(Calvin, Genesis 2. part 8)

nothing but what is useful to be known; for he commends the 
extraordinary strength of Jacob's faith, when he says, that "he lifted 
up his feet" to come into an unknown land. Again, he would have us to 
consider the providence of God, which caused Jacob to fall in with the 
shepherds, by whom he was conducted to the home he sought; for this did 
not happen accidentally, but he was guided by the hidden hand of God to 
that place; and the shepherds, who were to instruct and confirm him 
respecting all things, were brought thither at the same time. Therefore, 
whenever we may wander in uncertainty through intricate windings, we 
must contemplate, with eyes of faith, the secret providence of God which 
governs us and our affairs, and leads us to unexpected results. 
  4. "My brethren, whence be ye?" The great frankness of that age 
appears in this manner of meeting together; for, though the fraternal 
name is often abused by dishonest and wicked men, it is yet not to be 
doubted that friendly intercourse was then more faithfully cultivated 
than it is now. This was the reason why Jacob salutes unknown men as 
brethren, undoubtedly according to received custom. Frugality also is 
apparent, in that Rachel sometimes pays attention to the flock; for, 
since Laban abounds with servants, how does it happen that he employs 
his own daughter in a vile and sordid service, except that it was deemed 
disgraceful to educate children in idleness, softness, and indulgence? 
Whereas, on the contrary, at this day, since ambition, pride, and 
refinement, have rendered manners effeminate, the care of domestic 
concerns is held in such contempt, that women, for the most part, are 
ashamed of their proper office. It followed, from the same purity of 
manners which has been mentioned, that Jacob ventured so unceremoniously 
to kiss his cousin; for much greater liberty was allowed in their chaste 
and modest mode of living. In our times, impurity and ungovernable lusts 
are the cause why not only kisses are suspected, but even looks are 
dreaded; and not unjustly, since the world is filled with every kind of 
corruption, and such perfidy prevails, that the intercourse between men 
and women is seldom conducted with modesty: wherefore, that ancient 
simplicity ought to cause us deeply to mourn; so that this vile 
corruption into which the world has fallen may be distasteful to us, and 
that the contagion of it may not affect us and our families. The order 
of events, however, is inverted in the narration of Moses; for Jacob did 
not kiss Rachel till he had informed her that he was her relative. Hence 
also his weeping; for, partly through joy, partly through the memory of 
his father's house, and through natural affection, he burst into tears. 
  13. "And he told Laban all these things." Since Laban had previously 
seen one of Abraham's servants replenished with great wealth, an 
unfavourable opinion of his nephew might instantly enter into his mind: 
it was therefore necessary for holy Jacob to explain the causes of his 
own departure, and the reason why he had been sent away so contemptibly 
clothed. It is also probable that he had been instructed by his mother 
respecting the signs and marks by which he might convince them of his 
relationship: therefore Laban exclaims, "Surely thou art my bone and my 
flesh;" intimating that he was fully satisfied, and that he was induced 
by indubitable tokens to acknowledge Jacob as his nephew. This knowledge 
inclines him to humanity; for the sense of nature dictates that they who 
are united by ties of blood should endeavour to assist each other; but 
though the bond between relatives is closer, yet our kindness ought to 
extend more widely, so that it may diffuse itself through the whole 
human race. If, however, all the sons of Adam are thus joined together, 
that spiritual relationship which God produces between the faithful, and 
than which there is no holier bond of mutual benevolence, ought to be 
much more effectual. 
  14. "And he abode with him the space of a month." Though Laban did not 
doubt that Jacob was his nephew by his sister, he nevertheless puts his 
character to trial during a month, and then treats with him respecting 
wages. Hence may be inferred the uprightness of the holy man; because he 
was not idle while with his uncle, but employed himself in honest 
labours, that he might not in idleness eat another's bread for nothing; 
hence Laban is compelled to acknowledge that some reward beyond his mere 
food was due to him. When he says, "Because thou art my brother, 
shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought?" his meaning may be 
twofold; either that it would be excessively absurd and unjust to 
defraud a relation of his due reward, for whom he ought to have greater 
consideration than for any stranger; or that he was unwilling to exact 
gratuitous service under the colour of relationship. This second 
exposition is the more suitable, and is received nearly by the consent 
of all. For they read in one connected sentence, "Because thou art my 
brother, shalt thou therefore serve me for nought?" Moreover, we must 
note the end for which Moses relates these things. In the first place, a 
great principle of equity is set before us in Laban; inasmuch as this 
sentiment is inherent in almost all minds, "that justice ought to be 
mutually cultivated," till blind cupidity draws them away in another 
direction. And God has engraven in man's nature a law of equity; so that 
whoever declines from that rule, through an immoderate desire of private 
advantage, is left utterly without excuse. But a little while after, 
when it came to a matter of practice, Laban, forgetful of this equity, 
thinks only of what may be profitable to himself. Such an example is 
certainly worthy of notice, for men seldom err in general principles, 
and therefore, with one mouth, confess that every man ought to receive 
what is his due but as soon as they descend to their own affairs, 
perverse self-love blinds them, or at least envelopes them in such 
clouds that they are carried in an opposite course. Wherefore, let us 
learn to restrain ourselves, that a desire of our own advantage may not 
prevail to the sacrifice of justice. And hence has arisen the proverb, 
that no one is a fit judge in his own cause, because each, being unduly 

favourable to himself, becomes forgetful of what is right. Wherefore, we 
must ask God to govern and restrain our affections by a spirit of sound 
judgment. Laban, in wishing to enter into a covenant, does what tends to 
avoid contentions and complaints. The ancient saying is known, "We 
should deal lawfully with our friends, that we may not afterwards be 
obliged to go to law with them." For, whence arise so many legal broils, 
except that every one is more liberal towards himself, and more 
niggardly towards others than he ought to be? Therefore, for the purpose 
of cherishing concord, firm compacts are necessary, which may prevent 
injustice on one side or the other. 
  18. "I will serve thee seven years." The iniquity of Laban betrays 
itself in a moment; for it is a shameful barbarity to give his daughter, 
by way of reward, in exchange for Jacob's services, making her the 
subject of a kind of barter. He ought, on the other hand, not only to 
have assigned a portion to his daughter, but also to have acted more 
liberally towards his future son-in-law. But under the pretext of 
affinity, he defrauds him of the reward of his labour, the very thing 
which he had before acknowledged to be unjust. We therefore perceive 
still more clearly what I have previously alluded to, that although from 
their mother's womb men have a general notion of justice, yet as soon as 
their own advantage presents itself to view, they become actually 
unjust, unless the Lord reforms them by his Spirit. Moses does not here 
relate something rare or unusual, but what is of most common occurrence. 
For though men do not set their daughters to sale, yet the desire of 
gain hurries the greater part so far away, that they prostitute their 
honour and sell their souls. Further, it is not altogether to be deemed 
a fault that Jacob was rather inclined to love Rachel; whether it was 
that Leah, on account of her tender eyes, was less beautiful, or that 
she was pleasing only by the comeliness of her eyes, while Rachel 
excelled her altogether in elegance of form. For we see how naturally a 
secret kind of affection produces mutual love. Only excess is to be 
guarded against, and so much the more diligently, because it is 
difficult so to restrain affections of this kind, that they do not 
prevail to the stifling of reason. Therefore he who shall be induced to 
choose a wife, because of the elegance of her form, will not necessarily 
sin, provided reason always maintains the ascendancy, and holds the 
wantonness of passion in subjection. Yet perhaps Jacob sinned in being 
too self-indulgent, when he desired Rachel the younger sister to be 
given to him, to the injury of the elder; and also, while yielding to 
the desire of his own eyes, he undervalued the virtues of Leah: for this 
is a very culpable want of self-government, when any one chooses a wife 
only for the sake of her beauty, whereas excellence of disposition ought 
to be deemed of the first importance. But the strength and ardour of his 
attachment manifests itself in this, that he felt no weariness in the 
labour of seven years: but chastity was also joined with it, so that he 
persevered, during this long period, with a patient and quiet mind in 
the midst of so many labours. And here again the integrity and 
continence of that age is apparent, because, though dwelling under the 
same roof, and accustomed to familiar intercourse, Jacob yet conducted 
himself with modesty, and abstained from all impropriety. Therefore, at 
the close of the appointed time he said, "Give me my wife, that I may go 
in unto her," by which he implies that she had been hitherto a pure 
  22. "And Laban gathered together." Moses does not mean that a supper 
was prepared for the whole people, but that many guests were invited, as 
is customary in splendid nuptials; and there is no doubt that he applied 
himself with the greater earnestness to adorn that feast, for the 
purpose of holding Jacob bound by a sense of shame, so that he should 
not dare to depreciate the marriage into which he had been deceived. We 
hence gather what, at that time, was the religious observance connected 
with the marriage bed. For this was the occasion of Jacob's deception 
that, out of regard for the modesty of brides, they were led veiled into 
the chamber; but now, the ancient discipline being rejected, men become 
almost brutal. 
  25. "And he said to Laban." Jacob rightly expostulates respecting the 
fraud practiced upon him. And the answer of Laban, though it is not 
without a pretext, yet forms no excuse for the fraud. It was not the 
custom to give the younger daughters in marriage before the elder: and 
injustice would have been done to the firstborn by disturbing this 
accustomed order. But he ought not, on that account, craftily to have 
betrothed Rachel to Jacob, and then to have substituted Leah in her 
place. He should rather have cautioned Jacob himself, in time, to turn 
his thoughts to Leah, or else to refrain from marriage with either of 
them. But we may learn from this, that wicked and deceitful men, when 
once they have turned aside from truth, make no end of transgressing: 
meanwhile, they always put forward some pretext for the purpose of 
freeing themselves from blame. He had before acted unjustly toward his 
nephew in demanding seven years' labour for his daughter; he had also 
unjustly set his daughter to sale, without dowry, for the sake of gain; 
but the most unworthy deed of all was perfidiously to deprive his nephew 
of his betrothed wife, to pervert the sacred laws of marriage, and to 
leave nothing safe or sound. Yet we see him pretending that he has an 
honorable defense for his conduct, because it was not the custom of the 
country to prefer the younger to the elder. 
  27. "Fulfil her week." Laban now is become callous in wickedness, for 
he extorts other seven years from his nephew to allow him to marry his 
other daughter. If he had had ten more daughters, he would have been 
ready thus to dispose of them all: yea, of his own accord, he obtrudes 
his daughter as an object of merchandise, thinking nothing of the 
disgrace of this illicit sale, if only he may make it a source of gain. 
In this truly he grievously sins, that he not only involves his nephew 
in polygamy, but pollutes both him and his own daughters by incestuous 
nuptials. If by any means a wife is not loved by her husband, it is 
better to repudiate her than that she should be retained as a captive, 
and consumed with grief by the introduction of a second wife. Therefore 
the Lord, by Malachi, pronounces divorce to be more tolerable than 
polygamy. (Mal. 2: 14.) Laban, blinded by avarice, so sets his daughters 
together, that they spend their whole lives in mutual hostility. He also 
perverts all the laws of nature by casting two sisters into one 
marriage-bed, so that the one is the competitor of the other. Since 
Moses sets these crimes before the Israelites in the very commencement 
of their history, it is not for them to be inflated by the sense of 
their nobility, so that they should boast of their descent from holy 
fathers. For, however excellent Jacob might be, he had no other 
offspring than that which sprung from an impure source; since, contrary 
to nature, two sisters are mixed together in one bed, in the mode of 
beasts; and two concubines are afterwards added to the mass. We have 
seen indeed, above, that this license was too common among oriental 
nations; but it was not allowable for men, at their own pleasure, to 
subvert, by a depraved custom, the law of marriage divinely sanctioned 
from the beginning. Therefore, Laban is, in every way, inexcusable. And 
although necessity may, in some degree, excuse the fault of Jacob, it 
cannot altogether absolve him from blame. For he might have dismissed 
Leah, because she had not been his lawful wife: because the mutual 
consent of the man and the woman, respecting which mistake is 
impossible, constitutes marriage. But Jacob reluctantly retains her as 
his wife, from whom he was released and free, and thus doubles his fault 
by polygamy, and trebles it by an incestuous marriage. Thus we see that 
the inordinate love of Rachel, which had been once excited in his mind, 
was inflamed to such a degree, that he possessed neither moderation nor 
judgment. With respect to the words made use of, interpreters ascribe to 
them different meanings. Some refer the demonstrative pronoun to the 
week; others to Leah, as if it had been said, that he should not have 
Rachel until he had lived with her sister one week. But I rather explain 
it of Rachel, that he should purchase a marriage with her by another 
seven years' service; not that Laban deferred the nuptials to the end of 
that time, but that Jacob was compelled to engage himself in a new 
  30. "And he loved also Rachel more than Leah." No doubt Moses intended 
to exhibit the sins of Jacob, that we might learn to fear, and to 
conform all our actions to the sole rule of God's word. For if the holy 
patriarch fell so grievously, who among us is secure from a similar 
fall, unless kept by the guardian care of God? At the same time, it 

appears how dangerous it is to imitate the fathers while we neglect the 
law of the Lord. And yet the foolish Papists so greatly delight 
themselves in this imitation, that they do not scruple to observe, as a 
law, whatever they find to have been practiced by the fathers. Besides 
which, they own as fathers those who are worthy of such sons, so that 
any raving monk is of more account with them than all the patriarchs. It 
was not without fault on Leah's part that she was despised by her 
husband; and the Lord justly chastised her, because she, being aware of 
her father's fraud, dishonourably obtained possession of her sister's 
husband; but her fault forms no excuse for Jacob's lust. 
  31. "And when the Lord saw." Moses here shows that Jacob's extravagant 
love was corrected by the Lord; as the affections of the faithful, when 
they become inordinate, are wont to be tamed by the rod. Rachel is 
loved, not without wrong to her sister, to whom due honour is not given. 
The Lord, therefore, interposes as her vindicator, and, by a suitable 
remedy, turns the mind of Jacob into that direction, to which it had 
been most averse. This passage teaches us, that offspring is a special 
gift of God; since the power of rendering one fertile, and of cursing 
the womb of the other with barrenness, is expressly ascribed to him. We 
must observe further, that the bringing forth of offspring tends to 
conciliate husbands to their wives. Whence also the ancients have called 
children by the name of pledges; because they avail, in no slight 
degree, to increase and to cherish mutual love. When Moses asserts that 
Leah was hated, his meaning is, that she was not loved so much as she 
ought to have been. For she was not intolerable to Jacob, neither did he 
pursue her with hatred; but Moses, by the use of this word, amplifies 
his fault, in not having discharged the duty of a husband, and in not 
having treated her who was his first wife with adequate kindness and 
honour. It is of importance carefully to notice this, because many think 
they fulfill their duty if they do not break out into mortal hatred. But 
we see that the Holy Spirit pronounces those as hated who are not 
sufficiently loved; and we know, that men were created for this end, 
that they should love one another. Therefore, none will be counted 
guiltless of the crime of hatred before God, but he who embraces his 
neighbours with love. For not only will a secret displeasure be 
accounted as hatred, but even that neglect of brethren, and that cold 
charity which ever reigns in the world. But in proportion as any one is 
more closely connected with another, must be the endeavour to adhere to 
each other in a more sacred bond of affection. Moreover, with respect to 
married persons, though they may not openly disagree, yet if they are 
cold in their affection towards each other, this disgust is not far 
removed from hatred. 
  32. "She called his name Reuben." Moses relates that Leah was not 
ungrateful to God. And truly, I do not doubt, that the benefits of God 
were then commonly more appreciated than they are now. For a profane 
stupor so occupies the mind of nearly all men, that, like cattle, they 
swallow up whatever benefits God, in his kindness, bestows upon them. 
Further, Leah not only acknowledges God as the author of her 
fruitfulness; but also assigns as a reason, that her affliction had been 
looked upon by the Lord, and a son had been given her who should draw 
the affection of her husband to herself. Whence it appears probable, 
that when she saw herself despised, she had recourse to prayer, in order 
that she might receive more succour from heaven. For thanksgiving is a 
proof that persons have previously exercised themselves in prayer; since 
they who hope for nothing from God do, by their indolence, bury in 
oblivion all the favours he has conferred upon them. Therefore, Leah 
inscribed on the person of her sent a memorial whereby she might stir 
herself up to offer praise to God. This passage also teaches, that they 
who are unjustly despised by men are regarded by the Lord. Hence it 
affords a singularly profitable consolation to the faithful; who, as 
experience shows, are for the most part despised in the world. Whenever, 
therefore, they are treated harshly and contumeliously by men, let them 
take refuge in this thought, that God will be the more propitious to 
them. Leah followed the same course in reference to her second son; for 
she gave him a name which is derived from "hearing," to recall to her 
memory that her sighs had been heard by the Lord. Whence we conjecture 
(as I have just before said) that when affliction was pressing upon her, 
she cast her griefs into the bosom of God. Her third son she names from 
"joining;" as if she would say, now a new link is interposed, so that 
she should be more loved by her husband. In her fourth son, she again 
declares her piety towards God, for she gives to him the name of 
"praise," as having been granted to her by the special kindness of God. 
She had, indeed, previously given thanks to the Lord; but whereas more 
abundant material for praise is supplied, she acknowledges not once 
only, nor by one single method, but frequently, that she has been 
assisted by the favour of God. 
Chapter XXX. 
1 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her 
sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. 
2 And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, [Am] I in 
God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? 
3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall 
bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. 
4 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto 
5 And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. 
6 And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and 
hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan. 
7 And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son. 
8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, 
and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali. 
9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and 
gave her Jacob to wife. 
10 And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son. 
11 And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad. 
12 And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son. 
13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: 
and she called his name Asher. 
14 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. 
15 And she said unto her, [Is it] a small matter that thou hast taken my 
husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also? And Rachel 
said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son's mandrakes. 
16 And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to 
meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired 
thee with my son's mandrakes. And he lay with her that night. 
17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the 
fifth son. 
18 And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my 
maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar. 
19 And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son. 
20 And Leah said, God hath endued me [with] a good dowry; now will my 
husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called 
his name Zebulun. 
21 And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah. 
22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her 
23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my 
24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me 
another son. 
25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said 
unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my 
26 Give [me] my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and 
let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee. 
27 And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine 
eyes, [tarry: for] I have learned by experience that the LORD hath 
blessed me for thy sake. 
28 And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give [it]. 
29 And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how 
thy cattle was with me. 
30 For [it was] little which thou hadst before I [came], and it is [now] 
increased unto a multitude; and the LORD hath blessed thee since my 
coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also? 
31 And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not 
give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed 
[and] keep thy flock: 
32 I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all 
the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the 
sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and [of such] shall 
be my hire. 
33 So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it 
shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that [is] not speckled 
and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be 
counted stolen with me. 
34 And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word. 
35 And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked and 
spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, [and] 
every one that had [some] white in it, and all the brown among the 
sheep, and gave [them] into the hand of his sons. 
36 And he set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob 
fed the rest of Laban's flocks. 
37 And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut 
tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which 
[was] in the rods. 
38 And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the 
gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they 
should conceive when they came to drink. 
39 And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle 
ringstraked, speckled, and spotted. 
40 And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks 
toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he 
put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban's cattle. 
41 And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, 
that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, 
that they might conceive among the rods. 
42 But when the cattle were feeble, he put [them] not in: so the feebler 
were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's. 
43 And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and 
maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses. 
1. "And when Rachel saw." Here Moses begins to relate that Jacob was 
distracted with domestic strifes. But although the Lord was punishing 
him, because he had been guilty of no light sin in marrying two wives, 
and especially sisters; yet the chastisement was paternal; and God 
himself, seeing that he is wont mercifully to pardon his own people, 
restrained in some degree his hand. Whence also it happened, that Jacob 
did not immediately repent, but added new offenses to the former. But 
first we must speak of Rachel. Whereas she rejoiced to see her sister 
subjected to contempt and grief, the Lord represses this sinful joy, by 
giving his blessing to Leah, in order to make the condition of both of 
them equal. She hears the grateful acknowledgment of her sister, and 
learns from the names given to the four sons, that God had pitied, and 
had sustained by his favour, her who had been unjustly despised by man. 
Nevertheless envy inflames her, and will not suffer anything of the 
dignity becoming a wife to appear in her. We see what ambition can do. 
For Rachel, in seeking preeminence, does not spare even her own sister; 
and scarcely refrains from venting her anger against God, for having 
honoured that sister with the gift of fruitfulness. Her emulation did 
not proceed from any injuries that she had received, but because she 
could not bear to have a partner and an equal, though she herself was 
really the younger. What would she have done had she been provoked, 
seeing that she envies her sister who was contented with her lot? Now 
Moses, by exhibiting this evil in Rachel, would teach us that it is 
inherent in all; in order that each of us, tearing it up by the roots, 
may vigilantly purify himself from it. That we may be cured of envy, it 
behaves us to put away pride and selflove; as Paul prescribes this 
single remedy against contentions, "Let nothing be done through 
vainglory." (Phil. 2: 3.) 
  2. "And Jacob's anger was kindled." The tenderness of Jacob's 
affection rendered him unwilling to offend his wife; yet her unworthy 
conduct compelled him to do so, when he saw her petulantly exalt 
herself, not only against her sister, who piously, homily, and 
thankfully was enjoying the gifts of God; but even against God himself, 
of whom it is said that "the fruit of the womb is his reward." (Ps. 127: 
3.) On this account, therefore, Jacob is angry, because his wife 
ascribes nothing to the providence of God, and, by imagining that 
children are the offspring of chance, would deprive God of the care and 
government of mankind. It is probable that Jacob had been already 
sorrowful on account of his wife's barrenness. He now, therefore, fears 
lest her folly should still farther provoke God's anger to inflict more 
severe strokes. This was a holy indignation, by which Jacob maintained 
the honour due to God, while he corrected his wife, and taught her that 
it was not without sufficient cause that she had been hitherto barren. 
For when he affirms that the Lord had shut her womb, he obliquely 
intimates that she ought the more deeply to humble herself. 
  3. "Behold my maid Bilhah." Here the vanity of the female disposition 
appears. For Rachel is not induced to flee unto the Lord, but strives to 
gain a triumph by illicit arts. Therefore she hurries Jacob into a third 
marriage. Whence we infer, that there is no end of sinning, when once 
the Divine institution is treated with neglect. And this is what I have 
said, that Jacob was not immediately brought back to a right state of 
mind by Divine chastisements. He acts, indeed, in this instance, at the 
instigation of his wife: but is his wife in the place of God, from whom 
alone the law of marriage proceeds? But to please his wife, or to yield 
to her importunity, he does not scruple to depart from the command of 
God. "To bear upon the knees", is nothing more than to commit the child 
when born to another to be brought up. Bilhah was a maidservant; and 
therefore did not bear for herself but for her mistress, who, claiming 
the child as her own, thus procured the honour of a mother. Therefore it 
is added, in the way of explanation, "I shall have children", or "I 
shall be built up by her." For the word which Moses here uses, is 
derived from "ben", a son: because children are as the support and stay 
of a house. But Rachel acted sinfully, because she attempted, by an 
unlawful method, and in opposition to the will of God, to become a 
  5. "And Bilhah conceived." It is wonderful that God should have 
deigned to honour an adulterous connexion with offspring: but he does 
sometimes thus strive to overcome by kindness the wickedness of men, and 
pursues the unworthy with his favour. Moreover, he does not always make 
the punishment equal to the offenses of his people, nor does he always 
rouse them, alike quickly, from their torpor, but waits for the matured 
season of correction. Therefore it was his will that they who were born 
from this faulty connexion, should yet be reckoned among the legitimate 
children; just as Moses shortly before called Bilhah a wife, who yet 
might more properly have been called a harlot. And the common rule does 
not hold, that what had no force from the beginning can never acquire 
validity by succession of time; for although the compact, into which the 
husband and wife sinfully entered against the Divine command and the 
sacred order of nature, was void; it came to pass nevertheless, by 
special privilege, that the conjunction, which in itself was adulterous, 
obtained the honour of wedlock. At length Rachel begins to ascribe to 
God what is his own; but this confession of hers is so mixed up with 
ambition, that it breathes nothing of sincerity or rectitude. She 
pompously announces, that her cause has been undertaken by the Lord. As 
if truly, she had been so injured by her sister, that she deserved to be 
raised by the favour of God; and as if she had not attempted to deprive 
herself of his help. We see, then, that under the pretext of praising 
God, she rather does him wrong, by rendering him subservient to her 
desires. Add to this, that she imitates hypocrites, who, while in 
adversity, rush against God with closed eyes; vet when more prosperous 
fortune favours them, indulge in vain boastings, as if God smiled upon 
all their deeds and sayings. Rachel, therefore, does not so much 
celebrate the goodness of God, as she applauds herself Wherefore let the 
faithful, instructed by her example, abstain from polluting the sacred 
name of God by hypocrisy. 
  8. "With great wrestlings." Others translate it, "I am joined with the 
joining of God; as if she exulted in having recovered what she had lost; 
or, certainly, in having obtained an equal degree of honour with her 
sister. Others render it, "I am doubled with the duplications of God." 
But both derive the noun and the verb from the root "patal", which 
signifies a twisted thread. The former of these senses comes to this; 
that since Rachel has attained a condition equal to that of her sister, 
there is no reason why her sister should claim any superiority over her. 
But the latter sense expresses more confident boasting, since she 
proclaims herself a conqueror, and doubly superior. But a more simple 
meaning is (in my opinion) adduced by others, namely, that she "wrestled 
with divine or excellent wrestlings." For the Hebrews indicate all 
excellence by adding the name of God; because the more excellent 
anything is, the more does the glory of God shine in it. But perverse is 
that boasting with which she glories over her sister, when she ought 
rather suppliantly to have implored forgiveness. In Rachel the pride of 
the human mind is depicted; because they whom God has endowed with his 
benefits, for the most part are so elated, that they rage contumeliously 
against their neighbours. Besides, she foolishly prefers herself to her 
sister in fruitfulness, in which she is still manifestly inferior. But 
they who are puffed up with pride have also the habit of malignantly 
depreciating those gifts which the Lord has bestowed on others, in 
comparison with their own smaller gifts. Perhaps, also, she expected a 
numerous progeny, as if God were under obligation to her. She did not, 
as pious persons are wont to do, conceive hope from benefits received; 
but, by a confident presumption of the flesh, made herself sure of 
everything she wished. Hitherto, then, she gave no sign of pious 
modesty. Whence is this, but because her temporary barrenness had not 
yet thoroughly subdued her? Therefore we ought the more to beware, lest 
if God relaxes our punishments, we, being inflated by his kindness, 
should perish. 
  9. "When Leah saw that she had left bearing." Moses returns to Leah, 
who, not content with four sons, devised a method whereby she might 
always retain her superior rank: and therefore she also, in turn, 
substitutes her maid in her place. And truly Rachel deserved such a 
reward of her perverse design; since she, desiring to snatch the palm 
from her sister, does not consider that the same contrivance to which 
she had resorted, might speedily be employed against herself. Yet Leah 
sins still more grievously, by using wicked and unjust arts in the 
contest. Within a short period, she had experienced the wonderful 
blessing of God; and now, because she ceased from bearing, for a little 
while, she despairs concerning the future, as if she had never 
participated in the Divine favour. What, if her desire was strong; why 
did she not resort to the fountain of blessing? In obtruding, therefore, 

(continued in part 9...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: cvgn2-08.txt