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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: P. C. Headley :: Women of the Bible

P. C. Headley :: Rachel

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A century after the matrimonial embassy from Palestine halted at nightfall before the city of Nahor, a solitary fugitive soon after noon of a sultry day, dusty and worn with travel, joined a group of shepherds, who waited with their flocks beside a well in the same valley of Haran. He fled from an angry brother, and had wandered for weeks among the hills, cheered at night while reposing on the ground, with the glories of Heaven whose gates were thrown wide open above him. The angels upon a stair-way of light, came in throngs from the celestial plains, fanning his throbbing brow with their wings, and chasing from his spirit sad thoughts with the ravishing melody of their sinless abode. (Gen 28:10-17.) On a throne such as was never piled for human sovereignty, he beheld the Almighty enrobed with splendors that put out the stars, and heard the accents of sympathy and promise from his lips. (Gen 28:6-7.)

Thus sustained in his banishment, and bound by an oath made at the bedside of his dying father, to marry among his kindred of Mesopotamia, Jacob rested, a friendless exile, by the fountain where the camels of the servant Eliezer knelt laden with precious gifts. (Gen 29:2.) It was a strange contrast in life, especially when equal honor was the inheritance. The lesson taught then, as now, was the unerring providence of God amid the mutations of time, and the folly of desponding when a cloud blackens on the horizon of the future.

The traveller inquired after the health of Laban. The Chaldeans answered his inquiries, and pointing to a beautiful shepherdess coming with her flock, told him there was Rachel his daughter. With that courtesy which springs from magnanimity of spirit and needs only the culture of opportunity to develop itself, Jacob hastened to the well, rolled away the stone, and watered her sheep. (Gen 29:4-8.) The intelligence he had received, stirred the depths of his spirit, as the storm moves the sea, for in all his wanderings he met with no familiar face, nor heard one accent of affection. Saluting his fair cousin with a kiss, he lifted up his voice and wept. (Gen 29:11.) The recollections of home, the present joyful surprise, and visions of the future, swept like a rushing tide over his sad heart. When the agitation subsided and he could command utterance, he disclosed his relationship, by tenderly alluding to his mother, Laban's only sister, with whom he parted while the bloom of girlhood was yet upon her cheek. (Gen 29:12-13.) Breathless with excitement and delight, she flew to her father with the tidings. He welcomed the young man to his dwelling, and invited him to become a resident in Haran, offering as an inducement to pay him his own price for labor. (Gen 29:14-15.)

Jacob was smitten with Rachel's beauty, and the sweetness of her temper, and immediately consented on condition that he might marry her as the reward of seven years, toil. (Gen 29:17-19.) The days went by on rainbow wing, and the time of service vanished like a dream. (Gen 29:20.) When he came in at evening, her beaming eye was upon him-and often till "the noon of night" the hours were passed in companionship unsullied by suspicion, while they talked of their love, the strange vicissitudes of their kindred, and the bright displays of Jehovah's regard. Jacob was a true-hearted and godly man. He once yielded to temptation presented by a mother, and was guilty of duplicity, that cost him his self‐respect, and made him despise her; but ever after exhibited a lofty integrity both as a citizen and a devout patriarch.

At length he claimed his bride. (Gen 29:21-28.) The marriage festival was magnificent, and the exile of Canaan the central object of its gay assemblage. The evening waned, the lamps burned dimly, and music died away as with very weariness, when the parting salutations were exchanged around the wedded twain. But by an act of basest deception, Laban compelled Jacob to take Leah, an older daughter, for his wife, because it was customary to give the eldest first in marriage. So strong was his affection for Rachel, he suppressed his indignation and engaged to work another seven years for her. In condemning this unnatural polygamy, two things are to be considered; the fraud of the father in withholding, the first choice, and the absence of any established principles of civil or religious polity. There is a tendency in the mind to bring those ancient worthies for judgment, from the twilight of their dispensation to the foot of Sinai, and even to the Cross of Messiah, where we sit in the blaze of the gospel's noontide, and learn the precepts of immaculate wisdom.

Rachel, though evidently less amiable than Leah, reigned in the affections of Jacob. When her envy and impatience because her sister bare sons and she was childless, found expression in reproach of her husband, and a wish to die if longer unblest, his anger called forth but a mild rebuke. (Gen 29:31-35; Gen 30:1-2)

Twenty years passed by, and Jacob, a wealthy patriarch, departed from Haran as he came, a fugitive from kindred. (Gen 31:11-13; 31:17-21.) And as before in his flight, nightly repose brought visions of paradise, and the voice of God. He was overtaken by his pursuers, and accused among other things of stealing Laban's teraphim. (Gen 31:25-32.) From some unknown motive, Rachel had carried away these household gods, and dissembled, to conceal the fact. (Gen 31:33-35.) But the blemishes on her character, when the attention and flattery her beauty received are taken into the account, are faint and few. She was a splendid woman, beloved in all the relations of domestic and social life.

At the ford of Jabbok, when Jacob was about to encounter the embittered Esau with his host, he placed in the rear of his own caravan, Rachel and the stripling Joseph, her youngest boy, to have them the least exposed if an attack were made. (Gen 33:1-2.)-How remote the thought, when she led the lad to the margin of the stream, that his infant hand would in after years, hold the key of a monarch's treasury, wanting only a sceptre to be Sovereign of the proudest realm on earth, rescuing from famine Israel and his household, to prevent the failure of a single promise concealing the chosen of the Lord.

Not far from Bethel, Rachel gave birth to another son-and her own life was the price of this last‐born. (Gen 35:16-19.) Having escaped the rage of enemies, and the perils of a wearisome march, just entering into the very bosom of Canaan, Rachel must be laid in the grave. She was conscious of her hastening dissolution, and murmured Benoni-the son of my sorrow. Then with a blessing, she bade Jacob and her noble sons farewell, looked up trustingly to the sky bending brightly above her, and "fell asleep." Her last gaze was towards the hills around Bethlehem, which were flooded with the light of the star in the East, and echoed back to the "Mount of God" the chorus of angels, when "He who should redeem Israel" was cradled in a manger! They buried her there, and Jacob erected a memorial of stone, which survived the lapse of centuries, and was cherished as the monument of beauty and worth by his descendants, till it crumbled to dust. (Gen 35:20.)

We need no further illustration of her elevated character than those testimonials, or of her intellectual force and piety than the faultless and kingly Joseph-the full‐length portrait of a pure and brilliant man, which in the distance and dimness of antiquity, is yet distinct and beautiful, beneath the radiance that falls from the Eternal city of the better Canaan, into which he entered.


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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