“Superstition Ain’t The Way”
There are all kinds of wives tales or folk wisdom concerning what a couple needs to do or eat while they are trying to conceive a child in order to guarantee that it will be a boy or girl.
Babycenter.com lists some of the folk wisdom about this.
If you want a boy…
If you want a girl…
Women should sleep to the left of their husbands
Mark your calendars: more boys are conceived on odd days of the month and more girls are conceived on even days of the month.
Hairline of your last child: if the hairline at the base of the neck of your last child is a ducktail, your next baby will be a girl. If it is straight across, it will be a boy.
There are many more wives’ tales and folk wisdom surrounding how to help determine the sex of your next baby.
We have three boys and no girls
I wish I could remember if we ate more red meat
I have always loved snacking on pretzels
I do not drink very much soda, and if I do drink soda, it is not normally the cola kind, because it has caffeine
I do not remember if our boys were conceived on an odd day of the month
I don’t remember what our two oldest boys hairlines looked like, but our youngest has a ducktail, so perhaps if we had tried for one more child, we might have gotten a girl
Faith in God
I do not subscribe to the wives’ tales or folk wisdom about the gender of a baby
In fact, with our first two children we did not find out their sex until after they were born
I liked the surprise factor
We did find out the sex of our third child before his birth
We trusted the Lord to provide the children that were best for us
He knew that my brother, and our only other male cousin with the last name Johns, would only have daughters
There is no pressure, but our three boys are the last Johns’ in our line
Of our three grandchildren, we have one grandson now, who will carry on the family name
We are hopeful for more grandchildren in the future – whether boys or girls (if you are listening boys, hint, hint!)
How many of us have heard of some of these wives’ tales or folk wisdom?
How many of us have tried one or more of them when we were conceiving children?
How did it work out?
Faith in God
How many of us waited until our children were born to find out whether they were a boy or a girl?
How many of us are grateful that God knew how many children we could handle and what gender they were?
Rachel and Leah continue to compete with each other and are now turning to “love apples” to help with their infertility issues. They have tried human schemes by giving their maidservants to Jacob as additional wives and now they are trying superstition and legend concerning the properties of the fruit and root of a certain plant. What we will see in this message and the next one is that God is in control of the timing of when couples have children. We can try all kinds of things, from human schemes, bargaining and manipulation, to wives’ tales, and much more, but . . .
BIG IDEA – Faith in God supersedes everything.
GOD (Genesis 30:14-21)
Time stamp (v. 14a)
The wheat harvest would have been around March or April
Laban was not only a shepherd, but also a farmer – he was diversified in what he did for a living
Bagged (v. 14b-c)
If you recall, Reuben is Jacob’s firstborn son
He is probably between seven to nine years old
We are not told if he is working in the fields with the other farmers at this point
Perhaps he was just hanging out with the farmers and looking around for something to do
He obviously knew what a mandrake was and my guess is that he knew something of the plants importance and value, which is why he brings it back to his mother (Leah)
It is likely that Reuben brought the entire plant(s) back with him, because the fruit and the root were both used
“The plant exhibits long, dark green leaves in a rosette pattern; from the center of the leaves are flower stalks that each produce a ‘purple, bluish, or greenish-white flower.’ During the spring the plant produces a yellow-red fruit, likened to a plum in size and shape . . . Especially interesting are its dark roots that resemble the lower torso of a human form, which probably contributed to the mysteries surrounding its magical, sensual powers.” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 486]
The mandrake was believed to be an aphrodisiac that caused sexual desire and encouraged conception [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 474]
Depending on the culture, the fruit from the mandrake was given a different nickname: the Greeks called them “love apples,” while the Arabs called them the “devil’s apple.” [Mathews, 486]
Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and sex was called ‘Lady of the Mandrake.’” [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 412]
There was definitely legend and superstition surrounding this plant and its fruit
It was believed that it promoted fertility and both Leah and Rachel were currently dealing with infertility
They both realized that having their maid servants act as surrogates was not fulfilling and did not bring true happiness
It seems as though Rachel is coming to Leah in humility and with kindness when she asks for some of Reuben’s mandrakes
Rachel is probably aware of the medicinal properties of the root and the fruit and was willing to try anything to reverse the curse of infertility
Leah’s response to Rachel’s request shows the continued tension between the sisters
Bitter (v. 15a)
Leah lashes out by accusing Rachel of taking away her husband
It is not that Leah has lost Jacob as her husband, but she realizes that Jacob’s affections are focused primarily on Rachel
There seems to be a sense in the text that Jacob is not fulfilling his husbandly duty of sexual intimacy with Leah at this point
It is not certain whether Jacob stopped being intimate with Leah because she stopped having children or that Leah stopped having children because Jacob had stopped being intimate with her [Goldingay, 474]
Leah wants to know if Rachel is going to take away her sons mandrakes, like she took away her husband
If Leah is dealing with infertility, she is hoping that her sons mandrakes will somehow, magically, restore her fertility
If Rachel takes her son’s mandrakes, what will that leave for her
If Leah is dealing with bitterness about being loved less, then she does not want her sister to stop being infertile
PRINCIPLE #1 – Turmoil is the result of not depending on the Lord.
The turmoil that we see between Leah and Rachel is the result of not having what they want and not depending on the Lord to provide it
As was mentioned several weeks ago, Leah wanted the affections of Jacob and Rachel wanted children from Jacob
The same is true of us – turmoil is a result of not depending on the Lord
When we try to use superstition to accomplish something in our lives, it inevitably results in turmoil
When we try to do anything without depending on the Lord for His wisdom, guidance, and help, chaos can ensue, because we will probably approach the situation from a human perspective instead of a godly perspective
Think of a time when you tried to resolve an issue without first consulting and depending on the Lord for help
I may be different from the rest of you, but when I have tried to resolve an issue or conflict without praying about it first, I usually do or say the wrong thing or act in a way that creates turmoil instead of peace and reconciliation
My humanness gets in the way and I fail
My assumption is that the same thing has happened to you all too
Are you currently dealing with a family situation that is volatile?
Perhaps there is a situation at work that is causing you frustration
Maybe relationships at school are difficult and chaotic
Remember to turn to the Lord, first, and depend on Him for His help, guidance, and wisdom
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Depend on the Lord for His wisdom, guidance, and help with a current tumultuous situation.
Both women wanted the mandrakes for their “magical” properties in helping to deal with infertility
Faith in God supersedes everything, including superstition
Bargain (v. 15b-16)
Rachel offers a night of intimacy with Jacob, to Leah, in exchange for her sons’ mandrakes
“Apparently Rachel, as Jacob’s favorite wife, had the questionable privilege of deciding which of Jacob’s wives or concubines would sleep with him on any given night.” [Youngblood cited by Waltke, 413]
The Hebrew word for “sleep” that Rachel uses seems to support the idea that she somehow controls Jacob’s sexual activities
“Like the English expression ‘sleep with,’ šākab (shak-have) as a euphemism for having sex applies to irregular sexual liaisons rather than regular relations between husbands and wives (19:32-35; 26:10; 34:2, 7; 35:22; 39:7-14). So Rachel’s use of this verb is neatly snide.” [Goldingay, 474]
The tension is thick
Leah goes out to meet Jacob when he returns from the fields
There seems to be an urgency, a desperation to be the first to greet Jacob
We are not told why Leah goes out to meet Jacob
We can only speculate that perhaps she did not trust Rachel to follow through on the deal that was struck
Maybe it had been awhile since she had been intimate with Jacob and wanted to make sure it happened
We know that she was desperate to be loved by Jacob the same way that Jacob loved Rachel
When she meets Jacob, she informs him of the deal that has been struck – she has hired Jacob for the night with her sons mandrakes
Jacob does not object
Scripture says he slept with Leah that night
“First he was hired by Laban, and now he is hired by a woman who has already borne him four children. He raises no questions about Leah’s arrangement with Rachel.” [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 275]
I do not know about you, but I am finding myself wanting Jacob to stand up and be the spiritual leader of his household
I want him to be fair and equitable with his wives and to try to meet their needs a little bit
And yet, I realize that Jacob is human and fallible and struggles with the same things that men struggle with today – we are no different
Men, I want to challenge you to be fair and equitable with your wife and try to meet her needs
It should be a little easier for us, because we only have one wife instead of four
Leah should have been seeking the Lord through prayer about her desperation to be loved by Jacob instead of bargaining with Rachel to able to spend time alone with him
The same is true for us also
In our desperation, we should be seeking the Lord through prayer instead of bargaining with others
He knows what is best for us
He knows the best time for us to receive what He desires for us
Faith in God supersedes everything, including bargaining to get something we want
Rachel is going to be disappointed with the outcome of the bargain between her and Leah
PRINCIPLE #2 – Manipulation and bargaining do not always provide favorable results.
Rachel does not immediately become pregnant after obtaining the mandrakes and probably using them
Leah is going to conceive three more times and provide Jacob with two additional sons and a daughter
Perhaps you have experienced this truth in your own life
You bargained for something only to realize that the other person receive far more benefit from the bargain than you did
How did that make you feel?
Have you made bargains with God that you felt did not work out the way you had hoped?
Did that affect how you viewed God and felt about Him?
Just recently I was in a group where one of the people was sharing about their experience with terminally ill individuals as their hospital chaplain
Two interesting things they experienced, shocked me
When they went to talk with individuals who had claimed to be atheists, they admitted that there was a God and they wanted to know more about Him – their illness drove them to the Lord
When they talked with individuals who had claimed the name of Christ for most of their lives, they questioned God about why He was allowing this terminal illness to happen to them, especially since they had served Him all of their lives
The Christians had made some kind of bargain with God that sounded something like this, “If I follow You, God, then I can trust that You will never allow anything hard to come into my life.”
God and Jesus have never promised that in Scripture
In fact, we are to expect hatred and persecution from the world, and potentially illness or hardships that God allows to remain in our lives to keep us humble
The Apostle Paul asked three times that the thorn in his flesh would be removed
This was the Lord’s response, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Faith in God supersedes everything, including bargaining
Are you currently angry with God, because the bargain you made with Him did not work out the way you wanted?
Was the bargain you made with God according to the promises in His Word, the Bible?
If they were not, then God cannot and will not go against those promises and His own word
I want to encourage you to confess those feelings of anger and hurt to the Lord today
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Confess my feelings of anger and hurt to the Lord.
Are you contemplating making a bargain with God about something you want?
First, is it according to the promises found in His Word?
Second, does it show faith in God that supersedes everything else?
Third, are you willing to trust in God’s grace to be sufficient for you and for His power to be made perfect in your weakness?
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Trust God by faith that His grace is sufficient for me, even in my weakness.
Rachel’s bargaining and manipulating seem to back fire on her
In the remaining verses, we see that Leah begins having children again
Babies (vv. 17-21)
These words should be noted and not glossed over too quickly
We are not told if Leah gave Rachel all of the mandrakes or kept some for herself
The mandrakes did not affect Leah’s fertility at all
It was God who determined when Leah would begin having children again and not some “magical” fruit or root
PRINCIPLE #3 – God is ultimately in control of everything.
God was in control of when Leah would conceive again
God was in control of when Rachel would conceive for the first time
God is in control of the circumstances of our lives and He knows when certain things will happen for us according to His purposes
Proverbs 16:9, In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
Proverbs 19:21, Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
1 Chronicles 29:11-12, Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
Job 42:2, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.”
Psalm 135:5-7, I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
This is an important principle and truth that we must understand as followers of Jesus Christ
God is in control of everything and we need to have faith in that fact
Faith in God supersedes everything.
Leah recognizes that God is in control
Three more children for Leah
Leah conceives and gives birth to her fifth son
She believes that God has rewarded her for giving Zilpah to Jacob as his fourth wife
Issachar’s name can mean, “my wage” or “he rewards”
Leah conceives again and gives birth to her sixth son
She considers him a precious gift from God and hopes that Jacob will now treat her with honor
Zebulun’s name can mean “honor,” “dwelling,” or “endowment”
We do not know the time frame of when Dinah was born, but it was after Issachar and Zebulun
She is probably mentioned here because of the role that she plays in Genesis 34
Her name means “judgment”
Do you need to depend on the Lord for a tumultuous situation in your life?
Do you need to confess your feelings of anger and hurt toward God?
Do you need to trust God by faith that His grace is sufficient for you?
Do you need to embrace the truth that God is in control of everything?
We can depend on the Lord for any situation that we may be experiencing at church
We can trust God by faith that His grace is sufficient for us
We can acknowledge that God is in control of everything here at church
Faith in God supersedes everything!
We do not need to trust in wives’ tales, folk wisdom, or superstitions.
Very superstitious, writing's on the wall,
Very superstitious, ladders bout' to fall,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past
When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer, superstition ain’t the way
Very superstitious, wash your face and hands,
Rid me of the problem, do all that you can,
Keep me in a daydream, keep me goin' strong,
You don't wanna save me, sad is the soul
When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer, superstition ain't the way,
Very superstitious, nothin' more to say,
Very superstitious, the devil's on his way,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass,
Seven years of bad luck, good things in your past
When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer, superstition ain't the way,
No, no, no
Songwriters: Stevie Wonder / Douglas Davis / Chris Howard / Kareem Davis
Superstition lyrics © Black Bull Music, Stone Agate Music, Sawandi Music, Jobete Music Co., Inc., Jobete Music Co Inc.