Rachel is Jacob’s second—and favorite—wife. She is also his first cousin. (Her father, Laban, and his mother, Rebekah, are brother and sister.)
Rachel is a shepherdess. Her story starts when Jacob’s parents send him to their home country to find a wife from his mother’s family. It must be love at first sight, for when he sees Rachel, he cries and kisses her. She’s beautiful, and Jacob falls in love.
Though they do get married, her dad first marries off her older sister Leah to Jacob. The sisters become co-wives, forever vying for their husband’s affections.
Though Jacob loves Rachel more than Leah, it’s Leah who has kids, while Rachel struggles with infertility. Rachel becomes jealous of her sister. Morality aside, this is a practical reason not to have multiple wives, especially those who are sisters.
In desperation, Rachel offers her maidservant to Jacob to produce children in her place. Jacob should have known better than to accept this, especially seeing how badly it worked out for his grandmother, Sarah, when she did this with Abraham.
Escalating the competition, Leah then does the same thing, offering her maidservant to Jacob to produce more children as her proxy.
Later, in a move reminiscent of Esau trading his birthright to Jacob for food, Rachel trades a night with her husband for some mandrakes, a plant believed to have magical powers, possibly including fertility.
Ironically, while Rachel pursues magic to get pregnant, Jacob plants a seed in Leah for another child.
God eventually answers Rachel’s prayers for a son, and Joseph is born. Then Rachel asks God for another boy. Tragically, she dies giving birth to her second son, Benjamin.
Though a beautiful woman with a loving husband, Rachel’s life is filled with conflict and in wanting what she doesn’t have.
Are we happy with what God gives us or do we desire more? When in conflict, do we escalate the situation, like Rachel and Leah, or seek peace?
[Discover more about Rachel in Genesis 29–31 and Genesis 35.]
Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.