As a result of Jacob’s and Leah’s *regular transports of passion* Leah began bearing sons – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah. Then…….nothing.
However, Leah’s bearing no more sons after these four wasn’t enough to stop Rachel being jealous that she, Rachel, hadn’t borne any.
“Give me sons or I shall die” said Rachel to Jacob.
“I’m doing my best” said Jacob, “How about you just being the best aunt you can be to Ruben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah? Life isn’t perfect, so motherhood isn’t always how you’d like it. I shouldn’t have to tell you that boys can turn out more a curse than a blessing.”
“I was made to be a radiant mother, not a frustrated aunt” said Rachel. “If you can’t give me sons directly, you can give me them indirectly through my slave-girl Bilhah. She’s sexy and voluptuous. If you lie with her, I feel sure she would bear sons by you in no time at all – sons I will claim as my own.”
Rachel summoned Bilhah, and explained what she must now do. Bilhah wasn’t at all happy about it, and said so to Rachel.
“You can of course not do as I ask” said Rachel. “But, since you are my slave, I have the power of life and death over you. You might not like it were I to arrange to have your head chopped off. Understand…….mmm?”
“Yes, mistress, I do. I’ll do as you say.”
Jacob began lying with Bilhah regularly. His transports of passion with Bilhah were at least the equal of what his transports had been with Leah. Hence Bilhah began bearing sons in no time at all, just as Rachel had predicted she would. In quick succession Bilhah bore two boys, who Rachel named Dan and Naphtali.
Leah, meanwhile, not having had sons for some time, and wishing more, became jealous of Bilhah.
“I do realise that your transports of passion with me are not now quite what they once were” said Leah to Jacob. “This may well be why I’m no longer bearing sons by you. So here’s what I’d like you to do: lie with my slave-girl Zilpah, who is at least as sexy and voluptuous as that Bilhah. The sons she bears by you, I’ll claim as my own.”
As Rachel had done with Bilhah, Leah summoned Zilpah and told her what she must now do. Zilpah, however, was no more enthusiastic than Bilhah had been.
“How would you like it” said Leah, “were I to have you taken into the desert, and tied down with stakes so you would die through being scorched by the sun and stung by scorpions and eaten by wild animals?”
“I shouldn’t like this at all, mistress” said Zilpah. “Lying with Jacob, as nauseating as it might be, would be infinitely preferable to being stung to death by scorpions and eaten by wild animals. I’ll therefore do as you ask, mistress.”
Jacob began lying with Zilpah regularly. Soon Zilpah bore a boy who Leah named Gad. Then she bore another boy who Leah named Asher.
Meanwhile the sons which Leah had had by Jacob were growing up. The eldest, Reuben, was one day walking in a wheat-field, and found some mandrakes (a sort of root plant). Excitedly – for mandrakes weren’t that common – Reuben brought these mandrakes to Leah.
Rachel, seeing this, and wanting mandrakes too, asked Leah for some. Leah objected, saying to Rachel, “You’ve taken away from me my husband. Now you want to take my mandrakes too. What next?”
“How about I raise no objections to you lying with Jacob tonight if you raise no objections to letting me have some of your mandrakes?” said Rachel.
“Very well” said Leah.
That night Jacob lay with Leah. Not having lain with her for some time, Jacob relished the novelty of lying with her again. This contributed greatly to the passion of that night. Leah’s bearing a fifth son was the result. She named him Issachar.
Over Rachel’s protests, Jacob continued lying with Leah somewhat regularly. Leah responded by bearing not only yet another boy – Zebulun – but a girl too, who Leah named Dinah.
Throughout these years Jacob’s lack of self-esteem had begun to ebb – that lack of self-esteem that had hindered him from consummating his marriage to Rachel because she was too beautiful. The newly confident Jacob was finally able – after goodness knows how many years of failure – to make love to Rachel as a real man should. The happy result was Rachel bearing a son whom she named Joseph.
“My baby boy…….Joseph…….goochie goo” cooed the radiant Rachel at the infant sleeping in her arms, “may you be the first of the many sons I hope still to have.”
Source: Genesis 29, 31-35; 30, 1-24