The Word of the Lord: Genesis 30.14: During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah.
Meditation: At this time, Jacob and Leah’s oldest son, Reuben, would have been 8-10 years old. He was old enough to assist the reapers in cutting wheat in the fields. He was old enough to realize that his father, Jacob, didn’t love his mother, Leah. Perhaps, Reuben sensed that Jacob resented that Leah was his wife and he had to provide for her. Reuben may have doubted his father’s love for him because Jacob made it obvious that he wanted sons with Rachel, his preferred wife.
Reuben wanted to help his mother, Leah, when she stopped conceiving children. When Reuben found mandrakes in the wheat field, he brought them to her. Apparently, Reuben, like Leah and Rachel, believed that mandrakes caused conception in a woman. Reuben wanted his mother to continue having children and being valued by Jacob, if not as a beloved wife at least the mother of additional children.
My concern with this Bible story is that Leah transmitted her anxiety at no longer conceiving children to her son. Equally true, Jacob made his ongoing disregard for Leah and concomitant preference for Rachel obvious to the entire family.
As a child, Reuben may have thought he did something wrong because his father wanted children through Rachel. Even though he was Jacob’s first-born son, Reuben wasn’t enough to make Jacob happy. Likely, this 10-year-old was distressed by how Jacob discounted his mother. Reuben believed it was his responsibility to make this situation better.
Through the lens of 21st century child psychology, we view this situation as a “no-win” for Reuben. Probably, we would suggest that Leah get him counseling; yet, two centuries before the birth of Christ, there weren’t child psychologists. Like Reuben, children had to weather mal-adaptive family dynamics that from the perspective of the twenty-first century are appalling.
Reflection: What do you do when you feel inadequate in situations, or when you feel discounted by others? God never discounts our feelings. If you aren’t sure about God’s acceptance of you and how you feel, read how King David pour his heart out to God in the Psalms.
Copyright 9/18/2020: Carolyn Adams Roth