The mandrakes give forth fragrance,
and beside our doors are all choice fruits,
new as well as old, which I have laid up for you,
O my beloved.
Song of Songs 7:13 ESV
Mandrakes only appear twice in the Bible. Once here in the Song and once in the story of Rachel and Leah, the wives of Jacob—a. k. a. Israel. In Jewish tradition mandrakes were a root plant that when eaten, would enhance fertility and they were often used as a remedy for barrenness.
In the story of Rachel and Leah, found in Genesis 30, we find both women unable to bear sons to their shared husband. Leah, the elder, and less beloved, sister had already borne four sons to Jacob, but had not been pregnant in a long while. Rachel, on the other hand was desperate to have children. Her prayer to her husband in the first verse of Genesis 30 is the link to our Song. It’s a prayer I find on my lips to the Lord. It’s a prayer the Church should pray often.
When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” – Genesis 30:1 ESV
I have spoken often of the variety of ways the Lord speaks of His own:
This last of course is the theme of the Song of Songs, and here we find that the Bride is looking to bring her husband, the Shepherd King, children.
Back to the story from Genesis 30.
Leah’s eldest son Reuben found some Mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother. Leah, no doubt wanted to continue bearing Jacob sons, but he had moved on to his beloved wife Rachel. Rachel was desperate to become a mother, and so bargained with Leah for her son’s mandrakes.
I know—these stories from Genesis sometimes leave me scratching my head—but it’s not over yet.
Rachel so desired to be free of her barrenness, she offers to let Leah sleep with Jacob in exchange for the mandrakes which she thought might give her a chance to bear children. As a result, Leah bears Jacob another son. She will actually bear him two more before Rachel is finally blessed with her first.
OK—so what’s the point in the Song of Songs you ask?
Our bride is all about bearing fruit now. We’ve seen her preoccupation in the prior couple verses with the health of the gardens and vineyards, with pruning and nourishing that which is growing.
Intimacy is intended to bear fruit. There is a reason that one of the names we give physical intimacy is procreation. God has made this intimacy one of the highest human pleasures. But the result of intimacy is family.
Will you pray this prayer with me today?
Lord, give me children, or I shall die!
Now watch for His hand, bringing you opportunity to plant and sow.
Walk in the light.