-Loved Yet Broken-Hearted-
RACHEL means "ewe". An appropriate name for a shepherdess. She lived in approximately 1900 B.C. with her parents, her brother and elder sister at Haran, Abraham's home and it remained the residence for his relatives. It was a caravan route and important city of northern Mesopotamia located on the River.
Sheep were very precious because their wool provided warm garments, were milked and eaten as daily meat. As a shepherdess the sheep she cared for were dependent upon her for green pastures and water to quench their thirst.
Rachel was tending three flocks of her father's sheep beside a well in an open field when she unexpectedly met her cousin Jacob, who was looking for his relatives as he was fleeing from his brother Esau, in the south of Canaan. That meeting between Jacob and Rachel was of God, and it was His providence; as soon as they met it was love at first sight. She was naturally beautiful. Rachel had all the loveliness of her aunt, Rebekah.
Jacob asked Rachel's father, Laban who was his mother Rebekahís brother, to marry Rachel and promised that he would work seven years for her as a bride-price. It was the ancient common custom in the east for the bride's parents to be paid by a groom and it was not a rare thing to work off the fee in manual labour.
After seven years the wedding ceremony proceeded according to the local tradition, which allowed the men to celebrate, while the bride kept out of sight, only to be met in a darkened tent hours later. Only after it was too late did the groom realise that he had not married his beloved Rachel but the elder sister Leah. This was a great deception on the father's part and he used the excuse that the eldest daughter must marry first.
Rachel suffered much agony after seven years her hopes of marriage were dashed by her father's dishonesty. She was cruelly deceived. Leah must have had a part. However Jacob married Rachel the same week and pledged to serve another seven years labour to her father. It was an age when polygamy was tolerated. There was immense rivalry and jealousy between the two sisters, which greatly strained the family.
Although Rachel was deeply loved by her husband she was tormented as the second wife and suffered more anguish by the number of many happy children her sister was able to give to Jacob. Further more, Rachel was unable to bear children for many years. Jacobís love and his strong faith helped to purify Rachelís character as her competitiveness ruined her relationship with her sister. She failed to recognise her husbandís devotion was not dependent upon her ability to have children.
Rachel prayed for children and God did give Rachel a son, and thereby took away her reproach. The grateful mother called her baby Joseph, who was to save Israel, and was a symbol of Christ to come, but God had chosen the unloved Leah as an ancestress of Christ.
After twenty years in Haran Jacob and his family decided to leave and return to his homeland. After their departure Rachel's father discovered family heirlooms of religious gods missing, numerous small metal and terra-cotta figures of deities used for magical protection, which he thought certain local gods provided safety from demons and disasters. These images were also used to establish evidence of inheritance when claiming from ones family.
Unknown to her husband, it was Rachel who had stolen these household idols and had hidden them in her saddlebags. Her motives were financial more than religious. She was not superstitious nor a pagan worshipper although her father was. Both the sisters were not happy at their father for not paying Jacob a dowry, but Rachel had no right to carry away what was not her own. Her father nevertheless, did not find the missing idols even though he followed after them and searched every tent. Rachel had cleverly deceived him.
God spoke personally to her father and ordered him not to cause any harm. The two families made a friendship treaty between themselves and God. Although Laban was an idol worshiper he knew the God in whom Jacob believed had blessed him mightily and he himself had benefited from those blessings..
Rachel had reached her husband's homeland where he had buried all foreign idols that belonged to anyone in his household under an oak tree. His beloved Rachel became pregnant for the second time. Travelling in the hilly country would have been difficult and on approaching Bethlehem Rachel gave birth to Benjamin, her second son, but she herself died during the childbirth. Grief-stricken, Jacob buried her at Bethlehem and set up a pillar over her grave.
Rachel gave history greatness. She is a privileged daughter
of God, whom He chose name her three times in different prophecies concerning
the people of Israel.
(Ruth 4:11 calls her one who built up the house of Israel. Jeremiah 31:15 refers to her weeping over children being taken in Exile. Matthew (2:18) cited Jeremiah's reference of weeping in connection with Herod's order to kill male children under two).
Jacob married Leah and Rachel while he was living with his relatives and had twelve sons and one daughter, birthed by the two sisters and their maids. These children made up the Nation of Israel. Rachel was the mother of only two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Of all the children of Jacob, Joseph became the godliest and greatest.
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