Scriptures

Genesis 29

Introduction

‘Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well. Jacob asked the shepherds, ‘My brothers, where are you from?’ ‘We’re from Harran,’ they replied. He said to them, ‘Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?’ ‘Yes, we know him,’ they answered. Then Jacob asked them, ‘Is he well?’ ‘Yes, he is,’ they said, ‘and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.’ ‘Look,’ he said, ‘the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.’ ‘We can’t,’ they replied, ‘until all the flocks are gathered, and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.’ Genesis 29:1-8

As Jacob continued on his journey he came to the land of the eastern people, these were people from Haran, this is the land where Abraham was from. It’s here he encounters these people at a well, which was a commonplace to meet people who were tending their flocks.

Notice that the stone wasn’t rolled away until everyone arrived, and so, when Rachel arrived, the stone was removed, and the flock could be watered.

‘While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd. When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So, she ran and told her father. As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. Then Laban said to him, ‘You are my own flesh and blood.’ Genesis 29:9-14

Remember Rachel is Jacob’s cousin and it seems like Jacob managed to roll the stone on his own, this would usually take two people to do because of the weight. We saw earlier that Esau was a manly man, the outdoor man, the hunter but Jacob was kind of a mummy’s boy, here we see the emotional side of Jacob, as he kissed Rachel indicating she was to be his wife. Jacob does the right thing in identifying himself as Rachel’s cousin, Genesis 24:42-49.

The excitement is such that Rachel runs and arranges for Jacob to meet her father, Laban and he, in turn, welcomes Jacob as his own son, into his household.

‘After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, Laban said to him, ‘Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.’ Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, ‘I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.’ So, Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.’ So, Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant. When morning came, there was Leah! So, Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?’ Laban replied, ‘It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.’ And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.’ Genesis 29:15-30

Rachel was beautiful, and she was the first woman Jacob met and the love Jacob had for Rachel is clearly seen in these passages. Although possible, it seems doubtful that Laban allowed Jacob to live with him for free, Acts 20:34-35, so it’s highly probable that he was working for him during this month. And so, Jacob offers to work for 7 years so that he can marry Rachel.

Jacob’s family had great wealth, but he doesn’t, so he isn’t used to working hard. Jacob had no wealth, but he didn’t want to refuse the offer. This is the first time he will be treated as a servant.

Laban must have seen the love between Rachel and Jacob and he could have taken advantage of their love for one another. If we think about it, Rachel was the youngest and if Jacob loved her that much, Laban would know that he would be willing to work for him for seven years.

Remember is Jewish custom, it was the eldest daughter, Leah who should get married first and then the others would follow. In this case, Laban had other ideas, he got everyone together to celebrate the wedding, but Laban switches Leah for Rachel.

We don’t know why Jacob didn’t notice, possibly because of a head covering, the text does say it was evening, so it’s possible that it was so dark he couldn’t recognise her.

Remember what happened earlier in Genesis 27?

Rebekah cooks the meat the way Isaac likes it, Genesis 27:9, as Isaac had requested Esau to do, Genesis 27:4. Jacob then wears Esau’s garments so that he would smell of the field like his brother, Genesis 27:15 / Genesis 27:27 and then Jacob wears goatskins on his arms and chest so that he would feel hairy like Esau, Genesis 27:16 / Genesis 27:23.

Jacob didn’t notice anything was up until the morning after the wedding celebrations, it was only then he realises he’s been deceived. Jacob the deceiver has now been deceived and he’s now reaping what he sowed.

As you can imagine Jacob isn’t very happy about what took place, but his love for Rachel was simply too great and so, he agreed to work for another seven years for Laban, in order to marry Rachel. After Leah was given her week with Jacob, Rachel was then given to him in advance of the seven years of work he was to do for her.

The whole problem here was that Jacob didn’t have a clue about the legalities concerning marriage in this part of the land and if he had simply asked about these legalities first, he would have saved himself a whole bunch of heartache.

Now Laban was well aware of these legalities, he knew that the law of his land meant the eldest daughter should marry first, and possibly because Leah wasn’t as beautiful as Rachel, Leah had ‘weak eyes’, possibly meaning she had a squint in her eyes, he was struggling to find someone to marry her. Nonetheless, he managed to get another seven years of work out of Jacob, he knew exactly what he was doing.

In a sense, God disciplined Jacob as he ended up working for Laban for twenty years in all. Jacob submitted to Laban because he had no other option. Jacob married Leah and Rachel who were sisters. But as we shall in a moment, there’s a whole host of problems which are coming because of Laban’s deceptiveness.

‘When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, ‘It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.’ She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.’ So, she named him Simeon. Again, she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.’ So, he was named Levi. She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘This time I will praise the LORD.’ So, she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.’ Genesis 29:31-35

I don’t think any loving father would want to put any of his daughters in a situation where she wasn’t loved. It’s not that Jacob hated Leah, but he loved Rachel more. We can imagine how Leah must have felt, lonely, isolated and feeling unloved.

But notice it was the Lord who saw Leah and recognised how she was feeling. She was innocent in all of this, but she must have been a woman of faith because she was greatly encouraged and comforted when the Lord opened her womb, so she could have children, while Rachel couldn’t. It seems as though Jacob just used Leah for sex because he didn’t love her.

The good news is that God always looks after the unloved. The name Reuben means, ‘behold, a son’, and the name Simeon means, the Lord ‘has heard.’ These two names together that she had faith in and recognised God’s work was at hand. We can see how she longed for Jacob’s love and attention, as the name Levi means, ‘attachment’.

Now she focuses on God for what he has done for her. The name Judah means ‘praise,’ which shows us how grateful she was for God allowing her to have four children. She would have had all four children over a period of four years, during which Rachel still didn’t have any children.

Leah may have felt unloved by Jacob, but God loved her and blessed her richly, in fact, Levi would go on to become the tribe of priests who would serve God in His tabernacle and Judah who were to become the royal tribe, would come the Messiah.

Go To Genesis 30

 

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