Chapter 29

  1. Jacob Meets Rachel

    • Jacob continued eastward, and when he came to a well with three flocks of sheep around it, he asked the men, “Where are you from brothers?”

      • This may sound odd to us, but David Guzik explains, “In an age before clearly marked roads and signs, Jacob didn’t know where he was until he asked some of the locals, and he discovered he was at his destination.”

    • When the men answered that they were from Haran, Jacob asked them if they knew Nahor’s son, Laban.

    • They did and pointed out that Laban’s daughter Rachel, who was a shepherdess, was approaching the well with her father’s flock.

    • Jacob said, “It’s still broad daylight, way too early to be rounding up the animals. Why don’t you water them, then let them go back out to graze?”

    • The men answered that they couldn’t water the sheep until all the flocks had arrived. Then they would move the stone covering from the well and water the flocks.

    • In the meantime, Rachel had arrived at the well. Jacob moved the stone covering from the well and watered her sheep, then cried and kissed her explaining that he was her cousin on her father’s side, her Aunt Rebekah’s son. Rachel ran to tell her father.

2. Jacob Deceived

    • When Rachel told her father that she had met Jacob at the well Laban ran to meet him. He hugged and kissed him, and brought Jacob to his house.

    • When Jacob told his uncle his story, Laban said, “You really are my own flesh and blood.”

    • When Jacob had been working for Laban a month, Laban said, “Just because we are related doesn’t mean you should work for me for free. What should I pay you?”

      • At first reading you might assume that Laban was only expressing intent to pay Jacob for his work, but Guzik explains what was really meant in its appropriate societal context, “This might sound like a nice offer, but really Laban let Jacob know if he wanted to remain among them, he must stay as a hired servant. Jacob was the son of a man of tremendous wealth. Certainly he was not lazy, but he wasn’t used to hard work. Servants did the hard work back home; now Jacob was the servant.”

    • Laban had two daughters. His oldest daughter, Leah, had delicate eyes. His youngest daughter, Rachel, had a beautiful figure and a beautiful face.

      • “There is dispute as to exactly what the phrase “Leah’s eyes were delicate” means. Some think it means her eyes were bad and she couldn’t see well. Others think it means her eyes were dull, not beautiful and full of life like her sister Rachel’s eyes.” (Guzik)

    • Jacob was in love with Rachel, so he told Laban that he would work for him for 7 years in return for Rachel’s hand in marriage.

      • “The offer to work for seven years was essentially a dowry. Though Jacob came from a family with great wealth, he left home with no money. Before he could take a woman in marriage he had to provide a dowry to demonstrate he was fit to support a family and to compensate for the taking of the daughter…Seven years was a very generous offer, far above a normal dowry. Jacob didn’t want to risk a refusal. When Laban saw how badly Jacob wanted Rachel, he knew he could take advantage of him.” (Guzik)

    • Laban agreed to this, and Jacob was true to his word. He worked 7 years for Rachel and the time flew by because Jacob loved her so much.

      • “In this ancient culture Jacob was not allowed to spend as much time as he wanted with Rachel. There were strict social guidelines to separate unmarried men and women.” (Guzik)

    • At the end of the 7 years, Jacob went to Laban and said, “I have fulfilled our agreement, let me marry Rachel.”

    • Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast. That night when it was dark, Laban sent his daughter Leah in to Jacob and he slept with her. Laban gave Zilpah to Leah as her slave.

    • When Jacob woke the next morning, it was Leah that was with him!

      • Wait, what? The Bible tells us here that Jacob spent his wedding night with the WRONG woman but didn’t realize until the morning, then just moves along with the story like there’s nothing fishy about that- like it could literally happen to anyone? If you’re having a “Come on now!” moment, I can assure you that you aren’t alone.

        – So, how could this possibly have occurred? Believe it or not, it’s another classic case of us not having ANY idea how things worked in this ancient culture.

            • First of all, in ancient custom, the bride would have been heavily veiled the entire wedding day. So not knowing who was underneath all of that wedding garb is not a stretch.

            • But, what about that night, after the wedding? How could he NOT know? John Gill’s commentary explains the ancient custom of marriage consummation, which is actually still adhered to in some Middle Eastern cultures: “for it is still the custom in some eastern countries for the bridegroom to go to bed first, and then the bride comes, or is brought to him in the dark, and veiled, so that he sees her not: so the Armenians have now such a custom at their marriages that the husband goes to bed first; nor does the bride put off her veil till in bed; and in Barbary the bride is brought to the bridegroom’s house, and with some of her female relations conveyed into a private room; then the bride’s mother, or some very near relation, introduces the bridegroom to his new spouse, who is in the dark, and obliged in modesty not to speak or answer upon any account: and if this was the case here, as it is highly probable it was, the imposition on Jacob is easily accounted for.”

          • Notice in verse 24 it is noted that Laban gave Zilpah to Leah as her slave. Before the cultural context this verse seems a little out of place, but applying the cultural context it actually makes more sense. This notation could be made here because Zilpah could have accompanied Laban when he gave Leah to Jacob on their wedding night. A nuance that we would not understand today, but that would have been clear to ancient readers.

        • Now, I hesitate to add this last part because of the source- the Book of Jasher. Now, I’ve mentioned this book before and it is actually quoted in the Bible. But, the Book of Jasher as it exists today cannot be authenticated in its entirety- which is why Christians do not consider it authoritative. That’s not to say that nothing in it is true, many things probably are…many are not. However, though I would NEVER use any writing in the Book of Jasher to make any type of doctrinal decision, I will mention here that it has some interesting information recorded regarding this particular story line:

            • Jasher 28:28: Yahweh afterward remembered Adinah the wife of Laban, and she conceived and bore twin daughters, and Laban called the names of his daughters, the name of the elder Leah, and the name of the younger Rakhel.

– The Book of Jasher says that Leah and Rachel are twins!

      • When you remove the non applicable cultural context that we place when reading this passage, it suddenly seems a lot more plausible. We can’t read this passage and insert what comes to our minds when we think of a new husband and wife’s first night together. Indeed, this scenario would not make sense today. Ancient wedding nights were not exactly full of romance, but instead more closely resembled a business transaction.

      • You have Leah, who was veiled beyond recognition the entire ceremony, then (still veiled) handed over to Jacob by her father in complete darkness in the presence of her slave, and obliged to be silent and carry out the consummation “transaction”. On top of that- she could have been Rachel’s twin. So, they may have resembled each other more than what we normally envision- though Rachel is clearly described as more beautiful. Jacob’s indiscretion is at least plausible once the correct cultural context is applied.

    • Jacob confronted Laban, “What have you done? I worked for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?”

    • Laban responded, “ It isn’t customary here to marry the younger daughter ahead of the older. Finish out this wedding celebration week and I’ll let you marry Rachel also in return for another 7 years of work.”

    • That is exactly what Jacob did. At the end of the wedding celebration week, he married Rachel.

    • Laban gave Bilhah to Rachel as her slave.

    • Jacob and Rachel slept together and Jacob loved her more than Leah. He worked for Laban 7 more years.

      • David Guzik makes two excellent points here:

          1. “Significantly, Laban’s deception towards Jacob was similar to the deception Jacob put upon his father Isaac and his brother Esau. This is an example of Jacob reaping what he had sown. Jacob exchanged the younger for the older; Laban exchanged the older for the younger. When Jacob deceived his father and cheated his brother, God did not change His plan to choose Jacob to receive the birthright. Instead, God took Jacob to the school of difficult experience to discipline him. This shows that our disobedience may not derail God’s plan for our life, but it will greatly affect how we end up experiencing it. One might spend 20 years working for someone like Laban while God teaches a few things.”

          1. “Though we can see this was God’s correction upon Jacob, it in no way justified Laban’s deception. The fact that God does work all things together for good never excuses the evil things man does.”

3. Jacob’s Sons

    • When the Lord saw that Jacob didn’t love Leah he allowed her to conceive, but made Rachel barren.

-Leah gave birth to Reuben and said, “The Lord has seen how I suffer, surely Jacob will love me now.”

    • Leah became pregnant again and gave birth to Simeon, a third time and gave birth to Levi, then a fourth and she gave birth to Judah.

      • Each time she bore a child, she hoped that Jacob would come to love her, but Jacob was never swayed.

      • Guzik points out an interesting pattern in the names Leah gave her children:

      • Reuben means “behold, a son”- Leah is hoping that Jacob will now see that the Lord has seen her suffering.

      • Simeon means “hearing”- Leah is hoping that Jacob will see that the Lord has heard her.

      • Levi means “attachment”- Leah is hoping that Jacob will become attached to her since she has given him 3 sons.

      • Judah means “praise”- Guzik says, “Apparently, Leah stopped naming her children to reflect the pain and longing in her heart. At this point she focused on God and could praise Him.”

      • “To some extent, and for some period of time, Leah allowed the Lord to meet her need, and she could now praise God. Leah knew the Lord better, driven to Him by the neglect of her husband. Leah, though she was neglected by Jacob and despised by Rachel, had a great purpose in God’s plan. The two greatest tribes came from Leah, not Rachel: Levi (the priestly tribe) and Judah (the royal tribe). And most importantly, the Messiah came from Leah, the less-attractive sister who was neglected and despised but learned to look to the Lord and praise Him.” (Guzik)