If Jacobs’s home life growing up in his parents’ home would have made Dr. Phil, the home under his own authority would have made Jerry Springer.
I grew up with two sisters, that was painful enough (love you Kim and Kris); I cannot imagine being married to two sisters. Here a war rages between the two of them and they use their children as the ammunition. What an excellent picture of motherhood. Have you ever heard a Mother’s Day sermon from our text? They have their idols and they are worshipping them. Babies function as just false saviors to save them from their false hell and deliver them to their false heaven. But the gods are angry, they do not satisfy, they don’t deliver, they don’t save.
Leah’s problem is not that she desires the wrong thing, but that she desires wrongly. She doesn’t simply desire her husband’s love, she worships it. Babies and God himself are just stepping stones to her true desire.
Rachel, like Jacob, as the younger wants to trump the older sibling. She gives us the classic phrase for idolatry diagnostics, “Give me ______ or I shall die!” She doesn’t have a pure desire for children, she just hates being in second place.
The issue here is not even the intensity of the desire. Sorrow and joy are not exclusive of one another (2 Corinthians 6:10). If you would counsel Rachel and Leah simply by saying, “rejoice in the Lord”, this is too simplistic. Sometimes the more joyful you are in the Lord the deeper your sorrow. For instance, the more satisfying I find God to be the more burdened I will become for the unreached peoples of the earth. Today if Leah could read Ephesians and see what marriage is supposed to portray it would not decrease her desire for her husband, it would heighten and sanctify it. Her desire for her husband is not tempered and purified by a white hot, holy, and greater desire for the only water that can satisfy.
Jacob’s character fairs no better in this passage. The women speak and know of Yahweh so evidently some spiritual leadership is being exercised, but he fails pathetically in resolving and squelching this conflict. The one time he speaks is in anger, and, as typical with dudes, it’s not so much what he says but how he says it. Ultimately Jacob is dismally reduced to the status of a stud. No, not stud in a juvenile cool sense. He is pimped out by one wife to another for some “love apples”. Jacob has simply become a male used for mating and breeding purposes.
And yet, from all this mess we discover that God again is working behind the curtain of this Jerry Springer drama to bless them and bring about His covenant purposes. As Dale Ralph Davis wrote, “The chemistry of divine providence takes the crud and confusion of our doings and makes it the soil that produces the fruit of His faithfulness.” Their sins don’t thwart His plans they accomplish them. For two generations the family that is to become a nation has only been multiplying by one, but now, in the mist of this chaos, a nation is being formed. Sound familiar, holy blessed creation out of chaos, blessing over curse? God at the same time is disciplining them and forming the nation. Blessing and discipline surely are not antonyms, but synonyms.