Original Posting At http://sandpipersthoughts.blogspot.com/2018/11/the-women.html
Last Sunday I taught a Sunday school lesson based on Genesis 30. This chapter and the ones around it are concerned with the story of Jacob, Laban, Rachel, Leah, Billhah, and Zilpah.
You probably know the story. Jacob goes to Haran and his uncle Laban, brother to his mother, Rebeccah. He first meets Rachel (Laban’s daughter) at a well. He falls in love at first sight. He makes a bargain with Laban to work seven years keeping his sheep in order to marry Rachel. We know the story that Laban tricks Jacob, and he marries Leah, the older daughter). He marries Rachel one week later, and works 7 more years. In those seven years, Leah has four sons, Rachel gave her maid Bilhah to Jacob, and the maid (and therefore Rachel) had two sons. Leah sent her maid to Jacob, and that maid (Zilpah) had two sons. Leah had a two more sons and a daughter, then Rachel finally had a son (Joseph). Rachel had one more son, Benjamin, and died in childbirth.
We often only see the story with the perspective with which we were taught about it, but I think it is important to see it differently – through the eyes of the women.
What about Leah and Rachel. They have no say in who they marry and when. They have no control over their future – whether they go with Jacob when he leaves or stay with their father (this is part of the bargaining that Jacob does with his uncle). Their worth is determined only by the birth of sons – Rachel is shamed until she eventually has Joseph.
And think about the maids. They are truly property. Their mistresses give them to Jacob, they get pregnant, but their own children do not belong to them. Maid is probably not a correct word – slave would be a more descriptive one.
How does this change how we see the story? When we read it with traditional eyes, do we see the rape of Bilhah and Zilpah? Do we see the less-than-human standing of Rachel and Leah? Do we really SEE the women at all?