Who was Rachel?
Rachel was the wife of Jacob, mother of Joseph and Benjamin. Rachel was the younger daughter of Laban, the Aramean, the brother of Jacob's mother; so Rachel and Jacob were cousins.
They met for the first time upon the arrival of Jacob at Haran, when attracted by her beauty he immediately fell in love with her, winning her love by his chivalrous act related in Gen 29:10 ff.
According to the custom of the times Jacob contracted with Laban for her possession, agreeing to serve him 7 years as the stipulated price (29:17-20). But when the time had passed, Laban deceived Jacob by giving him Leah instead of Rachel. When Jacob protested, Laban gave him Rachel also, on condition that Jacob serve 7 years more (29:21-29). To her great dismay "Rachel was barren" (Gen 29:30,31), while Leah had children. Rachel, envious of her sister, complained to Jacob, who reminded her that children are the gift of God.
Then Rachel resorted to the expedient once employed by Sarah under similar circumstances (16:2 ff); she bade Jacob take her handmaid Bilhah, as a concubine, to "obtain children by her" (30:3). Dan and Naphtali were the offspring of this union. The evil of polygamy is apparent from the dismal rivalry arising between the two sisters, each seeking by means of children to win the heart of Jacob. In her eagerness to become a mother of children, Rachel bargained with Leah for the mandrakes, or love-apples of her son Reuben, but all to no avail (Gen 30:14). Finally God heard her prayer and granted her her heart's desire, and she gave birth to her firstborn whom she named Joseph (Gen 30:22-24).
Some years after this, when Jacob fled from Laban with his wives, the episode of theft of the teraphim of Laban by Rachel, related in Gen 31:19,34,35, occurred. She hoped by securing the household gods of her father to bring prosperity to her own new household.
Though she succeeded by her cunning in concealing them from Laban, Jacob later, upon discovering them, had them put away (35:2-4). In spite of all, she continued to be the favorite of Jacob, as is clearly evidenced by 33:2, where we are told that he assigned to her the place of greatest safety, and by his preference for Joseph, her son. After the arrival in Canaan, while they were on the way from Beth-el to Ephrath, i.e. Bethlehem, Rachel gave birth to her second son, Benjamin, and died (35:16 ff).
The Character of Rachel
In a marked manner Rachel's character shows the traits of her family, cunning and covetousness, so evident in Laban, Rebekah and Jacob. Though a believer in the true God (Gen 30:6,8,22), she was yet given to the superstitions of her country, the worshipping of the teraphim, etc. (Gen 31:19). The futility of her efforts in resorting to self-help and superstitious expedients, the love and stronger faith of her husband (Gen 35:2-4), were the providential means of purifying her character. Her memory lived on in Israel long after she died. In Ruth 4:11, the names of Rachel and Leah occur in the nuptial benediction as the foundresses of the house of Israel.
IBSE, "Rachel" (in the public domain) with minor edits.