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Chapter 29

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ch. 29:1-14    ch.29:15-30

Jacob Arrives In Paddan Aran (ch. 29:1 - 14)     


Verse 1 speaks of the "land of the eastern peoples".   This was the land to the east of the Jordan River, probably even much closer to the Euphrates River.  Jacob lived to the west of the Jordan River .  He was to find a wife from his grandfather Abraham's family and this is where they lived.                            


Jacob comes to a well with three flocks of sheep near by.  The sheep would have been watered from this well.  This particular well appears to be more of a whole in the ground, or a side of a hill with a large rock placed in front.  This appeared to be a private well.  Earlier in this commentary I spoke of wells.  I said that for the most part wells were large wholes in the ground with steps going down to the bottom where the water could be found. This well appears to be somewhat different. It appears to be a smaller well, and maybe not the typed of well that you walked down into.


In verse 3 the text explains that shepherds would roll away the rock to water their flocks and then put the rock back once their flocks were watered.      


In verse 4 we learn that Jacob asked the shepherds where they were from.  They replied by saying they were from Haran.  Haran is where Abraham first settled after leaving his homeland of Ur.  He stayed there for a while before he left and went on to Canaan.  Abraham's father died in Haran.  The shepherds answer would have made Jacob quite happy.  He had just stopped at this place and he meets people from the town in which he needed to go to find a wife.


In verse 6 Jacob asked a natural question.  He asked if these men knew "Laban, Nahor's grandson".   Laban was Rebekah's brother.  Rebekah was Jacob's mother.  Nahor was Abraham's brother.


The conversation goes on between Jacob and the shepherds.  Jacob asked them if Laban was well and they said he was.  Then as they were speaking, the shepherd pointed in a certain direction and said that Laban's daughter Rachel is just over there a ways, on her way to the well.  This was a miracle.  It was clearly the will of the Lord.  This is very reminiscent of the time that Abraham's  servant found a wife for Isaac.  Both were found by a well.  Both finds were miraculous in nature.


Verse 7 speaks of the sun being high in the sky.  It must have been around noon.  Jacob was somewhat confused because sheep were normally watered in the evening or early morning, not noon. 


The shepherd's explanation seems to suggest that they gather all the sheep now, but by the time they gather the sheep and remove the rock from the well, it is getting close to evening. 


In an earlier chapter, when Abraham's servant went looking for a wife for Isaac, Rebekah was working hard at a well, just as Rachel was at this time.  Women did hard work in those days, work that some today might even consider a man's work. 


In verse 9 we learn that Rachel came with her father's sheep.  The text says that she was a "shepherdess".  So it is clear, that tending to sheep was not necessarily a man's job back them.  As a child in the 1950's I seem to recall, especially among Evangelical Christians, the sentiment that women should not be going out to work, doing a man's work.  I'm not sure if you can make the comparison, but it seems to me that this was not new to the 1950's.  Way back in these days of Genesis women were doing what some today might call men's work.


At the sight of Rachel, Jacob goes over and rolls away the rock from the mouth of the well and begins to water the sheep for Rachel.  Then he kisses Rachel.  It was the custom for men to kiss men as a form of saying "hello"   in those parts back then, as it still is in many parts of the world today.  Yet, a man kissing a woman that he had just met, was not the cultural norm.  You might wonder just what Rachel thought as Jacob kissed her.  Jacob then starts to weep.  Rachel must have really wondered what was going on with this strange man. Jacob was clearly overwhelmed by what was happening.  When the Lord does such things in our lives, we are often overwhelmed as Jacob was back then.  Of course, the reason for him being overwhelmed in the first place was that he was obedient to what God wanted him to do.   


In verse 12 Jacob explains to Rachel who he was, that he was part of her extended family.  Like Rebekah, Rachel left immediately to tell her father.


In verses 13 and 14 we see that Laban dropped what he was doing and rushed back to meet Jacob.  He seemed elated to see his sister's son.  After this, Laban brought Jacob home.  


You will notice the traditional kiss in verse 13.  When Laban and Jacob saw each other for the first time, they kissed each other.  This kiss would have been on each other's cheek.  It would be like shaking hands in western cultures today.


Jacob Marries Leah And Rachel  (ch. 29:14 - 30)


 In verses 14 and 15 we see that Jacob had been working for Laban for free for a month.  Laban suggest that Jacob should be paid for his work.  Just because he is a relative doesn't mean he should work for free.


At this point we should remember why Jacob is even here working for Laban.   It was Rebekah's idea for him to leave home because his brother Esau was extremely angry with him, and she wasn't sure what Esau would do.  That was the number one reason for leaving in the eyes of Rebekah.  Her second reason was to find a wife among their relatives.  For Isaac, finding a wife was the number one reason why Jacob left home.  


In verses 16 and 17 we learn that Laban had two daughters.  The older daughter was Leah, and the younger daughter was Rachel.  Rachel was the girl that Jacob first saw when he arrived at the well.  He fell in love with her at first sight, and verse 18 confirms the fact that he did love Rachel. 


Verse 17 says that Leah had "weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely and beautiful."   Weak eyes suggests that Leah could not see well, but from my understanding from other commentators this is a cultural idiom, a figure of speech in that day and culture.  It meant that she was homely in appearance, and the context seems to point that out.  With the insertion of the word "but" after the "weak eyes" phrase, we see that Rachel was beautiful.  The word "but" thus makes the comparison between Rachel's beauty and Leah's homeliness.  To make any proper comparison, the two things that are being compared must be similar.  Bad eye-sight and beauty are not two similar things to be compared with, but homeliness and beauty are. 


In verse 18 Jacob responded to Laban's comment on what Jacob's wages should be.  Jacob said that he would work for seven years in order to marry Rachel, the younger of the two girls.  The culture of the day was to marry off the older girls before the younger girls, thus the cultural background to this whole chapter.  Jacob was suggesting something that wasn't culturally correct. 


Jacob apparently did not have a dowry to offer to Laban, thus the reason for working seven years.  Why he did not have a dowry is unknown to me.  He had received Isaac's blessings and inheritance.  Why he could not use some of this is somewhat speculative in my thinking at this time.


Verse 19 is a bit comical in my thinking.  Laban responded to Jacob by saying that it would be better to give Rachel to him than to any other man.   This would be the case because Jacob is a relative, in Laban's extended family.  So Laban said, "stay here with me", that is, stay here and work the seven years.


We see in verse 20 that Jacob was really in love with Rachel.  He worked the seven years but in his mind it only seemed like days.  His thoughts must have been constantly on Rachel.  Of course, he would most likely see her every day.  I wonder what kind of relationship they had with each other during those seven years.


I also find verse 21 comical.  After the seven years were up Jacob goes to Laban and tells him to give him his wife.  He said, "I want to lie with her."   Simply put, "give me Rachel so I can have sex with her."  It must have been a long seven year wait in one sense of the word, even though Jacob said it felt like days. Jacob seemed pretty anxious.


In verse 22 we see the mentioning of a big feast.  As was the culture, a wedding was a major event with all the extended family present.  There was a big feast, with lots of eating and lots of drinking of wine.  The festival could last up to seven days.  Drinking of wine on and off for seven days shows us what kind of party this might have turned into.


In verse 23 we see that Laban had tricked Jacob.  Jacob got a bit of his own medicine in return here.  As he had tricked his brother Esau and got Isaac's blessing, so now he himself was tricked in a similar fashion.  Verse 23 tells us that Laban gave Leah to Jacob and not Rachel as was to be the case.  Jacob slept with Leah that night. 


In verse 24 we see that Laban gives Leah a servant girl. This girl would serve Leah, but as was the culture, these servant girls to wives back then could also be concubines.  The culture was that if the wife could not bare children for her husband, the husband could have sex with the servant girl and she could have a child for her master's husband.


Verse 25 says, "when morning came, there was Leah."  Jacob had slept with Leah, thinking she was Rachel.  This has puzzled many people over the years.  Jacob had seen both Leah and Rachel probably every day for the last seven years.  How would he have not known the girl he slept with wasn't Rachel.  Some say that she was veiled all night.  That doesn't seem likely in my thinking.  It could have been a simple matter of Jacob being drunk from all the wine that was probably consumed at the feast.  Many Evangelical non-drinkers might argue over that point, but it was not uncommon for men to get drunk back then, and even righteous men.


Concerning a veil, Leah could have had a veil during the wedding feast, and that might be why Jacob did not know her, although, if she had talked you might think  he would know the difference.


So also in verse 25 we see Jacob going to Laban and asking why he had deceived him after working hard for seven years to obtain Rachel.  We see the word "deceive" here.  The name "Jacob" means deceiver.  The deceiver has now been deceived himself.  You might even wonder if this wasn't some kind of judgment on Jacob from God.  I'm not saying it is. I just wonder.  As the old saying states it, "what goes around, comes around." 


An interesting point that some commentators point out is this.  Jacob was the younger between him and Esau.  By deception, he the younger, got Isaac's blessing and inheritance.  In like fashion, Jacob was deceived when Laban gave the older girl to Jacob instead of the younger girl.   In both cases, it was a matter of age, a matter of older and younger.   


In verses 26 and 27 we see Laban's thinking as earlier discussed.  He told Jacob that it was not their custom to give away a younger daughter in marriage before an older daughter.  Why this wasn’t discussed between Jacob and Laban is unknown.  You would have thought that Jacob understood the culture of the day.  Why he and Laban wouldn't have talked this over is beyond me.  Maybe Jacob was so in love with Rachel that his thinking was impaired.  I really don't know the answer.


I don't believe it was Laban's intention not to give Rachel to Jacob.  I just think he felt compelled to follow the custom of the day by marrying Leah off first.  By giving Leah to Jacob, Leah would be married off first.  I tend to think that Laban was going to give Rachel to Jacob after he married Leah.  


Laban told Jacob to finish off the week of marriage celebration.  Here we see clearly that the marriage festival lasted a whole week, not just an hour or two as today.  After the week was over, then Jacob would have to work another seven years for Rachel.  Again, why Jacob just could not have returned home and brought back a dowry for payment for Rachel is unknown to me.


In verses 28 to 30 we see that Jacob finished out the week of the marriage festival with Leah, and then he got to have Rachel for his wife as well, but he had to work another seven years for her.  Rachel also got a servant girl from her father to be her servant and a possible concubine for Jacob, just in case Rachel could not have children.   Still, the children born to concubines are second class children because they were not born from the wife.  Both the concubine and the child could be sent away if so desired, which was the case with Hagar and Ishmael, if you remember.  That being said, this was not the case in this situation.  Every son born to both Leah, Rachel, and their servant girls was important and became fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. 


You might wonder about Jacob sleeping with two wives and two servant girls. Why was this so?  Did God approve of this, and if so, why?   It is clear that in the Genesis account of creation that God made a man to have one wife.  Jesus states the importance of this as well and speaks against adultery.  This is a hard question to answer.  I have two possible answers.  One is that I believe in the Old Testament, and especially in Genesis, that man's understanding of God and things of God came by progressive revelation.  That means that man's understanding did not come all at once, but one step at a time. This would mean that there might have been some vagueness on these matters in the time of Jacob.


Another point might be that God simply overlooked such things in those days.  Acts 17:30 seems to suggest this.  Paul said that God overlooked certain things in time past, but does so no longer.  God simply might have been overlooking the multiple wives situation.  It is clear that Jacob having twelve sons was important to God, or at least, so I think.  If the twelve sons were God's specific will, the question is thus asked, "why did they come in the way they did?"      


Verse 30 tells us plainly that Jacob loved Rachel better than Leah.  That was a real a problem and source competition between the two girls. 


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