Reuben’s Mandrakes

Genesis 30: 14 – And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.

Genesis 30: 15 – And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes.

Genesis 30: 16 – And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.

Genesis 30: 17 – And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.

Hello all, new blog time today, and talking about Reuben’s mandrakes, from Genesis 30. Leah and Rachel were the two wives of Jacob, and they were in a competition with each other for Jacob’s love, favor and affection. God had ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman, and multiple wife relationships always had a lot of trouble. Jacob truly loved Rachel and not Leah, and Leah wasn’t favored by Jacob. In fact Jacob was only married to Leah because of her father Laban’s trickery. The competition between these two wives over Jacob began, and was manifested in a battle over who could have children. Leah out competed Rachel, she had had many children, and yet Rachel was barren. Leah was raising up a strong heritage and seedline for Jacob (it was through her fourth son Judah, that Jesus Christ would be born), but Rachel’s womb was closed, she could not conceive despite badly wanting to. It was at this time that we see that Reuben, Leah’s firstborn son, went out into the field and found some mandrakes. Rachel wanted them badly though, and she effectively traded a night with Jacob for them. It’s an interesting story, because it was Leah that ended up getting pregnant, and Rachel stayed barren.

So what’s all this about? What’s the significance of the mandrakes? Well mandrakes are a unique type of plant, and associated with this plant is a large amount of pagan superstition and occult practice. Mandrakes are meant to increase fertility, and this is why Rachel wanted them. Reuben had come back with mandrakes, and she thought that by getting the mandrakes, she might through them be able to get pregnant finally. But instead the opposite happened, God honored Leah, who parted ways with her son’s mandrakes for a night with Jacob instead. We read a little earlier in the chapter that before this, Leah had left off bearing, so she was finished having children, but after this happened, she conceived again. Rachel’s plan went completely wrong, her devices, her rationalizations, her strategy failed, and she traded a night with Jacob for a bunch of mandrakes. She ended up costing and cheating herself.

So what went wrong? Rachel wanted children, nothing wrong with that. And all of us should want to be fruitful in our lives, we are all in a spiritually barren state if we are not saved, we must be born again, and then we must abide in Christ in order to bear fruit. That’s what Jesus was talking about abiding in the vine, because unless we abide in him, we cannot bring forth fruit. Rachel did it the wrong way though. Rachel went to the world, she went to superstition, drugs, magic – which could never do what God could only do. It was going to take a miracle for this barren woman to conceive, and when we are saved, it is a miracle, being born again of the Spirit of God is a miracle. Our whole life is a miracle, as we begin as unbelieving, disobedient, rebellious, condemned, God hating sinners and when God shines his light in our heart we become believing, obedient, saved, forgiven, eternally alive children of God. There are two ways in this life, there is the narrow way, and the broad way, the narrow way leads to life, the broad way leads to destruction, and it all boils down to what way you will choose. Jesus said, I am the way. He is the way to life.

Reuben found the mandrakes. And we can learn a lot from that. Jacob said that Reuben was unstable as water. And unstable people will quickly go to the world, rather than God’s word. Unstable people are those people who do not have faith in the word of God, who are not rooted, grounded in, built upon the rock. They are not founded upon the solid rock of Christ, but rather on the shifting sands of philosophy, reasoning, ambiguity, doubt, questions and faithlessness. It is no coincidence that it was Reuben who brought the mandrakes back. What was he doing in the time of wheat harvest, which was a special time, a time to praise and worship God, to thank him for his blessings as he is the Creator, the Sustainer, he gives us all we have. Instead Reuben went during this time, and went into the field. Jesus in his parables repeatedly used the word “field” to describe the world. Reuben found these mandrakes in the world, and he brought them back from the world into their family circle. Often believers and unbelievers go and find things in the world which they think are highly valuable, which can serve a “Godly” function, which can make things happen. But it’s a sad lie, there is nothing of  value for a Bible believer in this world. It is empty, vanity, temporary, and John wrote that all in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

The mandrakes were associated with magic, not with miracles. Mandrakes were associated with sorcery, not with faith in God. Mandrakes were associated with superstition, not with the truth of God’s word. Mandrakes were associated with the occult, not with the power of gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There was nothing wrong with the mandrakes in and of themselves, but it was how they were used. Paul wrote about these things in Romans and 1 Corinthians particularly, and in Romans 14 the Bible says that all things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. Rachel wanted the mandrakes to get her pregnant, this was not an act of faith, but an act of faithlessness. If you are barren and want to bear, go to God, not to mandrakes. Mandrakes were meant to get her pregnant. Mandrakes represent works of the flesh, mandrakes are a bit like Abraham when he tried making the promise of God happen by going into Hagar when Sarah was barren. The end result was a rejected seed, Ishmael. Ishmael was not the one who God was going to fulfill his promises through. God had promised to Abraham that he would have a son, and he would have the son by Sarah, and that God would make it happen, it wasn’t up to Abraham to do what only God could do. But because Sarah was barren, because they were both getting very old, things began to look grim, and they went to plan B, they tried making it happen rather than waiting for God to fulfill his word. Isaiah 60:22 – A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time. God makes promises to us, and God fulfills them. Abraham’s self efforts brought pain, conflict, sorrow, that’s how all our humanistic, fleshly efforts end up, only what God does stands up.

So the unstable as water boy brought back from the field something that was highly valuable to Rachel. We have to watch where we are getting our help from. Are we getting it from Reuben, whose sin in going into this father’s concubine, found him out? If you are following a person, just as fallible as yourself, you will fall into the same ditch they fall into. Jesus said the blind leading the blind fall in the ditch together. Jesus said, I am the light of the world. What light are you following? “A” light or THE LIGHT? Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:5 – That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Where are you getting your information from, your direction from, has someone brought some mandrakes back from the world which you are coveting? Which you think may be the tangible, visible, logical solution to the problem? Something which won’t require faith or going to God, but instead something that you can see, that appeals to your own understanding and reasoning? We see today “mandrake” Christianity, Christians finding things in the world, Christians desiring things in the world, and bringing them home from the field, incorporating them into their lives, things which have nothing to do with faith, but everything to do with faithlessness. Things which can be justified, rationalized out, reasoned out, philosophies, things which assist us in achieving our goals and dreams. All of which claim to have some power. After all mandrakes were meant to have some power in helping pregnancy. Satan has power. Pharaoh’s magicians had some power. But the plagues were on them, their power is nothing compared to the power of the LORD God of the Bible.

The Bible says that God hearkened unto Leah and she conceived. Leah was willing to part with the mandrakes. She traded out something useless for something useful. And God honored her and blessed her with another son. Leah who had become barren bore again. She got the miracle, all Rachel got was disappointment, futility, hopelessness. That’s where the mandrake “solution” gets you. The woman with the issue of blood touched Jesus’ garment and she was instantly healed. But look what God says in Mark 5:26 – And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. This is not saying physicians don’t have their place… Luke who wrote the gospel of Luke was a physician. If you are sick go see a doctor. But where is your faith, is it in God? Because God’s kingdom is above and over all. The Creator of heaven and earth is just a little bit bigger than us don’t you think? Is your faith in worldly solutions, worldly ways and means or in God? There are so many applications of this story to our lives. Your “mandrake” could be anything. It’s between you and God. But note that Rachel stayed barren, she stayed infertile, she bore no children. The mandrake power was powerless. If you are a believer what mandrakes have you found in the world which substitute the power of God, what placebos have you found for the true Spirit of God? What drugs have you found which will never do what God only can do for you? If you are an unbeliever, the mandrakes of this world will only let you down, they will only disappoint. It’s a short life, it’s a disappointing life, it’s a hopeless life without the Son of God. He gives eternal, abundant life, he gives forgiveness freely. Reuben’s mandrakes were and are a false dawn.


Joseph View All →

Hi, my name is Joseph Zadow. I am a 30 y/o Bible Blogger. I was new to blogging once! God’s word is the best thing that we can be given, and once we have it and know it for ourselves it is both a privilege and responsibility to bring it to others! We are blessed to be a blessing! I am a sinner (for sure!) saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and I am a Lord Jesus Christ follower. He is faithful even though I rarely am to him. I believe the Bible is the word of God, and stake my life on it. My destination is heaven. As they say, I’m just a passin’ through this world… although most of the time it’s more like hangin’ by a thread in Jericho! I love playing sports – particularly cricket… I currently work on an orchard and a side hobby business of mine is growing vegetables etc – they are good for you! I love writing. Always happy to talk, so feel free to leave a comment. You can read more about me and my blog here – :)

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I loved finding this blog post and reading your thoughts on mandrakes since I did a quick search online after coming across the passage in my reading. I knew there was more significance. However, there is one area you stated that is contradictory to my reading. You wrote “But note that Rachel stayed barren, she stayed infertile, she bore no children.” However, in Gen 30:22-24 it states that God remembered Rachel, listened to her, opened her womb and she conceived and bore a son and named him Joseph.

    Otherwise I really appreciate your insight and interpretation of this passage and has given me so much to chew on. Thank you for providing cross references too and relating it to the New Testament writings.


    • Hello Chelsea, thanks for the comment. I wrote this a while ago, but from rereading I think what I was talking about was that Rachel stayed barren during the mandrake phase of her life, see the previous sentence. The mandrakes didn’t help her. Leah had a few children between when Rachel tried the mandrakes and when she finally conceive and that because of God. She was looking for mandrakes to help her when the answer was always God.


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