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Sibling Rivalry, Part 4

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” 2 Jacob became very angry with Rachel and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” 3 Then she said, “Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, that she may bear upon my knees and that I too may have children through her.” 4 So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife; and Jacob went in to her. 5 And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son”; therefore she named him Dan.[A] 7 Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled[B] with my sister, and have prevailed”; so she named him Naphtali.9 When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Then Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 And Leah said, “Good fortune!” so she named him Gad.[C] 12 Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah said, “Happy am I! For the women will call me happy”; so she named him Asher.[D]14 In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” 15 But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.” 16 When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him, and said, “You must come in to me; for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. 17 And God heeded Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Leah said, “God has given me my hire[E] because I gave my maid to my husband”; so she named him Issachar. 19 And Leah conceived again, and she bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good dowry; now my husband will honor[F] me, because I have borne him six sons”; so she named him Zebulun. 21 Afterwards she bore a daughter, and named her Dinah.22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God heeded her and opened her womb. 23 She conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach”; 24 and she named him Joseph,[G] saying, “May the Lord add to me another son!”–Genesis 30:1-24, NRSV

Here are my life-markers: I am a middle-aged African American male, who is a Christian and a pastor. I am married to a wonderful, smart and beautiful woman, Muriel, and I have two young adult daughters. Also, I have three sisters: Ava, Janice, and Cleopatra. I live and work in Brooklyn, where I have been for the past 27 years. I share all of that up front because what I’m about to say will be controversial, yet honest and blunt. You may not want to fool with me for a minute after this. However, I am good with that (lol)!

I have witnessed women stand in solidarity, protecting and promoting each other, and singing the ‘sistahs’’ national anthem, “I’m Every Woman!” I have seen women spur one another to enter previously male-only provinces and make their marks as stellar contributors, innovators and first-class leaders. I have seen women open and operate very successful businesses, micro and small, with the “SISTERS ARE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES” soundtrack blaring in the background. Not that any woman needs my validation, but I am proud of and thankful for the “baller moves” and enormous strides women are making.

Yet, I remain confused by one phenomenon. ‘Sistahs’ who stand together on many things can divide over and dog one another over a ‘brotha.’ Sisters can knowingly let a brother bounce back and forth between them and the other baby mommas. Admittedly, there are sisters who simply get played and don’t know about the other woman — or for that matter, that they are the other woman. Don’t get me wrong! I’m in no way suggesting that this is a simple matter. Quite the contrary, there are history and hearts, promises and progenies at stake. I get it. Still, I wonder why sisters don’t enact a basic morality and solidarity clause: If he’s yours — either by law or living arrangement, then my hands are off, even if my heart may still be his.

This is not a new thing, nonetheless. It’s as old, if not older, than the Bible itself. Two sisters, by blood, are married to the same man, Jacob, who is young, handsome and on his way up. This unenviable and untenable arrangement was orchestrated by another man, who they should been able to trust, who was supposed to love and look after them: Laban, their father. However, he was more concerned about padding his bank account than he was about protecting the well-being of his daughters. His daughters were not precious to him, but rather a commodity to bartered and bargained with. Their current situation is not their fault. It’s Laban’s and Jacob’s.

Still, they don’t handle their situation very well. They compete for the honor of the most valued woman and wife in the Jacobson family by popping out babies for Jacob, either through natural means or surrogates. The two sisters’ competition is so intense and insane that each sister ropes into their baby-having contest two women who have even less status in a man’s world than they do: their maids, Bilhah (Rachel’s), whose name means “Terror” and Zilpah (Leah’s), whose name means “Fragile.” I guess one might be able to say, “Don’t hate the player, but rather hate the game.” Touché!

To be sure, these ancient conflicted sisters did not have much wiggle room. You, however, have decidedly more freedom in comparison. So, my “sistah,” what you gonna’ do about your man-sharing arrangement? My brotha’, when are you gonna’ man up and stop bouncing back and forth between the two sistahs we know about, not to speak of females you reserve for emergency smash sessions? Shout outs to the brothers and sisters doing the right and difficult thing! Hands lifted in prayer for the ones who are still struggling. Lord, convict, convince and convert the ones who ain’t even thinking about living any other way of life, even though they claim you as their Lord and Savior.

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