This post is apart of my 31 days of writing challenge where I am zooming in on the life of Leah. How she was unloved & hated, but God saw her. How she was jealous & fearful, but God honored her. We can learn a lot from Leah, so won’t you join me? To stay updated, please follow my facebook page here. To read the biblical account of Leah’s life, see Genesis 29 & on.
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If you read Genesis 30:14-31, you’ll find an interesting story that reveals to us a few things about the dynamic in the home of Leah and Rachel.
First, I did a little research on mandrakes and what I found was interesting. They are a plant surrounded by folklore and mystical implications. Josephus, a biblical era scholar wrote this about mandrakes,
“A furrow must be dug around the root until its lower part is exposed, then a dog is tied to it, after which the person tying the dog must get away. The dog then endeavours to follow him, and so easily pulls up the root, but dies suddenly instead of his master. After this the root can be handled without fear.”
The plant is not poisonous, but it is a narcotic and hallucinogen. In biblical times, this drug was considered pagan and is even still used today in witchcraft cults, such as Wicca and Odinism. It’s most common wives tale is that it increases fertility.
So, I have to ask: what was Reuben, the son of Jacob, son of Abraham, called by the Lord God, doing bringing his barren mother a stack of pagan-associated roots to help her infertility? Reuben is most likely a boy at this point, maybe seven or eight. He probably had friends who were not Jewish and told him about the mandrakes increasing a mother’s childbearing. Perhaps he wanted another little brother. I wonder if he uprooted them like Josephus said and was willing to sacrifice his puppy dog for them. He obviously saw the rivalry between his moms and wanted to give Leah a head start on childbearing, even though she had beat Rachel 4-0 at this point. Maybe he just thought its blooms were pretty and knew nothing about the folklore surrounding them.
Either way, Rachel did know about the folklore surrounding them and endeavored to snatch them up as soon as she found out Reuben had them. We will call this the first ever recorded drug deal.
In chapter 31 of Genesis, Jacob is ready to leave and cleave. He wants to take his family and move away from Laban. He tries to reason with Laban, but he can’t and therefore flees in the middle of the night with his wives and children. Laban catches up with them and one (of many) things he yells at Jacob for is stealing some of his household gods. And so Laban begins to search through everyone’s things. Interestingly enough, he starts with Jacob (he’d trust his daughters before his son-in-law), then Leah’s tent (his least favorite daughter), then to Rachel’s tent (the favored one). Laban finds nothing, but guess who hid them the whole time!? Rachel. AND guess who lied about “the way of a woman” being upon her (code for menstrual cycle), while she sat on her precious little idols? Rachel.
This makes me question if Rachel ever really loved Jacob or longed for the Messiah like he did.
Earlier, when Rachel demands that Leah give her the fertility roots, since Leah was still ahead in childbearing, Leah uses this to her benefit. She asks for a night with her husband. (note: How sad for Leah! That she had to barter for the affection and attention of her man!) Rachel must have held some kind of authority as head wife for Leah to have to bargain. Or it was simply the fact that Jacob preferred Rachel. At this point, because of Leah’s happy, healthy uterus, Rachel was probably doing all she could to keep Leah from bearing more children. Well, Rachel’s trade backfired, because we see that Leah became pregnant that night, and twice more after that.
The mandrakes were dangerous for Rachel, but not in the way that the myths project. She was looking to worldly things to fill her and bring her honor. We see however, that Rachel didn’t conceive until she got on her knees and asked her Heavenly Father for a son, “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son . . . and she called his name, Joseph.” (Genesis 30:22-24)
This shows us that God doesn’t take sides and that He doesn’t hold our past sin against us. He worked in both Leah and Rachel’s lives despite their failures and their hidden idols.
And He can work in yours, too!
p.s. to read more on the mandrake click here.
Watch, everyday, for 31 days in the month of October, as we get into the story of Leah and walk with her as her feet trod aside a God who saw her.
note: I am doing my best to get the word out to everyone who could benefit from the Unloved series | a peek into the life of Leah, but I need your help! Please share away on your social media(s) of choice below, tell your friends, and don’t be afraid to join in the conversation in the comments below. xo!
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I am linking up at The Nesting Place’s 31 day writing challenge: inspiration & faith.