Genesis 29:31–30:24: The Offspring of Jacob
What if God were only faithful to us to the degree that we are faithful to him? Certainly, all believers understand that God acts more faithfully than we do. What we do not always appreciate, however, is the infinite degree to which God’s faithfulness extends beyond our own. We tend to overestimate our own faithfulness, imagining that God is merely a better version of ourselves. In fact, God acts with faithfulness that we cannot fully understand. The Apostle Paul reminds us that “if we are faithless, [God] remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). In other words, God would have to become unfaithful to himself before he could become unfaithful to us.
The logic of God’s faithfulness, then, does not follow human concepts of achievement, merit, or justice. Instead, God’s faithfulness emerges from his unmerited, undeserved, unearned grace. God remains faithful to those who least deserve it, for no one deserves God’s faithfulness in the least. So, as Genesis 29:31–30:24 brings us into the intimate, painful struggles of Jacob and his four wives, we see God’s grace exalted from the sinful ruins of personal favoritism, sibling rivalry, sexual misconduct, and pagan-leaning fertility practices. God does not give us this text to cause us to recoil from Jacob’s family in horror. Instead, this text is a mirror that reveals our own sin so that we may better understand how God deals graciously and faithfully with us. Therefore, the lesson of this story is not that we should follow the example set forth by Jacob and his wives. Rather, this text teaches us to entrust ourselves to the grace of the God who was faithful to them, for still to this day God remains faithful to his faithless people.
1. What suffering does God see in your life (Gen. 29:31–32)? What does God hear from your lamenting prayers (Gen. 29:33)? How can you be confident that God cares about your suffering? What has God already done to demonstrate that he sees and hears you? How can God’s redemptive work in your life give you reason for praising him in the midst of your distress?
2. When Rachel gives Bilhah to Jacob as a wife, she acts desperately because of her envy of Leah (Gen. 30:1–4). What matters are you faithlessly taking into your own hands rather than trusting God? How have you justified your actions by pointing to your outward success as evidence of God’s blessing, vindication, or triumph in your life (Gen. 30:4–8)?
3. Although Leah first acknowledges the Lord’s hand, her conflict with Rachel leads her to act in desperation too (Gen. 30:9). What conflicts are weighing on you right now? Have those divisions caused your confidence in the Lord’s faithfulness to drift? What evidence demonstrates that God not only has been faithful to you, but that he will continue to be faithful to you?
4. How many ways does Rachel behave faithlessly toward God in this passage and in Genesis 31:34? Why, then, does God “remember” her to open her womb (Gen. 30:22)? Why does God remember you and me? What response does God’s kindness toward Rachel prompt from her (Gen. 30:23–24)? Does God’s kindness actually prompt the same response from you?