Genesis 30:3
And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in to her; and she shall bear on my knees, that I may also have children by her.
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(3) Behold my maid Bilhàh.—Rachel had little excuse for this action; for there was no religious hope involved, as when Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham (Genesis 16:2), but solely vexation at her own barrenness, and envy of her sister. All that can be said in her defence is, that the custom existed, and, perhaps, because it was distasteful to the wife, was looked upon as meritorious (Genesis 30:18).

She shall bear upon my knees.—So in Genesis 1:23, it is said, in the Hebrew, that “the children of Machir were born upon Joseph’s knees,” not borne, as in our margin. It appears that there was a custom of placing the new-born child upon the knees, first of the father, who, by accepting it. acknowledged the infant as his own; and secondly, upon those of the mother. In this case, as Bilhah’s children were regarded as legally born of Rachel, they would be placed upon Rachel’s knees. Probably, too, the children of Machir, by being placed upon Joseph’s knees, were in some way adopted by him.

That I may also have children by her.—Heb., be built by her. (See Note on Genesis 16:2.)

Genesis 30:3. Behold my maid Bilhah — She will rather have children by reputation than none at all; children that she can call her own, though they be not so. But had she not considered her sister as her rival, and envied her, she would have thought Leah’s children nearer to her, and more entitled to her care than Bilhah’s could be. As an early instance of her dominion over the children born in her apartment, she takes a pleasure in giving them names that carry in them nothing but marks of emulation with her sister. As if she had overcome her, 1st, At law, she calls the first son of her handmaid Dan, judgment; saying, God hath judged me — That is, given sentence in my favour. 2d, In battle, she calls the next Naphtali, wrestlings, saying, I have wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed — See what roots of bitterness envy and strife are, and what mischief they make among relations!30:1-13 Rachel envied her sister: envy is grieving at the good of another, than which no sin is more hateful to God, or more hurtful to our neighbours and ourselves. She considered not that God made the difference, and that in other things she had the advantage. Let us carefully watch against all the risings and workings of this passion in our minds. Let not our eye be evil towards any of our fellow-servants, because our Master's is good. Jacob loved Rachel, and therefore reproved her for what she said amiss. Faithful reproofs show true affection. God may be to us instead of any creature; but it is sin and folly to place any creature in God's stead, and to place that confidence in any creature, which should be placed in God only. At the persuasion of Rachel, Jacob took Bilhah her handmaid to wife, that, according to the usage of those times, her children might be owned as her mistress's children. Had not Rachel's heart been influenced by evil passions, she would have thought her sister's children nearer to her, and more entitled to her care than Bilhah's. But children whom she had a right to rule, were more desirable to her than children she had more reason to love. As an early instance of her power over these children, she takes pleasure in giving them names that carry in them marks of rivalry with her sister. See what roots of bitterness envy and strife are, and what mischief they make among relations. At the persuasion of Leah, Jacob took Zilpah her handmaid to wife also. See the power of jealousy and rivalship, and admire the wisdom of the Divine appointment, which joins together one man and one woman only; for God hath called us to peace and purity.Bilhah, Rachel's maid, bears two sons. Rachel becomes impatient of her barrenness and jealous of her sister, and unjustly reproaches her husband, who indignantly rebukes her. God, not he, has withheld children from her. She does what Sarah had done before her Genesis 16:2-3, gives her handmaid to her husband. No express law yet forbade this course, though nature and Scripture by implication did Genesis 2:23-25. "Dan." "God hath judged me." In this passage Jacob and Rachel use the common noun, God, the Everlasting, and therefore Almighty, who rules in the physical relations of things - a name suitable to the occasion. He had judged her, dealt with her according to his sovereign justice in withholding the fruit of the womb, when she was self-complacent and forgetful of her dependence on a higher power; and also in hearing her voice when she approached him in humble supplication. "Naphtali." "Wrestlings of God," with God, in prayer, on the part of both sisters, so that they wrestled with one another in the self-same act. Rachel, though looking first to Jacob and then to her maid, had at length learned to look to her God, and then had prevailed.3-9. Bilhah … Zilpah—Following the example of Sarah with regard to Hagar, an example which is not seldom imitated still, she adopted the children of her maid. Leah took the same course. A bitter and intense rivalry existed between them, all the more from their close relationship as sisters; and although they occupied separate apartments, with their families, as is the uniform custom where a plurality of wives obtains, and the husband and father spends a day with each in regular succession, that did not allay their mutual jealousies. The evil lies in the system, which being a violation of God's original ordinance, cannot yield happiness. She shall bear upon my knees; an ellipsis or short speech; She shall bear a child which may be laid upon my knees, or in my lap, which I may adopt and bring up as if it were my own. See Genesis 50:23 Isaiah 66:12.

That I may also have children by her; for as servants, so their work and fruit, were not their own, but their masters’. And she said,.... in order to pacify Jacob, and explain her meaning to him; which was, not that she thought it was in his power to make her the mother of children, but that he would think of some way or another of obtaining children for her, that might go for hers; so the Arabic version, "obtain a son for me": but, since no method occurred to him, she proposes one:

behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her, take her and use her as thy wife:

and she shall bear upon my knees; either sit on her knees in the time of labour, and so bring forth as if it was she herself; or rather bear a child, which Rachel would take and nurse, and dandle upon her knees as her own, see Isaiah 66:12,

that I may also have children by her; children as well as her sister, though by her maid, and as Sarah proposed to have by Hagar, whose example, in all probability, she had before her, and uses her very words; See Gill on Genesis 16:2.

And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my {b} knees, that I may also have children by her.

(b) I will receive her children on my lap, as though they were my own.

3. bear upon my knees] By this phrase Rachel means that she will recognize and adopt as her own the children by her handmaid, Bilhah. For the phrase, cf. Genesis 50:23; Job 3:12. The child being received on the knees of the parent was regarded as being accepted into the family. The words retain the trace of a primitive ceremony of legitimatization and adoption.

obtain children] Heb. be builded by her. The same figure of a house is used by Sarah, referring to Hagar in Genesis 16:2, where see note.Verse 3. - And she said, - resorting to the sinful expedient of Sarah (Genesis 16:2), though without Sarah's excuse, since there was no question whatever about an heir for Jacob; which, even if there had been, would not have justified a practice which, in the case of her distinguished relative, had been so palpably condemned - Behold my maid Bilhah (vide Genesis 29:29), go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, - i.e. children that I may place upon my knees, as mothers do (Piscator, A Lapide, Calvin, Rosenmüller, Lange, Ainsworth); the literal sense of the words being too absurd to require refutation - that I may also have children - literally, be builded up (cf. Genesis 16:2) - by her. Leah's First Sons. - Jacob's sinful weakness showed itself even after his marriage, in the fact that he loved Rachel more than Leah; and the chastisement of God, in the fact that the hated wife was blessed with children, whilst Rachel for a long time remained unfruitful. By this it was made apparent once more, that the origin of Israel was to be a work not of nature, but of grace. Leah had four sons in rapid succession, and gave them names which indicated her state of mind: (1) Reuben, "see, a son!" because she regarded his birth as a pledge that Jehovah had graciously looked upon her misery, for now her husband would love her; (2) Simeon, i.e., "hearing," for Jehovah had heard, i.e., observed that she was hated; (3) Levi, i.e., attachment, for she hoped that this time, at least, after she had born three sons, her husband would become attached to her, i.e., show her some affection; (4) Judah (יהוּדה, verbal, of the fut. hoph. of ידה), i.e., praise, not merely the praised one, but the one for whom Jehovah is praised. After this fourth birth there was a pause (Genesis 29:31), that she might not be unduly lifted up by her good fortune, or attribute to the fruitfulness of her own womb what the faithfulness of Jehovah, the covenant God had bestowed upon her.
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