Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:31-35

31 And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I imagine that Leah was in some way a willing party to Laban’s deception of Jacob, presumably she was careful not to reveal that it was her beneath the wedding veil instead of her sister. Even so, one can’t help to feel sorry for her, married to a man whom she knows loves her sister more than she.

God was not in favor of this situation, and he intervened in a subtle, yet effective, way. Leah was blessed with fertility, while Rachel remained barren. Jacob loved Rachel, but it was a love that literally could not bear fruit. Each sister had one blessing and one deprivation.

And in a strange way, this competition between sisters would end up serving God’s plans for the kingdom of Israel. If He was ever to raise a great nation as promised, sooner or later the pattern of one covenant-holder only fathering one more covenant-holder would have to change. By inciting this rivalry between Rachel and Leah, they aggressively sought childbirth, which multiplied the covenant lines twelvefold!

And also, it is worth noting that God’s consolation to Leah included a son named Judah, mentioned in verse 35, who was to be the forefather of Jesus Christ. I find it fitting that this portion of Christ’s ancestral line passed through one who was lonely and deprived of love, who welcomed a birth as a comfort to her soul.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:27-28, 30

27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.

28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.

30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.

It was Jacob who originally suggested that seven years was the amount of time that ought to be served for a bride, but Laban wasn’t shy to then prescribe an additional seven years for Jacob to marry the woman he had intended.

It does not seem that Jacob had to wait the full fourteen years before being united to Rachel, though. Verse 28 suggests that Jacob fulfilled the week-long wedding ritual to Leah, after which he immediately married Rachel. Then, with both wives already joined to him, he began the second set of seven years’ service to Laban.

So now he was a husband and presently a father, yet it would still be another 2,500 days before he was clear of his debt and able to work for his own gain. This may not seem like a promising foundation for his household, but Jacob was industrious, and we will soon see how he flourished under these conditions.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:22-23, 25-26

22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.

23 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.

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?

26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.

Thus far in the story Laban has treated Jacob with dignity and respect. It is interesting, then, to see this deceptive turn from him. Tricking a man into marrying a woman he did not intend is a very egregious offense. The explanation that Laban gives, that in their country the first daughter must be married before the second, in no way accounts for the fact that he did not tell this to Jacob beforehand. One would assume that he knew he would play this trick on Jacob all the seven years that his nephew labored for him, making him a liar for all of those 2,500 days!

However, I cannot help but see this as a sort of karma balancing out in Jacob’s life. He had deceived his own father and stolen the place of honor from his brother. He had done this by pretending to be someone that he was not, and now he gets to be on the receiving end of a very similar trick. Life has a way of holding up a mirror to each of us, causing us to collect the same sort of payment we have given out.

Better for Jacob to balance the cosmic scales here and now, and be clear for the rest of his life. And, as it would turn out, Leah was to become a key part of his growing heritage. So even this setback was ultimately meant for his own good.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:15-16, 18, 20

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?

16 And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.

20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.

Jacob had asked to dwell with his uncle, but he was not a freeloader, and he was willing to work for his uncle’s gain, just like any other member of the family. This was very honorable of him.

Laban would not stand for that, though. He was not going to take advantage of Jacob’s kinship, and insisted he would pay wages for the work. This was very honorable of him, as well.

But Jacob was not interested in money. Instead he made clear his feelings for Rachel, and then made the bold suggestion that he serve Laban seven years so that he could marry her. This was a very interesting move on Jacob’s part. For all we know Laban would have consented to the wedding after only five years, or three, or even after no years at all! Jacob does not seem to be a very shrewd businessman by immediately throwing out such a lofty price, now does he?

But then, that wasn’t really the point. This was a question of romance, not business, and Jacob’s gesture reflects that. He is doing something dramatic and captivating, something that has immortalized his relationship to Rachel for thousands of years. What greater wedding gift could he bring than a love story that would last through all history?

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:11-14

11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.

12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebekah’s son: and she ran and told her father.

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.

14 And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month.

The similarities between Jacob’s story and Abraham’s servant continue, as each of them are joyously welcomed into the home of their kin. Laban, Jacob’s maternal uncle, agrees to let his nephew live with them indefinitely. Though the man has been a complete stranger to them all his life, there is an immediate bond created by their family heritage.

As someone who is both a nephew and an uncle, I find it far easier to relate to this hospitality when I put myself in the shoes of the uncle. By that I mean, if I were to approach any of my uncles to ask if I could live with them, I would feel anxious and unsure about whether they would be willing to accommodate me. If, on the other hand, any of my nephews ever came to me for help, I would absolutely do whatever I could for them. I suppose that I am better able to feel the bonds that flow downward than upward.

Indeed, I wonder how many of get into trouble in our youth simply because we underestimate what lengths our elder kin would go to to save us if they only knew. Out in the wilderness, Jacob also seemed very unsure about whether there would be anyone to receive and support him, but after this episode it is clear that he never had anything to worry about.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:9-10

9 And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them.

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.

As mentioned yesterday, Jacob wasn’t able to secure the private conversation he had wanted with Rachel, but as soon as she appeared he was moved to do something dramatic for her. The other shepherds had already told him that the stone was not to be removed until all the other sheep were gathered, but he disregarded that custom and rolled the great rock back all on his own, then watered all of Rachel’s flocks for her.

Of course, this romantic gesture hardly compares to his later one when he serves seven years, then seven years again to marry her. I never really thought about it before, but while many consider the Old Testament to be a cold and distant book of scripture, it is actually full of many tender gestures of love, just like these. There was Adam and Eve facing the fallen world hand-in-hand, the way that Abraham handled the responsibility of buying a grave for his lifelong companion Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah’s love-at-first-sight meeting, these stories of Jacob and Rachel, and later we will later have Ruth and Boaz’s love story. Genuine love, and even romantic love, is at the core of many of the greatest Old Testament stories.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:1-2, 5-8

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

2 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.

5 And he said unto them, Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We know him.

6 And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep.

7 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.

8 And 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.

After being initiated into the Abrahamic covenant by God, Jacob arrives at Haran, his destination. Immediately there are many similarities between how his wife is found in this land, and how his father Isaac’s was.

In both cases Jacob and the servant of Abraham happened upon a well, almost immediately before the spouse-to-be arrived. And in both cases that lady was coming to water the flocks of her father. The good fortune in each of these experiences suggests divine intervention.

To Jacob this blessing from God seems particularly meaningful. As mentioned before, he has just come from a sacred introduction to his maker, in which God has promised to keep him and increase him, and right away Jacob is seeing the fulfillment of that.

One can’t help but wonder whether Jacob’s suggestion that the shepherds water their flock and take them grazing was a ploy to get them out of the way, allowing him to meet Rachel in privacy. Unfortunately, that tactic did not work, but as we will see tomorrow, he found another way to cultivate romance instead!