From Genesis 27-29
After deceiving his brother and father Jacob leaves to find his uncle Laban. When he gets to Laban’s homeland he meets and falls in love with Laban’s daughter Rachel. He agrees to work seven years in order to marry her. After the marriage he wakes up to see Rachel’s sister Leah!. The deceiver gets deceived.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
In escaping from Esau’s wrath, Jacob travels to Paddan Aram to find his uncle. He eventually finds some shepherds at a well and asks them if they know of a man named Laban son of Nahor. They do and as chance has it, one of his daughters is coming up with some sheep (Gen 29.1-8).
9 While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10 Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.
11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. 12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father.
13 As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, 14 and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month. (Gen 29.9-14)
‘Kinsman’, ‘my bone and my flesh’. This is a family reunion. Jacob’s emotional reaction in seeing Rachel and her enthusiasm is understandable given that there may have been no news of Rebekah since she had left with Abraham’s servant a long time ago.
‘Ran to meet him’, ‘all these things’. Laban likewise is excited to see his nephew. He runs up to Jacob, kisses him and brings him to his home. Jacob tells him of his family after which Laban affirms their kinship.
15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?”
16 Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.
18 Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”
19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.”
20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. (Gen 29.15-20)
‘Jacob loved Rachel’. Leah has nice eyes, but she does not match Rachel in appearance. Rachel is younger than Leah and the author says she had an attractive figure. These may not necessarily conform to our western cultures criteria for beauty.
Different cultures understand female beauty differently.
‘Seven years’. The agreement is over the bride price which was a form of insurance for looking after the woman in the event of divorce or the husbands death.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.”
22 So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. 23 But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. 24 (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.)
25 And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?”
26 Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.”
28 Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 (Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.)
30 So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years. (Gen 29.21-30)
‘Feast’. The feast is normal for weddings in their culture. It was normal for the bride to be veiled during these public festivities, and it was not uncommon for weddings to have alcohol which could lead to drunkenness. We don’t know if Jacob became drunk, but that would explain why he mistook Leah for Rachel. Otherwise he was still able to perform in bed despite the inebriated state he may have been in.
‘It was Leah!’ Jacob received quite a shock after the feast and his night with the woman he assumed was Rachel. Just as he gained his brothers birthright and blessing by deceit. Now the reverse has happened. He is the one deceived. Jacob agrees to serve for another seven years in return for Rachel.
Story of Israel
In this passage we find the beginning of a conflict. One that arises from being unfavored. Jacob favours Rachel over Leah. In the next generation this conflict over favoritism will profoundly shape the relationship between Joseph and his brothers. These conflicts set obstacles to the fulfillment of the covenant. Conflict has plagued the world from Cain’s jealousy of Abel down to each of our lives. God’s covenant people (either old or new covenant) are not exempt. The text is setting up to show God as the One who resolves conflict. (Walton, J.H., 2001. Genesis, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)
Story of Jesus
Jacobs character is about to be transformed. Jacob’s deceitful ways have been turned against him as Laban has treated him in the same way he (Jacob) was accustomed to treating others.
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. (Jn 15.1-2)
Jacob needed pruning. The LORD disciplines those he loves.
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