Old Testament Jewish Matriarch. Wife of the Patriach Jacob. She spent a lengthy marriage in shame over her sterility, considered a sign of God’s disfavor. However, late in life she had two sons, Joseph, he of the many-coloured coat, and Benjamin.
- 17th-18th century BC
- 17th-18th century BC in childbirth
- buried in Bethlehem
- the lamb
While he [Jacob] was still talking with them, Rachel arrived with her father’s sheep; she was the one who tended them. As soon as Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his uncle Laban, with the sheep of his uncle Laban, he went up, rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well, and watered his uncle’s sheep. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and burst into tears. He told her that he was her father’s relative, Rebekah’s son, and she ran to tell her father.
When Laban heard the news about his sister’s son Jacob, he hurried out to meet him. After embracing and kissing him, he brought him to his house. Jacob then recounted to Laban all that had happened, and Laban said to him, “You are indeed my flesh and blood.”
After Jacob had stayed with him a full month, Laban said to him: “Should you serve me for nothing just because you are a relative of mine? Tell me what your wages should be.”
Now Laban had two daughters; the older was called Leah, the younger Rachel. Leah had lovely eyes, but Rachel was well formed and beautiful. Since Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel, he answered Laban, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”
Laban replied, “I prefer to give her to you rather than to an outsider. Stay with me.”
So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, yet they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, that I may consummate my marriage with her, for my term is now completed.”
So Laban invited all the local inhabitants and gave a feast. At nightfall he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob consummated the marriage with her. (Laban assigned his slave girl Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her maidservant.) In the morning Jacob was amazed: it was Leah! So he cried out to Laban: “How could you do this to me! Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why did you dupe me?”
“It is not the custom in our country,” Laban replied, “to marry off a younger daughter before an older one. Finish the bridal week for this one, and then I will give you the other too, in return for another seven years of service with me.”
Jacob agreed. He finished the bridal week for Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel in marriage. (Laban assigned his slave girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant.) Jacob then consummated his marriage with Rachel also, and he loved her more than Leah. Thus he remained in Laban’s service another seven years.
When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, he made her fruitful, while Rachel remained barren. Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben; for she said, “It means, ‘The LORD saw my misery; now my husband will love me.'” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “It means, ‘The LORD heard that I was unloved,’ and therefore he has given me this one also”; so she named him Simeon. Again she conceived and bore a son, and she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, since I have now borne him three sons”; that is why she named him Levi. Once more she conceived and bore a son, and she said, “This time I will give grateful praise to the LORD”; therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing children.
When Rachel saw that she failed to bear children to Jacob, she became envious of her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children or I shall die!”
In anger Jacob retorted, “Can I take the place of God, who has denied you the fruit of the womb?”
She replied, “Here is my maidservant Bilhah. Have intercourse with her, and let her give birth on my knees, so that I too may have offspring, at least through her.” So she gave him her maidservant Bilhah as a consort, and Jacob had intercourse with her.
When Bilhah conceived and bore a son, Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; indeed he has heeded my plea and given me a son.” Therefore she named him Dan.
Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah conceived again and bore a second son, and Rachel said, “I engaged in a fateful struggle with my sister, and I prevailed.” So she named him Naphtali.
When Leah saw that she had ceased to bear children, she gave her maidservant Zilpah to Jacob as a consort. So Jacob had intercourse with Zilpah, and she conceived and bore a son. Leah then said, “What good luck!” So she named him Gad.
Then Leah’s maidservant Zilpah bore a second son to Jacob; and Leah said, “What good fortune!” – meaning, “Women call me fortunate.” So she named him Asher.
One day, during the wheat harvest, when Reuben was out in the field, he came upon some mandrakes which he brought home to his mother Leah. Rachel asked Leah, “Please let me have some of your son’s mandrakes.”
Leah replied, “Was it not enough for you to take away my husband, that you must now take my son’s mandrakes too?”
“Very well, then!” Rachel answered. “In exchange for your son’s mandrakes, Jacob may lie with you tonight.”
That evening, when Jacob came home from the fields, Leah went out to meet him. “You are now to come in with me,” she told him, “because I have paid for you with my son’s mandrakes.” So that night he slept with her, and God heard her prayer; she conceived and bore a fifth son to Jacob.
Leah then said, “God has given me my reward for having let my husband have my maidservant”; so she named him Issachar.
Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob; and she said, “God has brought me a precious gift. This time my husband will offer me presents, now that I have borne him six sons”; so she named him Zebulun.
Finally, she gave birth to a daughter, and she named her Dinah.
Then God remembered Rachel; he heard her prayer and made her fruitful. She conceived and bore a son, and she said, “God has removed my disgrace.” So she named him Joseph, meaning, “May the LORD add another son to this one for me!” – Genesis 29.9-30.23
- “Rachel the Matriarch“. CatholicSaints.Info. 28 October 2008. Web. 5 May 2015. <>