The Bible – Old Testament
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?”
1 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.”
2 So she gave him her maidservant Bilhah as a consort, and Jacob had intercourse with her.
When Bilhah conceived and bore a son,
3 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,
4 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.
5 Leah then said, “What good luck!” So she named him Gad.
Then Leah’s maidservant Zilpah bore a second son to Jacob;
6 and Leah said, “What good fortune!” – meaning, “Women call me fortunate.” So she named him Asher.
7 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.
8 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;
9 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.”
10 So she named him Joseph, meaning, “May the LORD add another son to this one for me!”
After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban: “Give me leave to go to my homeland.
Let me have my wives, for whom I served you, and my children, too, that I may depart. You know very well the service that I have rendered you.”
Laban answered him: “If you will please…”I have learned through divination that it is because of you that God has blessed me.
So,” he continued, “state what wages you want from me, and I will pay them.”
Jacob replied: “You know what work I did for you and how well your livestock fared under my care;
the little you had before I came has grown into very much, since the LORD’S blessings came upon you in my company. Therefore I should now do something for my own household as well.”
“What should I pay you?” Laban asked. Jacob answered: “You do not have to pay me anything outright. I will again pasture and tend your flock, if you do this one thing for me:
11 go through your whole flock today and remove from it every dark animal among the sheep and every spotted or speckled one among the goats. Only such animals shall be my wages.
In the future, whenever you check on these wages of mine, let my honesty testify against me: any animal in my possession that is not a speckled or spotted goat, or a dark sheep, got there by theft!”
“Very well,” agreed Laban. “Let it be as you say.”
12 That same day Laban removed the streaked and spotted he-goats and all the speckled and spotted she-goats, all those with some white on them, as well as the fully dark-colored sheep; these he left. . . in charge of his sons.
Then he put a three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to pasture the rest of Laban’s flock.
Jacob, however, got some fresh shoots of poplar, almond and plane trees, and he made white stripes in them by peeling off the bark down to the white core of the shoots.
The rods that he had thus peeled he then set upright in the watering troughs, so that they would be in front of the animals that drank from the troughs. When the animals were in heat as they came to drink,
13 the goats mated by the rods, and so they brought forth streaked, speckled and spotted kids.
The sheep, on the other hand, Jacob kept apart, and he set these animals to face the streaked or fully dark-colored animals of Laban. Thus he produced special flocks of his own, which he did not put with Laban’s flock.
Moreover, whenever the hardier animals were in heat, Jacob would set the rods in the troughs in full view of these animals, so that they mated by the rods;
but with the weaker animals he would not put the rods there. So the feeble animals would go to Laban, but the sturdy ones to Jacob.
Thus the man grew increasingly prosperous, and he came to own not only large flocks but also male and female servants and camels and asses.
1  On my knees: in the ancient Near East, a father would take a newborn child in his lap to signify that he acknowledged it as his own; Rachel uses the ceremony in order to adopt the child and establish her legal rights to it.
2  Consort: The Hebrew word normally means “wife,” but here it refers to a wife of secondary rank, who did not have the full legal rights of an ordinary wife.
3  Dan: explained by the term dannanni, “he has vindicated me.”
4  Naphtali: explained by the phrase “naptule elohim niptalti,” literally, “in a divine wrestling match I have wrestled,” perhaps implying the concept of an ordeal; hence the above rendering, I engaged in a fateful struggle.
5  Gad: explained by the Hebrew term begad, literally “in luck,” i.e., what good luck!
6  Asher: explained by the term beoshri, literally “in my good fortune.” i.e., what good fortune, and by the term ishsheruni “they call me fortunate.”
7  Mandrakes: an herb whose root was anciently thought to promote conception. The Hebrew word for mandrakes, dudaim, has erotic connotations, since it sounds like the words daddayim (“breasts”) and dodim (“sexual pleasure”).
8  Issachar: explained by the terms, sekari, “my reward,” and in ⇒ Genesis 30:16, sakor sekartika, literally “I have hired you,” i.e., I have paid for you.
9  Zebulun: related to the Akkadian word zubullum, “bridegroom’s gift,” is explained by the terms, zebadani . . . zebed tob, “he has brought me a precious gift,” and yizbeleni, “he will offer me presents.”
10  Joseph: explained by the words yosep, “may he add,” and in ⇒ Genesis 30:23, asap, “he has removed.”
11  Dark . . . sheep . . . spotted or speckled goats: In the Near East the normal color of sheep is light gray, whereas that of goats is uniform dark brown or black. Ordinarily, therefore, Jacob would have received but few animals.
12  By giving the abnormally colored animals to his sons, Laban not only deprived Jacob of his first small wages, but he also designed to prevent in this way the future breeding of such animals in the part of his flock entrusted to Jacob.
13 [39-42] Jacob’s stratagem was based on the widespread notion among simple people that visual stimuli can have prenatal effects on the offspring of breeding animals. Thus, the rods on which Jacob had whittled stripes or bands or chevron marks were thought to cause the female goats that looked at them to bear kids with lighter-colored marks on their dark hair, while the gray ewes were thought to bear lambs with dark marks on them simply by visual cross-breeding with the dark goats.