Jacob had a curious love life after coming into Laban’s household. He fell in love with Laban’s younger daughter Rachel, and agreed to work seven years for Laban so he could marry her.
However, after the seven years were up, Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Rachel’s older sister Leah instead. Jacob was able to marry Rachel a week later, but only after agreeing to work seven more years. Laban also gave a maidservant to each daughter.
Jacob loved Rachel over her sister Leah. After all, it was Rachel he had fallen in love with. When God saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, and she gave birth to four sons. However, Rachel was barren. When she saw she hadn’t given birth, she became jealous of her sister, and gave her maidservant Bilhah to Jacob, so Rachel could claim the children as her own. When Leah saw that she herself had stopped giving birth, she also gave her own maidservant Zilpah to Jacob, in what became a rivalry between the two sisters.1
Now, while the story perhaps highlights the wisdom of a husband having one wife, and the jealousy and bitterness that can result otherwise, does it have anything to do with DNA? I think it does.
First of all, there are four DNA bases – adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T) – and Jacob also ends up with four wives. Furthermore, the four bases are paired – A pairs with T, and G with C. This is called “complementary base pairing.” Similarly, Jacob’s four wives are also paired – Rachel with her maidservant Bilhah, and Leah with her maidservant Zilpah. In other words, each wife could represent a DNA base, and the pairing of Rachel and Leah with their maidservants would make a good analogy for complementary base pairing.
Even Jacob’s twelve sons are paired up with the four wives. Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah are born to Leah. Next, Dan and Naphtali are born to Bilhah. Then, Gad and Asher are born to Zilpah. Then, Issachar and Zebulun are born to Leah. Lastly, after God hears Rachel and opens her womb, Joseph and Benjamin are born to Rachel, although Benjamin only arrives much later.2 In other words, the sons also come in pairs, with respect to Jacob’s four wives. Since DNA is made up of base pairs, all of Jacob’s sons could represent a strand of DNA.
This is intriguing, but is there any more evidence that DNA is being alluded to here? We could say that Rachel is the principle wife, because she is the one Jacob fell in love with and wanted to marry.
Rachel’s first son, by her maidservant Bilhah, is called Dan, which comes from a Hebrew word meaning to judge or perhaps to adjudicate. It’s worth noting here that Dan in English is a simple anagram of DNA.
Rachel calls the next son Naphtali, which is often interpreted to mean “my wrestlings.” However, when Jacob wrestles with a man a little later on, a different Hebrew word for “wrestling” is used.3 Therefore, Naphtali should more accurately be translated as “my twistings.”
Rachel explains the reason for this name. In Hebrew, she says something that could be translated as: “The twistings of God. I was twisted with my sister, and I have prevailed.” 4 For some reason, the word for “God” is often omitted by translators, but it is there in the original Hebrew.
Rachel was perhaps referring to a struggle with her sister. At the same time, if Jacob’s love life was being orchestrated by YHWH in order to be an analogy for DNA, then the DNA double helix could also be described as the “twistings of God.” If Rachel and Leah represent “rival” bases in DNA, then Rachel’s statement, “I was twisted with my sister,” is also literally true at the molecular level within the double helix.
Jacob only has one daughter, at least according to the account.5 Her name is Dinah which, like Dan, contains an anagram of DNA in English, as well as the letters I and H, which could represent a shorthand for God’s name. In the original Hebrew, they are the first two letters of God’s name YHWH.
Keep in mind, all of these allusions to DNA are connected to the same man, in the same geographical place, within the proximity of Jacob’s dream of the ladder, which itself resembles the structure of DNA.
However, it is what comes next that gives us the strongest indication something deeper is going on in his life – for we can make analogies to transcription, translation, the ribosome, RNA splicing and more, all in the same one chapter of Jacob’s story.
1 See Genesis 29:15-30:13. 2 See Genesis 29:31-35; 30:1-13,17-24; 35:16-26. 3 Compare the Hebrew of Genesis 30:8 with Genesis 32:24. 4 Genesis 30:8. 5 Genesis 30:21.
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