Cartalk / Tabletalk 7: Sisters, wives, handmaids

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at sibling rivalry through the story of brothers, Jacob and Esau; here, Laban’s decision and Jacob’s passion trigger an intense rivalry between sisters and, for all we know, handmaids. (You can read about the rivalry in the next chapter of Genesis.) This is a real rollercoaster of a story, in which men’s actions have devastating effects on four silent women. I wonder how these women experienced the events of this story. For example, what if Leah longed for Jacob? Could she and Rachel have negotiated the switch with their father? And where do you see God’s action in these lives? (For a reflection on this, click here.)

  • READ: Genesis 29:15030 (Year A Proper 12 plus two verses)

Jacob journeyed to his mother’s homeland to find a wife. He stayed with his uncle, Laban, and, after a whole month, Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?”

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah cried easily, but Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.  

Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go to bed with her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went to bed with her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! 

And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the bridal week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife. (Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her maid.) So Jacob went to bed with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. He served Laban for another seven years. (Genesis 29:15-30)

  • REFLECT: What word or phrase jumps out? How does this story make you feel? Amused, angry, annoyed, enraged? Why?
  • RELATE: You can take the conversation several ways. You could invite the members of your household to imagine themselves as the women of the story, and give them voice. You could talk about who makes the decisions in your family, and how it affects the people involved. If parents have children with multiple partners, you could have a careful conversation about the complexities of love. Or you could talk about whatever else emerges for you!
  • RESPOND: Is God calling you to any practical response now? Pray about it, then act.
  • REPORT: If you or your household do take action, text or email a photo of that action to Sanctuary with a brief explanation. We can use it during the service or, with your permission, add it to the Facebook page.
  • RELAX: For older children, teens and adults: You could watch Pride & Prejudice. Five sisters seek husbands, in competition with one another at times. For older teens and adults: The Handmaid’s Tale is a chilling interpretation of life as a handmaid in a futuristic fundamentalist bibliocracy. How are women pitted against each other in this world? And how does this reflect the world as we know it?

Cartalk / Tabletalk © Sanctuary, 2020. Year A Proper 12. Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash. Yes, I know it’s one woman short … but it’s what I could find!

Cartalk / Tabletalk

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