Devotional & Reflection

Week 4, Nov 2003

Gen 30:1-3 : Jealousy Extinguishes Love
By Pang Hee Hung, Katartizo Resources Ltd

Gen 30:1 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!" v 2 Jacob became angry with her and said, "Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?" v 3 Then she said, "Here is Bilhah, my maidservant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family."

"When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister" (Gen 30:1). Here we have Rachel, who was exceedingly beautiful in terms of appearance and form (Gen 29:17). Yet she was jealous of Leah who had "weak eyes." The physically more attractive Rachel was jealous of Leah. In spite of her beauty, Rachel told Jacob to give her children or she would die. Sadly and ironically, she did die giving birth to her second son, Benjamin.

Some may ask what is wrong with being jealous; after all God is a jealous God (Deut 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Exod 34:14; Jos 24:19) and His name is Jealous (Exod 34:14). So what is the difference? The difference is that the negative form of jealousy is envy of what others have and which we do not possess. God is jealous of what He owns and possess. God jealously guards the love of His people much like a spouse who jealously expects total love, commitment and absolute devotion in a marriage. In addition to these nuances of "jealousy", there is a third meaning of jealousy - an overly possessive attitude that begets suspicions which lead to imaginations of all sorts. The wisdom of Solomon puts it this way: “The ear of jealousy heareth all things.”

Rachel’s jealousy led her into rivalry with her sister. It's like a race and competition to have the most children / sons. Having children is a good thing – a blessing. But turning a blessing into a competition, especially to prove who is more successful and/or to bolster one's esteem, is quite another matter altogether.

Jealousy can lead to misplaced priorities. Instead of glorifying God for how He has created us, we covet something else. What is worse is that jealousy prods us to do what we should not do. Joseph's brothers were jealous of him (Gen 37:11; Acts 7:9) and that led them to the verge of killing Joseph before selling him as a slave to the Midianites. Saul had a jealous eye on David (1 Sam 18:9) and that led Saul to assassinate David.

How then do we guard against jealousy? The answer is to rest in God. God knows the suffering that both Leah and Rachel went through. Likewise God knows what is happening to us. Leah seemed to be the unwanted spouse while Rachel was the favoured bride of Jacob. And God vindicated Leah in that the Messiah came through the ancestry of Judah through Leah. But God actually listened to both the prayers of Leah and Rachel. In Gen 30:17 "God listened to Leah" and she bore her fifth son. And in Gen 30:22, "God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb" in His own time. Just as God remembered Rachel and Leah, God will remember us and listen to our prayers. Hence, we need not be jealous.

1. Are we jealous of someone who has better grades, more wealth, more success or larger ministry than us? How should we react?
2. What can we do in the above situations (question 1)?
3. How does knowing that God listens to us (Gen 30:17, 22) change the situation?

“O! beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock The meat it feeds on.” William Shakespeare.
“Though jealousy be produced by love, as ashes are by fire, yet jealousy extinguishes love as ashes smother the flame.” Marguerite of Angouleme.

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