The Bible is filled with many stories of ordinary people struggling with the challenges of life. Sometimes they are manageable and people get through using their wits and abilities. Other times, the challenges are like arrows that stab, exhaust and depress them. For awhile, they believe they cannot possibly go on. It is then, that they finally turn to God for strength to carry on.
This is an embellishment of what the Jewish patriarch Jacob might have felt and thought as he struggled through grief at the death of Rachel, his only love.
Here I sit and will never move again. My clothes are torn just like my heart. My Rachel is no more, my little lamb. The mother of Joseph is not going to be here to see him grow up. She died giving birth to our second son. She named him “Ben Oni” (in my sadness), but I have named “Ben Yamin” (son of my days).
My mind swirls around different memories of her.
I remember when I first saw her by that well. She was coming out to water her father’s sheep. She walked slowly and carefully turning her head this way and that to make sure all the sheep were still with her. She was beautiful even from a distance. When I asked about her I was told her name was Rachel, the daughter of Laban.
When I heard this, I ran over and kissed her. I told her I was Rebekah’s son and that I was looking for her father, because I needed a place to stay. When she heard that, she ran off without saying a word. I wondered why, but soon found out she had run to tell her father about me. I can still see Laban’s smile when he met me on the way. And I was so happy when he said I could stay with him.
I remember how happy I felt because I was in love with Rachel. Now I see Laban’s worried look when I said I wanted to marry her. He told me I could but I would first have to work seven years for him. I didn’t care.
Ugh, there is Rachel’s sister Leah in my marriage bed the morning after the wedding. She was laughing, but I was angry because Laban had deceived me. I was angrier than I had ever been before. I hated being tricked but Laban said it was not right that the younger daughter should marry before the older. If I truly wanted Rachel, He said I could have her if I worked another seven years for him. I remember how quickly the years passed and finally there she was on our wedding night. She smiled and her beautiful eyes reflected the light of the single candle in our room. Finally, she was mine.
Oh, but then the problems came. Even though I finally was married to Rachel, there was tension in our family. Leah gave birth to many sons and Rachel could not. Finally our son Joseph was born. But by then there were so many boys from Leah and the maidservants Zilpa and Bilhah who had become proxy mothers in the jealous fight between Leah and Rachel. What a mess! Such a price to pay for Rachel!
Now I remember when I decided to go back home-if only I had known. I was missing father and mother, hoping that my brother Esau had forgotten my tricking him out of father’s first born blessing.
It was a long trip and by then with so many sons, wives and sheep we were spread out for miles as we made our way slowly back to Beersheba
Rachel had thought she was strong enough to make the trip even though she was pregnant. When we got near the town of Ephrath, she had stomach pains so strong we had to stop. We put up our tents and she slowly made her way to ours and went inside. Her servant Bilhah went with her, but I could not. All I could hear outside were her screams. I tried to go in to help, but was told to keep out.
Finally, the screams stopped and I heard the cries of a little baby. I decided to go in whether I was permitted or not. And there was the baby and beautiful Rachel. Only she wasn’t moving and her eyes were closed. I looked at Bilhah and she just shook her head.
After that, I can’t be sure what I did. I think I screamed and some of the boys and Leah came running to the tent. They looked at us. I screamed and started ripping my clothes. “She is gone. My ewe lamb is gone and so is my heart. She has taken it away and I am nothing.
I cannot face Esau now, but I must. We’re not turning back.
God of my father Isaac and grandfather Abraham, please help. I feel so alone and empty.
And so Jacob joined the ranks of all married persons who have had to deal with the loss of their spouse.