Who said, “All is fair in love and war”? Certainly not the Lord! He says love “is kind.” What a contrast!
Our story in Genesis 30 describes, in quick-fire action, the matrimonial duel between Jacob’s two wives. What is their ammunition? Baby boys! In chapter 28, Leah shoots first, with Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. Her objective is to capture Jacob’s affections from her sister. Rachel, being barren, fires back by using her maid, Bilhah. In quick succession come Dan and Naphtali. Not to be outdone, Leah introduces her maid, Zilpah, into the fray. Gad and Asher appear. Then there is a lull in the action. We come now to Genesis 30:14. Here we read that Leah’s eldest boy, Reuben, is out with the men during wheat harvest, and discovers some mandrakes. Webster’s describes this plant: “a Mediterranean herb…of the nightshade family with large ovate leaves, greenish-yellow or purple flowers, and a large usually forked root resembling a human in form…formerly used especially to promote conception, as a cathartic, or as a narcotic and soporific.” The root, with its human form, suggested to pagan minds that it might be an aphrodisiac provided by the gods. The plant provided enough poison, when mixed with wine, to kill an enemy. In slightly smaller portions, it was used as an anesthetic for ancient surgeries, and in mild doses as a sleeping aid. But in those days, a small amount, mixed in a drink, was like modern “date-rape drugs,” used to inhibit people from making clear decisions. In our next episode, Reuben’s mandrakes become a bargaining chip in the family’s ongoing civil war. Sadly, this wouldn’t be the last time that children (or the way of conceiving them) were used as weapons in the so-called battle of the sexes. How far this is from God’s plan of marital love and unity in wholesome family life!