Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Rachel envied her sister--The maternal relation confers a
high degree of honor in the East, and the want of that status is felt
as a stigma and deplored as a grievous calamity.
Give me children, or else I die--either be reckoned as good as
dead, or pine away from vexation. The intense anxiety of Hebrew women
for children arose from the hope of giving birth to the promised seed.
Rachel's conduct was sinful and contrasts unfavorably with that of
and of Hannah
3-9. Bilhah . . . Zilpah--Following the example of
Sarah with regard to Hagar, an example which is not seldom imitated
still, she adopted the children of her maid. Leah took the same course.
A bitter and intense rivalry existed between them, all the more from
their close relationship as sisters; and although they occupied
separate apartments, with their families, as is the uniform custom
where a plurality of wives obtains, and the husband and father spends a
day with each in regular succession, that did not allay their mutual
jealousies. The evil lies in the system, which being a violation of
God's original ordinance, cannot yield happiness.
20. And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry--The
birth of a son is hailed with demonstrations of joy, and the possession
of several sons confers upon the mother an honor and respectability
proportioned to their number. The husband attaches a similar importance
to the possession, and it forms a bond of union which renders it
impossible for him ever to forsake or to be cold to a wife who has
borne him sons. This explains the happy anticipations Leah founded on
the possession of her six sons.
21. afterwards, she bare a daughter--The inferior value set on a
daughter is displayed in the bare announcement of the birth.
25. when Rachel had born Joseph--Shortly after the birth of this
son, Jacob's term of servitude expired, and feeling anxious to
establish an independence for his family, he probably, from knowing
that Esau was out of the way, announced his intention of returning to
In this resolution the faith of Jacob was remarkable, for as yet he had
nothing to rely on but the promise of God (compare
27. Laban said . . . I have learned--His selfish uncle
was averse to a separation, not from warmth of affection either for
Jacob or his daughters, but from the damage his own interests would
sustain. He had found, from long observation, that the blessing of
heaven rested on Jacob, and that his stock had wonderfully increased
under Jacob's management. This was a remarkable testimony that good men
are blessings to the places where they reside. Men of the world are
often blessed with temporal benefits on account of their pious
relatives, though they have not always, like Laban, the wisdom to
discern, or the grace to acknowledge it.
28. appoint me thy wages, and I will give it--The Eastern
shepherds receive for their hire not money, but a certain amount of the
increase or produce of the flock; but Laban would at the time have done
anything to secure the continued services of his nephew, and make a
show of liberality, which Jacob well knew was constrained.
31. Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing--A new
agreement was made, the substance of which was, that he was to receive
remuneration in the usual way, but on certain conditions which Jacob
32. I will pass through all thy flock to-day--Eastern sheep
being generally white, the goats black, and spotted or speckled ones
comparatively few and rare, Jacob proposed to remove all existing ones
of that description from the flock, and to be content with what might
appear at the next lambing time. The proposal seemed so much in
favor of Laban, that he at once agreed to it. But Jacob has been
accused of taking advantage of his uncle, and though it is difficult to
exculpate him from practising some degree of dissimulation, he was only
availing himself of the results of his great skill and experience in
the breeding of cattle. But it is evident from the next chapter
that there was something miraculous and that the means he had employed
had been suggested by a divine intimation.
37. Jacob took rods, &c.--There are many varieties of the hazel,
some of which are more erect than the common hazel, and it was probably
one of these varieties Jacob employed. The styles are of a bright red
color, when peeled; and along with them he took wands of other shrubs,
which, when stripped of the bark, had white streaks. These, kept
constantly before the eyes of the female at the time of gestation, his
observation had taught him would have an influence, through the
imagination, on the future offspring.
38. watering troughs--usually a long stone block hollowed out,
from which several sheep could drink at once, but sometimes so small as
to admit of only one drinking at a time.