Genesis Overview: Jacob's Marriage and Children

a) Jacob's Marriage to Leah and Rachel (29.15-30 in J)

29.15-20: Jacob is in an anomalous labour position. Daughters were property and could be transferred. The price of seven years is very high. Laban, the "sly old man" (p291) is far from straightforward. Leah probably means "cow", Rachel (ewe). Leah's eyes as "tender" probably means weak or pale, i.e. men like eyes to glow.

29.21-26: The heavily veiled bride is led to the groom's quarters but "... in a monstrous blow, a masterpiece of shameless treachery" (p291). The custom of the elder before the younger is understood by Jacob from his own condition. A strange manifestation of the divine: "... without Leah, Reuben, Levi, and Judah would not have been born, and neither Moses nor David would have appeared. God's work descended into the lowest worldliness ..." (p291).

29.27-30: The double wedding seems oblivious of Leviticus 18.18. The interruption in 29.24, and 29.29, seem to be P insertions.

b) The Birth and Naming of Jacob's Children (29.31-30.24 in J & E))

The whole is composed of many fragments of J and E, characterised by stylistic clumsiness and redundancy, all ending with the explanation of a name. "The fourteen explanations of the names and their puns can only be understood altogether in the original ..." (p293-94).

29.31-35: After the worldliness of the foregoing, God is again present, blessing and comforting the neglected wife. Most of the names mean something etymologically quite different from the explanations of their mothers.

30.1-8: cf. 16. Jacob seems unfamiliar with the practice: can one acquire children when the one giver of life denies them? The equivalent of Rachel bearing Dan and Naphtali:

30.9-13: VR omits commentary:

30.14-24: The etymology of Isachar is so complicated as to require a narrative. The mandrake plays a prominent role in many religions and its fruit is thought of as an aphrodisiac thus, Rachel gave the man she loved to Leah so that Jacob would desire Rachel more on subsequent nights:

the "ancients" considered this very clever.

None of the traditional lists of Jacob's children have Dinah and there is no explanation of her name; so this is probably an after-thought with no explanation.

But it was not the mandrakes through which Rachel conceived but Yahweh:

In spite of minor differences the accounts of Jacob's children are remarkably consistent, particularly on the number of 12. cf. Numbers 1.5-15. In the period of Judges 12 tribes established in the cultic ritual of Yahweh. The Leah child tradition is older than the Rachel tradition.

KC VI/14

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