Rashi on Bereishit 49:3 tells us that Reuven was conceived with the first drop of semen that Yaakov emitted. How does this fit with the verses in Bereishit 29:25 to Bereishit 29:31, which seem to indicate that G-d only opened Leah's womb after she was the hated one, which was after Yaakov discovered that he had married Leah and had married Rochel?

וַיְהִ֣י בַבֹּ֔קֶר וְהִנֵּה־הִ֖וא לֵאָ֑ה וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֶל־לָבָ֗ן מַה־זֹּאת֙ עָשִׂ֣יתָ לִּ֔י הֲלֹ֤א בְרָחֵל֨ עָבַ֣דְתִּי עִמָּ֔ךְ וְלָ֖מָּה רִמִּיתָֽנִי:

25 And it came to pass in the morning, and behold she was Leah! So he said to Laban, "What is this that you have done to me? Did I not work with you for Rachel? Why have you deceived me?"

כו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָבָ֔ן לֹא־יֵֽעָשֶׂ֥ה כֵ֖ן בִּמְקוֹמֵ֑נוּ לָתֵ֥ת הַצְּעִירָ֖ה לִפְנֵ֥י הַבְּכִירָֽה:

26 And Laban said, "It is not done so in our place to give the younger one before the firstborn.

כז מַלֵּ֖א שְׁבֻ֣עַ זֹ֑את וְנִתְּנָ֨ה לְךָ֜ גַּם־אֶת־זֹ֗את בַּֽעֲבֹדָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תַּֽעֲבֹ֣ד עִמָּדִ֔י ע֖וֹד שֶֽׁבַע־שָׁנִ֥ים אֲחֵרֽוֹת:

27 Complete the [wedding] week of this one, and we will give you this one too, for the work that you will render me for another seven years."

כח וַיַּ֤עַשׂ יַֽעֲקֹב֙ כֵּ֔ן וַיְמַלֵּ֖א שְׁבֻ֣עַ זֹ֑את וַיִּתֶּן־ל֛וֹ אֶת־רָחֵ֥ל בִּתּ֖וֹ ל֥וֹ לְאִשָּֽׁה:

28 And Jacob did so, and he completed the week of this one, and he gave his daughter Rachel to him as a wife.

כט וַיִּתֵּ֤ן לָבָן֙ לְרָחֵ֣ל בִּתּ֔וֹ אֶת־בִּלְהָ֖ה שִׁפְחָת֑וֹ לָ֖הּ לְשִׁפְחָֽה:

29 And Laban gave his daughter Rachel his maidservant Bilhah, for a maidservant.

ל וַיָּבֹא֙ גַּ֣ם אֶל־רָחֵ֔ל וַיֶּֽאֱהַ֥ב גַּם־אֶת־רָחֵ֖ל מִלֵּאָ֑ה וַיַּֽעֲבֹ֣ד עִמּ֔וֹ ע֖וֹד שֶֽׁבַע־שָׁנִ֥ים אֲחֵרֽוֹת:

30 And he came also to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah; and he worked with him yet another seven years.

לא וַיַּ֤רְא יְהֹוָה֙ כִּֽי־שְׂנוּאָ֣ה לֵאָ֔ה וַיִּפְתַּ֖ח אֶת־רַחְמָ֑הּ וְרָחֵ֖ל עֲקָרָֽה:

31 And the Lord saw that Leah was hated, so He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.

  • I don’t follow the contradiction.
    – DonielF
    Dec 23, 2018 at 3:10
  • 2
    @DonielF: perhaps you can explain why you don't see a contradiction. The timeline seems clear to me. Yaakov sleeps with Leah, thinks she is Rachel. According to Rashi in 49:3 she becomes pregnant. According to 29:25-29, Yaakov wakes up, realizes it is Rochel, married rochel, then Leah is hated and god opens her womb, so she doesn't become pregnant until later.
    – Menachem
    Dec 23, 2018 at 3:19
  • @ShmuelBrin: See Tosafot in hebrewbooks.org/shas.aspx?mesechta=14&daf=76&format=pdf Yevamot 76A, d.h. Shelo Ra'ah. There he says that Yaakov manually removed the betulim so that she could get pregnant from the first time. At the end of the long Or Hachayim on 49:3, he uses this as proof that Yaakov wasn't overcome by passion and instead focused on the mitzvah.
    – Menachem
    Dec 23, 2018 at 5:03
  • @ShmuelBrin gemara says that imaot tear the betulim in way to be pregnant from the first bia
    – kouty
    Dec 23, 2018 at 6:24
  • @IsaacMoses the meforshim I've seen, including the gemara (and the ones brought in alex's answer all learn it literally.
    – Menachem
    Dec 23, 2018 at 10:08

2 Answers 2


One possibility is that the verses in Chapter 29 are not in precise chronological order, and verse 31 actually took place before verse 28. That is to say that God saw that Leah was hated and opened her womb before Yaakov married Rachel. As for why the verse would be placed out of order, we could explain simply that it would have been too disruptive to the narrative if placed in its proper chronological place.

Consider that immediately after this, in verse 32, the Torah states that Leah gave birth to Reuven. The next verses after that list the births of Leah's next three sons. If the Torah would have followed the chronological order it would have to tell us that God saw that Leah was hated and opened her womb, and then interrupt with six verses about marrying Rachel as well, and then return to the narrative of Leah giving birth. Instead, it makes sense to get the part about marrying Rachel out of the way, and then go straight through the narrative of Leah becoming pregnant and giving birth to four kids.

In fact, R. Yaakov Ben Asher states explicitly in his commentary to verse 31 that it is referencing an earlier event, and he ties this to what the Torah says in 49:3:

וצריך לפרש שראה קודם נישואיה שהיא שנואה ופתח רחמה ונתעברה בביאה ראשונה כדכתיב גבי ראובן ראשית אוני שנולד מטיפה ראשונה

And we have to explain that He saw before her marriage that she was hated, and he opened her womb and she became pregnant with the first intercourse, as it is written by Reuven "the first of my power" — that he was born from the first drop.

Since part of the key line does not appear in some editions, here is an image:

Page from commentary

A similar interpretation is given by R. Yitzchak Ben Yehuda in his commentary to verse 31.


Rashi says (ibid):

"וראשית אוני: היא טפה ראשונה שלו, שלא ראה קרי מימיו:"

That is his first drop of semen, for he had never experienced a nocturnal emission. — [from Yeb. 76a]

  1. Rashi's statement does not count the drops used to impregnate Leah with Reuben, but stresses Yaakov's piety, instead.

  2. Our tradition says that all ביאות before and after the actual fertilization (which does not fertilize on its own) serve the fertilization in general (עובר מלובן etc). So according to this approach technically the first insemination, even infertile, served the fertilization just as subsequent ones. (Source needed)

  • Why was this downvoted? The quote from Rashi implies that it indeed was his first drop and Reuvain came from it. +1
    – ezra
    Dec 23, 2018 at 7:26
  • I didn't downvote it, but point 1 that follows from the quote is conjecture at best.
    – Menachem
    Dec 23, 2018 at 10:06
  • @ezra The question itself quotes the Rashi and says that it doesn't seem to fit with the wording of the Pesukim. To say that Rashi alone is an answer ignores the question. That said, not the downvoter, but the rest of the answer is technically a valid answer, but without sources, is 'conjecture at best'. Dec 23, 2018 at 14:32
  • @Salmononius2 I only stressed that Rashi's intention was not about the number of drops used for Reuben, but to show Yakov's piety. That's all. That does not contradict the rest of the Psukim. In my view Rashi does not discuss the exact drops at all.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 23, 2018 at 14:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .