Genesis Chapter Twenty-Nine
Read Genesis 29:1-8
– Jacob Arrives at
v.1 “Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east.”
Though we’re not told of any of the details of Jacob’s journey, he has communed with God; his fears and troubles seem to have been lifted and he enjoys promises that his journey will be blessed. The NASB has the following footnote “Then Jacob lifted up his feet” another translation says that he hurried on; both indicating that he traveled now with a cheerful eagerness to reach his destination.
v.2-3 “And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth. 3And thither were all the flocks gathered: and they rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well’s mouth in his place.”
Jacob arrives at a place where flocks of sheep are gathered and a well to provide their water is available. These shepherds are following the wisdom of God and being good stewards of his providence:
Proverbs 27:23 “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.”
In addition they were being good stewards of the water as well. The well is protected by a great stone from those who might overuse or misuse it and apparently an agreement is in existence to assure that the water is shared.
v. 4-5 “And Jacob
said unto them, My brethren, whence be
ye? And they said, Of
Since these are the first human beings that we have record of Jacob encountering on his journey Jacob naturally inquires in what region or what city he has reached. Their answer tells him that he has reached his destination so he inquires further about his uncle, Laban, whom he is to find and the shepherds know him.
v.6 “And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep.”
Learning all of this Jacob, as most of us would do, inquires regarding his Uncle’s health and situation. Not only is Laban well but his daughter Rachel is his shepherdess and is coming with his sheep.
v.7-8 “And he said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them. 8And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.”
Jacob is a shepherd, a simple, plain man of the fields so he knows the nature of sheep. It is mid-day, the flocks have not grazed and these shepherds are just waiting. So he makes the suggestion that they go ahead and water their flocks so that they will have the time needed to take their flocks to graze. Their answer tells us that none of them had the authority to move the stone and access the water on their own. Their agreement to share the water keeps one shepherd or one group of shepherds from using the water without all of the others being present.
Genesis 29:9-14 – Jacob Meets Rachel and Laban
v.9 “And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them.”
In all of the Bible
stories that we have seen and taught we don’t often see a shepherd depicted as
a woman but in fact it was not at all uncommon.
When Moses fled
“Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.” Exodus
So the prospective bride of Jacob was a shepherdess, keeping her father’s flocks.
v.10 “And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.”
Jacob had asked earlier why these shepherds did not go ahead, give their animals water and take them on out to graze. Now he takes the initiative, rolls the stone away from the mouth of the well and water’s Laban’s flocks.
v.11-12 “And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. 12And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebekah’s son: and she ran and told her father.”
Jacob is overwhelmed with joy. He departed his homeland partly to keep his brother from killing him; he has journeyed far and now has successfully arrived at his destination. God has been with him all the way and everything is going very well. He greats his cousin with a kiss, as was common in that day and culture; and reveals his relationship to her and her father.
Should we be concerned about the translation of the relationship in verse 12 where Jacob is called Laban’s brother? No, the only translations we find that word used are the King James and the New King James. I don’t know what original Hebrew word was used but in all of the other major translations I researched we find the word relative or kinsman.
v.13 “And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things.”
When Laban learns that
a nephew has arrived, the son of his sister Rebekah, he does what all of us
would do. He goes to greet him, welcomes
him into his home and has what we would probably call a good visit. He catches up on the happenings of his
extended family in
v.14 “And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month.”
Laban now welcomes Jacob literally as part of his family, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. This relationship will sour later in our study of this book as many family relationships do, especially when business, money and some jealousy becomes involved; but for the moment all is well and Jacob is content to serve Laban as he served his own father.
Read Genesis 29:15-20 – Laban’s Agreement
v.15 “And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?”
Verse 14 would indicate that after a month of working for him, Laban asks Jacob what he thinks he should receive as wages. I find the comment interesting that he precedes his inquiry with the observations that “BECAUSE THOU art MY BROTHER…” or near kinsman, Jacob should not serve Laban without compensation. It makes me wonder what he would have done had Jacob not been part of the family.
v.16-17 “And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.”
Laban has two daughters that are apparently at or near marriageable age. One commentator has done some calculations and contends that Jacob is about 77 years old so it is well beyond the time that he should have taken a wife. The King James text tells us that Leah was “TENDER EYED”, do we know what that means? Other translations tell us that her eyes were “WEAK” or “DELICATE”. Rachel is contrasted with Leah as being “BEAUTIFUL AND WELL FAVOURED” which should tells us that Leah probably wasn’t as beautiful or as well favored as here younger sister.
v.18 “And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.”
In our time and culture this would seem to be a strange request. In a month Jacob has fallen so much in love with Rachel that he is willing to work for seven years for the privilege of making her his wife. The short period of time that it took to come to that conclusion isn’t strange to me. Three weeks after I started dating my Judy I wrote my mother and told her that I had found the one that I wanted as my wife. So that part of this situation is not strange to me personally but waiting seven years for us to marry would have been intolerable.
v.19-20 “And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. 20And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.”
Laban agrees with Jacob’s request. The way that he states his agreement struck me as being a little strange but then perhaps this was because of the apparent age difference between Rachel and Jacob.
Oh! The power of true love! Jacob’s love for Rachel is so deep that the seven years of labor seem but just a few days. A thought that came to mind as I was studying this verse: is our love for God, his righteousness, His Son, the church and the promise of an eternal destiny with Him as deep as Jacob’s love for Rachel? Is it so deep and so strong that whatever afflictions we have to endure only seem as a few days of minor inconvenience? Perhaps this is something we need to think about.
Read Genesis 29:21-30 – Laban’s Treachery
v.21 “And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.”
Jacob has completed his part of the covenant with Laban and now has asked for the daughter that is to become his wife.
v.22 “And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.”
In response to Jacob’s
request Laban provides a marriage feast to celebrate the occasion, perhaps much
the same as the one which Jesus and his disciples attended in
“And the third day there was a
v.23-24 “And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. 24And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid.”
Laban, wishing to secure a husband for his eldest daughter, deceives Jacob and gives him Leah instead of Rachel. But Laban hasn’t just wronged Jacob; he has wronged Leah and Rachel as well. He has wronged Leah by giving her as a wife to a man that doesn’t want her and Rachel by holding her back from becoming the wife to the man who loves her deeply. One observation that we might make is that made by Matthew Henry in his commentary. He seems to dwell upon the idea that Jacob is reaping the reward of his own treachery with Esau.
v.25 “And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?”
Under our customs we would find it difficult to understand how the husband could be deceived as to the identity of his bride until too late but it is sufficient to note that this is the case here. When the morning comes Jacob confronts Laban regarding his treachery and wants a reason for his actions.
v.26 “And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.”
Laban’s excuse for his actions is pretty lame, isn’t it? First of all we cannot determine whether it was a custom of that time and culture or not to require that the eldest daughter must marry first. In all of the history of mankind I think we would be hard pressed to find such a requirement. In addition, if that were so, then Laban should have raised this issue at the very beginning when he made his covenant with Jacob. What does this tell us about Abraham’s nephew and Rebekah’s brother?
Matthew “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”
I Samuel 24:13 “As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.”
v.27-28 “Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. 28And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.”
Laban has put Jacob into a dilemma and uses the opportunity to take further advantage of him. He has given marriage vows to Leah so as an honest man he cannot now reject her. He is still in love with Rachel and willing to do whatever is necessary to have her as his wife. So when Laban proposes another covenant Jacob accepts. He will fulfill the duties of a husband to Leah and work for Laban another seven years and Laban will give Jacob Rachel as his wife as well.
Did God approve of Jacob having more than one wife? No. that was not God’s design then any more than it is today. God tolerated many things under the Patriarchal covenants and under the Mosaic Covenant that he does not tolerate under the law of Christ but God’s marriage law is universal, applicable to all men of all ages. Please note that the declaration of Jesus that settles this issue for all time refers to a man and his wife in the singular.
Matthew 19:5 “And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?”
v.29-30 “And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid. 30And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.”
Jacob keeps his part of the covenant with Laban so he acquires Rachel as his wife as well. Please note that the names of the handmaidens given to Leah and Rachel are also given us here. The significance of this will be seen in the next chapter as Jacob eventually has sons by all four women, so his sin of having multiple wives is compounded and begets more sin as is usually the case. The scriptures tell us that the child or children of the wife that is most loved will be favored:
“If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated: 16Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:” Deuteronomy 21:15-16
And this was exactly what happened when Jacob favored Joseph, the son of Rachel, to the extent that his brothers hated him and sold him into slavery.
Read Genesis 29:31-35 – Jacob and Leah’s First Sons
v.31 “And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.”
We see again God’s direct intervention in the lives of the patriarchs. The wives that were loved of all three, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were barren, unable to bear children.
Psalms 127:3 “LO, CHILDREN are AN HERITAGE OF THE LORD: and THE FRUIT OF THE WOMB is his REWARD.”
And when God saw that Jacob loved Leah less than Rachel he compensated by giving Leah children and withholding that ability from Rachel.
v.32 “And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.
God knows and understands
our troubles and trials. He sees our
pain. Leah has faith in God and knows
that just as he knew the affliction of
Exodus 3:7 “And the LORD
said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in
Leah knows that God is with her and allowing her to do what is probably the only thing that she can do to win Jacob’s favor, give him sons. She names the first born Reuben, which means “see a son” hoping against hope that this will cause Jacob to love her.
v.33 “And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.”
Leah names her second son Simeon which means “he has heard” knowing that God has indeed heard her, knows and has acknowledged that Jacob loves her less than Rachel.
v.34 “And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.”
Leah gives Jacob another son. This time she names him Levi, meaning “joined”, again hoping that as a result of giving him sons that Jacob will indeed become joined to her as a husband should be joined with his wife as “ONE FLESH” but that is not to be.
v.35 “And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.”
Nothing that Leah has done has worked. She has given Jacob three sons so she bares a fourth but names him Judah, which means “praise” as praise to God for giving her favor when her husband would not. But God did favor Leah. What is another significant blessing that God has provided Leah?
Matthew 1:1-2 “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;”
It is through the descendants of Jacob and Leah that God fulfills the promises made to Eve (Genesis ). So it is through Leah that God fulfilled the promise that through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that all mankind would be blessed.