I just checked the Costco grocery list and have confirmed mandrakes are not on it. No one here has asked for them and I have never seen them in Costco or anywhere else for that matter. So, what is a mandrake? Why did Rachel want the mandrake and have to make a deal for it later on in the next verse of today’s Scripture in Genesis?
The reason: Apparently a mandrake is not just a mandrake. Well, at least it is not just a yummy fruit, not to the family of Laban (Rachel and Leah’s father). Rachel wanting the mandrake would be similar to someone in our day being excited because they found a 4-leaf clover. According to the book, Plants of the Bible, a mandrake is a member of the potato and tomato family. It was a fruit with a pleasant fragrance and was thought to help barren women conceive. In other words, it wasn’t just any fruit, it was a fruit Rachel believed, due to common superstition, that would solve her problem of barrenness. If we don’t know this belief in that culture than we miss a huge piece of this story. Rachel is superstitious-at least to some degree. We can also see that she sets her hopes of fulfilling her greatest longing in superstition, not in God. There are more clues to this side of Rachel later when we see her steal the “gods” of her father, Laban, as they leave his household. She may not have been totally aware of how deep her superstitions ran either, or how in conflict with the truth about God they were. Perhaps it became more evident when she did NOT become pregnant after eating the mandrakes. We are not told. We are told though, in Gen. 30:22, that God granted her a child. He was and is the only one in control of who does and does not have children.
Rachel, though, is not the only person living in a culture with superstitions. We are too. Those superstitions can become very subtle or prevail so long we assume they are truth. Even we need to be careful. I don’t think any of you believe a 4-leaf clover will bring you luck or that Friday the 13th is actually bad luck, but I bet you would try to avoid getting married on Friday the 13th or you might feel good if you found a 4-leaf clover. In fact, I am CERTAIN this Sunday for the Eagles game there will be many people taking certain actions or wearing certain things to bring the Eagles better luck for a win. The reality is, none of that will affect the outcome, but their hope will still be in those things.
This is just a reminder to be careful. Be careful we don’t fall into Rachel’s trap of setting our hope in a human superstition, when God is the only one to set our hope in. Trust me-it is easy to get caught up in superstitions. (Need I mention my references to “Murphys Law”?) God is the creator and sustainer of the universe. He is the one from whom all good things come-whether it is children or a game victory. He is the one we need to continually look to for what is good and will bring us lasting joy, otherwise, we are hoping in an empty superstition.