Genesis 30:14-18 records an interesting account of a transaction that takes place between two sisters, Leah and Rachel, who were the two wives of Jacob, the son of Isaac.
Leah’s firstborn son, Reuben, finds mandrakes in the field, during the days of a wheat harvest and brings it to his mother Leah. Rachel, her sister, who was barren, pleads with her sister for the mandrakes, which was believed to be a aphrodisiac with the power to make a barren womb fertile (Song of Solomon 7:13). Mandrakes are Mediterranean plants that have a forked fleshy root which supposedly resembles the human form and was formerly used in folklore medicine and magic as it has stimulating elements and a narcotic smell. Leah responds with some degree of animosity, wherein she questions her sister, asking “Is it a small small that you have taken my husband, Jacob and now want my son’s mandrakes too?” Driven by the desire to bear a child, Rachel does not answer Leah questions, but instead respond by bartering her husband to sleep with Leah that night in exchange for Reuben’s mandrakes. When Jacob returns from the field in the evening, Leah goes out to meet with Jacob and tells him that he must lie with her that night for she had hired him. Jacob obliges.
The Bible then records that God hearkened to Leah and she conceived and bore Jacob her fifth son, whom she named Issachar, meaning “hire”.
While this whole account, out of context may seem preposterous to us in this monogamous day an age, but instead of focusing on its absurdity, let us focus on some hidden truths that surface, with deeper inspection.
First – it is not the mandrakes or for that matter any object that can make anyone fertile, except God himself. Therefore, we must not succumb to superstitions but instead submit to the Sovereign God for being productive.
Second – Jacob, who should have loved both his wives impartially failed in his duty as a Godly husband, for he loved Rachel more than he loved Leah, which was akin to hating Leah (Genesis 29:30-31); but God is impartial and just and he hearkens to Leah’s prayer.
Third – God hearkened to Leah means that Leah was a prayerful women seeking God to be her problem solver, unlike Rachel who resorted to old wives tales, instead of God to help her.
Fourth – The one who gave is the one who receives. Leah gave away her son’s mandrakes to Rachel and it she who is blessed by the Lord with another son.
Points to ponder:
Let us not succumb to old wives tales but instead submit to the Sovereign, Just and Righteous God by praying to him and seeking him to be our problem solver. He is the only One who can remove the barrenness in our lives and make us productive. Let us be willing to give and give up (even that which may seem is beneficial to us), for it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Genesis 30:14-18 (KJV)
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.
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.
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.
17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.
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.