"So she named him Joseph, which is to say, 'May the Lord add another son for me'" Genesis 30:24

By Dr Erica Brown, December 1, 2011

We feel relieved when Rachel finally has a son. After years of sister-envy and fertility struggles that undermine her own self-worth, Rachel gives birth to Joseph. Joseph, son of the favoured wife, naturally becomes the favourite of Jacob's sons, causing yet more jealousy and enmity to riddle through this large and important family.

We might think this moment is one to celebrate. Years of barrenness and the feelings of insignificance and spiritual negation that punctuates Rachel's life are finally coming to an end. And yet Rachel, instead of giving the baby a name that reflects gratitude and happiness, calls him a name that - on the surface - reflects greed. Give me another one now that you have given me one. Joseph's name is actually a request.

How do we understand this curious naming, if not as a smack in the face to Rachel's Creator? When, we wonder, is it ever enough?

This reading limits Rachel instead of expanding her. Perhaps only once she has a child does she truly recognise what she has been missing all along. And once she realises that the capacity does lie within her, does she want to give expression to that capacity through having more.

Joseph's name may be another kind of statement. Enlarge me. Now that I know I can have a child, let me be the mother of many. Once we overcome what we perceive is our greatest obstacle, we experience a self-confidence that drives us to achieve more.

It is not selfishness. It is recognition of self, one that had eluded Rachel for all these years of suffering. Now that she knows she can be a mother, she wants motherhood to embrace her fully.

Last updated: 12:50pm, December 1 2011