Sunday, 26 February 2012

5. Rachel - the dubious blessing of motherhood.

'Lord help the Mister, who comes between me and my sister, and Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man', as the song goes...

It's a mixed up tale of love, deceit, mistaken identity, jealousy, infertility and a lot of half brothers. Rachel is loved by Jacob but in the near Eastern manner of veils and darkened bridal tents, Jacob is tricked into marrying/sleeping with her eldest sister, Leah, first. (N.B. best to make good eye contact on your wedding night...)

But Jacob is not to be put off that easily. In the manner of swooning lovers he has already toiled seven years in the fields for her and after a week of Leah he marries Rachel as well, thus setting up a compromised marital scenario of sisterly/maidservantly jealousy and strife extending way into the future as eventually four different women compete to bring children into the same family.

Rachel means 'ewe', a mother sheep, but motherhood is a long time coming. Infertility can make you desperate - she cries to Jacob, 'give me children or I'll die.' (Genesis 30:1) which turns out to be sadly prophetic. Her prayer for a baby must have been a persevering one: 'Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb' (Gen. 30:22). After the joy of Joseph (Jacob's favourite) she dies giving birth to Benjamin, the youngest. 

From extremely unlikely beginnings, despite human frailty and a family tree to baffle even 'Who do you think you are?', Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is now an assured future West End reality.

Which just goes to show that the course of true love (and motherhood) never did run smooth.

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