Christian Churches of God
Rachel and the Law
(Edition 1.0 19981211-19990625)
The history of Rachel is full of drama and is one of the proofs that each of the Ten Commandments was fully in force before Sinai. Here we deal with a number of aspects and parallels in the story, that normally escape attention. This story has major significance for the church and the concept of God’s love and intervention in our lives.
Christian Churches of God
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(Copyright ã 1998, 1999 Christian Churches of God edited Wade Cox)
(Summary by Malonda Hilburn edited Wade Cox)
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Rachel and the Law
The history of Rachel is full of drama and is one of the proofs that each of the Ten Commandments was fully in force before Sinai.
After Jacob had stolen the blessing of the firstborn from Esau, by deceiving his father Isaac, it was no longer safe for him to stay in the land of Canaan. Jacob had to flee for his life (Gen 27:42-44).
If Esau murdered Jacob, then the avenger of blood would kill Esau according to the law. This was the same as Cain expected, when he had murdered Abel (Gen 4:10-14). Here we see that the sixth commandment was set since Adam.
Exodus 20:13 "You shall not kill. (RSV)
Genesis 27:46,Genesis 26:34-35 ,Genesis 28:6-9
Isaac sent Jacob to Paddanaram, to have his son take a wife of the daughters of Laban (Gen 28:1-2). An important issue here is, that Isaac set Jacob to sin. Knowing the effects of this sin, Jacob failed to disobey the advice of his father in this regard by marriage within the close family: (Gen 28:2; Lev 18:4-5).
Leviticus 18:6 6 "None of you shall approach any one near of kin to him to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. (RSV)
This is very clear, and was in effect in the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Transgressing this law will result in barrenness of the wife.
Being barren can be a punishment for sin. See
Genesis 20:17-18; 16:1; 18:10-14; 21:1-3; 24:1-4,15, 50-51, 67; 25:19-21; Leviticus 18:11.
We will see what the situation was with Jacob's wives (Gen 28:5; 29:1–17).
Jacob arrived in Paddanaram, fell in love with Rachel and went to work for her father (his uncle) Laban. Laban went into negotiation with Jacob for his wages, and out of greed he sold his daughter Rachel to Jacob. Jacob accepted the wage for seven years of tending the flock (Gen 29:18-20).
Jacob was deeply in love with Rachel, and time flew by for him. After the seven years had passed he claimed Rachel to be given to him as his wife (Gen 29:21).
Despite the just and honest hope that lay within him and the expectations of his future wife, what then transpired was contrary to the law of God and was a breach of faith. Rachel’s sister Leah fraudulently usurped Rachel in the marriage. It is obvious that Laban and Leah contrived to deceive Jacob and forced Rachel into acquiescent silence or complicity.
Leah in her dishonesty and weakness had entered into a fraud, which was to effect her sister and her husband for the rest of their lives and introduce bitterness to the family. She broke a number of commandments. It went on to affect the serving maids and the entire foundation of the tribes of Israel (see Gen 29:22-28). This marriage with Leah was against the law (Lev 18:6).
A week later Jacob was then married to Rachel. The following marriage with Rachel was, in the same way, against the law and the sin was compounded: (Lev 18:18; Gen 29:29-30).
This complication in the marriage resulted in disharmony between Jacob and his wives and between the wives themselves. That was to play an important part in the ongoing family relationships. The relationships were even more stressed, as both women were barren, because of the forbidden marriage between kindred (Gen 29:31). God intervened in the barrenness of Leah because Jacob hated her. He did not yet intervene in the barrenness of Rachel (Gen 29:32-35; 30:1-21).
Rachel learned the hard way to look to God for help. She had first accused Jacob because she was unable to bear children. Jacob refuted this and pointed out that he was not God. This was followed by trying to get substitute children through her handmaid Bilhah. Later she sought a solution to her problem with the mandrakes she obtained by hiring out Jacob to her sister. The result was that Leah bore three more children. Finally she sought the help of God, as she understood now perhaps that it was sin that caused her barrenness, and that only God could intervene on her behalf as he had on Leah’s behalf in her sin and misery (Gen 30:22-24).
Jacob considered that the years of working for Laban had passed and that the time had come to return home (Gen 30:25-26). The greedy Laban did not like the idea of losing such a diligent and competent shepherd, and he tried to buy Jacob's services again for an extended period of time. This time Jacob outwitted him (Gen 30:27-43).
With this sharp increase in wealth within six years, at the cost of Laban, a change in attitude towards Jacob had to be expected from Laban and his sons (Gen 31:1-2).
Jacob was then told by the Lord to prepare to return to the land of his fathers. So Jacob called Rachel and Leah and explained the reason why he wanted to leave (Gen 31:3-16). Having obtained the consent of his wives, and therefore their cooperation, Jacob prepared and went away with all he had, without informing Laban (Gen 31:17-19a).
Then the drama comes to the turning point:
Genesis 31:19b….and Rachel stole her father's household gods. (RSV) Rachel stole the household gods, images, in the Hebrew Teraphim. This shows that the idolatry of Babylon still clung to Laban's family. In doing this Rachel was disobedient not only to one commandment, but also to all of them.
She, as we see with all the household of Laban, broke the first commandment by having other gods, the teraphim (Deut 5:7). She, and they, also automatically broke the second commandment by having graven idols (Deut 5:8-10). Rachel, like Leah before her in the marriage contract, broke the third commandment as she has been using the name of the Lord in vain (Gen 31:16) and she was guilty (Deut 5:11).
Rachel and Leah had broken the first commandment. Perhaps we might deduce, as a consequence they also broke the Fourth Commandment by failing at the very least to keep it holy. The fourth commandment is a sign and seal of worship of the One True God (Ex 20:8-10, Isa 56:1-8).
Rachel also failed to honor her heavenly Father by breaking all of His commandments as Leah had done before her (Deut 5:16). Rachel, as with Leah before her, also broke the sixth commandment by her sins and unrepentant attitude. She was committing spiritual suicide (Deut 5:17).
Rachel also broke the seventh commandment. As with Leah who committed fraud and slept with Jacob when he believed it was another woman and his rightful wife, so too Rachel broke this law spiritually. Although there might have been no physical adultery, she did it spiritually by idolatry, having other gods (Ezek 23:36-38, Deut 5:18).
That Rachel broke the eighth commandment by stealing the idols is clear (Deut 5:19). Rachel did not tell Jacob that she had done so, as we will read in Genesis 31:32. Leah had also stolen the rights of Jacob and her sister by deceit. As Rachel was either pregnant at that moment or barren, she was lying to her father about her condition at that moment in Genesis 31: 35 and also broke the ninth commandment (Deut 5:20).
So too had Leah committed false witness in these aspects above. Rachel was guilty of breaking the tenth commandment by covetousness, as had Leah before her in marriage. In fact the breaking of this commandment leads to the breaking of all the others. It controls our whole mind and attitude and all our acts, good or bad (Deut 5:21).
We have seen that by the theft and fraud of Rachel and Leah they became finally guilty of breaking all of the Ten Commandments. Jacob also was not free of theft (Gen 31:20-31).
Jacob was convinced that nobody could have stolen the teraphim and he made a solemn vow to this effect, and one that would have far reaching implications (Gen 31:32). Without knowing it, Jacob condemned his most beloved wife Rachel to death (Genesis 31:33-55). At this very moment, Rachel was pregnant for the second time after all these years.
There was a genuine deep and abiding resentment on the part of Laban’s daughters and his son-in-law over the treatment he had handed out to them and they all felt cheated. By his conduct he had incited them all to break the commandments (Gen 35:5-15).
We are now at the climax of the drama. Jacob had spoken the death sentence over Rachel, without knowing, and it stayed covered for the period. However, by ordering his household to purify itself, it surfaced with the full impact. God had also promised Rachel a second son. She was pregnant now. So Jacob could not execute the death sentence, as the unborn life could not be violated. Nor did he seek to even implement such a penalty.
Rachel died in childbirth. She called the child Benoni (SHD 1126) which means son of my sorrow. Jacob (now called Israel) changed the name of this his last child to Benjamin (SHD 1144) which means (son of the promise) and the sentence was seemingly tragically fulfilled (Gen 35:16-20).
It was this purification that Jacob had ordered, that was the saving grace of his family and the major lesson we have to learn in this text. Only by purification and turning to God can we become part of the nation of Israel (cf. also Purification and Circumcision (No. 251)). After Jacob had cleansed his family, which was the nucleus of the nation of Israel, at Bethel, he was changed and his family were forgiven and they were taken into the responsibility of the El Bethel or the El of the House of El; the High Priest or El Shaddai (cf. Gen. 35:11).