God is acutely aware of Jacob’s preference for Rachel over Leah, and thus grants Leah children first. With the birth and naming of each child, Leah’s hope for her husband’s affection is evident. Reuben, meaning “See — a son!”, Simeon, meaning “God has heard”, and Levi, meaning “accompany”, are each named out of Leah’s hope that this will be the son who draws her into her husband’s good graces. When Judah, meaning “thanks”, is born, Leah is grateful that Jacob finally cares for her, if still less than for her sister.
Rachel realizes that if she has not yet gotten pregnant, she may be infertile, and she urges Jacob to consort with her maidservant, Bilhah, that she may serve as Rachel’s surrogate. Bilhah bears Jacob two more sons in Rachel’s name, Dan and Naphtali. Inspired by Rachel, Leah also gives Jacob her maidservant, Zilpah, as a surrogate, and she bears him Gad and Asher.
Desperate, Rachel prevails upon her sister to share the dudaim, or mandrakes, that her young son, Reuben, had collected. The plant was known to have fertility-enhancing qualities. In exchange, Rachel offers, Leah could enjoy Jacob’s company that night, out of turn. Leah agrees, and conceives another son, Issachar. She later gives birth to a sixth son, Zebulun, and a daughter, Dinah.
Finally, Rachel, too, conceives, and bears Joseph. In naming him thus, meaning “add”, Rachel prays that he should be the first, but not the last, child she bears.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think Jacob agrees to all the manipulation between his wives?