Sister Struggle

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"Never replace dependence on God with human schemes." [Gangel & Bramer]

Genesis(102) (Part of the Origins(100) series)
by Stuart Johns(233) on September 4, 2022 (Sunday Morning(335))

Encouragement(1), Forgiveness(15), Jealousy(2)


Sister Struggle

(Genesis 30:1-8)



“Like many parents of grown children, Sadhana and Sanjeev Prasad of India are frustrated at the lack of grandchildren in the picture. But, the Prasad’s resorted to a desperate tactic to force their son’s hand. They are suing him.


The couple's legal representative said, ‘They raised him, educated him, made him capable, made him a pilot -- which was expensive.’ The Prasad’s filed a suit against their son and daughter-in-law, seeking damages in the amount of 50 million Indian rupees, or about $643,000 in US dollars. ‘They see people in their neighborhood playing with their grandchildren and feel like they should also have one. They said they didn't marry (their son and daughter-in-law) off so that they can live alone. So, they said, in the next year, either give us a grandchild or give us compensation.’


According to CNN, such lawsuits are rare, but they highlight the strong familial traditions in India, where carrying on the family line is of utmost importance. Lawsuits like this reflect the inevitable conflicts that arise from generational shifts in perspective that include a stronger focus on work and career over raising a family.”


Source: Esha Mitra & Jessie Yeung, “Indian Couple Sue Only Son for Not Giving Them Grandchildren,” CNN (3-17-22).




This couple was jealous of those around them who already had grandchildren. ​​ They wanted to experience the joy of playing with their own grandchildren. ​​ They were not content to wait on God’s providential timing, but rather used the court system to get what they wanted.



  • ME

    • Discontentment/Jealousy

        • It is so easy to want what others have, especially when it comes to our siblings

        • I know that it has happened in my own family with my brother and sister

        • I’m not going to give any specifics, but I can tell you that each one of us has wanted what the other sibling(s) have had or have

        • It is so easy to think that the grass is greener on the other side

        • Most of the time we are not aware of some of the hardships that go along with having a particular thing and if we knew the hardships that come along with it, we would probably not want it

    • Dependence on God

        • This is an area where Judy and I continue to grow

        • We have seen significant growth over the many years of our marriage

        • In the early years, we depended on God to provide for our monthly bills and to put food on the table

        • When we started having children, we had to depend on God to guide and direct us in raising them

        • As older adults, we are depending on God to provide wisdom in counseling our children as they go out on their own, have children, change jobs, return to school, start their own businesses, etc.

        • There were times over the years where we tried to depend on human schemes in order to provide for our needs, but inevitably we returned to God for help and dependence


  • WE

    • All of us have a time in our lives when we were discontent and probably jealous of a sibling, friend, neighbor, fellow student, or coworker – it is part of our human condition to want what others have.

    • Every one of us can probably remember a time that we used a human scheme instead of depending on God


Last week, Pastor Marc shared with us that Leah had four sons by Jacob, because God had opened her womb. ​​ Rachel’s womb remained shut at this point and it caused her to become jealous of Leah. ​​ In her jealousy, she blamed Jacob and then devised a plan that would enable her to have children by her maidservant. ​​ She was not willing to wait on God’s providential timing, but tried to take control of the situation. ​​ This human scheme would not provide the contentment that she was hoping for. ​​ She need to depend on God and seek Him instead of trying to work it out on her own. ​​ She needed to learn to . . .


BIG IDEA – “Never replace dependence on God with human schemes.” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer]


The same is true for us.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Genesis 30:1-8)

    • Sadness (vv. 1-2)

        • Rachel became jealous of Leah, because Leah was having children and Rachel was not

          • Rachel’s jealousy stemmed from the pressures of her culture

          • “In a society that considered children, especially sons, symbols of wealth and power, jealousy loomed as the inevitable result of Rachel’s dilemma.” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 248-49]

        • Neither sister is content with what God has given them

          • “One wife has children but no love, the other has love but no children, and ‘they are competing with each other, one for love and the other for children.’” ​​ [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, 472]

          • For Rachel, love was not enough when Leah was bearing sons for Jacob

          • For Leah, children were not enough when Jacob clearly loved Rachel more than her

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – Contentment comes when we treasure what God has given us.

            • Where are you at today?

              • Are you dealing with discontentment?

              • Is there something that someone else has that you wish you had?

              • Is jealousy gaining a foothold in your life?

              • What does Scripture have to say about jealousy and envy?

                • James 3:16, For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

                • James 4:1-3, What causes fights and quarrels among you? ​​ Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? ​​ You want something but don’t get it. ​​ You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. ​​ You quarrel and fight. ​​ You do not have, because you do not ask God. ​​ When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

                • Proverbs 14:30, A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

                • Proverbs 27:4, Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

                • 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. ​​ I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. ​​ Indeed, you are still not ready. ​​ You are still worldly. ​​ For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? ​​ Are you not acting like mere men?

                • Paul tells the Galatians that one of the works of the flesh is jealousy and if we do any of the works of the flesh that we will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21)

              • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess my jealousy to the Lord and ask Him to forgive me.

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Treasure what the Lord has given me and thank Him.

            • We can experience contentment when we depend on God instead of other human beings

            • Rachel was depending on Jacob instead of the Lord to provide only what the Lord could provide

          • So, Rachel confronts Jacob while she is sad and hurting from the jealousy she is experiencing

        • Immediate gratification

          • Rachel is demanding that Jacob give her children or she’ll die

            • Obviously she will not die if she doesn’t have children, but this is the extent of her sadness, pain, and social disgrace

            • We have the privilege of knowing the whole story, from start to finish

              • The Lord will open Rachel’s womb and she will have two sons

              • Just a side note – Rachel will die after giving birth to her second child, Benjamin

              • Rachel does not have the foreknowledge that she will eventually have her own children with Jacob

              • She is impatient with God’s timing and takes her anger and frustration out on Jacob

                • There are two principles here that we do not want to miss

                • PRINCIPLE #2 – God’s providential timing is best.

                  • When we are hurting and upset, it is nearly impossible to see that God’s providential timing is best

                  • That is why we have to have close friends or family members that we can trust to point us back to the truths of who God is and what He has promised to do

                  • We need accountability partners that will remind us to never replace dependence on God with human schemes and to wait patiently for God’s perfect timing

                  • Do you have those kind of people in your life? ​​ (if you do that is great, hold on to them)

                  • If you do not, who can you trust to be that person(s) for you?

                  • Do you need to trust in God’s providential timing for something that you have been impatiently waiting on?

                • PRINCIPLE #3 – Misplaced anger can hurt relationships.

                  • “. . . instead of praying, either directly or through her husband, as Rebekah had done, to Jehovah, who had promised His favour to Jacob (28:13ff), she [Rachel] said to Jacob, in passionate displeasure, ‘Get me children, or I shall die;’ to which he angrily replied, ‘Am I in God’s stead (i.e., equal to God, or God), who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?’ i.e., Can I, a powerless man, give thee what the Almighty God has withheld? [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 184]

                  • We see that both Rachel and Jacob speak without thinking and allow misplaced anger to hurt each other

                  • Rachel was actually angry with God, because she knew who had the power to give and take life – she knew that Jacob did not have that power

                  • Jacob speaks impulsively when verbally attacked by Rachel

                  • “. . . what Rachel needed wasn’t a lecture on theology or gynecology. ​​ She needed the kind understanding of her husband and the encouragement that only his love could provide.” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 128]

                  • Is there something that you are angry with God about, but you have taken it out on a love one? (it’s not too late to go to that person, apologize, and ask for forgiveness)

                  • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Apologize and seek forgiveness for taking out my anger on a loved one.

                  • Have you been verbally attacked for something you do not have any control over?

                  • How did you react? ​​ (verbally attack back or provide understanding and encouragement with love)

                  • It’s not too late to go back to that person and provide loving encouragement and understanding

                  • #4 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Provide understanding and encouragement with love to someone who has verbally attacked me.

                  • It is important that we work to restore relationships that been damaged by misplaced anger

          • In her desire for immediate gratification and to best her sister, Rachel hatches a plan to ensure that she will have children

        • She offers her maidservant, Bilhah, to Jacob as a third wife and surrogate mother for her children

    • Surrogate (vv. 3-8)

        • “Never replace dependence on God with human schemes.”

        • Rachel’s plan

          • In the ancient Near East it was not uncommon for a wife who was experiencing infertility to offer her maidservant to her husband, so that the children born to the maidservant would be counted as the children of the husband and wife

          • We will see this played out as Rachel is the one who names the two sons born to Bilhah

          • In essence, Jacob and Rachel have adopted them

          • Two things that set Rachel apart from Sarah

            • There does not seem to be tension between the Rachel and Bilhah after she gives birth, while there was certainly tension between Sarah and Hagar

            • Rachel accepts the two boys as hers, while Sarah does not accept Ishmael

          • Jacob sleeps with Bilhah and she becomes pregnant

        • Bilhah’s babies

          • Dan

            • Rachel’s reaction to the first child born to Bilhah is recognition that God has vindicated her and has listened to her plea

            • It seems as though Rachel has been praying for a child, but perhaps this only happened after she gave Bilhah to Jacob as a third wife

            • Dan’s name comes from how Rachel felt after his birth

            • Dan literally means, “God has vindicated me.”

            • “In such context, the verb dîn signifies justice for an individual who finds herself in a heretofore hopeless and helpless state.” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 271]

            • Rachel is equally excited about birth of a second son to Bilhah

          • Naphtali

            • Bilhah conceived again and birth another son for Jacob

            • Rachel obviously perceived that she and Leah were in a competition, but again they were competing for two different things – Rachel was competing for children and Leah was competing for love

            • It is fascinating that Rachel would declare that she had won the struggle between her and Leah after having only two adopted sons

            • Perhaps this is an indication that the narrative is not in chronological order

              • Last week we learned about the four sons that Leah had

              • It is probable that Leah had two sons and then Bilhah had two sons, before Leah had two more sons

              • Maybe that is why Rachel is claiming victory at this point

              • The chronological time frame is not spelled out specifically in the text

            • Rachel names this second son Naphtali, which means “my struggle”

          • It appears as though Bilhah stops having children after Dan and Naphtali – no other children are recorded for her in Scripture


  • YOU

    • Are you jealous about something right now – take time to confess that to the Lord and seek His forgiveness

    • Are you treasuring what the Lord has given you and have you thanked Him for those things?

    • Do you need to apologize and seek forgiveness for taking out your anger and frustration on someone else?

    • Do you need to provide loving encouragement and understanding to someone who is sad, hurting, and struggling?


  • WE

    • Is there jealousy in the church that needs to be addressed and dealt with?

    • What are things we need to treasure that God has given to us as a body of believers?

    • How can we as a church provide loving encouragement and understanding to those in our community who are experiencing sadness, hurt, and struggles?



“Research studies indicate that up to 45 percent of adult siblings have relationships marked by rivalry or distance. A story from the Wall Street Journal featured Al Golden, 85, who still chokes up when he talks about his twin brother, Elliott, who died three years ago. The brothers shared a room growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., graduated from the same college and then married within a month of each other in 1947.


Yet Mr. Golden still remembers how their father often compared their grades, asking one or the other, ‘How come you got a B and your brother got an A?’ Elliott Golden became a lawyer and eventually a state Supreme Court judge. Al Golden went into the mirror business then sold life insurance. He says he always envied his brother's status and secretly took pleasure in knowing he was a better fisherman and owned a big boat. Once, Elliott asked him, ‘I am a lawyer. How come you make more money than me?’ Mr. Golden says. ‘He meant: ‘How come you are making more than me when you are not as successful?’ But it made me feel good.’


One day, Elliott accused him of not doing enough to take care of their ailing mother. After the conversation, Al didn't speak to his brother for more than a year. ‘It might have been the build-up of jealousies over the years,’ he says. His brother repeatedly reached out to him, as did his nieces and nephews, but Mr. Golden ignored them.


Then one day Al received an email from his brother telling a story about two men who had a stream dividing their properties. One man hired a carpenter to build a fence along the stream, but the carpenter built a bridge by mistake. Mr. Golden thought about the email then wrote back, ‘I'd like to walk over the bridge.’ ‘I missed him,’ Mr. Golden says now. ‘I never had the chance to miss him before.’”


Source: Elizabeth Bernstein, "Sibling Rivalry Grows Up," Wall Street Journal (3-20-12).”