And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labor.…
Thus she that had said, "Give me children, or I die," died in child-birth! Several circumstances which attended this afflictive event are deserving of notice.
(1) The words of the midwife: "Fear not: thou shalt have this son also." When Rachel bare her first son, she called him Joseph, that is, adding; "for," said she, by a prophetic impulse, "the Lord shall add to me another son." It is probably in reference to this that the midwife spake as she did. Her words, if reported to Jacob, with the recollection of the above prophetic hint, would raise his hopes, and render his loss more affecting, by adding to it the pain of disappointment. They appear to have no influence however on Rachel. She has the sentence of death in herself, and makes no answer; but turning her eyes towards the child, and calling him "Ben-oni, the son of my sorrow," she expired!
(2) The terms by which her death is described. "As her soul was in departing." An ordinary historian would have said, as she was dying, or as she was ready-to expire: but the Scriptures delight is an impressive kind of phraseology, which at the same time shall both instruct the mind and effect the heart. It was by means of such language, on various occasions, that the doctrine of a future state was known and felt from generation to generation among the Israelites, while the heathen around them, with all their learning, were in the dark upon the subject.
(3) The change of the child's name — "She called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin." The former, though very appropriate at the time, yet if continued, must tend perpetually to revive the recollection of the death of his mother; and of such a monitor Jacob did not stand in need. The name given him, signified, the son of my right hand; that is, a son of the most tender affection and delight, inheriting the place which his mother had formerly possessed in his father's heart. If the love of God be wanting, that of a creature will often be supreme; and where this is the case, the loss of the object is frequently known to leave the party utterly inconsolable; but though the affection of a good man may be very strong, and his sorrow proportionably very deep; yet he is taught to consider that every created good is only lent him; and that his generation work being as yet unfulfilled, it is not for him to feel melancholy, nor to pore over his loss with a sullenness that shall unfit him for duty, but rather to divert his affections from the object that is taken, and direct them to those that are left.
(4) The stone erected to her memory, and which appears to have continued for many generations. Burying her in the place where she died, "Jacob set a pillar upon her grave"; and that was the pillar of Rachel's grave when her history was written. It was near this place, if not upon the very spot, that the tribe of Benjamin afterwards had its inheritance: and therefore it is that the people who lived in the times of Jeremiah are called Rachel's children. The babes which Herod murdered are also so called.
Parallel VersesKJV: And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.