Please turn to Genesis 30:1-24. From the big picture perspective, this passage continues to record the origin of the twelve tribes of Israel. However, these verses also focus very specifically on the lives of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. Jacob is now in a situation from which he cannot get himself out by manipulation and that is exactly where God wants him. Leah is an unloved wife, and God shows tremendous sensitivity to her. Rachel is frustrated and makes three unbelieving attempts to remedy the situation of her childlessness. When God reaches out to her in grace and mercy, she finally realizes that the Lord is the source of all blessings. This passage can easily be divided into three parts. First, we see the initial exchange between Jacob and Rachel in verses 1-2. Next, we see Rachel's additional attempts to bring some resolution to her own childlessness in verses 3-21. Finally, we see God remembering Rachel and coming to her aid in verses 22-24.  

I. Rachel's plan, sin, and barrenness. 

In Genesis 30:1-2, we learn that Rachel's first plan in response to her jealousy and to her barrenness is her husband. She sees Jacob as the first line of solution to her childlessness. Rachel has gone to Jacob and asked for his help in solving the problem. In fact, she says, “Give me children, or I shall die!” in verse 1. Rachel is the love of Jacob's life, but she is barren. She is also spiritually shallow, probably prideful, and definitely envious. Throughout this passage, the main motive that is expressed in Rachel's desire to have children is not so she can be a wonderful covenant mother. It is not even so that the reproach of childlessness can be rolled away from her. It is because she is envious of her sister. She is in literal competition with her sister. The scenario is not difficult to imagine. Rachel is better looking than her sister, and her husband is in love with her, not her sister. Her husband sought her out and did not intend to marry Leah. Therefore, it is very easy to see how she could be very prideful about this situation and look down upon her sister. Yet, her sister, Leah, is the one who is bearing children for Jacob. Rachel cannot conceive, and the envy is palpable. However, the Lord is getting ready to put her through the test of patience for the good of her soul.

Jacob also desperately needed to be put into a situation that he could not manipulate himself out of, and this was it. Jacob was fathering sons with Leah, but he could not change Rachel's condition. He genuinely loves Rachel, and he desires for Rachel to be able to have children. However, Jacob is not God and he knows it. Jacob has nothing that he can do. In fact, you hear him say, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” in verse 2. Overall, this passage shows us that Leah needed encouragement, and that Rachel needed to learn to run to the Lord. It also shows us that Jacob needed to be cornered by the grace of God. Is it not amazing that God does all of those things simultaneously in this plan? God is sovereign and wise, and He shows it here. 

II. Rachel's additional faithless plans. 

In Genesis 30:3-21, we see Rachel's second and third plans in response to the jealousy that she felt for Leah and her barrenness. Rachel’s second resort is to give her servant to Jacob so that she may give birth on her behalf. Having endured a painful disagreement with Rachel, Jacob, despite the lessons which he should have learned from Abraham and Hagar, enters into an agreement with both Rachel and Leah to take their handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpah, as additional wives in verses 3-13. These decisions clearly broke the creation ordinances which say that the ideal is one man and one woman in one sacred marriage. Even though this was acceptable by social and local conventions, it was not acceptable in the sight of God's creation ordinances. But even Rachel's plan here is stalemated because as her maid conceives two sons, so also Leah's maid conceives two sons. 

In verses 14-21, we see Rachel resort to superstition as a third means of trying to have children. Rachel sees Reuben, one of the sons of Leah, come in from the field with mandrakes. Now mandrakes, in that culture, were thought to be aphrodisiacs, and they were thought to improve fertility. So Rachel goes to Leah and asks for some of the mandrakes. Leah is clearly bitter toward Rachel. Thus, she says, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” in verse 15. However, we also read in verses 15-16 that Leah and Rachel come to an agreement and that Leah hands over the mandrakes. But once again, God shows Rachel that He will not be manipulated and that she has no other recourse but to come to Him. To establish His point, God makes Leah fruitful again, and He leaves Rachel frustrated. 


III. God remembers Rachel. 

In Genesis 30:22-24, we see that God remembers Rachel. The Lord reveals Himself to Rachel as the only One who can roll back her reproach. Finally, the merciful Lord, after contending long with Rachel, opens her womb and gives her a son, Joseph. She waits and waits and God gives her Joseph unasked for and unsolicited. Suddenly, she acknowledges that it is God who has taken away her reproach. For the first time , Rachel says, “the Lord” in verse 24. Rachel’s sister, Leah, had used the covenant name of God over and over. In Genesis 29, Leah used the covenant name of the Lord three times, but you will not find the covenant name of God coming out of Rachel's lips until Genesis 30:24. Suddenly, the glorious nature of the grace of the covenant God is dawning on Rachel's shallow heart. God knows exactly what His people need. Rachel needs to be put in the situation that she cannot fix so that she learns that there is only one place to go for help and aid. Jacob needs to be in a place that he cannot manipulate so that he learns to run to and trust in the covenant God. And Leah, though a frustrated wife and an unloved woman, needs to know that the Lord sees and provides and hears and remembers and is worthy to be praised. God teaches all of those things at the same time to each of these three people because our God is sovereign. We need to learn those lessons too. God should be the only place to which we run. We cannot manipulate God, but we ought to praise Him and realize that He will pursue us as He loves us until we get the message.