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“Father, we come before you at this time to bless and name this child and dedicate him unto you. The name by which he shall be known while living on this earth is Reuben.” Jacob had his hands on his son’s head as his father-in-law held the three-day-old baby in his arms.
Leah stood beside Jacob, her head bowed and eyes closed. Rachel stood on his other side with Bilhah and Zilpah standing nearby, all with their heads bowed.
This was the first time Jacob had ever blessed a baby, or any person for that matter. He prayed for other people all the time, multiple times a day, whenever he felt prompted to do so. But never while placing his hands upon someone’s head. This felt different somehow. His tone shifted, and suddenly Jacob was talking directly to his infant son with authority and a higher tenor.
“Reuben, you will grow to be a great man who will be a joy and a helper to your mother and father. You will have many opportunities to choose right from wrong and must use the power of discernment so that you will not become fickle and unstable as water. Your kingdom will be divided between your four sons, and you will be given land suitable for your needs.”
Jacob felt his heart sink and dreaded the next words he needed to say but knew they were from God.
“My firstborn son, you have the potential to be a great warrior and fight with the strength of the lion, but you must use that power for good or the mantle will be stripped from your shoulders.”
Leah gasped softly beside him, and Jacob felt tears prick the corners of his eyes. He took a deep breath and completed his prayer.
“I leave these blessings and cautions with you and any others that God sees fit to bestow upon you. Amen.”
“Amen,” the others in the room echoed with apprehension, and everyone shifted nervously. Leah had tears flowing down her cheeks, as did Rachel.
Bilhah didn’t seem to understand why everyone else was upset, and Zilpah wiped a single tear away but lifted her chin with confidence.
What just happened, God? Jacob asked. Have I condemned my son?
The child you have dedicated unto me will have the freedom to choose good from evil just as all children I have placed on this earth. Lead him in the way he should go.
“I will lead him, Father,” Jacob whispered out loud, in a semi-trancelike state.
“Jacob?” Leah touched his arm to garner his attention. He blinked and met his wife’s gaze. “I have faith in your ability to do so.”
“Thank you for your trust in me.”
“All children have the freedom to choose good from evil, right?” Leah asked.
“That is what Heavenly Father just reminded me also.”
“We will raise him as best we can,” Leah said.
“You are already a wonderful mother,” Jacob said, leaning closer and kissing her. “I’m honored to have you for my wife.”
“I’m honored to be your wife.” Leah lifted onto her toes for one more kiss. “Speaking of wives…” Leah turned to Zilpah.
Zilpah met Leah’s gaze, and the two women nodded in a tiny agreement that the time had come.
“While we are all gathered together as a family,” Leah said, taking Zilpah’s hand. “I think now would be a good time for us to dedicate your lives to one another.” Leah pulled Zilpah gently forward and placed her hand in Jacob’s.
Jacob questioned Leah. “Are you sure you want me to leave you alone with the baby?”
“Of course, I’m fine,” Leah said. “I have a twin sister who loves this little guy almost as much as we do, and she doesn’t hog the covers.”
Bilhah snickered then cleared her throat and pinched her lips together, then snickered again. “You do hog the covers.”
“Great. Nice to know.” Jacob turned to Zilpah and deadpanned. “Are you sure you want to marry me.”
“I’m positive,” Zilpah answered with solemnity, bringing them all back to the spiritual nature of the covenant they were all about to make.
Jacob addressed her more formally this time. “Zilpah, will you accept the rights, privileges and responsibilities that will be placed upon you as my wife?”
“I will, Jacob.” Zilpah nodded with serenity and peace in her countenance. “Will you accept me as your wife, committing yourself to the responsibility of protecting me and our children?”
“I will, Zilpah.” Jacob held her gaze for another moment before Rachel interrupted them.
“Shall we pray together as a family?” Rachel suggested.
“Yes, my love.” Jacob turned to Rachel. “Would you be willing to offer that prayer?”
“Of course.” Then Rachel turned to her own father. “As patriarch of the family, would you continue to hold our son as we bless this union?”
“I will.” Laban stood between his two daughters as Rachel prayed.
“God, you have blessed us with a strong family and increased our numbers according to your plan. We are thankful to have the opportunity to serve you and ask that you continue to bless us, as we welcome another of your choice daughters to be joined with our husband.”
Jacob found it interesting that neither he nor Zilpah lowered their heads or closed their eyes, but instead met each other’s gaze and searched one another’s features, as if seeking love and devotion.
“Father, if it be your will,” Rachel continued, “please bless this marriage with children whom we will dedicate unto you, and provide Jacob and Zilpah with happiness in each other’s arms.” Rachel stopped speaking without closing her prayer, as she often did, handing the final words over to Jacob.
“Thank you, God, for these good women whom you have entrusted into my care. Help me to be the man they deserve, to lead them and our children, and protect them forever. Amen.”
“Amen.” This time there were happy tears around the group, and Jacob leaned forward to meet Zilpah with a brief kiss, sealing their commitment to one another.
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