| Back to Home Page | Back to Book Index |


Genesis Chapter Thirty


I. Content of the Chapter


Jacob’s Multiplication of Descendants and Prosperity

A.  Rachel and Leah strived for favor for the purpose of bearing sons (v.1-24);

B.  Jacob negotiated with Laban for new wages after the fulfillment of the fourteen-year labor (v.25-36);

C.  Jacob earned wages by tricks (v.37-43);


II. Verse by Verse Commentary


Gen. 30:1Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!”

YLT: “And Rachel seeth that she hath not borne to Jacob, and Rachel is envious of her sister, and saith unto Jacob, `Give me sons, and if there is none -- I die.'”

Literal Meaning: “envied”, according to the original Hebrew, it means “coming to the extreme of man’s patience”.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Envy is the most dangerous poison that destroys interpersonal relationship, which is out of selfish motivation ---- whatever one owns not, let nobody own it.

  2) We like to pray for this or that, but do not know what we have prayed for (see Matt. 10:38).

  3) Rachel died afterwards because of bearing a child as she had said (see 35:16-19). Believers shall not speak whatever we please, for every word will influence God’s evaluation of us (see Matt. 12:36).

  4) God is the origin of life, and life is in God’s hand. However, many silly Christians imagine wrongly that the increase of their life is due to the spiritual giants, so they exalt those whom they rely upon and respect too much.

  5) Man is merely the instrument through which God blesses. If our eyes are fixed upon the instrument of blessings and yet ignore the origin of blessings ---- God himself, we have greatly sinned against God.

  6) Believers shall desire to bear spiritual offspring and bring many to be saved. However, we have to do it with a pure motivation instead of contending with others.


Gen. 30:2And Jacob’s anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”

YLT: “And Jacob's anger burneth against Rachel, and he saith, `Am I in stead of God who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?'”

Literal Meaning: Jacob always seized blessings by his own strength. However, now he had to confess that the blessing of bearing children was from God.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Life is the reward of God, not man’s labor (see 29:31).

  2) Nobody in the world can replace God to be our lord. However, in the mind of many believers, there are many gods and lords (1Cor. 8:5).

  3) Whoever desires to replace the will of God with man’s will, he has offended against God and played the roll of “God” in the church.

  4) Believers shall try our best to preach the gospel and bear sons of gospel. And we shall also recognize that it is God that makes one fruitful (saved) or unfruitful (unsaved). Therefore, we have to look unto Him solely.


Gen. 30:3So she said, “Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, and she will bear a child on my knees, that I also may have children by her.”

YLT: “And she saith, `Lo, my handmaid Bilhah, go in unto her, and she doth bear on my knees, and I am built up, even I, from her;'”

Literal Meaning: Rachel saw she had not borne Jacob any child, so she imitated Sarah (see 16:2) and gave her maid Bilhah to Jacob as a wife.

  And she will bear a child on my knees”, it stemmed from a custom at that time that a mother put the new born baby on his or her father’s knees to show that the baby was the legal offspring. “On my knees”, it means regarding the baby as her own.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) If the church uses various “human ways” to preach the gospel instead of relying upon “God’s great power”, there will be men born of man’s will, not of God (John 1:13).

  2) “I also may have children by her”, it is “I will be built up by her” in the original Hebrew. The “building” of the church is the matter of life (bearing children). The church shall be built only in the cultivation of love (see Eph. 4:16).

  3) According to human sense, one may have a closer relation related by blood with the baby of her sister than that of her maid. However, Rachel would rather choose her maid’s baby, which indicated that power and pride made man lose sense.


Gen. 30:4Then she gave him Bilhah her maid as wife, and Jacob went in to her.

YLT: “and she giveth to him Bilhah her maid-servant for a wife, and Jacob goeth in unto her;”

The Background: the custom in the ancient Middle East was silimilar that in the ancient China. If the master’s wife was barren, the master could take her maid as the wife to have a son to carry on the family name.


Gen. 30:5And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son.

YLT: “and Bilhah conceiveth, and beareth to Jacob a son,”

Literal Meaning: note that the fifth to eighth son of Jacob were born from his wives’ maids Bilhah and Zilpah (see v.5-12).


Gen. 30:6Then Rachel said, “God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan.

YLT: “and Rachel saith, `God hath decided for me, and also hath hearkened to my voice, and giveth to me a son;' therefore hath she called his name Dan.”

Meaning of Words: “Dan”: judge, juitice;

Literal Meaning: Rachel gave the son of Bilhah a name, which showed that she regarded the baby as hers.


Gen. 30:7And Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son.

YLT: “And Bilhah, Rachel's maid-servant, conceiveth again, and beareth a second son to Jacob,”

Literal Meaning: this was the sixth son of Jacob.


Gen. 30:8Then Rachel said, “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.

YLT: “and Rachel saith, `With wrestlings of God I have wrestled with my sister, yea, I have prevailed;' and she calleth his name Napthali.”

Meaning of Words: have wrestled”: wrestle of God; “Naphtali”: my wrestling;

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) We do not preach the gospel to wrestle with others and prevail them (see Phil. 1:15), but to share with others the joy in our life.

  2) Christians shall be against one’s own flesh rather than others (especially brothers).


Gen. 30:9When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took Zilpah her maid and gave her to Jacob as wife.

YLT: “And Leah seeth that she hath ceased from bearing, and she taketh Zilpah her maid-servant, and giveth her to Jacob for a wife;”


Gen. 30:10And Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son.

YLT: “and Zilpah, Leah's maid-servant, beareth to Jacob a son,”

Literal Meaning: this was the seventh son of Jacob.


Gen. 30:11Then Leah said, “A troop comes!”[c] So she called his name Gad.

YLT: “and Leah saith, `A troop is coming;' and she calleth his name Gad.”

Meaning of Words: Gad”: fortune, troop;


Gen. 30:12And Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son.

YLT: “And Zilpah, Leah's maid-servant, beareth a second son to Jacob,”

Literal Meaning: this was the eighth son of Jacob.


Gen. 30:13Then Leah said, “I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed.” So she called his name Asher.

YLT: “and Leah saith, `Because of my happiness, for daughters have pronounced me happy;' and she calleth his name Asher.”

Meaning of Words: “Asher”: blessed, joyful;


Gen. 30:14Now Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”

YLT: “And Reuben goeth in the days of wheat-harvest, and findeth love-apples in the field, and bringeth them in unto Leah, his mother, and Rachel saith unto Leah, `Give to me, I pray thee, of the love-apples of thy son.'”

The Background: mandrakes”, this was a kind of plant grown in Palestine (see Song 7:13), whose rootstock was similar to the lower part of man’s body in shape. It was superstitiously believed among the local residents that the fruit of such plant was a good aphrodisiac and made woman easy to get pregnant. Therefore, it was also called the “fruit of love”.


Gen. 30:15But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” And Rachel said, “Therefore he will lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.”

YLT: “And she saith to her, `Is thy taking my husband a little thing, that thou hast taken also the love-apples of my son?' and Rachel saith, `Therefore doth he lie with thee to-night, for thy son's love-apples.'”

Literal Meaning: Rachel believed that those mandrakes could help her to bear children, so she would rather give up the chance of lying with her husband to get those mandrakes. However, as a result, those mandrakes did not help her to get pregnant but made Leah get one more child (see v.17).


Gen. 30:16When Jacob came out of the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” And he lay with her that night.

YLT: “And Jacob cometh in from the field at evening; and Leah goeth to meet him, and saith, `Unto me dost thou come in, for hiring I have hired thee with my son's love-apples;' and he lieth with her during that night.”

Literal Meaning: for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes”, Leah paid the price of mandrakes to earn the right of lying with Jacob from Rachel.


Gen. 30:17And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.

YLT: “And God hearkeneth unto Leah, and she conceiveth, and beareth to Jacob a son, a fifth,”

Literal Meaning: “and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son”, “fifth”: Jacob’s fifth son begotten from Leah. Actually, it was the ninth son of Jacob.


Gen. 30:18Leah said, “God has given me my wages, because I have given my maid to my husband.” So she called his name Issachar.

YLT: “and Leah saith, `God hath given my hire, because I have given my maid-servant to my husband;' and she calleth his name Issachar.”

Meaning of Words: Issachar”: value, wage, reward;

Literal Meaning: So she called his name Issachar”, “Issachar” and “hire” are homonymous in the original Hebrew. This name suggested that: 1) this child was a wage exchanged by mandrakes; 2) this deal was worthy;

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) What is obtained from God is truly valuable.

  2) He who shall give birth to a spiritual child (bear the fruit of the gospel) has to pay the price. And the most valuable price is to pray before God.


Gen. 30:19Then Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son.

YLT: “And conceive again doth Leah, and she beareth a sixth son to Jacob,”

Literal Meaning: this was the tenth son of Jacob.


Gen. 30:20And Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she called his name Zebulun.

YLT: “and Leah saith, `God hath endowed me -- a good dowry; this time doth my husband dwell with me, for I have borne to him six sons;' and she calleth his name Zebulun;”

Meaning of Words: Zebulun”: dwelling, respect;

Literal Meaning: so she called his name Zebulun”, “Zebulun” and “endow with a good endowment” are homonymous in the original Hebrew.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) The fruit of the womb is a reward (Ps. 127:3).

  2) It is the abundant endowment of God as well as the fruit of being with the Lord that believers are enabled to yield spiritual offspring, for we can do nothing without Him (John 15:5).


Gen. 30:21Afterward she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah.

YLT: “and afterwards hath she born a daughter, and calleth her name Dinah.”

Meaning of Words: Dinah”: judge, revenge;

Literal Meaning: and called her name Dinah”, “Dinah” and “Dan” are of the same etymon (v.6). Jacob might have more than one “daughter” (see 37:35; 46:7 both are in the plural in the original Hebrew). However, only “Dinah” was mentioned here, for she was related to chapter thirty-four.


Gen. 30:22Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.

YLT: “And God remembereth Rachel, and God hearkeneth unto her, and openeth her womb,”

Meaning of Words: “remember”: remind;

Literal Meaning: “listen to her”, it suggested that Rachel finally gave up her own way and turned to pray to God.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) God remembered Rachel, and she obtained what she had not got by mandrakes by prayer. God keeps those who are truly of Him in mind and are ready to hear their prayer.

  2) With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26). Only when man prays to God by faith, will God answer Him to do anything only He can do.


Gen. 30:23And she conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach.”

YLT: “and she conceiveth and beareth a son, and saith, `God hath gathered up my reproach;'”

The Background: it was believed in the areas of the ancient Middle East that barrenness of a woman after marriage was a proof of her not pleasing God, so it was often regarded as a great reproach (see Luke 1:25).

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Barrenness is the greatest reproach of a man. If a believer has never brought men to the Lord, let him be ashamed of it.

  2) Only God can remove our reproach, so let us rely upon God with our whole heart.


Gen. 30:24So she called his name Joseph,[h] and said, “The Lord shall add to me another son.”

YLT: “and she calleth his name Joseph, saying, `Jehovah is adding to me another son.'”

Meaning of Words: Joseph”: increase, remove;

Enlightenment in the Word: let us never satisfy with the present condition but pray to God to add to us daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47).


Gen. 30:25And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country.

YLT: “And it cometh to pass, when Rachel hath borne Joseph, that Jacob saith unto Laban, `Send me away, and I go unto my place, and to my land;”

Literal Meaning: my own place and to my country”, it was the land of Canaan. Note that Jacob did not take Haran as his own place or country any more like Abraham (see 24:4).


Gen. 30:26Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.”

YLT: “give up my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and I go; for thou -- thou hast known my service which I have served thee.'”

The Background: according to the ancient custom in the Middle East, whoever was willing to be the bondman of the master, his wife and children would also belong to the master (see Ex. 21:4-6).

Literal Meaning: at this time, Jacob had no property or flocks. Concerning his wives and sons and daughters, if Laban did not consent to let him take them, they might be taken back, so Jacob had to bend his head to petition Laban.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Let believers not enjoy Christ himself only, but bring the whole family ---- the wives and sons and daughters ---- to the land of Canaan (Christ) to partake of Christ.

  2) We shall not serve the Lord ourselves only, but bring the whole family to serve the Lord.


Gen. 30:27And Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the Lord has blessed me for your sake.”

YLT: “And Laban saith unto him, `If, I pray thee, I have found grace in thine eyes -- I have observed diligently that Jehovah doth bless me for thy sake.'”

Literal Meaning: Laban did not want Jacob to depart, for he was afraid that God would not bless him as long as Jacob departed. Though Laban here confessed Jehovah was the God of Jacob, he did not escape from idolatry (see 31:19, 32).

  I have learned”, it means that he “knew by divination” in the original Hebrew.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) The days of Jacob’s being chastened were not fulfilled, so he had still to submit under the hands of Laban and could not leave earlier. The discipline of God will not cease until the purpose is fulfilled.

  2) No experience of any Christian is accidental. All experiences of Christians are arranged by the Holy Spirit for our edification.

  3) Laban was willing to let Jacob go, for he loved riches more than his own daughters and grandchildren. Money often destroys the kindred.

  4) Sometimes one expects to be with another for the purpose of taking advantage of him rather than love him.

  5) Though Leah and Rachel and Laban kept on saying “the Lord this or the Lord that”, they were not really so spiritual and they merely desired to seek their own profit by using God.

  6) One may confess God’s name and works by mouth, but he does not truly love Him or respect Him.

  7) Let us not despise ourselves, for we may bring blessings to others when we live in the world. God often blesses those who are around us for the sake of us Christians.


Gen. 30:28Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.

YLT: “He saith also, `Define thy hire to me, and I give.'”

Literal Meaning: Laban wanted to continue to earn gains by taking advantage of Jacob.


Gen. 30:29So Jacob said to him, “You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me.

YLT: “And he saith unto him, `Thou -- thou hast known that which I have served thee , and that which thy substance was with me;”


Gen. 30:30For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the Lord has blessed you since my coming. And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?”

YLT: “for little which thou hast had at my appearance, and it breaketh forth into a multitude, and Jehovah blesseth thee at my coming; and now, when do I make, I also, for mine own house?'”

Literal Meaning: Jacob confessed that he was the channel of God’s blessings.


Gen. 30:31So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks:

YLT: “And he saith, `What do I give to thee?' And Jacob saith, `Thou dost not give me anything; if thou do for me this thing, I turn back; I have delight; thy flock I watch;”


Gen. 30:32Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages.

YLT: “I pass through all thy flock to-day to turn aside from thence every sheep speckled and spotted, and every brown sheep among the lambs, and speckled and spotted among the goats -- and it hath been my hire;”

The Background: the lambs in the Middle East were generally pure white and goats were pure black or brown. There were just a few brown lambs and spotted and speckled goats.

Literal Meaning: Jacob meant he firstly picked the brown lambs and spotted and speckled goats out and put them in another place so that they would not be mixed with the rest. Then if there were brown lambs and spotted and speckled goats borne out of the rest flock, namely, the white lambs and brown goats, they would be his price. Such probability was low on the basis of normal inference.


Gen. 30:33So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me.”

YLT: “and my righteousness hath answered for me in the day to come, when it cometh in for my hire before thy face; -- every one which is not speckled and spotted among goats, and brown among lambs -- it is stolen with me.'”

Literal Meaning: Jacob meant that when he was leaving then, if there were white lambs and brown goats in his own flock, they would be accounted to be stolen from Laban. Therefore, whether he was righteous would be immediately discerned.


Gen. 30:34And Laban said, “Oh, that it were according to your word!”

YLT: “And Laban saith, `Lo, O that it were according to thy word;'”

Literal Meaning: the cunning Laban thought it was profitable, so he was pleased to accept Jacob’s suggestions.

Enlightenment in the Word: Laban was happy at this time, but finally he found he was happy in vain (see v.42). Whoever does not look upon others will reap bitter fruits.


Gen. 30:35So he removed that day the male goats that were speckled and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had some white in it, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and gave them into the hand of his sons.

YLT: “and he turneth aside during that day the ring-straked and the spotted he-goats, and all the speckled and the spotted she-goats, every one that white in it, and every brown one among the lambs, and he giveth into the hand of his sons,”

Literal Meaning: gave them into the hand of his sons”, “his sons”: Laban’s sons, not Jacob’s sons; it showed that Laban did not trust in Jacob and was afraid that Jacob deceived him secretly by a trick to make the spotted and speckled goats and brown lambs mate with the white lambs and brown goats.

  “That day”, it indicated that Laban removed the chance of deliberate mating immediately.


Gen. 30:36Then he put three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.

YLT: “and setteth a journey of three days between himself and Jacob; and Jacob is feeding the rest of the flock of Laban.”

Literal Meaning: Laban made the two sorts of flocks separated to avoid the new-born spotted goats and brown lambs because of mating.

  The rest of Laban’s flocks”: those white lambs and brown goats.


Gen. 30:37Now Jacob took for himself rods of green poplar and of the almond and chestnut trees, peeled white strips in them, and exposed the white which was in the rods.

YLT: “And Jacob taketh to himself a rod of fresh poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut, and doth peel in them white peelings, making bare the white that on the rods,”

Literal Meaning: the color of all the bark of poplar and almond and chestnut trees is deep and yet the inside is white.

Peeled white strips in them”, it meant peeling a part of the bark away and letting the white strips manifest.

“Poplar” and “Laban” are homonymous in the original Hebrew. Jacob intended to use the white stripes of the poplar to gain profit from Laban (whose meaning is “white” in the original Hebrew).


Gen. 30:38And the rods which he had peeled, he set before the flocks in the gutters, in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, so that they should conceive when they came to drink.

YLT: “and setteth up the rods which he hath peeled in the gutters in the watering troughs (when the flock cometh in to drink), over-against the flock, that they may conceive in their coming in to drink;”

Literal Meaning: the sheep did not mate when they ate grass. But they did in the place where they drank water. Therefore, Jacob set the rods which he had peeled with the manifest white stripes in the gutters.


Gen. 30:39So the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted.

YLT: “and the flocks conceive at the rods, and the flock beareth ring-straked, speckled, and spotted ones.”

The Background: people in the ancient times believed that the situation of the new-born lambs was decided by the environment in which the flocks mated. However it was of no scientific ground.

Literal Meaning: such result was due to the great power of God, for He fulfilled according to what Jacob expected (see 31:9).


Gen. 30:40Then Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the streaked and all the brown in the flock of Laban; but he put his own flocks by themselves and did not put them with Laban’s flock.

YLT: “And the lambs hath Jacob parted, and he putteth the face of the flock towards the ring-straked, also all the brown in the flock of Laban, and he setteth his own droves by themselves, and hath not set them near Laban's flock.”

Literal Meaning: it means that when the spotted and brown lambs were born, Jacob instantly separated them from their mother lambs. And when the new-born lambs grew up, he made them mate with the flocks without spots or speckles so that they would give birth to flocks with spots and speckles. Thus, Jacob built his own flocks and did not make them with that of Laban.


Gen. 30:41And it came to pass, whenever the stronger livestock conceived, that Jacob placed the rods before the eyes of the livestock in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.

YLT: “And it hath come to pass whenever the strong ones of the flock conceive, that Jacob set the rods before the eyes of the flock in the gutters, to cause them to conceive by the rods,”

Literal Meaning: it conforms to eugenics that the stronger ones give birth to strong offspring.


Gen. 30:42But when the flocks were feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s.

YLT: “and when the flock is feeble, he doth not set ; and the feeble ones have been Laban's, and the strong ones Jacob's.”


Gen. 30:43Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

YLT: “And the man increaseth very exceedingly, and hath many flocks, and maid-servants, and men-servants, and camels, and asses.”

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Though Laban was cunning, it turned out to be that he “schemed in vain” and did not make himself rich but made Jacob prosperous.

  2) The prosperity of Jacob was apparently out of his own cleverness and tact, but was actually out of the gracious gift of God.


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


Principalities of Multiplying Life

A.  To see one’s own powerlessness (v.1);

B.  To know that only God can make one conceived (v.2);

C.  To desire to have part in giving birth to life (v.3);

D.  To ask God to hear our prayer and grant us spiritual sons (v.6);

E.  To pray unceasingly and make spiritual wars by prayers (v.8);

F.   To confess that the birth of life is of God’s blessing (v.11-12);

G.  To pay the cost so as to obtain God’s reward (v.18);

H.  To abide in the Lord so as to bear much fruit of life (v.19);

I.     To not be satisfied with the present circumstances but pray to God for increase (v.24);


Principalities of Acquiring Property for Christians on the Earth

A.  To desire a better country in the heaven (v.25);

B.  To work diligently (v.26);

C.  To be the channel of others’ blessedness (v.27, 30);

D.  To know that the source of blessings is God (v.30);

E.  To be righteous in the sight of men (v.33);

F.   To be wise and know about the nature of things and proper time and location (v.37-43);


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

Translated by Mary Zhou