Well wherever you are in the world, thank you for checking out this verse by verse Bible study podcast. I’m Randy Duncan, and in this episode we will be covering Genesis chapter 29. But before we begin, I just want to share that this Bible study just recently hit downloads and listens from 100 different countries and 2700 different cities. That tells me that there is a genuine and worldwide hunger for God’s word. And so no matter where you are from around the world, thank you so much for taking the time to listen.
Now in the last episode, we saw Jacob fleeing from his brother Esau, leaving his home, and heading to his uncle Laban’s home in Paddan-Aram, in Haran. Along the way, God visits him in a dream revelation, where the scene of Jacob’s Ladder takes place, the scene that shook Jacob, so much so that he vows to follow God from that day forward. And so this is where we pick up the action
29-1 Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east. 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. 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.”
So Jacob resumes his journey after his revelation from God. The Hebrew phrase actually reads that he “lifted up his feet”, which is a phrase found nowhere else in the Bible. And although it means to ‘put into action’, referring to his journey, some Hebrew commentators say that it sort of carries the meaning that now the going was going to be easier, or that he went with confidence and resolve, referring of course to the events and experience from God the night before.
It says that Jacob came to the land of the people of the East, which is simply a reference to land east of Israel, which we already know was Paddan-aram, where his uncle Laban lived. But he sees a well there, sees some sheep, and the shepherds, and approaches them and asks where they are from.
They respond by telling him they are from Haran, and so he asks if they know Laban. After they tell him that, yes, they know Laban, Jacob asks about his well-being, to which they tell him that Laban is well. Jacob doesn’t know it yet, but he will soon find out just how well Laban is. But they continue and tell Jacob, in fact, look, here comes his daughter Rachel now.
It’s interesting what Jacob says next. Remember, he is a stranger. He just met these shepherds. But he tells them, it’s still high day, it’s not time for the flock to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and then take them out to the pasture.
Now if you were one of the shepherds, what would your impression be of this guy who just rolled into town, telling you how to shepherd your flock, and then giving you commands?! Well, a couple of things here. Remember, Jacob was a shepherd too, so he probably knew what he was talking about. But more importantly, Jacob was probably just wanting some alone time with Rachel. Remember, Jacob has come to Haran in search of a bride. And so he tells the shepherds, in essence, to get lost for a while. Beat it!
But their response is that they can’t, because all the flock is not yet gathered together, plus, the stone is still on the well. Now, something to keep in mind here. When we read about this well, understand that this was not a well like we may think of, with the rocks or stones built up around it as a protective wall. These cisterns, or wells, were basically holes in the ground, with a large thick flat stone covering them.
This stone served a couple of different purposes. First, it protected against dirt falling into the well and so helped to keep the water clean, and second, it protected against either a person or an animal from accidentally falling into the well. But these stones were huge, very heavy, and required two or three men to remove them.
So, I want you to also notice the shepherd’s response to Jacob. They say they can’t water the flocks until the stone is removed, which implies that they were unable to remove it. Now the text doesn’t specifically say there are three shepherds there, it says there were three flocks, which implies three shepherds. But we know there were at least two. And so regardless of how many there were, we know they were unable to remove the large stone.
Another thing to notice about this scene is the way it reminds us of what occurred many years before, when Abraham’s servant came to this same place to find a wife for Isaac. Remember where he met Rebekah? At a well. The servant prayed to God, and asked that a particular sign be given, and it was. It was God, moving providentially. And here, we see that Rachel is approaching the well just as Jacob arrives, even though it is not time for her to be doing so since it was still high day. So Jacob meets Rachel at what appears to be the wrong time. And so once again, we see God starting to act providentially. And just as bonus information here, and I’m not charging you anything extra for this information, Moses also met his wife at a well.
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. 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.
And so while Jacob is still speaking to the shepherds, Rachel approaches the well with her flock. Jacob then removes the stone so that she can have access to the water. He rolls away the stone that multiple shepherds could not move. A stone that typically required two or three people to move. Jacob performs this act singlehandedly, experiencing a sudden surge of strength, even after his long journey. He is either strengthened by God, or he has this sudden burst of strength at the sight of Rachel. All of you men listening understand how motivating it can be to try and capture the attention of a woman you are interested in. It’s also interesting that in some Jewish traditions, Jacob is actually a giant!
But it says that Jacob also watered the flock for her. Again, this is in contrast to how Abraham’s servant approached his finding a wife for Isaac. Remember that the servant devised a plan to test the character of Rebekah, actually having her get the water for him and his flock. But here, Jacob does this for Rachel.
It also tells us that Jacob wept aloud. This is probably just an emotion of joy of finally arriving at his destination after such a long and lonely journey. And then finding himself unexpectedly at the right place, and having already laid eyes on Rachel. He is probably just expressing all of his pent-up emotions that he has had building up ever since the last scene with his parents, and since leaving his home.
However, even though he is emotional, still, there is no record of him pausing to give thanks to God, no praise. Abraham’s servant prayed to God for guidance and success, and then also thanked and praised him afterwards. Nothing like that here with Jacob. He appears to still place everything in his own hands. And we will see that he still has much to learn.
Incidentally, this is the only place in an Old Testament Biblical narrative that records a man kissing a woman who is neither his mother nor his wife.
And of course, Rachel runs back to her father Laban, and tells him the news of Jacob’s arrival, surely telling him of Jacob helping her water her flock, and removing the stone by himself.
Well, Laban runs out to meet him. Most commentators take a sort of pessimistic and cynical view of Laban here. In other words, they view Laban running out to meet Jacob through the lens of him doing so because of what he might gain from Jacob. Remember, when Abraham’s servant came in search of a bride for Isaac, he came with a small entourage, and gold jewelry, and so that obviously got Laban’s attention back then. And so knowing this was Isaac’s son, he probably assumed Jacob would also be loaded down with gold. When he sees that is not the case, he then thinks that perhaps Jacob has the gold coins on his person, which is why he comes up and hugs him, to see if he can feel the coins. Not only that, but Laban had no doubt already heard of Jacob’s strength, and so he was already scheming on how he might use Jacob’s strength to his advantage.
But either way, whether they are correct or not, we will see as this all plays out, that Laban’s character sort of lends credibility to their cynical view of his motives.
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?” 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.
So Laban says to Jacob,” since he is a relative, should he work for nothing? Tell me then, what shall your wages be?. Well, there are a couple of different thoughts here on how to interpret what Laban is saying. First, he is pretending to be concerned with Jacob’s welfare. He is telling him that from now on, Jacob must earn his keep, or, he is trying to keep his services, seeing that he is a good and faithful shepherd.
But there is also another possibility. As a member of the family, of the household, Jacob would not have received payment for his services. Therefore, Laban is degrading the family relationship into an economic arrangement. In other words, Jacob would become merely a hired laborer. And as we will see, their relationship for the next 20 years is indeed more in line with this interpretation, as it is one of an oppressive boss over an indentured servant paying off a bride price, rather than a loving uncle helping his nephew out
So Laban has two daughters, Leah, who was the older, and Rachel, who was the younger. And it says that Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful. Now when it says Leah’s eyes were weak, it literally means “soft”, and could either be describing her as having poor vision, or, it is saying that her eyes simply lacked luster.
But the important part here is that Rachel is described as beautiful, and Jacob loved her. Remember, Jacob came here in search of a bride, and now God has given him the gift of being in love with this beautiful woman. Jacob is not interested in money. He is interested in Rachel
And so now Jacob answers Laban’s question about their working arrangement, and tells Laban that he will work for him for seven years for his younger daughter Rachel. Now this seven year’s of service would be in lieu of the usual bride price. The typical bride price was 30-40 shekels. Since a shepherd’s annual wage was around 10 shekels, Jacob here is paying a premium for Rachel, in working twice as long as he should have.
And Laban responds by saying better for me to give her to you than to any other man, and so he tells Jacob to stay with him. It doesn’t sound like Laban is necessarily enthusiastic about Jacob marrying his daughter, but just that at least he is better than marrying her off to another man outside of the family.
But Laban’s answer is a little ambiguous here. He doesn’t specifically agree to give Rachel to Jacob after seven years. All Laban agrees to is that he would give “her” to Jacob after seven years. But Jacob is not discerning enough to pick up on Laban’s shrewdness or his character here.
So Jacob serves and works for Laban for seven years, and it tells us that those seven years seemed but a few days to Jacob because of his love for Rachel. Wow. Many of us can remember a day when this would have been a familiar feeling, that new, young love. Some of you can relate I’m sure! Another reminder that love is one of the most powerful forces in the world.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, that I may lie with 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. 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 layed with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.
So the seven years is up, and Jacob comes to Laban and says give me my wife. Laban gathers the people, and throws a feast. Now the Hebrew for feast here (mish-teh’) implies, not just a banquet, but a drinking fest. And this may be an important detail.
But at some point during the evening, Laban goes and gets Leah, not Rachel, and brings her to Jacob. Now it was customary for the bride to wear a veil when presented to her husband. And so you couple Leah wearing a veil, with the fact that Laban brought her to Jacob during the night, along with the fact that Jacob has most likely had plenty of wine by this time, and you can see how Jacob might not have realized until the next morning what has happened.
But the next morning Jacob realizes what Laban has done, and so he asked Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve you seven years for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?
Now there is so much irony in what has happened here. First of all, Jacob, the deceiver, is asking Laban why he deceived him. BTW, this word for “deceive” (rama), is the same word Esau used to describe what Jacob had done to him.
But secondly, by getting Jacob drunk, and then preseting Leah with a veil under the cover of darkness, Laban succeeds in his deception, just as Rebekah and Jacob had done to Isaac. Isaac was blind, and now, between both the veil and the darkness, so was Jacob.
Also, Jacob masquerading as his brother Esau is now coming full circle as Leah masquerades as her sister. So much irony here!
Jacob and Rebekah deceived Isaac with the smell of Esau’s clothing, pretend hairy skin, and a tasty meal. Now Jacob, the deceiver, is deceived by a veil, the darkness, and tasty wine. Just as Jacob took advantage of Isaac’s blindness, Laban has now taken advantage of Jacob’s blindness. Gal 6:7 tells us “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap
Its interesting that 2000 years ago, the Roman historian Josephus wrote that “Jacob was deluded by wine and the dark”. Some scholars also make the point that the last time the Bible uses the same words here for “younger and older daughters”, it did so in describing the two daughters of Lot, who, if you remember back in chapter 19, got there father drunk and had sex with him.
But Laban responds to Jacob, and tells him that this is not their custom, to marry off the younger daughter before the older. We don’t pick up on it in English, but the construction here in Hebrew is that Laban is sort of faking moral outrage, that he is offended that Jacob would not honor tradition, as if Jacob had done something wrong. But certainly, an honest man would have been more clear about the customs and traditions from the beginning, and so Laban’s self-righteousness here is hypocritical.
Laban continues, and tells Jacob to “Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” IOW, complete another seven years, and I will give you Rachel as well.
Now, a lot of people misunderstand this part. Many people think that Jacob had to wait another seven years before marrying Rachel, but that is not accurate. What Laban is saying here is, wait one week, literally meaning, “the week of this one”, referring to Leah. This week was the bridal week, and was the seven days of feasting in celebration of a marriage. So wait one this one week, and I will also give you Rachel, provided you work for me for another seven years! So the additional seven years was the amount of time Jacob had to work for Laban, not the amount of time he had to wait to marry Rachel. He only had to wait an additional seven days to marry Rachel.
And what did Jacob do? It tells us that Jacob did so. He waited out the additional seven days, and Laban gave him Rachel as well. Laban must have trusted that Jacob would honor the terms of the deal.
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.
Now these last five verses of this chapter record the first four births of Jacob’s children. And if the names of the children sound familiar to you, they should. These will go on to become the 12 tribes of Israel.
It’s interesting to note that each of these women has something the other wants. Leah has sons, Rachel has love.
It tells us that the loved wife, Rachel, was barren. This also sounds a bit familiar, as we discussed a similar situation with Abraham and Sarah. But God had mercy on Leah, the wife that was unloved, by Jacob, just as he had done with Hagar, when he blessed her with Abraham’s son Ishmael. In fact, Leah will go on to have more children than the other three women combined. This section records the births of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.
If Judah sounds familiar, there is a reason. Judah is part of the messianic line. In fact, Jesus is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah. You see, the first time Jesus came as a lamb.The lamb that would be sacrificed. But when he returns, it won’t be as a lamb, but as a Lion. And isn’t it interesting that God would look down upon Leah, the unloved wife, have compassion on her and bless her with children, and even have her give birth to Judah, the line from which Jesus would come.
In Rev 5:2-5, we read about the scene around God’s throne …2- And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, (now John knew the consequences of this, and so he continues and says) 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. “ And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Now, I’m not going to get deep into Revelation right here, because in fact, I plan on going through the book of Revelation once we finish Genesis, but I would like to simply end this episode with a few more verses from this scene in Revelation, with no commentary on my part, just allowing scripture to tell you a little more about Jesus, the meshiak negid, the Messiah the King, this Lion of the tribe of Judah.
Revelation tells us…”Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”