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Maternal Wars in Genesis
Jacob grew up in a dysfunctional family. The favoritism of his mother upon him and his father upon his twin brother provided the wrong lessons, but lessons that he learned well (Gen 25:27-28). When he married two sisters, he favored the younger more beautiful of the two (29:16-30). Jacob’s preference of Rachel over Leah instigated a great baby contest between the sisters which shaped the dysfunctional dynamics of the family across the years.
Because Leah was unloved God gave her children. Leah did not want children because she wanted children, she wanted them to win the favor of Jacob. When Jacob continued to love Rachel, Leah’s jealousy made her want more babies.
Rachel had no children. Rachel envied Leah’s children. Since Rachel owned a slave she made her bear her husband’s children which Rachel counted as her own. Unfortunately for Rachel, Leah had a slave as well who she gave to her husband to bear him children.
Finally, God remembered Rachel and she had a child. Predictably she was not interested in the child, but was interested in having more children. She named her child Joseph a name which means “add another” because she hoped to have another child. She did. the birth of her next child killed her.
Read the story of the birth and naming of Jacob’s children (29:31-30:22). How does the naming story of each son illustrate the dynamics of the baby contest between the rival sisters? The only naming story that appears to break the pattern is Judah (29:35). What is different about Judah’s naming story?
Compare the naming story of Naphtali with the story of Jacob securing new name (30:8; 32:24-32). What do the similarities and differences imply about Rachel?
Consider the naming story of Jacob’s youngest son (35:16-21). What do his two names contribute to interpreting the story?
What are the implications of the naming stories of Jacob’s children?

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