Meet Rachel - Favored Wife of Jacob

Jacob labored 14 years to win Rachel in marriage

Jacob and Rachel
Image: Public Domain

The marriage of Rachel in the Bible was one of the most captivating episodes recorded in the book of Genesis, a story of love triumphing over lies.

Rachel in the Bible

  • Known for: Rachel was the younger daughter of Laban and Jacob’s favored wife. She gave birth to Joseph, one of the most important figures of the Old Testament, who saved the nation of Israel during a famine. She also bore Benjamin and was a faithful wife to Jacob.
  • Bible References: Rachel’s story is told Genesis 29:6-35:24, 46:19-25, 48:7; Ruth 4:11; Jeremiah 31:15; and Matthew 2:18.
  • Strengths: Rachel stood by her husband during her father's deceptions. Every indication was that she loved Jacob deeply.
  • Weaknesses: Rachel was jealous of her sister Leah. She was manipulative to try to gain Jacob's favor. She also stole her father's idols; the reason was unclear.
  • Occupation: Shepherdess, housewife.
  • Hometown: Haran.
  • Family Tree:
    Father - Laban
    Husband - Jacob
    Sister - Leah
    Children - Joseph, Benjamin

Rachel's Story in the Bible

Isaac, the father of Jacob, wanted his son to marry from among their own people, so he sent Jacob to Paddan-aram, to find a wife among the daughters of Laban, Jacob's uncle. At the well at Haran, Jacob found Rachel, Laban's younger daughter, tending sheep. Captivated by her, "Jacob went over to the well and moved the stone from its mouth and watered his uncle’s flock." (Genesis 29:10, NLT)

Jacob kissed Rachel and fell in love with her instantly. Scripture says Rachel was beautiful. Her name means "ewe" in Hebrew.

Instead of giving Laban the traditional bride-price, Jacob agreed to work for Laban seven years to earn Rachel's hand in marriage. But on the night of the marriage, Laban deceived Jacob. Laban substituted Leah, his older daughter, and in the darkness, Jacob thought Leah was Rachel.

In the morning, Jacob discovered he had been tricked. Laban's excuse was that it was not their custom to marry off the younger daughter before the older one. Jacob then married Rachel and worked for Laban another seven years for her.

Jacob loved Rachel but was indifferent toward Leah. God took pity on Leah and allowed her to bear children, while Rachel was barren.

Jealous of her sister, Rachel gave Jacob her servant Bilhah as a wife. By ancient custom, Bilhah's children would be credited to Rachel.  Bilhah bore children to Jacob, causing Leah to give her servant Zilpah to Jacob, who had children with her.

Altogether, the four women bore 12 sons and one daughter, Dinah. Those sons became the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel. Rachel bore Joseph, then the entire clan left Laban's country to return to Isaac. 

Unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel stole her father's household gods or teraphim. When Laban caught up with them, he searched for the idols, but Rachel had hidden the statues under her camel's saddle. She told her father she was having her period, making her ceremonially unclean, so he did not search near her.

Later, in giving birth to Benjamin, Rachel died and was buried by Jacob near Bethlehem

Rachel Outside of Genesis

Rachel is mentioned twice in the Old Testament beyond her story in Genesis. In Ruth 4:11, she is named as one "from whom all the nation of Israel descended." (NLT) Jeremiah 31:15 speaks of Rachel "weeping for her children" who have been taken into exile. In the New Testament, this same verse in Jeremiah is cited in Matthew 2:18 as a prophecy fulfilled through Herod’s order to kill all male children under two in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas.

Life Lessons From Rachel

Jacob loved Rachel passionately even before they were married, but Rachel thought, as her culture had taught her, that she needed to bear children to earn Jacob's love. Today, we live in a performance-based society.  We can't believe God's love is free for us to receive.  We don't need to perform good works to earn it.  His love and our salvation come through grace.  Our part is simply to accept and be thankful.

Key Verses

Genesis 29:18
Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, "I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel." (NIV)

Genesis 30:22
Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. (NIV)

Genesis 35:24
The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. (NIV)​

Sources

  • Rachel. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1361). Holman Bible Publishers.
  • Rachel, Daughter of Laban. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Lexham Press.



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Zavada, Jack. "Meet Rachel - Favored Wife of Jacob." Learn Religions, Dec. 6, 2022, learnreligions.com/rachel-favored-wife-of-jacob-701193. Zavada, Jack. (2022, December 6). Meet Rachel - Favored Wife of Jacob. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/rachel-favored-wife-of-jacob-701193 Zavada, Jack. "Meet Rachel - Favored Wife of Jacob." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/rachel-favored-wife-of-jacob-701193 (accessed February 9, 2023).