In his popular book Love & Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs combines an examination of key biblical texts with modern psychological and sociological data to reach the conclusion that, more than anything else in the world, women desire to be loved and men desire to be respected. These are the deepest cravings of our gender. I often use this book in counseling, and have verified its findings many times over. But, of course, there are always exceptions to the rule: sometimes a woman will value respect, or status, greater than love; and sometimes a man will want to be loved more than he wants respect.
Today’s Scripture passage is an example of this exception.
In Rachel and Leah's culture, a childless woman was disgraced. She was a severe embarrassment to her husband and to her community. In fact, the more sons a woman bore, the more honored she was in the community. Both Leah and Rachel pursue this honor through bickering, jealousy, bargaining, surrogacy, and using their husband as a pawn in their schemes. They often claim that their desire is for their husband to love them, but clearly they just want the honor of having children.
Meanwhile, Jacob goes along with every one of their manipulations: “you want me to sleep with your handmaiden? Sure;” “you want to name our kid ‘wrestling’ (Naphtali)? or ‘wages’ (Issachar)? or ‘judged’ (Dan)? Sure;” “after a long day’s worth of work, you have bought my sexual services with mandrakes? Ok.” Whatever schemes Rachel and Leah cook up, they have little to no respect for Jacob. Yet, because he loves his wives, and particularly Rachel, he goes along with whatever they say.
Sometimes a man just wants to be loved while a woman just wants respect.
Please read Genesis 30:1-13.
Jacob now has a little more than half of the children that he will ultimate father, and he has born these children through four different women. Both of his wives, Leah and Rachel, have given him their servants, Zilpah and Bilhah, as concubines and surrogate mothers. In this culture, a concubine had legal rights, and her sons would be considered legitimate children of their father, but she was considered a secondary wife and had little to no say over the management of the household.
So, Jacob now has four women in his life who are dividing up his household. This only create one problem after another. You would think that this man who had grown up in a divided home would have seen the danger in creating a divided family. Unfortunately, he doesn’t. When his barren wife comes to him in frustration, he doesn’t follow his father’s example of praying for her to bear children (25:21). Instead, he follows his grandfather’s example of sleeping with her concubine (16:2). God didn’t approve of what Abraham did back then, and God doesn’t approve of what Jacob does right now.
Jacob continually goes along with his wives’ schemes out of love for them, but they don’t respond in kind with respect for him. They just continue to manipulate him. Why? Because they value the honor that comes from having the most children more than they value the love of their husband.
Rachel says that she will die without children, and Leah couldn’t bear that she ceased bearing children. There are many women today who feel the same way. While our society values women differently than back in Jacob’s time, there are still many women today who cannot bear children, and feel ashamed.
It is at this time of loss, and difficult trial that you have two choices: run toward your spouse, or run away from him. When Rachel and Leah offer up their handmaidens to Jacob so that he may bear children through them, they are saying in effect “it is more important to me that I get the credit for bearing children than it is that I get to spend intimate time with my husband.” These women would rather their husband sleep with someone else than with them! How horrible it is when we chose status over our spouse!
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