Open Your Bible
Genesis 29:31, Genesis 30:1-24, Genesis 35:16-20, Psalm 98:1-3
If Leah was the “unloved wife,” Rachel was the “beloved wife.” Scripture says Rachel was “beautiful of form and face,” dramatically describing how Jacob loved her from the moment he laid eyes on her (Genesis 29:9-18).
But while Leah was the fertile wife, Rachel was barren. Unloved or childless, favored or fertile, Jacob’s sister-wives both walked through decades of hurt and resentment, comparison and competition.
There are a number of truly fascinating things going on in Genesis 30. For example, when Rachel requests that her servant give birth “on my behalf,” the Hebrew is literally “on my knees.” In the ancient Near Eastern culture, concubines actually delivered babies onto the knees of the wives to symbolize the wife’s adoption of the child!
Just as interesting is the scene in which Reuben, Leah’s firstborn, brings mandrakes in from the field to his mother. Mandrakes were also known as “love apples” and were believed to promote conception (Song of Solomon 7:13). Rachel, desperate to conceive even 1 child to Leah’s 4 (and their concubines’ additional combined 4), actually offers Jacob to Leah for the night in exchange for a few love apples. Talk about crazy household rules!
But God gives Leah another child, not Rachel. Three more, actually—two sons and a daughter.
The mandrakes didn’t have the power to give Rachel what she wanted. Rachel felt forgotten. Worthless.
We read this story and we want to hug Rachel and tell her, Don’t you see—Jacob loves you! God loves you! You aren’t defined by the offspring you can or can’t produce!
And she’d say sadly back to us, But in my world, children equal worth.
And she’d be right. Because the world had all kinds of ideas about what made people worthy back then. And though some of the definitions have changed, things aren’t much different now, are they?
Verse 22 in chapter 30 has always puzzled me: “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” I mean, this was fantastic news. She finally got what she wanted, so who cares why? But I’ve always cared why.
If “God remembered Rachel” in verse 22, had He forgotten her sometime before then?
If God had never opened her womb, would we believe He forgot her entirely?
But if we look around in Genesis a bit, we discover this isn’t the first time “God remembered” one of His children. In Genesis 8:1, God remembers Noah and His creation and saves them. Genesis 19:29 says, “God remembered Abraham and brought Lot out of the middle of the upheaval when He demolished the cities where Lot had lived.” When God remembers someone, it’s always followed by a beneficial act.
Now, let’s try the opposite exercise. Where in Scripture do we read that God has forgotten someone? When I search, I come up short. Instead, I find verses like this:
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
– Isaiah 43:1
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
– Psalm 139:1-3
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
– Psalm 98:3
Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.
– Isaiah 49:16
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
– Matthew 28:20
Had God ever forsaken Rachel? No. “Remembering” in this context is an action of blessing or provision, not finally getting around to noticing she exists. God had treasured Rachel all along. Her worth in God’s eyes never came from her ability to give Jacob children, nor did it come from her beauty. Rachel’s worth may have fluctuated in the eyes of her world, but her true worth never budged. And neither does ours.
Rachel was not forgotten. And neither has God forgotten you.
Do you believe that? That you aren’t forgotten? If not, read back through those verses again. Read them until you believe them.
In this story of two sisters, each feeling forgotten in her own way, we see the God who remembers. He remembers His covenant promise to His people, graciously building up the nation Israel in its homeland. He did not forget Leah in her rejection or Rachel in her desperation. And today, dear child of God, He has not forgotten you.