Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Envied, or desired to have children like her. Thus we may envy the virtues of the saints. (Calmet) — Give me, &c. These words seem to indicate a degree of impatience, at which we need not be surprised, when we reflect, that Rachel had been educated among idolaters. (Menochius) — Die of grief and shame. “I shall be considered as one dead.” (Jun.[Junius?]) St. Chrysostom thinks she threatened to lay violent hands on herself, and through jealousy, spoke in a foolish manner. This passion is capable of the basest actions, (Haydock) and is almost unavoidable where polygamy reigns. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. Angry at the rash and apparently blasphemous demand of Rachel. (Menochius) — As God, pro Deo. Am I to work a miracle in opposition to God, who has made thee barren? To him thou oughtest to address thyself. The Hebrews justly observe, that God has reserved to himself the four keys of nature: 1. Of generation; 2. Of sustenance, Psalm cxliv. 16; 3. Of rain, Deuteronomy xxviii. 12; And, 4. Of the grave or resurrection, Ezechiel xxxvii. 12. (Tirinus)
Ver. 3. Servant, like a maid of honour. Josephus says she was not a slave, no more than Zelpha. — My knees, whom I may nurse with pleasure. It was an ancient custom to place the new-born infants upon the knees of some near relation, who gave them a name, and thus in a manner adopted them. (Chap. l. 22[23, in some Bibles]; Job iii. 12; Psalm xxi. 11.) (Homer) (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Marriage. The Manichees condemned Jacob for having four wives at once. But St. Augustine replied, it was not then unusual or forbidden. He took the two last only at the pressing instigation of Rachel and Lia, and that only for the sake of children. Lia herself was forced upon him. (contra Faust. xxii. 48.)
Ver. 6. Dan, means judgment. From the same root as Adonis; Adoni, my lord or judge, &c. Rachel’s whole solicitude was for children. (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Compared me, &c. As Lia treacherously got my husband, so I have craftily surmounted the difficulties of barrenness; I have struggled earnestly, and have got the victory. Patal, means to act with cunning. (Psalm xvii. 27.) (Calmet) — Nephtali, “a crafty wrestler.” (Menochius)
Ver. 11. Happily, fortunately. — Gad, or Bonaventure. (Haydock) —“Good-fortune,” was acknowledge by the pagans for a divinity; (Isaias lxv. 11.) perhaps for the Sun, or Oromagdes, the Gad of Aram. He was opposed to the wicked Arimenes in the Chaldean theology, by Zoroaster, (Calmet) the inventor of the Two Principles. Whether Lia intended to attribute this child to the influence of the planet Jupiter, the Sun, or some other tool, we cannot determine. (Haydock) — Her naming may be simply; Behold I am now a mother of a troop, or little army, Gad; and to which (Chap. xlix. 19.) Jacob evidently alludes. (Calmet)
Ver. 13. Aser: happy. My servant has now had as many sons as my sister (Menochius) and I have given them both names, indicating my great felicity and joy. (Haydock)
Ver. 14. Ruben, now perhaps about four years old, playing in the fields, in the latter harvest time, (Exodus ix. 32) found mandrakes of an extraordinary beauty and flavour, (Canticle of Canticles vii. 13.) whether they were flowers, lilies, jasmine, &c. as some translate; or rather, fruits of the mandrake tree, according to all the ancient versions; or of the citron, lemon, or orange tree, if we believe Calmet. Dudaim designates two breasts, or something lovely and protuberant. The ancients have spoken with admiration, and have attributed wonderful effects to the mandrakes, which, though controverted by moderns, might suffice to make Rachel greatly desire to have them; at least, if she believed they would contribute to remove her sterility, as Pliny, Natural History xxv. 15. Aristotle (de Gener. ii.) and other naturalists of eminence, have maintained they did. (Haydock) — The effect which she desired so much, was not, however, to be attributed to them, since she conceived only three years after, and that by the blessing of God. (Tirinus)
Ver. 15. From me. Lia was aware that Jacob’s affection lay entirely towards Rachel; particularly now as she had ceased to bear children herself. (Haydock) — This might, when it is my turn to have him. To prevent any jealousy, the husband visited his wives one after another, as was the case with Smerdis, the king of Persia. (Herodotus iii. 79; Exodus xxi. 10.) (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Issachar, “the reward of the man, or husband.” (Calmet) — She might allude also to the reward she had obtained for her mandrakes. (Haydock)
Ver. 20. Zabulon, “dwelling or cohabiting.” Zobad (which resembles the sound of Zobal) means to endow, (Calmet) to which she seems also to refer; as if her marriage was renewed, and God had given her more children for a dowry. (Menochius)
Ver. 21. Dina, “judgment,” like Dan. God hath done me justice. The Hebrews assert that Dina was married to holy Job. She was born the same year as Joseph, the 91st of Jacob. Lia brought forth seven children in seven years.
Ver. 24. Joseph. In imposing this name, Rachel looks both to the past and to the future; thanking God for taking away (asop) her reproach, and begging that He would add (isop or Joseph) the blessing of another son, as he really did, though it occasioned her death: so little do we know what we ask for! Joseph means one “adding or increasing,” chap. xlix. 22. (Haydock) — He was born when the 14 years of service were over; being a most glorious figure of Jesus Christ, who came to redeem us from slavery. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 28. Give thee. He wishes to engage him to continue in his service; being convinced, that a faithful and pious servant is a great treasure. Laban promises every thing, and performs little according to agreement. He never thinks of making Jacob any present for his extraordinary diligence.
Ver. 31. Nothing. I am willing to depart with my family towards my father. But if I must stay, these are my terms. (Haydock) — I require no certain wages, committing myself entirely to what Providence shall send. (Salien.)
Ver. 32. Speckled; from those which are all of one colour. Those which should be of the former description must belong to Jacob, while all the black and the white should be Laban’s. — Brown, or of a dull mixture of white and black. — Spotted, having large patches of either colour. — Divers, little spots variegating the fleece. (Menochius) — The original is extremely obscure. Jacob asks only for the worst; the speckled sheep and goats, also the black sheep and the white goats, ver. 35. (Bochart.) (Calmet)
Ver. 33. Of theft, if they be found in my possession. I am so well convinced that God will reward my justice, that, even contrary to what might naturally be expected, he will enable me to have plenty of spotted sheep and goats, though their mothers be all of one colour. It is not certain, that Jacob agreed to have the flocks parted till the end of the year. (Menochius)
Ver. 35. His sons. These continued to observe the conduct of Jacob, while Laban drove off all the flocks of divers colours to so great a distance, ver. 36, that there was no danger of the sheep under Jacob’s care getting to them. Thus Laban first began to violate the agreement; and the angel of the Lord suggested to Jacob, the plan by which he was preserved from serving a cruel and avaricious man without wages, chap. xxxi. 12. (Menochius)
Ver. 40. All the white, &c. Notwithstanding Jacob’s stratagem, some had lambs all of a colour. The force of fancy is very surprising on such occasions. Oppian, Aristotle, and others, recommend Jacob’s plan as consonant to nature. (Haydock)
Ver. 42. Later-coming, in autumn, when the spring lambs were of an inferior value. These he was willing to abandon for the most part to Laban; and therefore did not use his rods. Pliny, Natural History viii. 47; and Columella viii. 3, agree, that the lambs which are produced in spring, do not thrive so well as those of autumn, at least in Italy, and in those countries where sheep lamb twice a year. Bis gravidę pecudes. (Virgil) (Calmet) — Many who have tried the same experiment as Jacob, have not experienced the same success; whence St. Chrysostom, and most of the Greek fathers, suppose that it was miraculous. (Tirinus)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Rachel being barren, delivereth her handmaid to Jacob: she beareth two sons. Lia ceasing to bear, giveth also her handmaid, and she beareth two more. Then Lia beareth two other sons and one daughter. Rachel beareth Joseph. Jacob, desirous to return home, is hired to stay for a certain part of the stock’s increase, whereby he becometh exceeding rich.
1 And Rachel seeing herself without children, envied her sister, and said to her husband: Give me children, otherwise I shall die.
2 And Jacob being angry with her, answered: Am I as God, who hath deprived thee of the fruit of thy womb?
3 But she said: I have here my servant Bala: go in unto her, that she may bear upon my knees, and I may have children by her.
4 And she gave him Bala in marriage: who,
5 When her husband had gone in unto her, conceived and bore a son.
6 And Rachel said: The Lord hath judged for me, and hath heard my voice, giving me a son; and therefore she called his name Dan.
7 And again Bala conceived, and bore another,
8 For whom Rachel said: God hath compared me with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called him Nephthali.
9 Lia perceiving that she had left off bearing, gave Zelpha, her handmaid, to her husband.
10 And when she had conceived, and brought forth a son,
11 She said: Happily. And therefore called his name Gad.
12 Zelpha also bore another.
13 And Lia said: This is for my happiness: for women will call me blessed. Therefore she called him Aser.
14 And Ruben going out in the time of the wheat harvest into the field, found mandrakes: which he brought to his mother Lia. And Rachel said: Give me part of thy son’s mandrakes.
15 She answered: Dost thou think it a small matter, that thou hast taken my husband from me, unless thou take also my son’s mandrakes? Rachel said: He shall sleep with thee this night, for thy son’s mandrakes.
16 And when Jacob returned at even from the field, Lia went out to meet him, and said: Thou shalt come in unto me, because I have hired thee for my son’s mandrakes. And he slept with her that night.
17 And God heard her prayers; and she conceived: and bore the fifth son:
18 And said: God hath given me a reward, because I gave my handmaid to my husband. And she called his name Issachar.
19 And Lia conceived again, and bore the sixth son,
20 And said: God hath endowed me with a good dowry; this turn also my husband will be with me, because I have borne him six sons: and therefore she called his name Zabulon.
21 After whom she bore a daughter, named Dina.
22 The Lord also remembering Rachel, heard her, and opened her womb.
23 And she conceived, and bore a son,* saying: God hath taken away my reproach.
24 And she called his name Joseph, saying: The Lord give me also another son.
25 And when Joseph was born, Jacob said to his father-in-law: Send me away, that I may return into my country, and to my land.
26 Give me my wives, and my children, for whom I have served thee, that I may depart: thou knowest the service that I have rendered thee.
27 Laban said to him: Let me find favour in thy sight: I have learned, by experience, that God hath blessed me for thy sake.
28 Appoint thy wages which I shall give thee.
29 But he answered: Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how great thy possession hath been in my hands.
30 Thou hadst but little before I came to thee, and now thou art become rich: and the Lord hath blessed thee at my coming. It is reasonable, therefore, that I should now provide also for my own house.
31 And Laban said: What shall I give thee? But he said: I require nothing; but if thou wilt do what I demand, I will feed and keep thy sheep again.
32 Go round through all thy flocks, and separate all the sheep of divers colours, and speckled; and all that is brown and spotted, and of divers colours, as well among the sheep as among the goats, shall be my wages.
33 And my justice shall answer for me to-morrow before thee, when the time of the bargain shall come; and all that is not of divers colours, and spotted, and brown, as well among the sheep as among the goats, shall accuse me of theft.
34 And Laban said: I like well what thou demandest.
35 And he separated the same day the she-goats, and the sheep, and the he-goats, and the rams of divers colours, and spotted; and all the flock of one colour, that is, of white and black fleece, he delivered into the hands of his sons.
36 And he set the space of three days journey betwixt himself and his son-in-law, who fed the rest of his flock.
37 And Jacob took green rods of poplar, and of almond, and of plane-trees, and pilled them in part: so when the bark was taken off, in the parts that were pilled, there appeared whiteness: but the parts that were whole, remained green: and by this means the colour was divers.
38 And he put them in the troughs, where the water was poured out; that when the flocks should come to drink, they might have the rods before their eyes, and in the sight of them might conceive.
39 And it came to pass, that in the very heat of coition, the sheep beheld the rods, and brought forth spotted, and of divers colours, and speckled.
40 And Jacob separated the flock, and put the rods in the troughs before the eyes of the rams; and all the white and the black were Laban’s, and the rest were Jacob’s, when the flocks were separated one from the other.
41 So when the ewes went first to ram, Jacob put the rods in the troughs of water before the eyes of the rams, and of the ewes, that they might conceive while they were looking upon them.
42 But when the later coming was, and the last conceiving, he did not put them. And those that were late-ward, became Laban’s; and they of the first time, Jacob’s.
43 And the man was enriched exceedingly, and he had many flocks, maid-servants and men-servants, camels and asses.
23: Year of the World 2259, Year before Christ 1745.