Read Rachel Online

Authors: Jill Smith

Tags: #FIC042030, #Women in the Bible—Fiction, #FIC027050, #FIC042040, #Bible. Old Testament—History of Biblical events—Fiction, #Rachel (Biblical matriarch)—Fiction, #Jacob (Biblical patriarch)—Fiction

Rachel (28 page)

BOOK: Rachel
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Silence fell like a pall between them until Rachel picked up
her distaff again, assuming the conversation was at an end. But many moments later, Leah cleared her throat, causing Rachel to look up again.

“I will do as you ask,” Leah said, her voice tight. “And if God should see fit to leave you and take me, I would ask the same of you.”

Leah’s sons would not want her. But she did not voice the thought. The babe Leah carried and her youngest sons would not know the difference.

Rachel looked at her sister and nodded. “May Adonai give us strength to try Jacob’s patience another day and through many children to come.”

Leah laughed at the comment, and the air between them changed, sweeter than it had been in as long as Rachel could remember. She smiled at her sister, then lifted her gaze heavenward, praying her last words would be true.

Leah knelt at Rachel’s side a few months later, working the pain from her back. “Breathe, sister. It does no good to hold on to it too long.” How well she remembered Rachel doing the same for her a few months before.

Leah had not expected the pains to come on her so soon but was grateful the travail had not lasted as long as she had feared. A sixth son had been born nearly before her mother arrived, and she had held him close, proclaiming, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” Though with Rachel pregnant at the same time, Jacob’s response to Leah held little difference until Rachel prompted him to stay near and hold the child. While Leah watched, Rachel had even taught him how to wrap the boy’s bands as practice for her son when he was born, though Jacob had never tended even one of his children to that point. But he had complied with
Rachel’s prompting, and Leah and Rachel had both laughed at his clumsiness.

And now Leah’s son Zebulun lay sleeping in a basket in a corner of the tent, watched over by one of the young serving maids, while Rachel struggled in her own travail.

“I see his head,” Rachel’s mother said, her smile warm and more wrinkled than it had been when Leah had birthed her firstborn. Yet Suri remained a faithful midwife no matter which wife of Jacob bore down on the birthing stool. “A few more pushes, my daughter.”

Rachel groaned and gave a loud cry as the babe finally slipped into Suri’s waiting hands.

“A boy!” Suri’s jubilant voice matched the boy’s strident cries. Rachel laughed and wept as Leah helped settle her onto clean sheets plumped with cassia-scented cushions.

“I have a son.” Her voice held such awe that even the twinge of jealousy Leah had felt at the moment of his birth vanished.

“Yes, sister. A fine boy.” Leah stepped back as Suri handed the boy, now washed and swaddled, into Rachel’s arms.

“I have a son?” The male voice was low, unmistakably Jacob’s.

Leah stepped away from Rachel’s side to allow Jacob a better view, unable to deny a soft nudge of jealousy.

Rachel looked up at Jacob’s approach, her smile radiant. Jacob knelt at her side and touched his son’s cheek and laughed at the way the boy stretched, tilting his head and emitting a contented sigh.

“What will you name him?” Jacob’s gaze held such love for her sister it made Leah’s heart twist with longing.

“Joseph.” Rachel looked down at her son and touched the wisps of dark hair. “God has taken away my disgrace.” She lifted her gaze to Jacob, her smile soft, her dark eyes not quite content. “May Adonai add to me another son.”

Jacob twirled a strand of Rachel’s hair between his fingers, and Leah felt like an intruder on something precious. She backed slowly away but did not miss the look that passed between them.

“May Adonai grant your wish, beloved. Let me bless him in the presence of the men waiting,” he said when Rachel’s fingers could not quite release him. Jacob took the child from her and shifted him with practiced ease onto his shoulder.

She let her arms fall to her sides. “Very well.”

Jacob moved past Leah, carrying Joseph to the tent’s opening. Leah followed to watch and listen. She was surprised to see that her father and many of her brothers and half brothers had gathered for the occasion that was not even the boy’s circumcision. Jacob’s older sons—Reuben, six, and Simeon, five—stood tall like little men when Jacob drew near.

“My son, Joseph,” he said, holding the boy up for the men to see. “My firstborn . . . of Rachel.” That he clarified his meaning made little difference. Leah knew with a certainty that Joseph was held before them as Jacob’s firstborn rightful heir.

The emotion she had felt earlier in the tent swelled within her now, and she wanted desperately to go inside, to retrieve Zebulun from his slumber and hold him close, to gather her children around her and seclude herself away from them all. But Jacob’s next words brought her thoughts to an abrupt halt.

“My father, send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.” He pulled Joseph close against his shoulder and patted his back in gentle strokes. When had he become so good with small babes? But of course, Bilhah’s sons would have received attention from him when they were in Rachel’s care.

Her father stood and clapped a hand to Jacob’s free shoulder. “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that Adonai has blessed me because of you.”

Did her father actually think that Jacob would be swayed by such a claim? Leah stepped closer to the awning’s edge to better glimpse her father’s expression.

“Name your wages, and I will pay them.” Laban’s face was
open, earnest, and Leah searched his eyes for any hint of duplicity, unable from the distance between them to tell.

Joseph began to whimper in Jacob’s arms, and he turned, glancing toward the tent. His gaze found Leah’s, and she hurried forward to take the babe. “Thank you,” he said.

She hurried to the shade of the awning, then stepped to the threshold and summoned Rachel’s mother. “Take him to Rachel,” she whispered. Suri’s response was drowned out by Jacob’s strong voice.

“You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care,” he said.

Leah moved back to her place just below the awning, noting that Laban had stepped back a pace. The two men seemed to have squared off in challenge.

“The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and Adonai has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?”

It was a reasonable request. If they left now, they would have little more than the clothes on their backs. Still, Leah’s heart hammered with the possibility, and she could not deny a rebellious longing to leave her father’s household and set off to wherever Jacob led. But they could not leave so soon with Joseph a wee babe.

“What shall I give you?” Her father crossed his arms, and the glint in his eyes told her that he too had realized that Jacob could not immediately leave.

Jacob reached for his staff that leaned against a tent post and tapped it against the ground. “Don’t give me anything,” he said. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them.” He had her father’s full attention now and took a step back, his arm pointing toward the fields where the sheep still grazed. “Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb, and every spotted or speckled
goat. They will be my wages. And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.”

“Agreed.” Laban stepped closer and kissed each of Jacob’s cheeks, Jacob doing the same in return. “Let it be as you have said.”

Leah stood a moment longer and watched her father turn, motion to her brothers, and head back toward his house. She followed at a distance and saw the men circle back and head to the fields. Straight to the flocks. Before Jacob could claim his wages.

A sinking feeling settled in her middle. Her father did not intend good toward Jacob. He would rob her husband of his pay before he could act, while Jacob watched over his favorite wife and son.

She walked toward the tents, debating what to do. In the end, her love and loyalty to Jacob won out. She must warn him. Before it was too late.

Part
3

Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been.
Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Genesis 31:1–3

22

Jacob dug his staff into the ground and looked out over the flock the following morning, unable to shake the sense of complete betrayal and loss. Leah’s warning rang loud in his ears.
My father plans ill against
you, Jacob. I could see it in his eyes.
He should have listened to her. But he had been too taken with the joy of Joseph’s birth to pay her heed or to care that her father and brothers had gone from his tents to the fields. Any number of reasons could have been the cause.

This he did not expect.

He faced the wind, glad for the force that drove against him, that battled the anger within. Better to face the unseen elements than to war against Laban’s greed. Hadn’t he battled the man for the privilege of wedding his daughters? And now it appeared they would pit their wits against each other yet again if Jacob was to earn even the wages that were due him.

Six years. He had agreed to six more years to work for Laban. He turned to gaze at the solid white flock. Not a streaked or spotted male goat, a speckled or spotted female goat or any with white on them, or a single dark-colored lamb remained of the sheep and goats Laban had left in his care. Laban had gone that very night of Joseph’s birth and separated them all, given Jacob’s wages into the care of his sons. Had even Rachel’s
brothers been party to this deceit? But of course they would have been. Bahaar, as friendly as he might be, was no match for his father. None went against Laban the patriarch.

BOOK: Rachel
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ads

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