Genesis 30:3

ESV Then she said, “Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to her, so that she may give birth on my behalf, that even I may have children through her.”
NIV Then she said, 'Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.'
NASB Then she said, 'Here is my female slave Bilhah: have relations with her that she may give birth on my knees, so that by her I too may obtain a child.'
CSB Then she said, "Here is my maid Bilhah. Go sleep with her, and she'll bear children for me so that through her I too can build a family."
NLT Then Rachel told him, 'Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her I can have a family, too.'
KJV And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.

What does Genesis 30:3 mean?

Rachel and Jacob, two spouses famous for their love story (Genesis 29:16–20), are angry with each other. Though Jacob loves Rachel, his intended bride, and "hates" Leah, a woman he was tricked into marrying (Genesis 29:21–27), Jacob and Rachel have not yet conceived any children together. Rachel seems to hold Jacob responsible for her inability to have children. Jacob rejects that idea. His response reflects an understanding that it is ultimately God, not husbands, who gives children. Jacob also has a legitimate point in that his other wife, Leah, has given birth to multiple children.

Rachel is unwilling to wait for God to grant her children. As Abraham's wife Sarah did (Genesis 16:1–4), Rachel decides to have children by proxy. Using the cultural standard of the time, she will give her servant girl Bilhah to Jacob as a wife. Any children born to Bilhah will become Rachel's children by adoption. This shift in strategy sparks a virtual competition between Rachel and Leah to out-do the other in producing sons for Jacob (Genesis 30:8).

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