Rachel (Bible)

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Jacob and Rachel at the well, copper engraving after a painting by Luca Giordano

Rachel , also Rahel , is a figure from the Torah of the Tanach , or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible . In the book of Bereshit , the "Genesis", tells how she, the daughter of Laban and younger sister Leah , the favorite wife of Jacob is. She was Jacob's cousin because her father, Laban, was Rebekah's brother , Jacob's mother. Rachel and Leah were therefore Aramean women and lived in the land of Paddan Aram ( Gen 25.20  EU ). Rachel is the mother of Joseph and Benjamin , two progenitors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel , and is therefore in Judaism to the Erzmüttern Israel counted.


The name Rachel ( Hebrew רָחֵל) means "ewe". This is related to Akkadian personal names such as cow, calf, sheep or gazelle. Noth suspects that Rachel's children should be identified by their names as sheep farmers.

In the Septuagint the name is rendered as Ραχηλ rachēl .

Biblical narration

Jacob with Laban's sheep, engraving after a painting by José de Ribera

The biblical story about the Patriarch Jacob can be found in the Book of Genesis (29.16 EU –49.31 EU ). When Jakob is on his way to find a wife, he runs into Rachel, who is tending her father's sheep, and falls in love with the beautiful woman. In order to be able to marry Rachel, Jacob served seven years with her father Laban von Haran . Since at the end of the service he does not bring Rachel to him as agreed, but rather her older sister Lea on the wedding night, he and Lea also get Rachel as his wife after the bridal week, but has to work with Laban for another seven years. While Lea bears several sons, Rachel remains sterile , which is considered a misfortune in the world of the Bible. According to contemporary custom, Rachel Jakob gives her maid and younger half-sister Bilha (also Bilhah ) to give birth to children for Jakob in their place. This is illustrated in 30.3 EU by giving birth to Bilha on Rachel's knees and calling her the actual mother. Lea's maid Silpa also gives birth to Jakob sons. All four women are considered to be the tribal mothers of the tribes of Israel. After many years, Rachel becomes pregnant and gives birth to Jacob's sons Josef and Benjamin, who become Jacob's favorite children because of their mother's position. Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin.

Rachel's grave

The grave of Rachel north of Bethlehem (2005)

According to Jewish tradition, Rachel's grave ( Hebrew קבר רחלtranslit. Kever Rachel , Arabic قبة راحيلtranslit. Qubbat Rahil ) in Judea north of Bethlehem . According to biblical tradition, Rachel was buried “on the road to Efrat, that is Bejt-Lechem” ( Gen 35.19  EU ).

Since 1996 the site has been referred to by the Palestinians as the Bilal bin Rabah mosque (مسجد بلال translit. Masjid Bilal ). The Israeli authorities have not allowed Muslims to pray there since 1967.

Some archaeologists and historians (Jewish and Christian) suspect that Joseph was buried in his mother Rachel's tomb on the road to Bethlehem. Rachel is in Judaism as a symbol for Israel and his grief for the lost people of Ephraim , that not of Assyrian captivity returned: "Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted" ( Jer 31,15  EU ).

Rachel as ancestral mother

According to the genealogy in Genesis, the Israelite tribes Ephraim , Manasseh and Benjamin can be traced back to Rachel as their common ancestral mother. This expresses the awareness that these tribes are particularly closely related. In the numerical book these three tribes form the "camp of Ephraim" ( Num 2,18-24  EU ). These tribes, as Central Palestinian tribes according to the Book of Joshua, settled a contiguous area ( Jos 16-18  EU ), to which important centers such as Bethel , Shiloh and Shechem , but also the East Jordanian Gilead belonged.

Feminist interpretation

Jewish feminists as the British Midrash - lecturer Freema Gottlieb interpret Rachel as a female, tolerant and suffering with views of the world and man's place in it.


Web links

Commons : Rachel  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Irmtraud Fischer : Art. Rahel. In: New Bible Lexicon. Volume III, OZ. Zurich, Düsseldorf 2001, Sp. 276.
  2. Ana Carbajosa: Holy site sparks row between Israel and the UN , The Guardian , October 29 of 2010.