1 ¶ And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. 2 And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? 3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. 4 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. 5 And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. 6 And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan. 7 And Bilhah Rachel’s maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son. 8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali. 9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. 10 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a son. 11 And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad. 12 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.
Rachel envied her older sister’s success at giving their husband four sons. She holds Jacob responsible for her infertility. Jacob angrily states that it is God who has withheld a baby from her, which is true. God is in complete and immanent control of conception and birth, the entire process.
Here, she does something entirely alien to us, a repeat of Sarah’s behavior with Hagar. She offers her handmaid, who obviously has no rights to herself, as a surrogate to herself as a wife. This, what we would consider adultery, must not have been uncommon in the ancient world. Here, and elsewhere, we get a picture of the method of childbirth used in this part of the ancient world. …she shall bear upon my knees. Note the following;
Exodus 1:16 And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live.
The modern child-bearing position is on your back. The ancient was sitting on someone’s knees or a stool, a birthstool, pictures of which relics can be found on the internet if you are interested. I have read, though I cannot confirm, that birthstools were used in Europe during the Middle Ages. One Jewish source I read reported that ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics show the development of a chair type device with a hole where the seat is normally, much like a toilet seat today.
Bilhah does conceive and bear a son whom Rachel called Dan. The power to name is the power of dominion over someone or something as we saw from Adam. Rachel owns Bilhah and counts her children as her own. Dan, from the context, means judge and Strong’s confirms this. The Hebrew word also comes from a primitive root meaning to plead a cause before a judge so that we can see from the context, if we do not go to Strong’s, what God wants the name to mean.
Again, Bilhah, on behalf of Rachel bears Naphtali, whose name means wrestling. Then, Leah, realizing that she was no longer having children, gave her maid, Zilpah, to her husband. She then conceived and bore Gad, whose name means a troop. Certainly, their family was becoming a troop. Zilpah then bears Asher for Leah and Jacob. The word blessed here is defined as being happy in something you have received at the hand of God.