And so Jacob, a faithful man made wealthy by his own integrity on top of the world's dishonest wages, ventures home. Just as an interesting side note, remember that when Jacob left home more than twenty years prior, he'd just stolen his brother's blessing from a father that both sons thought was dying...imminently. Yet Isaac, at this point, is still very much alive.
Rachel, however, is another story.
Rachel is the most beloved wife of Jacob. She has only, so far, been able to give him one son, the treasured Joseph. She lives in contention with Leah, the first wife, who has given Jacob many sons, but it's clear that Jacob's love is still for Rachel and for her son. And she's pregnant with another.
Back in his homeland as Jacob journeys, Rachel is set to give birth. The family is on the move, again, as seems to be the custom with them; they just can't seem to settle down anywhere. And Rachel goes into labor with her second son on their way to Bethlehem. Giving birth, she dies.
Trivia time: what other woman in the Bible do we know who gave birth to a son while traveling to Bethlehem?
This brings us back, does it not, to something that we were looking at just a few days ago. Rachel births a second beloved son to Israel, a son that will be treasured by Israel, a baby boy who is the babiest of boys - the youngest of them all. But she loses her life - and Israel loses his love - in the process. Though he is blessed and favored and treasured and deeply loved, he still leads to death for his mother.
Mary, on the other hand, comes to Bethlehem to birth a firstborn son who brings life and health and happiness and healing to the world, widening the circle to let Gentiles in on the promise.
Yes, we're back to second and first sons and the mothers that bore them in the same place and what those sons meant to their fathers.
It's all a pattern. It's a developing pattern. (And it's not the only one to come out of Rachel, but we'll have to wait until we get there to go into more on that.)
What we can't afford to ignore at this point, as we continue our journey through the Bible, is where all this took place. All the way back in Genesis, all the way back before Israel is even a nation, before the Jewish people have even taken root. All the way back near the very beginning, God takes a beloved wife to Bethlehem to give birth to a beloved son. Bethlehem - at a time when there wasn't even a Jerusalem, at a time when there wasn't even an Israel, when there wasn't even a Sinai or a mountain or established worship or anything.
That's no accident. That's no coincidence. It's something we shouldn't miss and definitely can't ignore. God's up to something in Bethlehem. He, apparently, always has been.