His mother, Rachel, was the loved wife. For an extra seven years Jacob had pledged to work just to get the bride he had fallen in love with. Scripture records that to him those years were like a few days. This was because Jacob had a deep love for this woman. There was never an understanding of why he loved her above Leah. Yet she was barren. For many years she tried to have children but all was in vain. To her and Jacob, sexual intercourse was no longer a joy but a formality. They just kept trying hoping that one day there would be a difference in their lives, that when Rachel would say to Jacob, “I missed my period, and I think there’s a bun in the oven.” Because of her failure to conceive, Rachel envied her sister and said unto Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die.” And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel; and he said, “Am I in God’s stead, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?
Who was to blame- Jacob or God? What was the reason for this failure to conceive? There are just too many questions we cannot answer. Like her grandmother-in law, Sarah, she sought to make a plan that would assist her to have a son- albeit through someone else, Bilhah. But as in Sarah’s case, the son, Dan- meaning God had judged me, was not the promised one, neither was he the one to take away her disgrace. Bilhah conceived a second time and gave birth to a son Naphtali, a product of sibling rivalry. But his birth urged Leah to do the same as Rachel and give her maidservant, Zilpah, to Jacob. Still the biggest loser was Rachel. Of the four women in Jacob’s life, Rachel was childless and that on its own was bad news. She could have had sons by default but nothing had come from her own womb. Here was a woman experiencing the same mockery and distaste that Sarah had gone through. And that was a cue for a change to take place in her life.
One year she decided to hold God to ransom, making a proposal that God could not have refuse and He responded by giving her a son whom she named, “May He add another.” This is the son whose business we are about. In Genesis 30v22-24 we come across the answer that forced a barren womb to conceive. His birth took away his mother’s disgrace as finally she was able to carry her own baby. That on its own was a change of fortune as she could now gladly tell the world of her labour pains that brought a smile at last on the face of Jacob. He could now relax knowing that his beloved wife had carried a son to full term.
All along Joseph was sitting in heaven, waiting for his chance to come and change the destiny of the inhabited world. He watched as each of his 10 brothers were born, looked at the names that each bore and waited for a chance to add value to the life of a barren and despised woman. He knew for a fact that there was a dance with fate at the right time and though he could have asked God to fast forward his entry into the world, he waited.
As Rachel prayed heaven decided to do an unusual thing. God opened her previously closed womb. During her ovulation God decided to prepare her womb as place of life. In it he placed a life giving ovum. Her womb was ready to carry something great and all that was left was to release the Joseph sperm to make world change. The day she knew she had conceived a lot began to happen. Here was Rachel speaking to her yet unborn son of the greatness to be associated with him. By right he was the firstborn even though there were ten others ahead of him. She was a patient mother doing extraordinary things. Even her diet began to change as the son inside of her began to choose the kind of food he wanted. Leah’s pregnancy may have been characterized by certain kind of diet, but that of Rachel was uniquely different.
The timing of his birth was just amazing. All along she had been the laughing stock of the harem- beloved wife, favourite of Jacob but the barren one. The other wives were better off because they had something to brag about. Who knows, even the rest of Jacob's relatives were questioning the logic behind keeping a barren woman. After all Jacob already had 10 sons and a daughter. Why should Rachel stick around? Leah could even have reminded him of the many years he spent serving Laban for Rachel's hand in marriage and the worthless reward of waiting long and hard for no proof of a seed from the said wife. But God’s timing is always accurate. At the right time He remembered to open this closed womb.
The day he was born was a joy to the household of Jacob as the long awaited for prince made a grand arrival with a name to suit the occasion- “May He add another.” His name was prophetic in that God was mandated to add another son to the womb of Rachel. His name alone was surety enough that Benjamin would be born. His name was surety that addition would come through his life, ministry and call. Joseph was a value adder in everything that he would put his hand to. Can you imagine how much joy was added to Rachel as she heard him cry for the first time? Surely she must have punched the air in joy and declared, “Finally I have my own son, who shall call me a disgrace?” She surely must have fore read the words of Isaiah 54v 1 which says, “Rejoice and sing, O barren, you that did not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you that did not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, says the LORD.”
By right Joseph was supposed to be the 1st born but he was not born at the thought time. Officially he was the 7th son of his father’s wives. That meant he was the perfect son, born in God’s time and plan. Who could dispute the fact that God had a predestined future for this man? An interesting fact comes to the fore just after Joseph was born. Genesis 30v25 states that it came to pass that after his birth, Jacob said to his uncle Laban, “Send me away, that I may go unto my own place, and to my own country.” What does this mean? Joseph was the key to the departure of Jacob and his family from bondage. He was the son who had to be born before the family could move away from serving someone to independence. We need not forget that Jacob was a foreigner in Paddanaram and he was a fugitive from Esau. So, the birth of Joseph was the key to sovereignty and to a return to Canaan.
It just had to be his birth that fast tracked so many things in the lives of this family. Wealth and servants had been accumulated. The family had grown and things were moving in the right direction, but there was a son who had to be born before things turned on the head for Jacob. There was value addition that had to take place before Canaan could once more be a reality for Jacob. Had Joseph not been born is it possible that Jacob and his family could have stayed slaves to Laban? The birth of Joseph brought a negotiated settlement for Jacob that saw him prosper as he took away the wealth of Laban for his own. Scripture records that he prospered exceedingly and had large flocks, and maidservants and menservants, and camels and donkeys. Could his riches have come as a result of the birth of Joseph? You figure out the answer to that one on your own. But surely Joseph had an anointing of addition and we see that addition in the status of Jacob.
The time for the return did eventually come and Jacob packed up his belongings and headed for the land of his origin. He knew later along the way that Esau was waiting for him at a certain stage and did an amazing thing to Joseph. Seeing Esau come, Jacob divided the children unto Leah, Rachel and the two handmaids. The handmaids and their children were placed at the front, Leah and her children next while Rachel and Joseph were placed last. This was symbolic in its own right because it would appear that Jacob valued the lives of his wife and lastborn greatly. There had to be a reason behind this and logic would assume that he was trying to protect Joseph from the impending wrath of Esau. Even in his childhood Joseph would still find and receive the favour of his father.
The family did return to Canaan and there Joseph grew under the favour of his father as the favourite of them all. Maybe this was because he had been born in Jacob's old age or because he was the son of his loved wife; whatever way we can assume that Joseph had a better upbringing than the rest of his brothers. Later on in life Rachel conceived and gave birth to another son albeit she did not live to see him grow. Her death was a major blow in his life because she was a pillar of his strength. Here was Joseph having to look after a baby brother. It was now Joseph’s responsibility to be on the lookout for his little brother and see to it that he was comfortable as they grew up. He must have been a responsible big brother who had to fend off the insults of his brother, who at least had a mother to defend them.
Here was Joseph, focusing his life solely on his father. He was an orphan and maybe he was always at the mercy of his step mothers. Who knows, maybe they would bully him and Benjamin and take revenge on them on their mother’s behalf. To get to the heart of Rachel, they would have to touch her two young boys. But fortunately for them, there was a Jacob to defend and protect them. The Ndebele people have a proverb which when translated states that the fortunate orphan is the one that has a living mother than the one who is left with a father. This is because a mother will protect her own child with her life and see to it that no danger comes to it. Joseph and Benjamin had to trust their father more than anything else.
If one were to paint a picture of the days these boys grew up, you will discover that there were days when the other boys would sit at the feet of their mothers and have fun, laughing and sharing those intimate moments with their loved mothers. Joseph never had that privilege. When such times would come about, you can picture Joseph calling his young brother aside and encouraging him that even if they did not have a mother, still they had each other. You can almost see Joseph put his arms around Benjamin and remind him of the things their mother used to tell them. You can be assured that Benjamin was privileged to have a big brother who would fight for him and protect him from bullying and even from his brothers wanting to take advantage of their not having a mother.