Yesterday, we talked about crazy days in our families. Sometimes the days were “good” crazy and other times they were “bad” crazy. All in all, though, we learn how to love one another through those days. I like to remember, too, that no matter how crazy things get for our families, Scripture gives us examples that are even more crazy.
Take a look at how Jacob ended up with twelve boys. (You may want to pull out a pen an paper for this one. Try drawing a family tree as you read.)
Finally, the time came for him to marry her. "I have fulfilled my agreement," Jacob said to Laban. "Now give me my wife so I can sleep with her." So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast. But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her. (Laban had given Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid.) But when Jacob woke up in the morning--it was Leah! "What have you done to me?" Jacob raged at Laban. "I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?" "It's not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn," Laban replied. "But wait until the bridal week is over, then we'll give you Rachel, too--provided you promise to work another seven years for me." So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too. (Laban gave Rachel a servant, Bilhah, to be her maid.) So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her much more than Leah. He then stayed and worked for Laban the additional seven years. (Genesis 29:21-30 NLT)
Notice, now, that Jacob has two wives: Leah and Rachel. Rachel is the one he loves. Rachel is the one he worked to receive in marriage. Each girl also has a maidservant. Leah has Zilpah. Rachel has Bilhah.
When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, he enabled her to have children, but Rachel could not conceive. So Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, "The LORD has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me." She soon became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. She named him Simeon, for she said, "The LORD heard that I was unloved and has given me another son." Then she became pregnant a third time and gave birth to another son. She named him Levi, for she said, "Surely this time my husband will feel affection for me, since I have given him three sons!" Once again Leah became pregnant and gave birth to another son. She named him Judah, for she said, "Now I will praise the LORD!" And then she stopped having children. (Genesis 29:31-35 NLT)
In case you stopped counting, Leah has four boys. This is Jacob’s first wife – the wife he didn’t want to marry in the first place.
When Rachel saw that she wasn't having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, "Give me children, or I'll die!" Then Jacob became furious with Rachel. "Am I God?" he asked. "He's the One who has kept you from having children!" Then Rachel told him, "Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her I can have a family, too." So Rachel gave her servant, Bilhah, to Jacob as a wife, and he slept with her. Bilhah became pregnant and presented him with a son. Rachel named him Dan, for she said, "God has vindicated me! He has heard my request and given me a son." Then Bilhah became pregnant again and gave Jacob a second son. Rachel named him Naphtali, for she said, "I have struggled hard with my sister, and I'm winning!" Meanwhile, Leah realized that she wasn't getting pregnant anymore, so she took her servant, Zilpah, and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Soon Zilpah presented him with a son. Leah named him Gad, for she said, "How fortunate I am!" Then Zilpah gave Jacob a second son. And Leah named him Asher, for she said, "What joy is mine! Now the other women will celebrate with me." (Genesis 30:1-13 NLT)
The count is now up to eight. Two boys were added to the mix through Rachel’s maidservant, Bilhah. Two more were added through Leah’s maidservant, Zilpah. What a mess! Oh, hold on. It gets better.
One day during the wheat harvest, Reuben found some mandrakes growing in a field and brought them to his mother, Leah. Rachel begged Leah, "Please give me some of your son's mandrakes." But Leah angrily replied, "Wasn't it enough that you stole my husband? Now will you steal my son's mandrakes, too?" Rachel answered, "I will let Jacob sleep with you tonight if you give me some of the mandrakes." So that evening, as Jacob was coming home from the fields, Leah went out to meet him. "You must come and sleep with me tonight!" she said. "I have paid for you with some mandrakes that my son found." So that night he slept with Leah. And God answered Leah's prayers. She became pregnant again and gave birth to a fifth son for Jacob. She named him Issachar, for she said, "God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband as a wife." Then Leah became pregnant again and gave birth to a sixth son for Jacob. She named him Zebulun, for she said, "God has given me a good reward. Now my husband will treat me with respect, for I have given him six sons." (Genesis 30:14-20 NLT)
Leah is now up to six sons. (It’s a goo thing she was able to buy a night with her husband using those mandrakes, isn’t it.) The total is up to ten now. Jacob can field a whole baseball team and have a batter for practice.
Then God remembered Rachel's plight and answered her prayers by enabling her to have children. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. "God has removed my disgrace," she said. And she named him Joseph, for she said, "May the LORD add yet another son to my family." (Genesis 30:22-24 NLT)
Jacob finally had a son through his favorite wife – the one he worked 14 years for the right to marry. It is no wonder that Joseph is the favorite son. By the way, Jacob has twelve sons in total. Later on in the story we find out that Rachel has the last son with great pains in childbirth.
Rachel was about to die, but with her last breath she named the baby Ben-oni (which means "son of my sorrow"). The baby's father, however, called him Benjamin (which means "son of my right hand"). (Genesis 35:18 NLT)
Benjamin, even though he was the youngest, was not the favorite. That’s because he was a constant reminder of Rachel’s death.
These twelve boys, the twelve sons of Jacob, became known as something different throughout history. Later in his life, Jacob was renamed by God. His new name became Israel. His twelve boys became the twelve tribes of Israel. Crazy, right? God can work through the craziest family circumstances, even ones that look like a soap opera. Praise God!