Genesis 30:1–13

30 1Rachel saw that she had not born children to Jacob, and Rachel became jealous of her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children! If not, I’m a dead woman.”
     Jacob’s nostrils flamed at Rachel, and he said, “Am I the God who has denied you fruit of the body?”
     Rachel said, “Here’s my slavegirl, Bilhah. Come into her, so she will give birth upon my knees so that I may be built-up-with-sons through her.” She gave Bilhah to him as a wife, and Jacob came into her. Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Rachel said, “God has done-me-justice, has heard my voice, and given me a son.” So she named him Dan/He-Has-Done-Justice. Rachel’s slavegirl, Bilhah, conceived again and bore a second son to Jacob. Rachel said, “I have grappled with my sister, and now I’ve prevailed.” So she named him Naphtali/My Struggle.
     When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took Zilpah, her slavegirl, and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Zilpah, Leah’s slavegirl, bore a son to Jacob, 11 and Leah said, “Good luck has arrived!” So she named him Gad/Fortune.12 Zilpah, Leah’s slavegirl, bore a second son to Jacob, 13 and Leah said, “What happiness! The girls have called me fortunate.” So she named him Asher/Happiness.

Following the birth of Leah’s four sons, Rachel decides not just to be Jacob’s first-love but to make it only-love by besting Leah in multiplying. Rachel remains barren even as Leah had and then did not have children. After a certain amount of time, Rachel berates Jacob for the lack of her having a child. Whether by G*D’s decree or Jacob’s desire to keep Rachel lovely-to-view, Rachel finally follows Sarah in offering the surrogate of Hagar, her slavegirl. Bilhah bears a son, and Rachel claims him through a naming process—Dan (a verb suggesting a successful outcome of a legal process—a mother, if only in name).

Rachel is on her way to wrest Leah’s birthright from her. Bilhah has another son, Naphtali. The name Rachel gives him echoes back to Jacob’s grabbing Esau’s heel and eventual overthrow of the elder, Esau, and, now, Leah.

With the ground rules in place of a wife of convenience, Zilpah, Leah’s slavegirl, is offered to Jacob. He enters her and Gad exits. Gad is a stroke of good luck—Leah is keeping her lead.

For good measure, Zilpah bears a sixth son for Leah—Asher doubles Leah’s good fortune and keeps her four up on Rachel. Who’s counting? . . . The sisters. Jacob plays the role of a kept man among Amazons.

Without much forethought, Jacob is exceeding Abraham’s and Isaac’s output of the replacement number of two. So far there are four from Leah, two from Bilhah, and two from Zilpah. This is a good place to remember that male lineage raises the question of where additional wives will come from to be able to keep multiplying. How realistic is it to return to the Mesopotamian roots and not become acculturated into CanaanLand. This was a question for Cain, Abel, Seth, Ishmael, and Esau. How will questions of the first-born resolve itself in this new setting? There are already many second sons who might become first.

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