Green with Envy

Genesis 30:1-8
Main Verse: Genesis 30:1
by Brian Phillips

Not exactly the best start to a marriage.  Jacob had cut a deal with his uncle Laban.  Laban promised Jacob that if he worked for him for seven years, he would let Jacob marry his daughter, Rachel (in those days, it wasn’t unusual for people to marry within their own family).  That made Jacob very happy, for Rachel was a beautiful girl.

However, she was also the youngest daughter.  And it wasn’t proper for the younger daughter to marry before the older one.

So Laban tricked Jacob into marrying his older daughter, Leah.  Leah was described as having pretty eyes, but presumably was not as beautiful as Rachel.  As unlikely as it sounds, Jacob had no idea he had slept with Leah on his wedding night, until the next morning.  He was understandably upset.

Laban tried to appease Jacob by saying he could have Rachel as his wife, too, in another week.  That is, as long as he agreed to work another seven years.  Jacob agreed, and a week later married Rachel (it was also not unusual in those days for a man to have more than one wife).

With that rocky start, all sorts of jealousies arose.  Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah.  As a result, God felt sorry for Leah, and blessed her with lots of children.  Then Rachel grew bitter because she could not have children.  She became extremely jealous, and even irrationally angry with Jacob.  She yelled at him saying, in essence, “It’s your fault!”

Food for Thought
Have you ever heard the expression “green with envy?”  One of its first uses is found in the 1863 novel, Hard Cash by Charles Reade.  In it, a person is referred to as being “ . . . green, they are so sick with envy.”

The phrase is believed to have been derived from a reference to someone who is so sick, they appear to be pale, or even green.   Thus, if someone is pathologically envious of someone else, you might say they are mentally sick, or “green with envy.”

You could certainly describe Rachel that way.  She is so envious of her sister, that her maternal instinct to have a child gave way to her obsessive jealousy of her sister.  Rather than simply longing to have one child, she demanded that her husband provide her with more than her sister . . .  or she would die.  “Green” is an understatement.

So What Now?
If you find yourself envying a person for something that God has blessed them with, count your own blessings, and turn your envy into thanksgiving.

Lord, forgive me for being jealous of __________.  You chose to bless them, as you have blessed me in other areas.  Thank you for that.  Amen.


  1. Why do you think Rachel wasn’t satisfied with just one child?
  2. Why do you think God chose to bless Leah with more children than Rachel?
  3. What has God blessed you with that you can be thankful for?

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