Genesis 29: Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel

1 Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east.

-Recall that Haran is located Northeast from where Abraham had settled and Jacob had been further south with his father so Jacob mostly went north. The word used for “east” here is “qedem” which can also mean “front” or “anciently”. It’s possible the translation could be that Jacob came to the land of the people “from the aforetime”. Going back to Abraham’s father Terah, there are now five generations that have lived there so its possible this could have been the intent as well.

2 As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, 3 and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well.

-This was an efficiency issue. Rather than every individual shepherd having to do the vary strenuous work of removing the stone so they can get water, they waited until they were all there and worked together. This would be like throwing a party but waiting to serve the food until everyone got there. Otherwise, you would be serving only a little at a time throughout the night instead of getting all the serving out of they way so you can sit down and visit. It is much less total work for everyone this way.

4 Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” 5 He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” They said, “We know him.” 6 He said to them, “Is it well with him?” They said, “It is well; and see, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep!” 7 He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered together. Water the sheep and go, pasture them.” 8 But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.” 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.

-This is incredible because it can be assumed that multiple shepherds would help each other roll the stone so no one person breaks their back but it says here Jacob did it. He did it because he saw Rachel and wanted to impress her. He first wanted to impress Laban by making sure his sheep are taken care of but took it upon himself once he saw Rachel. This is one reason we are given the setup of how the watering works so that we understand Jacob’s determination for Rachel. He, despite being a kitchen boy his whole life, was somehow able to roll the stone on his own. It doesn’t mention anything about servants with him and it is implied he was alone when he had the dream and rested his head on the stone. A second reason for this is to show Jacob’s stubbornness. He is a visitor yet he is telling the shepherds to break protocol for no other reason other than he wants to. Despite only seeing her and seeing that she is a shepherdess and likely some relative or servant of Laban since she is caring for his sheep, he has already decided she is the one he wants. He kisses her at first sight and even cries having already decided that she is the one. We aren’t told if they were simply vague tears of joy or if he was rightly praising God for such a wonderful blessing. There are many couples where one or both claim “love at first sight” so it’s entirely possible the Holy Spirit was telling Jacob that she was the one and his weeping was confirmation. I myself have experienced this sensation firsthand and I can tell you that it really can happen. You truly can see the right person and “know”, not out of selfishness, but out of somehow feeling assurance of the future. The only reason I would doubt Jacob’s case is that he ends up with four different women and feels nothing for his first wife. He only uses her for children and nothing else. Love is not a feeling but rather a choice and even if he wants Rachel more, he has a duty to love Leah and the other two women given as wives and he doesn’t sufficiently. His desire for Rachel and children by Rachel seems to be self-centered. It would be hard to think that the Holy Spirit told Jacob that Rachel was the one he must love in this life and yet events worked out the way they did because God has a plan and accounted for all 13 children Jacob had by the four different wives.

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. 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?”

-We see Laban show the same kind of “Abraham family” kindness that we saw out of both Abraham and Lot in how he treats his nephew. Laban even offers Jacob a wage of his choice even though it is implied Jacob was happy to work for nothing.

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.

-Take note that Jacob defined the wage as seven years service, not Laban. Although, he does specify it is for the younger daughter Rachel. The line “they seemed to him but a few days” is a curious one because when you desire someone, it seems like an ETERNITY waiting to be with this person. It takes a great amount of self-control because of your physical drive for this person. But this verse seems to be saying that Jacob loved her so much he could wait for her seven years, no problem. I believe I could wait seven years for a person I desire, but it would not feel like a few days. It would drive me insane! Jacob is intelligent but he is also very self-centered. He sees the world from his own perspective, sees himself as mighty, and writes his own rules. Jacob believes himself so mighty that he sets the terms of seven years and then proves to himself that he is so great to have such patience to deserve this woman. This is a tremendously selfish show of pride, not love. Jacob may have felt the sensation of love based on desire but did not love Rachel in the sense of doing things for her. God’s plan was for Jacob to have children by four different women, not this one. Rachel is said to be beautiful so Jacob was deciding who he loved based on beauty. We are given nothing of Rachel’s characteristics to show she is worthy of such dedication. Rebekah on the other hand was shown to be a kind soul worth waiting for by her dedication to watering all of Abraham’s servant’s camels. I am not writing this simply to tare down Jacob’s character but to simply demonstrate that we have a flawed individual who lacks God. Nothing is said about God telling Jacob to do this and to spend 14 years with Laban working for him. Jacob made these decisions on his own and is not a mature believer.

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.

-Despite seeming like a good person at this point, it’s hard not to interpret this as Laban having totally cheated Jacob. Could he have simply forgot Jacob was serving for Rachel and just assumed to give the older? Laban would have known Rachel was beautiful yet Leah had “dull eyes”. Laban had likely struggled finding a suitor for Leah and saw this as his window. It was not that he did not want to give Rachel to Jacob, but as a father he wanted to make sure both of his daughters were married off to a good man. It may also be that Jacob worked so hard because of his desire for Rachel that Laban did not want to be left without Jacob. Whatever the reason, we are dealing with flawed people who lie and cheat each other. Jacob appeared faithful by his reaction to the vision yet now has been living for himself. Laban appeared righteous by his good manners and welcomeness towards his nephew but now cheats him in one of the lowest ways possible and uses his desire against Jacob to get more out of him. This is what people are like without God. They are low, they lie, they cheat, they live only for their own selfish motivations.

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.

-It is often misinterpreted that Jacob did the same thing and waiting an additional seven years until he got Rachel but that is not what this says. Jacob only had to wait one week while being with Leah and then he was given Rachel also. The additional seven years was debt which he had to pay back after getting Rachel as well. So Jacob still got Rachel after seven years of work but got stuck with Leah as well.

Jacob’s Children

31 When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” 33 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. 34 Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. 35 And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.

-This is how we can feel assured that Jacob did not feel for Rachel because she was “the one” but only because he simply decided he strongly wanted her. God opened Leah’s womb despite not being loved because Jacob was neglecting his duty. Jacob was meant to love Leah as well but did not. I feel the need to address one controversial issue that has come up which is that of polygamy. We know from the creation story as well as the law, Jesus’ words, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and how it reflects the trinity that marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman. How then can it be God’s will that Jacob have two (eventually four) wives that he begets children from? How is it that polygamy is in God’s will here and not once the law is given? Christian leaders and pastors all the time have been caught in affairs and doing things they should not that have even sometimes produced additional children. When a person gets caught, does that mean they were a fraud all along? Not usually. These men had a weakness and they failed to surrender to God. Does this mean that it was God’s will that they sin? Of course not. However, God uses our choices and our sin for good. God knew what Jacob would choose and that he would end up having children by four different women so He simply used this for the twelve sons that would eventually lead to the twelve tribes of Israel. It may be possible that had Jacob went to God and asked Him what he should do and who should be His mate, God’s plan may have been to give him one woman he would have had twelve sons by alone. We have a choice to be obedient. God’s will is going to be done no matter what but we do seem to have some freedom to decide how easy this will is going to be accomplished. Because of Jacob’s choices, his marriages and family situations became hard and burdensome. In the end, God certainly fulfills everything he promised. But had Jacob been more subservient to God, God probably would have blessed him with a life of ease. Not that we earn rewards, but God wishes to give rewards out of love because He is pleased to see Himself reflected in what we do.

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