Leah and Rachel pt. I

6 02 2009

The women’s group at my church, FEMME, has decided to study and discuss women in our history (Scriptural and non-scriptural). I have decided to start with Rachel and Leah. I’d start with Eve or Sarai/Sarah but they are very controversial…I don’t think that’s the best starting point for me. I wrote a paper on them my first semester in Grad School that my professor quite enjoyed. I also enjoyed what I discovered about their story. I focused on the birth narratives of their sons, taking a literary approach (“What does the text say”). What I learned in my research is that the way they name their children mirrors the way they related to one another and to Jacob, their shared husband, and  Yahweh.

For now I will deal with the significance of the mothers’ naming their children, and, more than that, getting to explain why they named them what they did!

If you read through the book of Genesis closely, you will notice that only four women get to name their children. Two of those women are Eve (4:1 “I have gotten a man-child with the help of the Lord” thus naming Cain) and Tamar (38:29 “What a breach you have made for yourself!” thus naming Perez); the other two are, of course, Leah and Rachel. An interesting side note, Tamar had twins, yet only has a voice in naming one. There are several names in Genesis: Cain, Abel, Seth, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, and lists upon lists of genealogies. But here in Genesis 29-30, two mothers have their voice in naming all twelve of their sons.

In much of the reading I did (outside the feminist perspective or very observant readers otherwise), I noticed that this portion was referred to commonly as the genealogy of Jacob’s sons. Yet Jacob is a secondary character at best, and, as we shall see in later blogs, a tool in the story more than anything else. This story is about Leah and Rachel, not Jacob, not the sons. As such, I believe it has much to say about the way women treat one another (and men). Eventually I will take on the application aspect of this piece, but for now you will have to be content on the doing some reading through the passage in an attempt to hear what it has to say to us.  

Finally, I wanted to include a rough outline of how I intend to work through this passage.  I reserve the right to scrap it and start over if I need to.

I. Intro to naming speeches

II. The backdrop/Leah’s first four naming speeches

III.  Rachel’s quarrel with Jacob/ Baby mamas.

IV. Love potions and Leah’s final 3 children

V. Rachel’s firstborn

VI. Application

Advertisements