Rachel

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rā´chel (רחל, rāḥēl, “ewe”; Ῥαχήλ, Rhachḗl (Genesis 29:6; Jeremiah 31:15, the King James VersionRahel”)):

Eve, “the daughter”, “the somewhat petulant, peevish, and self-willed though beautiful younger daughter” of Laban, and one of Jacob's wives (Genesis 29:6, Genesis 29:28). He served Laban fourteen years for her, so deep was Jacob's affection for her. She was the mother of Joseph (Genesis 30:22-24). Afterwards, on Jacob's departure from Mesopotamia, she took with her father's teraphim (Genesis 31:34, Genesis 31:35). As they journeyed on from Bethel, Rachel died in giving birth to Benjamin (Genesis 35:18, Genesis 35:19), and was buried “in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave”. Her sepulchre is still regarded with great veneration by the Jews. Its traditional site is about half a mile from Jerusalem.

This name is used poetically by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:15-17) to denote God's people mourning under their calamities. This passage is also quoted by Matthew as fulfilled in the lamentation at Bethlehem on account of the slaughter of the infants there at the command of Herod (Matthew 2:17, Matthew 2:18).


1. Biography:

An ancestress of Israel, wife of Jacob, mother of Joseph and Benjamin. Rachel was the younger daughter of Laban, the Aramean, the brother of Jacob's mother; so Rachel and Jacob were cousins. They met for the first time upon the arrival of Jacob at Haran, when attracted by her beauty he immediately fell in love with her, winning her love by his chivalrous act related in Genesis 29:10 ff. According to the custom of the times Jacob contracted with Laban for her possession, agreeing to serve him 7 years as the stipulated price (Genesis 29:17-20). But when the time had passed, Laban deceived Jacob by giving him Leah instead of Rachel. When Jacob protested, Laban gave him Rachel also, on condition that Jacob serve 7 years more (Genesis 29:21-29). To her great dismay “Rachel was barren” (Genesis 29:30, Genesis 29:31), while Leah had children. Rachel, envious of her sister, complained to Jacob, who reminded her that children are the gift of God. Then Rachel resorted to the expedient once employed by Sarah under similar circumstances (Genesis 16:2 ff); she bade Jacob take her handmaid Bilhah, as a concubine, to “obtain children by her” (Genesis 30:3). Dan and Naphtali were the offspring of this union. The evil of polygamy is apparent from the dismal rivalry arising between the two sisters, each seeking by means of children to win the heart of Jacob. In her eagerness to become a mother of children, Rachel bargained with Leah for the mandrakes, or love-apples of her son Reuben, but all to no avail (Genesis 30:14). Finally God heard her prayer and granted her her heart's desire, and she gave birth to her firstborn whom she named Joseph (Genesis 30:22-24).

Some years after this, when Jacob fled from Laban with his wives, the episode of theft of the teraphim of Laban by Rachel, related in Genesis 31:19, Genesis 31:34, Genesis 31:35, occurred. She hoped by securing the household gods of her father to bring prosperity to her own new household. Though she succeeded by her cunning in concealing them from Laban, Jacob later, upon discovering them, had them put away (Genesis 35:2-4). In spite of all, she continued to be the favorite of Jacob, as is clearly evidenced by Genesis 33:2, where we are told that he assigned to her the place of greatest safety, and by his preference for Joseph, her son. After the arrival in Canaan, while they were on the way from Beth-el to Ephrath, i.e. Bethlehem, Rachel gave birth to her second son, Benjamin, and died (Genesis 35:16 ff).

2. Character:

In a marked manner Rachel's character shows the traits of her family, cunning and covetousness, so evident in Laban, Rebekah and Jacob. Though a believer in the true God (Genesis 30:6, Genesis 30:8, Genesis 30:22), she was yet given to the superstitions of her country, the worshipping of the teraphim, etc. (Genesis 31:19). The futility of her efforts in resorting to self-help and superstitious expedients, the love and stronger faith of her husband (Genesis 35:2-4), were the providential means of purifying her character. Her memory lived on in Israel long after she died. In Ruth 4:11, the names of Rachel and Leah occur in the nuptial benediction as the foundresses of the house of Israel.


Rachel's Tomb

( מצּבת קברת רחל, maccebheth kebhurath rāḥēl):

In Genesis 35:20 we read: “Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave: the same is the Pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day,” i.e. the time of the writer. Though the pillar, i.e sepulchral monument, has long disappeared, the spot is marked until this day, and Christians and Jews unite in honoring it. The present tomb, which, apparently, is not older than the 15th century, is built in the style of the small-domed buildings raised by Muslims in honor of their saints. It is a rough structure of four square walls, each about 23 ft. long and 20 ft. high; the dome rising 10 ft. higher is used by Muhammadans for prayer, while on Fridays the Jews make supplication before the empty tomb within. It is doubtful, but probable, that it marks the exact spot where Rachel was buried. There are, apparently, two traditions as to the location of the place. The oldest tradition, based upon Genesis 35:16-20; Genesis 48:7, points to a place one mile North of Bethlehem and 4 miles from Jerusalem. Matthew 2:18 speaks for this place, since the evangelist, reporting the slaughter of the innocents of Bethlehem, represents Rachel as weeping for her children from her neighboring grave. But according to 1 Samuel 10:2 ff, which apparently represents another tradition, the place of Rachel's grave was on the “border of Benjamin,” near Beth-el, about 10 miles North of Jerusalem, at another unknown Ephrath. This location, some believe, is corroborated by Jeremiah 31:15, where the prophet, in relating the leading away of the people of Ramah, which was in Benjamin, into captivity, introduces Rachel the mother of that tribe as bewailing the fate of her descendants. Those that believe this northern location to be the place of Rachel's grave take the words, “the same is Beth-lehem,” in Genesis 35:19; Genesis 48:7, to be an incorrect gloss; but that is a mere assumption lacking sufficient proof.

Mr. Nathan Strauss, of New York City, has purchased the land surrounding Rachel's grave for the purpose of erecting a Jewish university in the Holy Land.

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