When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”
2 Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”
3 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.”
4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, 5 and she became pregnant and bore him a son. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan.[a]
7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.[b]
This is of course the inspiration for the idea behind The Handmaid's Tale. In the KJV Bilhah is called a "handmaid" rather than a "servant." Also for some reason the NIV omits a phrase from verse 3:
30:3 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 Margaret Atwood noticed, as apparently most preachers do not, is that Bilhah is not consulted in the matter; nor are her children considered her own, they are Rachel's. Bilhah is used as a reproductive vessel for her owners. She is not a servant, she is a slave.
9 When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!”[c] So she named him Gad.[d]Zilpah is also a slave, who is used in the same way as Bilhah.
12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.[e]
14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”For those who don't know, mandrakes are a plant with hallucinogenic and narcotic properties. They have no other use. They are not food. Rachel wants to get high and Leah evidently wants to get laid. So they make a deal. How this accords with any contemporary standard of morality I leave to you.
15 But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”
“Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”
16 So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.
17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.[f]Evidently Jacob decided he liked boinking Leah after all. Leah concludes that this turn of events results from God approving of her making Bilhah bear children for her. I'll leave you to decide what that says about God. No I won't. God is one seriously sick puppy.
19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.[g]
21 Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.
22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” 24 She named him Joseph,[h] and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.”
- Genesis 30:6 Dan here means he has vindicated.
- Genesis 30:8 Naphtali means my struggle.
- Genesis 30:11 Or “A troop is coming!”
- Genesis 30:11 Gad can mean good fortune or a troop.
- Genesis 30:13 Asher means happy.
- Genesis 30:18 Issachar sounds like the Hebrew for reward.
- Genesis 30:20 Zebulun probably means honor.
- Genesis 30:24 Joseph means may he add.