Correspondence and Reply (Questions Concerning Rachel)

Dear Rev. Heys: 

I have read with interest your series of articles pertaining to the life and times of Jacob and his family during his stay with his Uncle Laban. 

One reason is that we as Men’s Society of Hope (G.R.) are studying and discussing that particular history. I appreciate your well-written and descriptive account of that involved history. 

Regarding your conclusion re Rachel, I desire that you know I have different thoughts on that matter. On page 137 of the Dec. 15/79 issue of the Standard Bearer, in your article entitled “Love at First Sight,” you state that both Esau and Jacob marry unbelieving women. Esau marries the unbelieving Canaanitish woman and Jacob marries the unbeliever Rachel. You write, “As far as Jacob’s love is concerned he is marrying an unbeliever — Rachel.” I beg to differ with you on that matter. By unbeliever in the context of the article I understand it to mean a person not a child of God. Believer (elect of God), unbeliever (child of the devil — reprobate). She is either or — there is no neutral area. 

As far as your facts and description concerning Rachel you are correct. 

1. Her life did reveal anything but a life of faith. 

2. She was beautiful and well favored. 

3. She did possess her father’s idols and no doubt served them to some degree and in some manner: 

As for fact number 1. The same could be said of any of the other three involved in this troublesome and sinful triangle (Jacob, Leah, Rachel), and let us add Uncle Laban. Deceit and being deceived was the common denominator. 

As for fact number 2. 

She was beautiful and well favored. Apparently it was a natural born condition with her. But don’t blame her for that. If that is all Jacob fell for, he is the transgressor, not her. No doubt her beauty appealed to Jacob’s carnality (old man). In my opinion, the common appearance of Leah is contrasted over against the beauty of Rachel to show, not that Leah is so much more spiritual because of her unattractiveness, but rather to expose Jacob’s humanism in their relationships. Sarah also was beautiful and fair to look upon as was Rebekah. 

As for fact number 3. 

Sure she had idols and wanted to keep them — no doubt an example of her spiritual weakness. Idols, charms and the like seem to be a common item in the household of both Laban and Jacob. Later on we read in Genesis 35 that he, Jacob, said unto his household to put away the strange gods that are among you and be clean and let us arise and go to Bethel to worship and pay our vows before the Lord Jehovah. After the dedication and purification of themselves, they continue their journey to Mamre. It is at Ramah that Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin. So it indicates, and that before she dies, Rachel is purged from idolatry. 

I for one can hardly believe that after Isaac blesses Jacob with the spiritual blessing and sends him away to find himself a wife from his mother’s household, that he, Jacob, would still corrupt himself as did his brother Esau by marrying an unbeliever. If that be the case, then the very purpose he was sent away for is defeated. 

In verse 22 of Genesis 30 we read, And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her. At this point in her life, Rachel finally conceded that it is only God Who gives children and that in His own good time and pleasure. Does God answer the prayers and intercessions of an unbeliever? 

I cannot believe that Rachel, in her situation of being barren, only went through the motions of prayer and that God “liked” what she said so He answers her. 

As far as the use of the mandrakes are concerned, I am under the strong impression that not only did Rachel “use” them but likewise Leah. Why would Leah’s son Reuben bring them to his mother? Just for a nice bouquet? 

One other related matter concerning Rachel comes to mind. I believe this has a bearing on the entire question. In Matthew 2:16-18 we read the account of Herod murdering the children of Bethlehem. “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” In brief, this is spiritual Rachel (Jacob’s wife) weeping for her covenant spiritual seed or/and generations. 

What do you think? 

One final remark. In your March 1, 1980 article entitled “Homeward Bound” page 258, you seem to have second thoughts concerning Rachel’s status before God. Does that mean that what you concluded in your Dec. 15/79 article concern Rachel (unbeliever) falls away, or do you now contend she was an “unbeliever” temporarily, say like King Saul was a “believer” temporarily? 

Respectfully submitted, 

P. Koole 


One sometimes wonders whether that which one has written is read, and how carefully it is read. Therefore, rather than to resent the fact that brother Koole raises questions about what was written, I wish to thank him for the time and effort expended, and the opportunity which it gives me to write further on the subject. 

In his last paragraph brother Koole suggests that I might have had a change of mind in March, and that I no longer hold the position which I took in December in regard to Rachel. I would like to begin there and assure him that I have not changed my mind, and that I certainly did not mean that Rachel was a temporary “unbeliever,” as he presents King Saul as a temporary “believer.” I made no judgment in March as to whether Rachel was a believer or unbeliever, but wrote, “We will not judge Rachel as to whether the reference to God and the use of His name means that she was a child of God.” What I wrote in December was likewise no judgment as to whether Rachel was a believer. I did not, by the way, write, “As far as Jacob’s love is concerned, he was marrying an unbeliever — Rachel.” That “—Rachel” is not in my sentence. Rachel is the first word of the next sentence. But I was writing of what Jacob’s love did, and not what Rachel was. But let me quote the whole paragraph again. 

“Let the truth be faced once again that apart from God’s grace, Jacob is like Esau, and Esau is like Jacob. Esau married unbelieving Canaanitish women — and no doubt because of their beauty — and then later on an unbelieving daughter of Ishmael. As far as Jacob’s love is concerned he is marrying an unbeliever. Rachel in fact reveals anything but a life of faith. And, the Lord willing, we will come to these evidences such as stealing her father’s idols, and speaking anything but the language of faith when her second and last son was born. That is not the point here. The point is that Jacob loved Rachel for her beauty of face and well-favoured body. Indeed, he knew that she was Laban’s daughter, and thus the daughter of a believer. He knew that she was in the sphere of the covenant. But this is not the reason for his love for her. Nowhere in the book of Genesis, or elsewhere in Scripture, do we find one word that would even suggest that he loved her for her faith in God and love for Him. What we read is this, ‘Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. And Jacob loved Rachel.’Genesis 29:17-18. Not one word appears between these statements; they must be connected together to teach us the reason for Jacob’s love for Rachel.” 

What the reader will note, I trust, is that one sentence is lifted up and out of a paragraph, is treated apart from the rest of the paragraph, and even that one sentence has the focus fixed on one part to such an extent that the other part falls away, as though it had not been written. The qualifying phrase that explains in what sense I was speaking of unbelief is dropped, erased, removed so that it is as though I had written nothing more than, “Jacob is marrying an unbeliever.” 

But if our readers will look at my sentence in its entirety in the setting of the paragraph, they will see that I was not dealing with Rachel, but with Jacob’s actions. What I did in that paragraph was to compare Esau’s method of choosing wives with Jacob’s, when he fell in love at first sight. Esau chose by outward appearance and by what appealed to his flesh. Jacob did the same thing. Esau did not ask whether these women were believers or unbelievers, and Jacob did not either, as far as his love for Rachel was concerned. In fact I began the paragraph with the observation that, except for the grace of God, we always do exactly like the unbelievers. Jacob’s faith was a gift of God. And if God did not give him the grace to behave differently from his reprobate brother, Jacob would always do Esau’s deeds. The old man of sin of the believer does exactly what the man of the unbeliever does. Only the believer has a new man, and therefore an old man of sin. The unbeliever has only a man of sin. It must be borne in mind that I was approaching the matter from that point of view, and was not going to answer the question as to whether Rachel was a believer or not. I leave that to God, and do not want to do her injustice, if God did give her faith. 

Now, I will concede that under pressure of the work in the congregation, being forced often to ask just how much time may be taken from the work in the congregation to write an article every fifteen days, and have copy ready a month before publication, and being limited as to how many pages are allotted for this department of the magazine, one does not always develop a thought as fully as one would-like, and hurries on to other matters to be sure to get other points in the article. But I believe my paragraph does show my viewpoint. In fact I state what the point is and what it is not. I stated that whether deeds of Rachel show that she is a child of God or not is not the point now. The point in this paragraph is that Jacob loved Rachel, not for her faith, but for her beauty. I stated that literally. 

What is more, to come back to that qualifying statement in the sentence, brother Koole writes as though I had written,” as far as the marks of a true child of God are concerned, as far as God’s judgment is concerned, as far as the rule of faith is concerned, as far as the principles of Christianity are concerned, Jacob is marrying and unbeliever.” I did not do that. I will not do that today. I wrote that as far as his love for Rachel is concerned he is marrying an unbeliever. I conceded that she was born in the covenant sphere, as a daughter of a believer. Yes, with all his evils, I called Laban a believer. 

It may be noted that all that which brother Koole presents as his reason for believing that she was a believer took place much later than the period of time of which I was writing. If he can show one word in Scripture that shows faith on Rachel’s part beforeJacob married her, my statement can be subjected to further study and consideration. Otherwise the statement stands that Jacob loved her for her outward beauty and not for her faith in God. His love for her did not ask, “Is she a believer?” It asked, “Is she beautiful?” 

And let me add, and be appreciative to brother Koole for the opportunity to emphasize this by repeating it, this tragedy happens so often in the church today. Even in the church young men will assume that, because this young woman belongs to his church, she is a believer. What attracted him was her beauty, not her faith and pious life. And then after marriage he finds out that she opposes him in trying to bring the children up in the fear of God’s name. He, blinded by his fleshly love for her earthly beauty, saw her walk of life as just an evidence of weak faith rather than unbelief. That love of the flesh, as with Jacob, is willing to marry that face, even when clear evidences of faith are not to be found. 

If, with the understanding now that some might stumble over what I wrote, I were to rewrite the paragraph, Iwould write, “As far as Jacob’s love is concerned, it did not matter that Rachel showed no faith in God. He was content to say that he got a wife out of a covenant family. And is it not true that unbelievers, who also fall in love at first sight, do fall in love with those who do believe? And why do they fall in love with the daughters of Zion? Because they see unbelief in them. They see the works of their old man of sin. Be sure of it that a young woman showing Christ in her life will not be pleasing to an unbeliever, no matter how beautiful of face she may be. What attracts the unbeliever to the believer always is that he sees something he likes; and he cannot like faith and the life of Christ. Young women, be sure that Christ shines in your life — especially if God gave you beauty of face — lest you be attractive to the world, and be caught up in a temptation to marry an unbeliever. Is it not because Esther hid her religion, when she hid her people, that it was possible for such a godless king as Ahasuerus to choose her to be queen and find delight in her?” 

And since I did not judge Rachel, I need not answer brother Koole’s reasons for insisting that she is a believer in later life. I do, however, like to point out that ten lepers prayed to Jesus that they might be healed; and it pleased Him to heal all ten. But only one showed faith, in that he came back to thank Christ for the healing. And in I Kings 21:27-29 we read that God was pleased to spare Ahab, that wicked king, and to bring the calamities, which He had predicted upon him through Elijah, upon his children instead of on him personally, when Ahab humbled himself, fasted, and lay in sackcloth. He reacted to God’s word, even though he was an unbeliever. And it is not always grace to that individual when God gives him what he likes to have. We must not quickly call one an unbeliever. Nor must we, as I wrote in March, take the position that all use of God’s name indicates faith in Him. 

I did not write that Rachel was to blame for her beauty. Nor did I even suggest that Leah’s lesser beauty meant that she was spiritual. But what puzzles me is that brother Koole writes that I am “correct” in stating that Rachel’s “life did reveal anything but a life of faith,” and that he still wants to maintain that when Jacob married her, she was a believer. Scripture paints such a beautiful picture of Rebekah, Jacob’s mother, in her faith. Willing she was to go with Abraham’s servant to be a covenant mother in Israel, not even having seen her husband-to-be — the opposite of Jacob who has seen Rachel’s beauty. Instead of Rachel, we read of that incident, on which I wrote in the January 1, 1980 issue of the Standard Bearer, when not one word of opposition is found on Rachel’s part to her father’s intent to give Leah to Jacob. There was in Rachel no such interest in being a covenant mother in Israel that Rebekah showed, nor even a love for the man who loved her so deeply and openly. And even if we are to take the position that Rachel was an unbeliever, it does not follow that “the very purpose he (Jacob) was sent away for is defeated.” God takes care of His Church and saw to it that Jacob did get a believing wife in Leah. 

And is it strange that Jacob would corrupt himself? Do we all not do that time and again? Did Solomon not corrupt himself and marrying even a daughter of Pharaoh? We may be sure that Jacob, according to the new principle of life in him, would say with a man like Paul, “The evil that I would not, that I do.” 

But let me close with the opening words of that disputed paragraph, “Let the truth be faced once again that apart from God’s grace, Jacob is like Esau, and Esau is like Jacob.” Jacob had his old man of sin with which to struggle until the day of his death. We must not be surprised then to find that the natural love of his flesh, even while he is seeking a God fearing wife in the covenant sphere, drives him to look away from that which is of faith and fixes itself on outward, fleshly beauty. As far as the love of his flesh is concerned, he is willing to marry an unbeliever. Love that is moved by earthly, physical beauty marries for that which is not of faith.