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5. Rachel, Leah and Jacob

My notes on teaching the Old Testament, by Mama Brenda.

Leader’s notes: Lesson 5 - Rachel, Leah and Jacob

Genesis 28:1-4; 28:10-33:20; 35:1-29.

Ask the ladies to keep their books closed. Do not give out any notes until it is suggested opposite page 18.

Lots of story here - deception again and the birth of the 12 tribes of Israel, and that is definitely not straightforward!! Then a page of summary thoughts, page 19. You know your group -

  • how can you best get all this information covered?

  • and keep everyone’s interest?

Perhaps get four groups to work on one section each –

Genesis 28:1-4; 28:10 - 29:30

29:31 - 30:24

30:25 - 31:55

32:1 - 33:20; 35:1-29

Then share their group findings with the whole class. You will need to keep a tight rein on this so all of the groups understand the continuity of the story.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 5 Rachel, Leah and Jacob

Genesis 28:1-4; 28:10-33:20; 35:1-29

Genesis 28:1-4; 28:10 - 29:14 So Jacob left Beersheba and headed for Paddan Aram. He stopped overnight at Bethel. The deceiver was met by God, and was so challenged that he wanted to go God’s way, reassured of God’s will for him. He travelled on, met up with three flocks and their shepherds. Then Uncle Laban’s daughter, Rachel, arrived with Laban’s flock, and Jacob was delighted to meet Rachel, a relative he had not met before.

29:15-30 Jacob worked for Laban for a month and then they talked about wages. The agreement was that Jacob would work for Laban for 7 years in order to marry the girl he loved, Rachel.

After 7 years, Jacob claimed his bride. Laban threw a feast. But the deceiver was deceived - the next morning Jacob realised that the woman he had slept with was the older sister, Leah. He complained to Laban. Laban’s excuse was that the younger daughter could not marry before the older daughter. Jacob agreed to work another 7 years for Rachel but they married after Leah had had Jacob to herself for 7 days.

29:31 - 30:24 Leah was not a happy woman but she had four boys by Jacob:

Reuben, Simeon

Levi - through whom the Israelite priesthood would come

Judah - who is an ancestor in Jesus’ family line

Rachel was very upset that she had no children and complained to Jacob “Give me children, or I’ll die”. Remember that phrase. Jacob said God had not allowed Rachel to have children and Jacob is not God!

So Rachel told Jacob to sleep with her maidservant, Bilhah.

Dan was born to Bilhah and then


Leah told Jacob to sleep with Zilpah, her maidservant.

Gad was born and then Asher

Leah’s son, Reuben, collected some mandrakes from the fields and gave them to Leah. These vegetables were thought to have magic powers to induce pregnancy because of the similarity of shape to a man’s reproductive organ. Verse 15 Rachel begged her sister for some of the mandrakes - and got a very sharp answer! But Leah then traded mandrakes for a night with Jacob.

Leah then had two sons and a daughter -

Issachar, Zebulun, Dinah

Verse 22 In God’s time Rachel had a son. Joseph ............ but she longed for a second son.

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Leader's notes: Lesson 5 - Rachel, Leah and Jacob.

This lesson will not be easy to get in balance - there is so much story - but the facts need to be aired, for the ladies to see the real story, and therefore be able to see the applications to us in the summary thoughts, page 19.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 5 - Rachel, Leah and Jacob.

What a story of deception and intrigue, sadness and bitterness, struggling to get

what “I” want.

Genesis 30:25-43 Now Jacob and family thought of returning to his home.

Laban, who had been made rich by Jacob’s work and planning, was not willing to let Jacob prosper, although he agreed to the plan. Laban would have the unblemished animals and Jacob would have the dark and speckled ones. Laban that day sent his sons to separate the speckled and dark sheep from the others, and took them three day’s journey away. Jacob the deceiver is deceived again.

Jacob worked out a method to get speckled lambs - not a scientific plan, not a plan given him by God - but it worked. God does give us intelligence and common sense.

31:1-18 After six years of careful work with the flocks, and noticing that his brothers-in-law were not happy with his prosperity, Jacob, prompted by God, decided it was time to go. He consulted with Leah and Rachel out with the flocks so they were not overheard. The sisters knew what had been going on and said they should take what belonged to them, and Jacob should “Do whatever God has told you”.

31:19-55 When Laban and the brothers went away three days’ journey shearing sheep, Jacob and this large travelling group left - twelve children, maidservants, menservants, camels, donkeys and flocks! They headed for Gilead. Rachel, however, took her father’s household gods and put them in the saddle bag of her camel. Was this vengeance on her father, or a failure to trust in the God she knows Jacob was following? Possession of the family gods would show that Jacob is the head of the group. Perhaps she wanted to show Jacob’s importance. We don’t know!

It took Laban seven days to catch up with them after he heard the news - and he got to them in the hills of Gilead. He asked why they had not said goodbye. Then he searched for his household gods and failed to find them because Rachel was using the camel saddle as a chair, but could not get up because she was having a period. She lied to her father. So the deceiver Laban was deceived by Rachel. 31:36-54.

Laban and Jacob made a treaty at the extremities of their lands - not to pass the stone pile in anger to attack each other - in the name of the God of Abraham and Nahor on Laban’s side and the God of Isaac on Jacob’s side. They ate a meal together to seal the covenant. Laban departed in peace and Jacob with his large travelling party set off again.

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Leader's notes: Lesson 5 - Rachel, Leah and Jacob.

Now distribute notes or let ladies’ open their books to put the whole story together. Revise the story together.

Apply it with the thoughts on page 19.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 5 - Rachel, Leah and Jacob.

Genesis 32:1-12 There is reassurance for Jacob as he neared the land belonging to Esau, the brother he had wronged. Jacob sent messengers to Esau with a peaceful message - but the messengers returned saying that Esau was coming with 400 men. Very fearful, Jacob split all his people and animals into two groups, so that one group would stay safe. Then he prayed to God, and quoted God’s promise back to Him.

32:13-32 He sorted out a gift for his brother, and instructed the men in charge of those herds on what to say and how to behave and sent them on their way. Jacob stayed at the camp. Then he sent his wives and sons and all his possessions across the Jabbok. He was alone, and a man wrestled with him until dawn. God had met with him. “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome”. Jacob calls the place Peniel meaning “It is because I have seen God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

Jacob was always, in human terms, the underdog – to Esau – to Laban - now to God. God came in a form where Jacob could win, wrestling, but God also could disable Jacob whenever He wanted. God held Jacob’s future. Jesus came in a form we could understand, as a man, but He was still God, and He holds our future.

33:1-20 Next day Jacob saw Esau, was embraced by him, and introduced all the family. Esau went back to Seir and Jacob went to Shechem in Canaan, bought a piece of land there and set up an altar to the mighty God of Israel.

(Trouble in Shechem - a story in itself, but not for today!)

35:1-29 In verses 1 -7 God told Jacob to go back and settle at Bethel where God had met him (Genesis 28:10-15). Jacob told his household to get rid of foreign gods and charms, to purify themselves because he was going to build an altar there to the God who had appeared to him at Bethel and had been with him everywhere he went. He buried the charms and idols. The immediate reality of the purity of the people showed God to the people around - no one pursued them! People do notice when our lives shine for Jesus!

Verse 8 Presumably Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, had died while he was in Haran, but he had picked up the responsibility for her nurse, Deborah. Verses 9-15 are a re-affirmation of the change of name, and of the promises given to Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Jacob (see Genesis 28).

Verses 16-29 The whole group moved on to Bethlehem but Rachel went into labour before they got there. She had a bad time, delivered a son whom she named “son of my trouble” and died. His father renamed him Benjamin “son of my right hand”. Now called Israel in the Bible account, Israel (ex-Jacob) moved on to Migdal Eder. During this time Reuben slept with his father’s concubine, Bilhah, and Israel heard of it. Remember this little fact for another time time!

Death of Isaac - buried by his sons Esau and Jacob - mentioned there in birth order although the blessing had gone to Jacob.

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Leader's notes: Lesson 5 - Rachel, Leah and Jacob.

All six thoughts (opposite) could be discussed.

Think of questions to ask that will open up discussion.

1. We cannot deceive God – ever. Psalms 119:168; 44:20-21.

2. God’s rules have not changed. One man and one woman = marriage. Your culture and my culture may have moved from this basis. They may call it progress. They may call it keeping up with current thinking. Whose thinking? What does God still say?

Genesis 2:18-24; Matthew 19:4-8.

4. Job 42:1-3; Isaiah 45:5-8.

5. Can you rise to this challenge?

6. You are special to God.

You are special to God.

You are special to God.

You are special to God.

Part of living knowing you are special to God is treating other people well because they – not ‘they all’ but ‘they each one’ – are special to God.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 5 - Rachel, Leah and Jacob.

Six summary thoughts:

1. Deceit breeds deceit. God sees everything. In Jacob, Rachel & Laban and in us!

2. God’s example for us in marriage was His creation of Adam and Eve, one man with one woman. By the time of this story polygamy was obviously acceptable in this society. Surrogacy using maidservants was obviously also acceptable in this society, as it was to Abraham and Sarah, using Hagar.

Acceptable in society is not the same as being acceptable to God! Be very careful.

3. “Give me children or I’ll die!” Rachel had Joseph and wanted another child. She had Benjamin and died in childbirth.

Make sure the things you are desperate for are what God wants for you and yours.

4. God’s chosen line came through Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob - the second son. The rescue of the nation of Israel will come through Joseph, Jacob’s 11th son, the first of his well-loved wife, Rachel. The line of Israel’s priesthood will come through Levi, Jacob’s third son with Leah, the first but less loved wife. The line of Jesus will come through Judah, Jacob’s fourth son with Leah, the first but less loved wife.

God does not see things the way we do. His plans are beyond our understanding.

He is bigger than us!

5. The deceiver is deceived but is also blessed by God. Jacob is promised land, descendants, God watching over him Genesis 28:13-15, but he goes through difficult times with Laban, and preparing to meet Esau, the brother he had wronged. At least 20 years after the original promise is given, God reconfirms the promise, adding that kings will come from Jacob’s body, Genesis 35:9-13.

Walking with God is not the easy path - but it brings God’s blessings.

6. In these stories that make up most of the life of Jacob, we know little about Leah and Rachel. Rachel was loved. Leah had the large family. There was rivalry between them. They agreed to move away from their father, saying that they and Jacob had no reason to stay. Rachel lied to her father. Rachel died near Bethlehem, leaving two sons. The only thing we hear of Leah after today’s stories is in 49:31 - the place of her burial.

Many of us are like Rachel and Leah in that we are busy looking after our husband and children but we are not famous, we will not be written about in history books!

But every person He has created is special to God - He wants to be seen as special in the way we live our lives. Try to be - every day - a person God is happy to be with.

Please read Genesis 38:1-30 for next time.

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