Good morning! The history of the 12 sons (and one daughter) of Jacob are especially intriguing to me, and I love following where their descendants go over the centuries and millennia, and I love seeing how prophecies spoken over them come true.
Except for little Benjamin, the second son of Rachel, all of their birth stories are told in today’s reading, as well as the reasons why they were each given their names.
Why was I given my name? I’m not completely sure, except that I think it was a family name and my parents just liked Anne Marie. With our children, we liked the meanings of each of their names, but we didn’t think of ourselves as trying to predict what each child would do with his or her life.
Based on this chapter, I don’t think Rachel and Leah were thinking too far into the future either. How could they have been? They had never read the Bible! They had no idea what the future held, and if they had truly understood the call and covenants over their lives, I don’t think they would have been quite so petty and worried about everything.
So Leah has the first son, and Genesis 29:31 says YHVH opened her womb because she was unloved. This is an important point! It sometimes looks like husbands and wives control their child-bearing decisions (and I think Leah and Rachel thought so), but Scripture says otherwise:
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13, NIV).
YHVH had a Grand Plan of building a people for Himself, and no human decisions or “husband’s will” could change His plan.
So with that thought in mind, let’s check out the names given to each of the sons of Jacob — given by human decision, but born of God.
- Reuben (Genesis 29:32) — See, a Son, for Leah said, “YHVH has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.”
- Simeon (Genesis 29:33) — Heard, for Leah said, “Because YHVH has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.”
- Levi (Genesis 29:34) — Attached, for Leah said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” (Poor Leah!)
- Judah (Genesis 29:35) — Praise, for Leah said, “Now I will praise YHVH.”
- Dan (Genesis 30:6) — Judge, for Rachel said, “God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son” (son of Bilhah).
- Naphtali (Genesis 30:8) — My Wrestling, for Rachel said, “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed” (son of Bilhah).
- Gad (Genesis 30:11) — A Troop or Fortune, for Leah said, “A troop comes!” (son of Zilpah)
- Asher (Genesis 30:13) — Happy, for Leah said, “I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed” (son of Zilpah).
- Issachar (Genesis 30:18) — Wages, for Leah said, “God has given me my wages, because I have given my maid to my husband” (son of Leah).
- Zebulun (Genesis 30:20) — Dwelling, for Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons” (last son of Leah).
- Joseph (Genesis 30:24) — He Will Add, for Rachel said, “God has taken away my reproach” (son of Rachel).
- Benjamin (Genesis 35:18) — Son of the Right Hand, named by Jacob upon Rachel’s death at the baby’s birth.
(I have a special notebook just for the sons of Jacob (Israel), so that I can keep track of each tribe’s characteristics and history. If these things are fun for you, this is a great place to start.)
Today the Psalmist reminds us,
“For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).
We think life is in our own control, but it never is.
When we walk with this knowledge and know where life comes from and who controls it, we lose all fear. Indeed even Yeshua, knowing what kind of misery and torture and death would soon come upon Him, remembered that all of it was in His Father’s complete control. He had planned it all along, so that the Enemy and death would forever be defeated.
“Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Matthew 26:53-54).
Just like the sons of Jacob, we have been called by name. He knows us, and He gave His Son for us, to be our Savior and Redeemer. He knew about us before we were born (Psalm 139), and He chose us before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4). He has a great purpose for our lives, which He’ll show us if we’ll only trust Him.
“But now, thus says YHVH, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am YHVH your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior'” (Isaiah 43:1-3).
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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