Rachel, whose name means “ewe,” was the younger daughter of Laban (brother of Rebekah) and the wife of Jacob. The account of the meeting and subsequent marriage of Rachel and Jacob is a love story, succinct in its narration. Jacob was charged by his father Isaac to find a wife among his mother's people at Haran in Mesopotamia (Gen. 27.46–28.5). At the end of his journey, he came to a well where shepherds gathered to water their flocks. When he learned that they were from Haran, he asked them if they knew Laban; the shepherds pointed out to Jacob that Laban's daughter Rachel was approaching with her father's sheep. As soon as Jacob saw Rachel, he rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the flock of Laban, his uncle. He kissed Rachel and made himself known to her as a relative. She then returned home and gave her father the news of the arrival of Jacob. Laban went to Jacob, greeted him, and brought him to his house, where he stayed a month helping with the daily chores. At the end of this time, his uncle suggested that even as a relative he should not serve for nothing. When he asked Jacob what his wages should be, Jacob, who loved Rachel, said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel” (Gen. 29.18); this was agreed upon. At the end of the term, which passed quickly for him because of his love, he asked Laban for her hand in marriage.

A feast was prepared and Jacob received his wife who according to custom was veiled. In the morning he discovered that he had been deceived into accepting Rachel's elder sister, Leah. When he confronted Laban, he was told that in that country the younger daughter was not given in marriage before the elder; disappointed but undaunted, Jacob worked another seven years for Rachel. Needless to say, she was his favorite wife and eventually became the mother of Joseph and Benjamin.

Some time later after a quarrel between Laban and Jacob, in which Rachel took her husband's part and then stole her father's household gods (see Teraphim), the entire clan departed stealthily on the long journey to Canaan (Gen. 31.14–21), where she died at Ephrath giving birth to her younger son Benjamin (Gen. 35.19).

See also Ancestors, The; Genesis, The Book of


Isobel Mackay Metzger