family: daughter of Laban
descent: Mesopotamia , Betel
religion: confessor of One God
health condition: infertility
children: son Joseph, son Benjamin and sons Dan, Naphtali (sons of her servant named Bilhah, according to the Code of Hammurabi sons of Rachel)
distinguishing marks: an extraordinary charm which made a man able to wait for her for 14 years
from where do we know about her: Bible, Old Testament, Genesis 29 – 35
she is the symbol of: motherhood
place of burial: Bethlehem Ephrath
Story of Rachel
The Old Testament very often sounds like a scandal. One of these scandalous stories is undoubtedly the one about Rachel, the sister of Leah and… their husband Jacob. He was the one who arrived to the country of his descendants – Mesopotamia. The only aim… to find and marry a girl from that land. He didn’t have anything. And soon he spotted this beautiful girl shepherd. He even moved an enormous and heavy well stone so that she gives water to the swine and in that very moment she stole his heart. Jacob and Rachel are love at first sight. But in order to marry her… he had to work hard first.
Why did he marry her sister first?
After seven years of hard work in the house of Rachel’s father, the last one during the wedding gave him Rachel’s older sister. He said that according to the tradition the first daughter needs to get married first. That was the beginning of misfortune for all three of them. Jacob had to work for Laban another seven years. Leah gave birth to six sons, but that wasn’t enough to love her! On the other hand Rachel couldn’t get pregnant for a long time and she and her sister envied each other for what the other one has. Finally Rachel had two sons – Joseph and Benjamin (this is this Joseph who was thrown into a well by his brothers and he ended up in Egypt as a servant and then pharaon’s personal adviser). Unfortunately Rachel died while giving birth to Benjamin. The last thing she did was to name him Benoni which means “son of my pain”. Jacob decided to change that name to Benjamin – “son of my right hand”. Thanks God, do you imagine living your life not only knowing about the sacrifice of your mother but also bearing a name “son of my pain”?
All magic of biblical stories consists in the fact that God makes “something from anything”. A little cave can become the house of God. A piece of bread is a memory of His body. An infertile women… a symbol of motherhood. Jacob and Leah were buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs next to Abraham and Sarah, Adam and Eve (todays Hebron). But Rachel stayed there, next to the road. She is waiting for her children who would pray by her tomb (it’s mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah 31, 15).
Then we have her here in Bethlehem. Well, it’s hard to visit that place, though, but it’s yet another story
As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath. So I buried her there beside the road to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Genesis 48,7