PSALM 136:1, ESV

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.


GENESIS 29:31-35, NIrV

31 The Lord saw that Jacob didn’t love Leah as much as he loved Rachel. So he let Leah have children. But Rachel wasn’t able to have children. 32 Leah became pregnant. She had a son. She named him Reuben. She said, “The Lord has seen me suffer. Surely my husband will love me now.”

33 She became pregnant again. She had a son. Then she said, “The Lord heard that Jacob doesn’t love me very much. That’s why the Lord gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.

34 She became pregnant again. She had a son. Then she said, “Now at last my husband will value me. I have had three sons by him.” So the boy was named Levi.

35 She became pregnant again. She had a son. Then she said, “This time I’ll praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.


For the next six days, we’ll take a look at Jacob’s family. And boy, were things messy! But that’s what happens when you ignore God’s commands and marry two women instead of one. Jacob loved his wife Rachel much more than he loved Leah. As you can imagine, this caused a ton of problems. But God was right there in the middle of that mess. And he was able to bring good out of a bad situation. When Jacob’s favorite wife could not have children, God gave unloved Leah four baby boys. As each boy was born, she gave him a name that explained exactly how she was feeling.

+ Write down the names of Leah’s four boys. (vs. 32-35)

+ What did Leah say after her fourth son was born? (vs. 35)


GENESIS 30:1-8, NIrV

1 Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children by Jacob. So she became jealous of her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”

2 Jacob became angry with her. He said, “Do you think I’m God? He’s the one who has kept you from having children.”

3 Then she said, “Here’s my servant Bilhah. Sleep with her so that she can have children for me. Then I too can have a family through her.”

4 So Rachel gave Jacob her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her. 5 And Bilhah became pregnant. She had a son by him. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has stood up for my rights. He has listened to my prayer and given me a son.” So she named him Dan.

7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah became pregnant again. She had a second son by Jacob. 8 Then Rachel said, “I’ve had a great struggle with my sister. Now I’ve won.” So she named him Naphtali.


The family of Jacob was a great big jumble of jealousy. Leah was jealous of Rachel because Jacob loved her more. And Rachel was jealous of Leah because she had four boys and Rachel couldn’t have any. Rachel hatched a plan to solve her problem, but sadly, it just made things more messy! She gave her servant Bilhah to marry Jacob and have babies in her place. If you’re keeping count, Jacob now had three wives, which is two more than the correct number of one! When Rachel’s servant Bilhah gave birth to two baby boys, it became the beginning of a baby battle between Rachel and Leah!

+ What were the names of Bilhah’s two boys? (vs. 6 and 8)

+ What did Rachel say after Bilhah's second son, Naphtali, was born? (vs. 8)


GENESIS 30:9-13, NIrV

9 Leah saw that she had stopped having children. So she gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah had a son by Jacob. 11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad.

12 Leah’s servant Zilpah had a second son by Jacob. 13 Then Leah said, “I’m so happy! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.


In Jacob’s time, battles were fought with swords and shields. But Rachel and Leah? They battled with babies! With four boys, Leah was in the lead. But after her servant Bilhah birthed two boys, Rachel’s side started to catch up. To make matters worse, Leah could no longer become pregnant. To remain in first place in this baby race, Leah made the same foolish decision as her sister. She gave her servant Zilpah to become Jacob’s fourth wife. When Zilpah had two boys, Leah’s team now was in the lead, 6 to 2. It may seem obvious, but building a family with a baby battle was a bad idea! 

+ Why did Leah ask Zilpah to have babies in her place? (vs. 9)

+ What were the names of Zilpah’s two boys? (vs. 11 and 13)


GENESIS 30:17-24, NIRV

17 God listened to Leah. She became pregnant and had a fifth son by Jacob. 18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me because I gave my female servant to my husband.” So she named the boy Issachar.

19 Leah became pregnant again. She had a sixth son by Jacob. 20 Then Leah said, “God has given me a priceless gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor. I’ve had six sons by him.” So she named the boy Zebulun.

21 Some time later she had a daughter. She named her Dinah.

22 Then God listened to Rachel. He showed concern for her. He made it possible for her to have children. 23 She became pregnant and had a son. Then she said, “God has taken away my shame.” 24 She said, “May the Lord give me another son.” So she named him Joseph.


After Leah and Rachel’s back-and-forth baby battle, Jacob was now a proud papa to eight boys. Including his four wives, Jacob’s family now numbered 13. And it looked like it would stay that size. After all, Leah’s baby-making days were long gone and Rachel’s baby-making days had never even started! But Jacob should have known that God could give a child to any woman he wanted. After all, Jacob’s father had been born to a 90-year-old woman! And so this family of 13 added four new members: two more boys and a daughter for Leah. And after years of waiting, a baby boy for Rachel!

+ What were the names of Leah’s two boys and her daughter? (vs. 18-21)

+ What did Rachel name her son? What did she say after he was born? (vs. 24)


GENESIS 35:16-20, NIRV

16 They moved on from Bethel. Ephrath wasn’t very far away when Rachel began to have a baby. She was having a very hard time of it. 17 The woman who helped her saw that she was having problems. So she said to Rachel, “Don’t be afraid. You have another son.” 18But Rachel was dying. As she took her last breath, she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.

19 So Rachel died. She was buried beside the road to Ephrath. Ephrath was also called Bethlehem. 20 Jacob set up a stone marker over her tomb. To this day, the stone marks the place where Rachel was buried.


After years of waiting, God finally gave Rachel a child of her own. She called him Joseph, which means, “He will add.” This was Rachel’s way of saying, “God, thanks for this child. May I please have another?” She had to wait a few more years, but God once again gave Rachel what she asked for. However, the happy day of her baby’s birth took a terribly sad turn. Not long after her baby took his first breath, Rachel breathed her last. As she lay dying, Rachel named him “Ben-oni,” which means “son of my sorrow.” But Jacob changed it slightly to Benjamin, meaning “son of my right hand.”

+ What were the names of Rachel’s two sons?

+ What did Jacob do after Rachel died? (vs. 19-20)



1 Here are the names of Israel’s children who went to Egypt with Jacob. Each one went with his family. 2 Jacob’s sons were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, 4 Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 The total number of Jacob’s children and grandchildren was 70. Joseph was already in Egypt.

6 Joseph and all his brothers died. So did all their children. 7 The people of Israel had many children. The number of them greatly increased. There were so many of them that they filled the land.


With the birth of baby Benjamin, Jacob’s family was finally finished adding new members. In case you lost count, here’s the final total: one husband, four wives, twelve sons, and one daughter. Add them all up and it makes eighteen people. That would make for a very crowded table at dinner time!

Jacob’s large and messy family is a good example for us... a good example of what not to do! From the very beginning, God created marriage to be between one man and one woman. That’s why he started our world by creating just one man and just one woman, not one man and two or three or four women! Whenever human beings monkey around with marriage, it ends up in a mess. In Jacob’s family, it led to a pair of jealous wives battling each other with babies!

At any point, God could have said to Jacob, “Listen. I know I made a bunch of promises to you and your dad and your grandpa. But your family is a total train wreck! I’m going to move on to some other family without all this drama!” But he didn't. God stuck with Jacob’s family in the middle of all that mess and did every single thing he said he would do.

One of God’s promises to Jacob was, “I will make you into a great nation.” And these verses from Exodus give us the details of how God kept that promise. As Jacob’s children had kids of their own, his family grew from 18, then to 70, and, after many years, to a great nation so large that they could no longer be counted!

God loved Jacob’s messy family through all their ups (though there weren’t very many) and through all their downs (and boy, were there a lot!). In the end, he even sent his own Son to be born a member of that messy family! But instead of adding to the sinful mess they made, Jesus came to clean it up.

How did he do that? By dying on a cross. You see, sin isn’t just messy; it’s deadly! The Bible book of Romans tells us this truth: when we sin, the pay we get is death. This is a forever, fiery death outside of God’s good kingdom! To save us, Jesus died in our place. He paid for our forever, fiery death so we wouldn’t have to. And to prove that our price was paid in full, Jesus rose back to life on the third day after he died!

As we journey through the Bible, we’ll read story after story of sinners messing things up. But we’ll also read story after story of God rescuing his sinful people from disaster. All these true tales of deadly disasters and mighty miracles demonstrate just how much God loves saving sinners. And that’s great news, not only for Jacob’s messy family, but for sinners like you and me, too!

+ Write down the names of the twelve sons of Jacob.

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