Genesis 30:14–24

30 14 Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field and brought them to Leah, his mother. Rachel said to Leah, “Pray, give me your son’s mandrakes.”
     15 Leah replied, “Is it not enough that you’ve taken my husband? Now you would take the mandrakes of my son?”
     Rachel said, “Jacob may sleep with you tonight in exchange for the mandrakes of your son.”
     16 When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come into me because I’ve hired you with the mandrakes of my son.” So he lay with her that night.
     17 God heard Leah. She conceived and bore a fifth son to Jacob. 18 Leah said, “God has given me my wages for giving my slavegirl to my husband.” So she named him Issachar/There-Is-Hire. 19 Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob, 20 and she said, “God has presented me a wonderful gift. Now my husband will prize me for having borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun/Prince. 21 Afterward, she gave birth to a daughter and called her name Dinah.
     22 God remembered Rachel, heard her, and opened her womb. 23 She conceived and bore a son and said, “God has taken away my shame.” 24 She named him Joseph, meaning, May the Lord give me another son.

Reuben gathers mandrake (an aphrodisiac and fertility herb) and takes them to his mother rather than using them for his own purposes. Without a time frame, we don’t know if he is innocently bringing in a random plant that turns out to be a mandrake or if he has noticed the competition for conceiving between the sisters, Leah and Rachel, that has also engaged the slavegirls and is consciously advantaging his mother.

This gift from Reuben does not go unnoticed in the household. Rachel still desires to give birth herself—she is two behind in the competition with Leah—and wants the fertility benefit of the mandrake.

A bargain is struck. Rachel, the favored, sells her privileged position of Jacob’s favorite. Leah gets the aphrodisiac; Leah gets the fertility; Jacob continues to come into a woman. The aphrodisiac leads to conception by Leah; the fertility drug failed Rachel. Sex was just sex.

Leah births two more sons, bringing the total to six, and the seventh child is a daughter, Dinah. Dinah receives no naming speech. She is a female in a patriarchal culture and will not have a tribe named after her.

Dinah’s position in the usually-lucky seventh position, will not pan out.

At long last G*D remembers Rachel and hears her demand of Jacob for sons. On one hand, the opening of her womb and the birth of a son is seen as a vindication. Her shame of barrenness is broken. On the other hand, her naming of Joseph saddles him with being simply being a conduit for others. His value is not in himself even though he is set aside as special. His value is not in himself.

The firstborn of Jacob’s favorite wife will have dreams of leadership, but ultimately there will be no tribe of Joseph, and the focus will be on other brothers—in particular, Leah’s sons, Judah and Levi.

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