Sometimes when I’m reading the Bible, I come across verses or passages that stand out because they’re foreign to me. Usually, this means some concept or idea is being expressed that I don’t know about. Other times, I might think a passage is saying something when it’s really saying something else. Whenever this happens, I go through my usual process of research. I’ll compare the verses with different translations, check commentaries, and go on from there. I always pray and ask for enlightenment before I start reading, so I usually don’t pray again for guidance unless I find myself confused or lacking understanding. Today was one of those days when I had to stop what I was reading and look further into it.

Mandrakes?

During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” “Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”

Genesis 30:14-15 (NIV)

When I read this interaction between Leah and Rachel, I knew there was something more to it. It turns out the mandrake plant is rumored to have many medicinal benefits, one of which is an increase in fertility or sexual activity. It’s obvious why Leah and Rachel would both want to use this plant since they believed it could boost their fertility. Leah had stopped having children (cf. Genesis 30:9), and Rachel could not conceive.

I know there are lots of plants that have medicinal properties. It makes sense to me that God would create plants with myriad uses. In this exchange between Lead and Rachel, the mandrake goes to Rachel. In return, Leah and Jacob lie together, and Leah conceives another child. Not because of the mandrake plant. It went to Rachel. No, Scripture tells us:

God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son.

Genesis 30:17 (NIV)

We can surmise that Leah prayed to God, and she conceived. In subsequent verses, Leah gives birth to two more children. Then we are given this information.

Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive.

Genesis 30:22 (NIV)

Again, it wasn’t a mandrake plant or anything else that enabled Rachel to conceive. It was God.

It’s heartbreaking when you’re trying to have a baby without success. Months and years can go by, and you’re doing everything you can do to facilitate the process. One of the difficulties of being unable to conceive is the toll it takes on the husband and wife. Men and women have different viewpoints on parenthood. When we look at Rachel, we read that it was a disgrace to be unable to have children. We really don’t know how Jacob felt about it because Scripture doesn’t tell us. We know Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, while Rachel couldn’t conceive. I imagine Jacob didn’t love Rachel any less because she wasn’t bearing him children.

I think one of the most difficult issues to deal with regarding infertility is faith. The difference in faith between the husband and wife. I’m not talking about the outward display of faith we have in front of our wife, husband, or other people when we’re praying and considering the lack of conception. I’m talking about the middle-of-the-night faith. When it’s dark and your spouse is asleep next to you, you wonder. You wonder why you’re not having the baby you want, and you wonder what you’ve done wrong. There is something deeply rooted and painful in the thoughts that cross our minds when we consider something like infertility. There’s a personal affront, unlike many other things we face as Believers.

All that we can do in such a case is continue to trust the Lord. Despite the pain and loss we feel, we need to continue to support our spouse as the Lord leads us. God will work it out. He always does.

Goats and Sheep

Something else that caught my attention today, while reading Genesis was the issue of the speckled and spotted livestock. You can read all about it here because I’m not going to cover it all.

My takeaway from reading this has always been that Jacob had the speckled, spotted, and dark sheep, the spotted or speckled goats, because of how he handled the breeding of these animals.

Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted.

Genesis 30:37-39 (NIV)

I could be wrong, but when I read this, it seems to be suggesting that the young were streaked, speckled, or spotted because of what Jacob did to the branches. As if the young’s coloring mirrored that of the branches. I’m not a geneticist or anything like that. However, it looks like fuzzy logic to me. Fortunately, we have this intelligence from Genesis 31.

“In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you.

Genesis 31:10-12 (NIV)

This tells me that God made the animals streaked, speckled, or spotted. Mating strong animals with other strong animals is a sound practice for breeding. I know there are health benefits to be found in plants Jacob used. All of which contributed to a healthy flock. However, if God had not been in it, then it wouldn’t have worked out how it did.

Conclusion

Sometimes, in the pursuit of our goals, we might be tempted to try other things to facilitate the process. However, no matter what it is we’re looking for from God, it’s God who decides when, how, and if it happens. In some things, this is easier to accept than in others. Even when we think we want the things we believe God wants, we still need to be able to set it all aside if it’s not God’s will for our lives. We know He is able, and His timing is perfect.

Do you know God? God knows you, and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart, and I receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.