Rachel the beautiful sister is said to have been jealous of her plain sister Leah because Leah had children. Even beautiful women have their problems.  Rachel, beautiful but barren, struggled with her sister for the continued affection of Jacob. Leah gave birth to four sons in a row; Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. Her struggle with Leah becomse so severe that In Genesis 30:1 Rachel screams to Jacob “give me children or I die!” As if Jacob can control who conceives and who does not. Jacob reminds her that he’s not in God’s place thus telling her that her problem is not with him, it’s really with God.

Rachel tries to fulfill her desire for children by using her hand maiden, Bilhah, who gives Jacob two sons. The text says that Rachel is the one who named them. She named the first one “Dan,” which means “vindicated.” She thinks that somehow the birth of this surrogate son gives her the edge in her struggle with her plain but productive sister Leah. Then she names Bilhah’s second son, Naphthali. This literally means “my struggle.” Boice observes, “Some commentators refer this to Bilhah’s struggle in childbirth, which Rachel claims as her own. But this is not it at all. Rachel is struggling with Leah, and the additional baby is only another weapon in her arsenal. She is really hitting Leah over the head with him.”

Jacob had made it clear that Rachel’s struggle was truly with God. He determines the lot of us all. When you don’t like it, you rebel against God. I believe God was using Rachel’s barrenness to humble her. Beautiful women sometimes grow up getting whatever they want and sometimes need to be reminded of their place. It’s easy to see the beautiful women as less spiritual as others. But as Boice observes,”It would be good if some women who are less favored outwardly could see that God is also concerned about those who are beautiful. The plain girls envy the beautiful ones, but the beautiful ones have problems of their own, and God does not look down on them as you or I might do.”

God humbles Rachel, then hears her cry, and blesses her with her own son, Joseph, who becomes the savior of his people.