The Name Game

July 15, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Genesis | 8 Comments
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Laban had two daughters: Rachel was the youngest; Leah was the other one. It appears that Rachel was more physically attractive. Jacob agreed to work seven years for Laban in exchange for the right to marry Rachel. But Laban was trickier than Jacob.

However, the seven years seemed to pass very quickly for Jacob.

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.

Genesis 29:20

On the wedding night Jacob got tricked in way reminiscent of the way Isaac got tricked – but worse. Jacob couldn’t even rely on his senses.

And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.

Genesis 29:22

The word for “feast” here probably means an eating and drinking party.

And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?

Genesis 29:25

The Bible records Jacob walking with a limp from his wrestling encounter with the Lord or the Angel of the Lord, but if he reacted that way with Leah, he might have wound up with a limp anyway! In the 18th and 19th Centuries there was a ribald expression about going to bed with a Rachel and waking up with a Leah.

In any event, Jacob ended up serving another seven years for Laban in exchange for Rachel. That makes fourteen years working for Laban (minus two weeks off) and two wives – who were not too happy with each other! You can see from the names which the wives gave their children that Jacob the supplanter turned into Jacob the struggler. He just becomes kind of a pawn – kind of a man-toy in this power struggle where Rachel wants sons, and Leah wants Jacob to really love her and thinks having sons is the way to get that.

And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

Genesis 29:31

Hatred sounds harsh – but if you don’t love your wife, the fact is, you hate her. Hating your wife is bad, but there is a worse degree than hatred – indifference. Say what you will about Jacob, but he was not indifferent. Leah had six sons and one daughter. Jacob had twelve sons altogether: They were the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The name “Reuben” meant “see, a son.” At Christ’s birth and at His baptism, God announced: “Behold, My Son.”

The name “Simeon” meant “one who hears.” God heard Leah’s prayer, and God would one day tell people to hear His Son. “Faith cometh by hearing.”

The name “Levi” meant “attached.” Levi was the priestly tribe. Jesus called disciples to attach themselves to Him.

The name “Judah” meant “praise.” Judah was the tribe of David and of Jesus. As Jesus ministered on earth, many rejected Him, but some began to praise Him.

Leah got to be the mother of the priestly tribe (Levi) and the kingly tribe (Judah). Christ is both Priest and King.

The name “Issachar” meant “reward” or “wages.” Christians have earned the wages of sin which are death, but we have received the undeserved reward of eternal life by grace through faith in Christ.

The name “Zebulun” meant “honor.” Christ was honored and exalted by God at His Ascension.

And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.

Genesis 30:14

The nickname for mandrakes was “love apples.” Later, Reuben, the collector of mandrakes, would sleep with Bilhah (Genesis 35:22) and lose his birthright.

Bickering and bargaining characterized Jacob’s household. His attitude seemed to be one of patient submission.

Rachel had a son through Bilhah named Dan. The name “Dan” meant “judgment.”

The name “Naphtali” meant “struggle.”

Leah, through Zilpah, had Gad. The name “Gad” meant “good fortune has come” or “a troop.”

The name “Asher” meant “blessed.”

You can see the constant “one-upswomamanship” in this naming contest. Finally, Rachel has Joseph, whose name meant both “to add” and “to take away.” She would have one more son, first named “Benoni” (son of sorrow) then later “Benjamin,” which meant “son of my right hand.” Rachel died giving birth to him.

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  1. […] in next time to see what happens when Jacob the trickster meets his match in Laban the […]

  2. […] death was very hard on Jacob. Perhaps after a period of grieving he saw his opportunity to – for the first time – name one of his own children. Therefore, Jacob renamed the boy “Benjamin” (Son of My Right […]

  3. […] in Genesis 35, Reuben – the mandrake-gatherer – takes up with one of his father’s concubines. This was a way of challenging Jacob as head of […]

  4. […] Old Testament patriarchs had multiple wives and appeared to be blessed: Jacob, David, some of the kings of Israel and […]

  5. […] and Joseph had inherited their blessings from rich fathers, but God worked it out so they had to work hard and depend on Him. And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he […]

  6. […] younger over the elder: Abel over Cain; Isaac over Ishmael; Jacob over Esau; Joseph over Reuben; Rachel over Leah; Zarah and Pharez (Judah’s sons by Tamar). And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: […]

  7. […] Part 2 Anybody Can Be Profane The Scientific Method Lord, Leader, and Ladder Shove at First Sight The Name Game Choosing the Right Watering Hole The God-Mastered Man The Dangers of Fatherhood The Son of […]

  8. […] the name of the third son of Jacob (by Leah) – a name which meant “joined unto me” or “attached.” The name “Matthew” itself means “the gift of God.” Tax collectors in […]


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