Genesis 30:14 – LOVE POTION NOW BENIGN – FAITH AND SUPERSTITION
Their words are as poisonous as the mandrakes over which they are arguing. Rachel’s anxiety and grief about not being able to conceive and her jealousy of her sister’s success reaches a culmination as she searches for solutions in superstition.
Rachel begs Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But Leah angrily replies, “Wasn’t it enough that you stole my husband? Now will you steal my son’s mandrakes, too?” (Genesis 30:14-15 NLT).
Obsessed and desperate, Rachel wants the mandrakes, the “love plants”, that Leah’s son Reuben has found in the field. Why is a toxic plant associated with love? Perhaps it aligns itself with Rachel’s love, poisonous with jealousy and delirious with desperation.
The Mandrake plant is toxic, causing hallucinations. It’s root system is bulbous and resembles a human figure. Although it has a pleasant smell, the only part of the mandrake that is not poisonous is it’s red fruit. It is called the “love apple” and is considered to be a powerful aphrodisiac (love potion) which could help a women in conception (Wikepedia).
Rachel answers, “I will let Jacob sleep with you tonight if you give me some of the mandrakes.” (Genesis 30:5 NLT). Steeped in superstitious zeal, Rachel is willing to make whatever sacrifices she needs for the mandrakes. She has already made her servant/slave a surrogate mother. Now she prostitutes her husband’s services. They both know that they can manipulate Jacob to do their bidding.
Jacob hasn’t been sleeping with Leah and Leah doesn’t trust Rachel to follow through with the sleeping arrangements that night for her own husband, so she meets Jacob coming in from the fields and demands that he sleeps with her. There is no romance in her words. She says “I have paid for you with some mandrakes.” Jacob obviously doesn’t care who he sleeps with. He is more interested at this stage in keeping the peace.
Jacob has eight sons now from 3 women. No doubt he realises he is being used by two jealous wives. Nevertheless he spends that night with Leah.
Despite Rachel’s superstitious zeal for the mandrakes in the following days it is not Rachel who conceives but Leah. Leah bears Jacob another son (Genesis 30:17-18). No doubt the guilt of giving her servant to her husband to bear children has played upon her mind because she names him Issachar, which means “reward” “… for she says, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband as a wife” (Genesis 30:18 NLT). Leah, like Rachel, seeks to justify rather than admit her sin. She falls into the snare of deceiving herself by trying to involve God in her selfishness. Do I really expect God to reward my plans when I violate His? Does God reward immorality/human trafficking? I don’t think so. God heard and answered Leah’s prayer, not to reward her immoral decisions concerning her servant/slave, but to fulfil his promise to Jacob.
Faith is not a good luck charm. Faith does not beg for a superstitious potion in the hope that something might happen. Reuben grows up with the example of his parents superstitious belief in love potions and Issachar has a constant reminder in his name of his Mother’s attempt at trying to justify her sin. What impression do we leave on the next generation by our blatant disregard of living our lives as God intended. God invites us to acknowledge our sin rather than justify ourselves? We can pray as David prayed – “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…” God’s love potion for forgiveness and fruitfulness in life is found in knowing Jesus.
Faith expects the best and enables me to endure the worst. It builds it’s perceptions on revealed truth, not on false hope. Superstition limits us to imaginary measures to solve our problems. Faith lives a life that points us to hope in the reality of God’s solutions. Christ continually calls us to be immersed in the truth of all that God has promised; Jesus said “I am the Way, the TRUTH and the Life” (John 14:6).