There was a mad-cap romantic comedy afoot in Jacob's household:
Rachel was pretty upset that her ugly sister Leah was getting all the attention with her children, and Rachel didn't have any in the oven. So she gave Jacob her maidservant. How thoughtful.
Jacob had a son by Billah the maidservant. Rachel was happy. She claimed it was god's doing that produced a son for her. Sure.
Billah became pregnant with a second son by Jacob. These proxy sons of Rachel's were named Dan and Naphtali.
Leah also thought this was a good idea, and gave Jacob her maidservant, Zilpah. Suddenly the Benny Hill music is playing in my head. Zilpah bore Jacob two sons also, named Gad and Asher.
So, if we're keeping score, it seems Leah is still winning. Even with the proxy children Rachel was down 2, and now she'd been bested in that game as well.
Then one of Leah's sons brings her some mandrake root. Mandrake root, as I'm sure you all know, is supposed to induce pregnancy when eaten (by women, anyway). Ostensibly this is because it resembles the lower half of a man. Oh, the jokes that surely abound (see also: that's what she said).
So Rachel tried to get Leah to give her some of the mandrake root and Leah said, sure, if you give me Jacob for the night. Rachel agreed and Leah went out to meet Jacob when he came in from the fields, saying something like 'drop 'em hubby I've bought you off.'
Leah became pregnant three more times, two boys and a girl. Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah. She still wanted her husband's respect, but I'm pretty sure buying his affections with tubers was probably not helping her case.
Finally, as if awoken from a nap, God entered the picture and opened Rachel's womb. Right after she ate mandrake root. God is also not helping himself in the respect department. Here he even fails in the causality department.
So Rachel named her son Joseph, and then immediately asked for another son.
Meanwhile, Jacob was still trying to get the F out of D. He was arguing with Laban about the work he'd done, and that he was no longer his indentured servant, and that he wanted to take his family back to his home. Laban was having none of it. He knew how well things were going with Jacob's free labour, and also, he was probably having fun watching the sitcom that was unfolding next door. Eight's company and all that.
Laban wanted to know what Jacob needed. Just name your price and stay. Jacob, being a shrewd bastard, decided to tell Laban that he'd like to glean a herd of his own from Laban's flocks, but would only take those sheep and goats that were speckled or dark-coloured. Laban agreed. He separated the flocks then left.
While he was gone, Jacob decided to put some branches into the water troughs where the sheep drank. Branches he had made magical by cutting them with white lines. The sheep mated at the troughs and presto! They had spotted offspring.
Once again, the bible is NOT a place I go when I want to study genetics.
This actually worked, according to the bible. Jacob made himself a nice little flock when Laban was gone. Also, he made sure the stronger couples were the ones mating in front of the branches. So his speckled flock was stronger. So they understood at least THAT much.
So Jacob became very rich and prosperous off of cheating his father-in-law and performing some magical genetics rituals. The End.
I don't really see the point of this chapter. Comic relief? How to get a piebald sheep?