of love at first sight. The feeling I say was mutual, for, after the watering of the sheep, they both embraced in a passionate customary greeting kiss; and following in the manner of Rebekah, Rachel ran home to tell her father.

Rachel was the youngest of two daughters. In contrast to her older sister Leah, she was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob would have Rachel as his wages, not money, nor gold from Laban, but Rachel. O Jacob would have laboured for a thousand years if eternity was the time span - for he loved Rachel. 

Jacob agreed with Leban to have Rachel has his bride, and when the hour came after seven long years which seemed to Jacob but seven minutes, he was cheated. Jacob was denied his true love and had to wait another seven years, which I imagine to be perhaps the reason for the later marital strife which developed between Rachel and Leah.

Rachel was the privileged one in the marriage, for Jacob loved Rachel and poor Leah was hated. Leah was the leper of the marriage, and Rachel having command of Jacob’s heart and affection could let Leah have Jacob at her will. For we read in Genesis that, “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."” Such power did Rachel possess over Jacob’s heart that at her will was Leah only to have Jacob. Did they not possess the same right of Jacob as wives? Absolutely! But this marital affair, since the beginning had Rachel on the upper foot.

The Lord saw that Leah was hated, and therefore opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. The divine favour was withheld from Rachel perhaps as a judgment of her attitude. Rachel grew exceedingly frustrated with her barrenness, and approached Jacob saying, “Give me children or I shall die.” She envied her sister with such intensity that her own barrenness, she loathed and would have death instead of this curse. Jacob’s anger was kindled against her and replied to the vileness of her envy, "Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?" 

Unable to produce a child of her own, Rachel was not to loose the child battle with her sister, so she gave her servant Bilhah to Jacob. Night and day Rachel must have prayed to God asking him to grant her a child, as all people in desperation do; and when finally Bilhah conceived Rachel said, "God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son." And when Bilhah conceived again, Rachel said, "With mighty wrestlings, I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed."

Marital life became a competition; it was a bitter feud, for the marriage has become a stage to outperform the other through child-bearing. Polygamy, as presented in this unintended marriage, is a sad picture to be burned. It is to be thrown to the wild dogs because of the hostility that arose between the two sisters because of it.

Rachel was not to die without having her day for it was now time for God to remember Rachel, for him to allow her a dove of her own. 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!" In obtaining her wish, the greatest joy to her, she suffered her sharpest pang; in pain, she conceived Ben-oni ("son of her sorrow"). What had caused her heart to envy her sister was now the very thing that caused her to die. Poor Rachel died, buried in the neighbourhood of Ramah, lamented by Jacob who set a pillar on her grave.

Rachel’s name and tears in her last sorrowful hours were to be remembered by the weeping Prophet who recorded to us what God had said unto him (Jer 31:15-17) to denote God's people mourning under their calamities.  "A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children because they are no more." This passage is also quoted by Matthew as fulfilled in the lamentation at Bethlehem on account of the slaughter of the infants at the command of Herod (Mat 2:17, Mat 2:18). Rachel’s weeping traveled through time, heard in the town of Bethlehem where the King of glory and the redeemer of Rachel was born.

As Rachel wept for her children, we ought to lament some of Rachel’s trait. She stole her father’s household gods used for divination when it was time to depart to the land of Jacob’s fathers. The idolatrous ways of her country were engraved in her as she was given to the superstition of her country, the worshiping of the teraphim. The deceitfulness evident in Laban was manifested in her as she sought to hide from Laban the truth of her covetousness. She envied her sister; she forgot that they were both daughters of the same Father. But we can say positively of her that she had given up all her idols before the death stroke fell on her, being influenced by Jacob’s monotheistic devotion who once said to his household; "Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone." 

As God was with Jacob, He was with Rachel. Long after her death, her memory still lives on in the hearts of Israel, being privileged along with her sister Leah as the builder of the nation of Israel. And it was through her offspring by which God saved Jacob and his children. It was Joseph’s devotion and obedience to God which elevated him to the right-hand throne of Egypt and spared the family the fatal blow of famine.


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