Rachel

Rachel

Overview
Rachel as described in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

, is a prophet and the favorite wife
Wife
A wife is a female partner in a marriage. The rights and obligations of the wife regarding her spouse and others, and her status in the community and in law, varies between cultures and has varied over time.-Origin and etymology:...

 of Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

, one of the three Biblical Patriarchs, and mother of Joseph
Joseph (Hebrew Bible)
Joseph is an important character in the Hebrew bible, where he connects the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Canaan to the subsequent story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt....

 and Benjamin
Benjamin
Benjamin was the last-born of Jacob's twelve sons, and the second and last son of Rachel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Benjamin. In the Biblical account, unlike Rachel's first son, Joseph, Benjamin was born in Canaan. He died in Egypt on...

. She was the daughter of Laban
Laban (Bible)
Laban is the son of Bethuel, brother of Rebekah and the father of Leah and Rachel and Bilhah and Zilpah as described in the Book of Genesis. As such he is brother-in-law to Isaac and both father-in-law and uncle to Jacob...

 and the younger sister of Leah
Leah
Leah , as described in the Hebrew Bible, is the first of the two concurrent wives of the Hebrew patriarch Jacob and mother of six of sons whose descendants became the Twelve Tribes of Israel, along with at least one daughter, Dinah. She is the daughter of Laban and the older sister of Rachel, whom...

, Jacob's first wife. Jacob was her first cousin, and she was the youngest niece of Rebecca
Rebecca
Rebecca a biblical matriarch from the Book of Genesis and a common first name. In this book Rebecca was said to be a beautiful girl. As a name it is often shortened to Becky, Becki or Becca; see Rebecca ....

.

Rachel is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 29 when Jacob happens upon her as she is watering her lamb.
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Rachel as described in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

, is a prophet and the favorite wife
Wife
A wife is a female partner in a marriage. The rights and obligations of the wife regarding her spouse and others, and her status in the community and in law, varies between cultures and has varied over time.-Origin and etymology:...

 of Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

, one of the three Biblical Patriarchs, and mother of Joseph
Joseph (Hebrew Bible)
Joseph is an important character in the Hebrew bible, where he connects the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Canaan to the subsequent story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt....

 and Benjamin
Benjamin
Benjamin was the last-born of Jacob's twelve sons, and the second and last son of Rachel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Benjamin. In the Biblical account, unlike Rachel's first son, Joseph, Benjamin was born in Canaan. He died in Egypt on...

. She was the daughter of Laban
Laban (Bible)
Laban is the son of Bethuel, brother of Rebekah and the father of Leah and Rachel and Bilhah and Zilpah as described in the Book of Genesis. As such he is brother-in-law to Isaac and both father-in-law and uncle to Jacob...

 and the younger sister of Leah
Leah
Leah , as described in the Hebrew Bible, is the first of the two concurrent wives of the Hebrew patriarch Jacob and mother of six of sons whose descendants became the Twelve Tribes of Israel, along with at least one daughter, Dinah. She is the daughter of Laban and the older sister of Rachel, whom...

, Jacob's first wife. Jacob was her first cousin, and she was the youngest niece of Rebecca
Rebecca
Rebecca a biblical matriarch from the Book of Genesis and a common first name. In this book Rebecca was said to be a beautiful girl. As a name it is often shortened to Becky, Becki or Becca; see Rebecca ....

.

Marriage to Jacob


Rachel is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 29 when Jacob happens upon her as she is watering her lamb. He had traveled a great distance to find his mother's brother, Laban. Rebekah had sent him there to be safe from his furious twin brother, Esau.

During Jacob's stay, he fell in love with Rachel and agreed to work seven years for Laban in return for her hand in marriage. On the night of the wedding, the bride was veiled and Jacob did not notice that Leah, Rachel's older sister, had been substituted for Rachel. Whereas "Rachel was lovely in form and beautiful," "Leah had weak eyes." Later Jacob confronted Laban, who excused his own deception by insisting that the older sister should marry first. He assured Jacob that after his wedding week was finished, he could take Rachel as a wife as well, and work another seven years as payment for her.

After Leah had given birth to four sons, Rachel remained unable to conceive. She became jealous of Leah and gave Jacob her maidservant, Bilhah
Bilhah
In the Book of Genesis, Bilhah is Rachel's handmaid who becomes a wife of Jacob and bears him two sons, Dan and Naphtali....

, to be a surrogate mother for her. Bilhah gave birth to two sons: Dan and Naphtali. After Leah conceived again, Rachel was finally blessed with a son, Joseph, who would become Jacob's favorite child.

Death and burial



After Joseph's birth, Jacob decided to return to the land of Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 with his family. Fearing that Laban would deter him, he fled with his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and twelve children without informing his father-in-law. Laban chased him and accused him of stealing his idols
Teraphim
Teraphim is a Hebrew word from the Bible, found only in the plural, of uncertain etymology. Despite being plural, Teraphim may refer to singular objects, using the Hebrew plural of excellence...

. Indeed, Rachel had taken her father's idols, hidden them inside her camel's seat cushion, and sat upon them. Not knowing that the idols were in his wife's possession, Jacob pronounced a curse on whoever had them: "With whoever you will find your gods, he will not live" (Genesis 31:32). Laban proceeded to search the tents of Jacob and his wives, but when he came to Rachel's tent, she told her father, "Let not my lord be angered that I cannot rise up before you, for the way of women is upon me" (Genesis 31:35). Laban left her alone, but the curse Jacob had pronounced came true shortly thereafter.

Near Ephrath
Ephrath
Ephrath or Ephratah is the name of a Biblical place.The first mention of Ephrath occurs in Genesis, in reference to where Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin and is buried on the road from Bethel...

, Rachel went into a difficult labor
Childbirth
Childbirth is the culmination of a human pregnancy or gestation period with the birth of one or more newborn infants from a woman's uterus...

 with her second son, Benjamin
Benjamin
Benjamin was the last-born of Jacob's twelve sons, and the second and last son of Rachel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Benjamin. In the Biblical account, unlike Rachel's first son, Joseph, Benjamin was born in Canaan. He died in Egypt on...

. The midwife tells her in the middle of the birth that her child is a boy. Before she died, Rachel named her son Ben Oni ("son of my mourning"), but Jacob called him Ben Yamin (Benjamin). Rashi
Rashi
Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

 explains that Ben Yamin either means "son of the right" (i.e., "south"), since Benjamin was the only one of Jacob's sons born in Canaan, which is to the south of Paddan Aram; or it could mean "son of my days," as Benjamin was born in Jacob's old age.

Rachel died on the eleventh day of the Hebrew month of Heshvan, and was buried by Jacob on the road to Efrat
Efrat
Efrat , or officially Efrata , is an Israeli settlement established in 1983 and a local council in the Judean Mountains of the West Bank. The international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law, but the Israeli government disputes this...

, just outside Bethlehem
Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank of the Jordan River, near Israel and approximately south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism...

. Today Rachel's Tomb
Rachel's Tomb
Rachel's Tomb , also known as the Dome of Rachel, , is an ancient structure believed to be the burial place of the biblical matriarch Rachel. It is located on the outskirts of Bethlehem, a Palestinian city just south of Jerusalem, in the West Bank...

, located between Bethlehem
Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank of the Jordan River, near Israel and approximately south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism...

 and the Israeli settlement
Israeli settlement
An Israeli settlement is a Jewish civilian community built on land that was captured by Israel from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and is considered occupied territory by the international community. Such settlements currently exist in the West Bank...

 of Gilo
Gilo
Gilo is a neighborhood in southern East Jerusalem with a population of 40,000, mostly Jewish. It is one of the five ring neighborhoods of Jerusalem and is built on land in the West Bank that was annexed to Israel in 1980 under the Jerusalem Law. The international community regards it as an...

, is visited by tens of thousands of visitors each year.

Rachel's children


Rachel's son, Joseph
Joseph (Hebrew Bible)
Joseph is an important character in the Hebrew bible, where he connects the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Canaan to the subsequent story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt....

, is destined to be the leader of Israel's tribes between exile and nationhood. This role is exemplified in the Biblical story of Joseph, who prepared the way in Egypt for his family's exile there, and in the future figure of Mashiach ben Yosef (Messiah, son of Joseph), who will fight the apocalyptic Wars of Gog and Magog
Gog and Magog
Gog and Magog are names that appear primarily in various Jewish, Christian and Muslim scriptures, as well as numerous subsequent references in other works. Their context can be either genealogical or eschatological and apocalyptic, as in Ezekiel and Revelation...

, preparing the way for the kingship of Mashiach ben David (Messiah, son of David) and the messianic age. She also had a second son named Benjamin; she died during labor with him.

Additional references in the Bible

  • In Jeremiah
    Book of Jeremiah
    The Book of Jeremiah is the second of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, following the book of Isaiah and preceding Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve....

     31:15, the prophet speaks of 'Rachel weeping for her children' (KJV). This is interpreted in Judaism
    Judaism
    Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

     as Rachel crying for an end to her descendants' sufferings and exiles following the destruction by the Babylonians of the First Temple in ancient Jerusalem. According to the Midrash
    Midrash
    The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

    , Rachel spoke before God: "If I, a mere mortal, was prepared not to humiliate my sister and was willing to take a rival into my home, how could You, the eternal, compassionate God, be jealous of idols
    Idolatry
    Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God. In all the Abrahamic religions idolatry is strongly forbidden, although...

    , which have no true existence, that were brought into Your home (the Temple in Jerusalem
    Temple in Jerusalem
    The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

    )? Will You cause my children to be exiled on this account?" God accepted her plea and promised that, eventually, the exile would end and the Jews would return to their land.

  • In the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew
    Gospel of Matthew
    The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

     (part of the New Testament
    New Testament
    The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

    ), this reference from Jeremiah is interpreted as a prediction of the Massacre of the Innocents
    Massacre of the Innocents
    The Massacre of the Innocents is an episode of infanticide by the King of Judea, Herod the Great. According to the Gospel of Matthew Herod orders the execution of all young male children in the village of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth...

     by Herod the Great
    Herod the Great
    Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

     in his attempt to kill the young Jesus
    Jesus
    Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

    . The Jeremaic prophecy is the inspiration behind the medieval dramatic cycle Ordo Rachelis
    Ordo Rachelis
    The Ordo Rachelis , Interfectio Puerorum , or Ludus Innocentium is a medieval dramatic tradition consisting in four plays and based on the Massacre of the Innocents, an event recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, and on the prophecy recorded in the Book of Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah,...

    , concerned with the infancy of Jesus.

  • Mordechai, the hero of the Book of Esther
    Book of Esther
    The Book of Esther is a book in the Ketuvim , the third section of the Jewish Tanakh and is part of the Christian Old Testament. The Book of Esther or the Megillah is the basis for the Jewish celebration of Purim...

    , and Queen Esther
    Esther
    Esther , born Hadassah, is the eponymous heroine of the Biblical Book of Esther.According to the Bible, she was a Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus...

     herself, were descendants of Rachel through her son Benjamin. The Book of Esther details Mordechai's lineage as "Mordechai the son of Yair, the son of Shimi, the son of Kish, a man of the right (ish yemini)" (Esther 2:5). The designation of ish yemini refers to his membership in the Tribe of Benjamin (ben yamin, son of the right). The rabbis comment that Esther's ability to remain silent in the palace of Ahasuerus
    Ahasuerus
    Ahasuerus is a name used several times in the Hebrew Bible, as well as related legends and Apocrypha. This name is applied in the Hebrew Scriptures to three rulers...

    , resisting the king's pressure to reveal her ancestry, was inherited from her ancestor Rachel, who remained silent even when Laban brought out Leah to marry Jacob.

Islamic view of Rachel


Rachel is revered in Islam, and while not specifically referred to in the Quran, she is known by references to her in the collection of stories known as Qisas Al-Anbiya
Qisas Al-Anbiya
The "Qasas Al-Anbiya" or Stories of the Prophets is any of various collections of tales adapted from the Quran and other Islamic literature, closely related to exegesis of the Qur'an. One of the best-known is that composed by Kisa'i in either the 6th or the 13th century; others include the Ara'is...

(Tales of the Prophets or Lives of the Prophets). The story of how Jacob fell in love with Rachel is told in the Qisas Al-Anbiya, and her beauty is described. Her role as mother to Joseph and Benjamin is the central theme of these narratives on her life.

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