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Rachel and Leah

(Back to OT Junior Seminary Overview)

Old Testament Lesson 17: Genesis 28-30

To Prepare: Read Genesis 28, Genesis 29, and Genesis 30; print a copy of the activity below for each child participating. I know. It’s a little silly, but I couldn’t resist. Maybe Jacob should have tried this activity before he got married.

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To Teach: Begin with a prayer. When we last met, Rebekah warned Jacob that Esau was planning to kill him and told him to seek out her relatives in the land she came from. In Genesis 28:1-2, Isaac calls Jacob to him and warns him not to take a wife from the Canaanite women. Instead, he wants him to find a wife from Rebekah’s relatives while he is there. (My kids asked, so I had to explain that in Old Testament times it was not considered weird or bad to marry your cousins.)

While he was on his way, Jacob had a dream. (Genesis 28:12-14) In his dream he saw a ladder, stretching from earth to Heaven. On the ladder, angels were climbing up and climbing down. The Lord was there, and repeated that Jacob would received the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. This vision is known as “Jacob’s Ladder.”

Jacob arrived at his uncle’s house and was welcomed warmly. He stayed with his uncle Laban and worked for him. Because he was his relative, Laban didn’t want Jacob to work for free, and he asked what reward he wanted for his work. Read Genesis 29:16-19 to see what Jacob asked for.

Jacob worked for his uncle seven years so that he could marry Rachel. Read Genesis 29:20. Romantic! Read or summarize Genesis 29:21-28. Once his time was up, Jacob asked Laban for his wife, but Laban tricked Jacob and sent Leah instead. His excuse was that the older daughter had to be married before the younger could be married. Ask how they think Jacob and Leah each felt about their situation. Fortunately, in Old Testament times, not only could people marry their cousins, they could also have more than one wife, so Laban told Jacob he could marry Rachel, too, in exchange for seven more years of service. (He didn’t make him wait until the end of the seven years to marry her, though.)

Discuss how they think Jacob, Rachel, and Leah all felt about their situation. Explain that when the Lord saw that Rachel was loved more than Leah, that he blessed Leah with children and did not send Rachel any. I explained that in those times, a good wife was one who could have healthy children – specifically, healthy sons. Read Genesis 29:32-35. Leah thought that having so many sons would make Jacob love her.

Read Genesis 30:1-2 to see how Rachel felt watching her sister have child after child while she had none. She had a plan, however: Rachel had a handmaid, Bilhah, who belonged to her. She gave her to Jacob as a wife, and any children that Bilhah had would belong to Rachel. It worked – Bilhah had two sons. Leah stopped having children for a while and got worried, so she gave her handmaid, Zilpah, to Jacob, and she had two more sons for Leah.

Read or summarize Genesis 30:14-21. Leah’s son Reuben found mandrakes in a field. Rachel wanted them, because she believed they would help her get pregnant. She asked Leah to give them to her. Leah refused – if Rachel began having children, Leah wouldn’t have anything better than her sister. Rachel offered to send Jacob to Leah’s tent for the mandrakes. Leah had another son (over time, two more sons and a daughter) but the mandrakes did not help Rachel get pregnant.

After Leah had been given seven children, Rachel was able to have a son. (Genesis 30:22-24) It says that God hearkened (listened) unto Rachel. Rachel was probably praying for a son. She had probably been praying for the whole time – at least seven, perhaps more than ten years – without giving up. Point out that sometimes we have to wait for our blessings, sometimes a very, very long time.

Let kids spot the differences between Rachel and Leah – or just color. That’s it for today!

(Go to Lesson 18)

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