What does Genesis 30:14 mean?Reuben is Leah's firstborn son (Genesis 29:31–32). It's hard to tell from the chronology how old he is here. Some scholars suggest he may have been less than six years old at this time.
It's possible that Reuben was helping with the wheat harvest when he found these plants known as mandrakes. This perennial plant is thought to be of the mandragora family, with blue flowers and yellow fruit in season. Mandrakes were also thought, apparently, to be an aphrodisiac and perhaps an aid to infertility in women. It's possible that mandrakes were quite rare in this region at this time, making Reuben's discovery quite a find.
This discovery becomes contentious, because sisters Rachel and Leah are engaged in a bitter competition to produce children for their mutual husband, Jacob. Rachel has never herself given birth to children, instead obtaining hers using a cultural law which allowed her to claim the children of her servant, Bilhah (Genesis 30:1–8). Leah, for her part, has stopped conceiving after giving birth to four sons (Genesis 29:31–35). Their interest in these mandrake plants makes perfect sense given their desire to become pregnant, as well as their urge to corner Jacob's affection.
In any case, when Rachel sees or hears that Reuben has brought mandrake plants to his mother Leah, she asks if she can have some of them. Leah's reaction won't be especially polite, but it will reveal just how dysfunctional this family has become.