Over the years I have heard it said that, Ephraim was an idol worshiper because his grandmother Rachel was one. “Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father's” (Genesis 31:19). This indeed is a curious piece of information, which may lead to the question as to whether Rachel was an idol worshiper. Having stolen her father’s idols could make it likely that she did indulge in such forbidden practices. But I would like to challenge that idea, as it may not be the only reason she took with her those items. Laban was obviously a very abusive father to both Rachel and Leah. Hence his daughters’ attitude toward him would have been ‘in keeping’ with his disregard and loveless behavior toward them. Here is a conversation that the two sisters had before leaving home with their husband and family: "Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and has also entirely consumed our purchase price” (Genesis 31:15). The fact that their father sold them in a fourteen year deal with Jacob was humiliating, disgracing and dishonoring to the two. On top of that, Rachel experienced a horrendous disappointment when Laban replaced her on her wedding night. She no doubt carried in her heart resentment, bitterness and un-forgiveness toward her father, resulting in an act of revenge. Laban stole from his daughter that which was most precious to her, her wedding day, and therefore at an opportune time she took from him some of his most treasured possessions, his idols or his heirlooms. One other thought about this matter. During the time that Rachel was barren nothing was said about her calling upon idols for fertility. She did make a desperate plea, though, to Jacob to give her children. Jacob’s angry reply, “am I in the place of Elohim, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?" (Genesis 30:2), shows that they were believers in YHVH, and not in anything else. Later it says that “Elohim remembered Rachel, and Elohim listened to her and opened her womb” (verse 22 emphasis added). YHVH heard her cries and opened her womb. Again, according to Jeremiah 31:15-17, she is seen weeping for her children and again Adoni hears her and declares that He will open a way through the birthing of a New Covenant in order to bring her children out of the womb of death into life and restore them to their Israelite identity and borders. From Jeremiah's perspective YHVH is certainly going to accomplish what He promised to Rachel's progeny, Joseph/Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Most of Jeremiah 31 is about this very issue. Psalm 80 also expresses the heart of the matter: “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth! Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up Your strength, and come and save us! Restore us, O Elohim; Cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!” (Psalm 80:1-3).
As to Rachel and her untimely death: When she made her plea to Jacob, she also added, “or else I die” (Genesis 30:1). Was that self-inflicting curse the cause for her death at Benjamin’s birth? Or was she exempt, as it were, from the curse because the condition was that she would die only IF she would not bear children. Let me propose that, the resentment and bitterness that she bore against her father (having led her to both stealing and lying), may have had a deadly effect on her soul. Even though Rachel no doubt experienced a great measure of healing by the very significant reconciliation with her sister, and of course by having a son to call her own, she still was not at rest and did grapple endlessly with lack of forgiveness and constant bitterness toward Laban. Perhaps many of us are also in violation of the fourth commandment to honor our father and mother. We may still have a bitter root judgment against them, and carry with us un-forgiveness. If so, we are being ruled in this area of our life by Sin, and stand at the door of its consequences instead of the commandment’s blessings: “that your days may be long on the earth”.