Wives and Mandrakes

This passage from Genesis 30:14-17 cracks me up. The sisters Leah and Rachel were two of Jacob’s wives — Leah was Jacob’s first wife, and Rachel was Jacob’s best-loved wife. Leah had already borne Jacob four sons, but now both she and the childless Rachel were unable to conceive. Mandrake roots were commonly believed to be aphrodisiacs that could cure female infertility.

In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.

I’m sure this situation was fraught with emotion for everyone involved, as for anyone struggling with infertility, but from several thousand years away the conversation strikes me as quite humorous.

Both women eventually have children, so from then on I’m sure all was happy and peaceful in their household.

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