Forming the Tribes of Israel: Twelve Sons, Less One (Genesis 30)

Heart of a Shepherd

Jun 02, 2023



Formando as Tribos de Israel: Doze Filhos, Menos Um (Gênesis 30)


Formare le tribù di Israele: dodici figli, meno uno (Genesi 30)


Former les tribus d'Israël : douze fils, moins un (Genèse 30)


Формирование колен Израилевых: двенадцать сыновей, без одного (Бытие 30)


Formando las Tribus de Israel: Doce Hijos, Menos Uno (Génesis 30)


Die Bildung der Stämme Israels: Zwölf Söhne, weniger einer (Genesis 30)


اسرائیل کے قبائل کی تشکیل: بارہ بیٹے، ایک چھوٹا (پیدائش 30)

Forming the Tribes of Israel: Twelve Sons, Less One (Genesis 30)

Scripture reading – Genesis 30

Today’s Scripture reading is Genesis 30 and 31, and my devotional will be published in two parts. The first will focus solely on Genesis 30, and the second will be issued on Genesis 31.

Our study in Genesis 29 concluded with God blessing Leah, the lesser favored wife of Jacob (Genesis 29:31-35). The LORD, ever compassionate, “saw that Leah was hated (despised or shamefully treated)” and “opened [Leah’s] womb: but Rachel was barren” (Genesis 29:31). Twelve sons were born to Jacob, and they would become the fathers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Leah, Laban’s oldest daughter, became the mother of Jacob’s first four sons: Reuben (Genesis 29:32), Simeon (Genesis 29:33), Levi (Genesis 29:34), and Judah (Genesis 29:35).

Genesis 30 – Jacob’s Family: Twelve Sons, Less One

Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, was barren (a cultural stigma in those days) and jealous of her sister who had borne her husband four sons (Genesis 30:1a). Provoked by jealousy, Rachel demanded of Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die” (Genesis 30:1b). Betraying his frustration of living in a home with two unhappy wives, Jacob answered Rachel in anger and said, “Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” (Genesis 30:2).

Rather than trusting the LORD to bless her with a son, Rachel followed cultural norms and demanded Jacob give her children through her maid Bilhah. Choosing to pacify his beloved Rachel (Genesis 2:23-24), Jacob complied with Rachel’s insistence, further complicating his home's spiritual and emotional dynamics. As a result, Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, conceived and gave birth to the fifth and sixth sons of Jacob, Dan (Genesis 30:1-6), and Naphtali (Genesis 30:7-8).


Fearing she might no longer conceive sons by Jacob (Genesis 30:9), Leah insisted he raise children by her maid Zilpah. As a result, Zilpah conceived and gave birth to Jacob’s seventh and eighth sons, Gad and Asher (Genesis 30:9-13).

Yet, God once again blessed Leah, and she conceived Jacob’s ninth and tenth sons, Issachar and Zebulun (Genesis 30:17-20), and a daughter she named Dinah (Genesis 30:21).

Let’s consider the dynamics in a home that disregarded God’s plan for marriage to be the union of “one flesh.” (i.e., one man and one woman, Genesis 2:24).

Although Leah was the mother of six sons, she was not genuinely content. She longed for something she would never have: to be first in her husband’s affections (Genesis 30:20). For Rachel; there was a perpetual spirit of jealousy, disappointment, bitterness, and sorrow between her and her sister. Rather than calling upon, waiting, and trusting the LORD to hear and answer her longing for a son, she bargained for mandrakes, a fruit that purportedly contained fertility properties (Genesis 30:14-16).

Two years passed before we read, “God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. 23And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: (24) And she called his name Joseph [Jacob’s eleventh son]; and said, The Lord shall add to me another son” (Genesis 30:22-24). (In a later study, Rachel will die giving birth to Jacob’s twelfth son, whom he will name Benjamin, Genesis 35:16-19).

With the birth of Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son, his obligation of servitude to Laban was fulfilled. He had served fourteen years for his marriages to Laban’s daughters (Genesis 29:20, 30). Finally, Jacob announced his intention to return to his family in Canaan (Genesis 30:25-26).

Laban, however, ever the sly one, had become a wealthy man and realized God’s special blessing rested on Jacob. He determined to bind Jacob to himself and continue to profit from his presence and labor (Genesis 30:27-30a). Jacob, however, now the father of eleven sons, and a daughter, reasoned, “the Lord hath blessed [Laban] since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?” (Genesis 30:30)

Nonetheless, Laban constrained Jacob to remain in his household and asked, “What shall I give thee?” (Genesis 30:31) Jacob, wise to the ways of a deceiver, was unwilling to be indebted to Laban and said, “Thou shalt not give me any thing” (Genesis 30:31b).

Closing thoughts - Evidencing wisdom and discernment of husbandry and genetics, Jacob suggested that distinctive physical markings on the sheep, goats, and cattle would providentially mark them as his personal property and serve as his wages (Genesis 30:31-32). Laban agreed, and Jacob continued caring for his father-in-law’s flocks, even as God blessed him, making him rich. Therefore we read that Jacob “increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses” (Genesis 30:43).

Reflecting the providence and blessings of the LORD, in six years, God took Jacob from serving Laban as a poor hireling shepherd to a man of great wealth.


* A second bonus devotional will be published for Genesis 31.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith


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