How do we come up with the names for our children? Seriously, what are our thoughts as we think about a name for a child who have not arrived? Some of us think of beloved, influential people and honor them by naming our child with their name. Some of us try names out with our last name by speaking it out loud to hear how it rolls off the tongue. Some of us might look up names in books that give us meaning of names and we are guided by the definitions. Naming our children is not as easy has it sounds.
I remember lying in bed one night, thinking of the “perfect” name for the life that was forming in my body. She was our third child and would be our last. My dad had suggested “LO—last one”, but I did not see the humor in that as much as he did. While Randy slept, I thought of the name Amanda. I also wanted to pass on my middle name of Lynn. There it is! I went to sleep thinking I had the perfect name!
The next morning, I told Randy what I thought. His immediate response was, “Okay, say the name out loud a few times.” “I know you like music, but really, Amanda Lynn?” “Doesn’t that sound like the musical instrument, a mandolin?” We laughed at my choice (smiling now to remember) when I said it out loud—pregnancy mind—what can I say?
We finally settled on Carrie Lynn which fit her perfectly. And guess what? Of all three of our children, she is the one who loves music the most, can remember all the lyrics to all kinds of song, and can sing a song for everything that happens to her daily! Her life is a musical just waiting to burst into song!
What’s in a name? Everything.
Take note of the names given to each son born to Jacob…it will mean something later…
Genesis 30, The Message
When Rachel realized that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She told Jacob, “Give me sons or I’ll die!”
2 Jacob got angry with Rachel and said, “Am I God? Am I the one who refused you babies?”
3-5 Rachel said, “Here’s my maid Bilhah. Sleep with her. Let her substitute for me so I can have a child through her and build a family.” So she gave him her maid Bilhah for a wife and Jacob slept with her. Bilhah became pregnant and gave Jacob a son.
6-8 Rachel said, “God took my side and vindicated me. He listened to me and gave me a son.” She named him Dan (Vindication). Rachel’s maid Bilhah became pregnant again and gave Jacob a second son. Rachel said, “I’ve been in an all-out fight with my sister—and I’ve won.” So she named him Naphtali (Fight).
9-13 When Leah saw that she wasn’t having any more children, she gave her maid Zilpah to Jacob for a wife. Zilpah had a son for Jacob. Leah said, “How fortunate!” and she named him Gad (Lucky). When Leah’s maid Zilpah had a second son for Jacob, Leah said, “A happy day! The women will congratulate me in my happiness.” So she named him Asher (Happy).
14 One day during the wheat harvest Reuben found some mandrakes in the field and brought them home to his mother Leah. Rachel asked Leah, “Could I please have some of your son’s mandrakes?”
15 Leah said, “Wasn’t it enough that you got my husband away from me? And now you also want my son’s mandrakes?”
Rachel said, “All right. I’ll let him sleep with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”
16-21 When Jacob came home that evening from the fields, Leah was there to meet him: “Sleep with me tonight; I’ve bartered my son’s mandrakes for a night with you.” So he slept with her that night. God listened to Leah; she became pregnant and gave Jacob a fifth son. She said, “God rewarded me for giving my maid to my husband.” She named him Issachar (Bartered). Leah became pregnant yet again and gave Jacob a sixth son, saying, “God has given me a great gift. This time my husband will honor me with gifts—I’ve given him six sons!” She named him Zebulun (Honor). Last of all she had a daughter and named her Dinah.
22-24 And then God remembered Rachel. God listened to her and opened her womb. She became pregnant and had a son. She said, “God has taken away my humiliation.” She named him Joseph (Add), praying, “May God add yet another son to me.”
* * *
25-26 After Rachel had had Joseph, Jacob spoke to Laban, “Let me go back home. Give me my wives and children for whom I’ve served you. You know how hard I’ve worked for you.”
27-28 Laban said, “If you please, I have learned through divine inquiry that God has blessed me because of you.” He went on, “So name your wages. I’ll pay you.”
29-30 Jacob replied, “You know well what my work has meant to you and how your livestock has flourished under my care. The little you had when I arrived has increased greatly; everything I did resulted in blessings for you. Isn’t it about time that I do something for my own family?”
31-33 “So, what should I pay you?”
Jacob said, “You don’t have to pay me a thing. But how about this? I will go back to pasture and care for your flocks. Go through your entire flock today and take out every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb, every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. That way you can check on my honesty when you assess my wages. If you find any goat that’s not speckled or spotted or a sheep that’s not black, you will know that I stole it.”
34 “Fair enough,” said Laban. “It’s a deal.”
35-36 But that very day Laban removed all the mottled and spotted billy goats and all the speckled and spotted nanny goats, every animal that had even a touch of white on it plus all the black sheep and placed them under the care of his sons. Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob. Meanwhile Jacob went on tending what was left of Laban’s flock.
37-42 But Jacob got fresh branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees and peeled the bark, leaving white stripes on them. He stuck the peeled branches in front of the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink. When the flocks were in heat, they came to drink and mated in front of the streaked branches. Then they gave birth to young that were streaked or spotted or speckled. Jacob placed the ewes before the dark-colored animals of Laban. That way he got distinctive flocks for himself which he didn’t mix with Laban’s flocks. And when the sturdier animals were mating, Jacob placed branches at the troughs in view of the animals so that they mated in front of the branches. But he wouldn’t set up the branches before the feebler animals. That way the feeble animals went to Laban and the sturdy ones to Jacob.
43 The man got richer and richer, acquiring huge flocks, lots and lots of servants, not to mention camels and donkeys.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
First of all, that Jacob could become angry with his favorite wife shouldn’t surprise us. Even the most loving couples have their occasional disagreements, and, after all, she was blaming him for something over which he had no control. But what Rachel needed wasn’t a lecture on theology or gynecology. She needed the kind understanding of her husband and the encouragement that only his love could provide.
Lean in to listen to your spouse. Anger and frustration indicate needs not met. God will lead us.
The giving of a servant to the husband for purpose of the birth a child was culturally accepted and the norm in those days. Carrying on the lineage of the father was of most importance—especially to the wife. Remember Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who didn’t wait on God to give her a child (Isaac, Jacob’s father)? She gave into the culture and desperately gave her servant, Hagar, to Abraham so a son could be born. She and the servant, paid the emotional price in doing so, however. Noticeable is that God took care of the children of these unions as part of the whole family.
We can count on God to make all things good to those who believe. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28, NLT.
Lean into this verse as we read and learn about who God was, is and is to come.
The same problem that Sarah had is happening to Rachel and Jacob. Barren for years, “wanting to die”, she gives her servant to Jacob to produce sons. Being barren in this culture was extremely humiliating. Leah, his other wife forced on him by Laban, does the same! These ladies are very competitive, it seems. God intervenes. God cares for all the sons and a daughter born to these women. Because of his promises to Abraham, he continues to bless Jacob.
No matter what, we cannot change the will of God. Do we really want to try?
At long last, Rachel conceived and gave birth to a son whom she named Joseph. The mandrakes had nothing to do with this pregnancy; it was God who blessed her in answer to her prayers. The Hebrew word qsaf means “take away,” and yosef means “to add.” God had taken away her “disgrace” of being childless and had added to her blessings. Her declaration “The LORD shall add to me another son” (v. 24) was eventually answered in the birth of Benjamin (“son of my right hand”), but the delivery led to her death (35:16–20). Many years later, it was Joseph whom God would use to save the entire family during the time of terrible famine.
What’s in a name? Everything. Names will reflect the story of the individuals God will use to show his glory, power and work in them!
The offspring will play an important part in God’s story of forgiveness and redemption later…Stay tuned. Remember, Jesus will be born from these ancestorial lines. Later we will read that Jacob’s sons, all of them, form a family that is messy and a bit dysfunctional. Emotions ran high. Jealousy rears its ugliness. But God will intervene and teach all of us lessons of great importance as we see how great God is and what he does in and for his people.
Jacob, former deceiver who has changed the “stripes” of his past behaviors, is completely honest with Laban. But Laban is still a liar and a cheat. It doesn’t want to miss out as a sidebar to God’s blessings of Jacob so he does everything he can to keep him under his roof. Ah, but Jacob, who was raised to manipulate well, comes up with a plan to leave. His wives join forces to help him. God leads Jacob back home to Canaan, along with his entire entourage of his family and possessions.
God promises to be with Jacob.
God promises to be with us, too. God’s promises are true and unchanging. Why? Because of God’s relentless, unchanging love for us!
Thank you for this wealth of information that proves over and over again that YOU are in control, you are with us and for us as we realize that you are the Provider and Protector of all who believe and follow in your ways. My part is to lay down my life before you, take on your yoke of teaching, and rest in you, knowing you will take care of the rest. I trust you, dear Jesus, for all of life—you are Life to me. I will meditate on these thoughts all day long…
In Jesus Name, Amen