Jacob chances upon Laban’s daughter Rachel in the eastern desert and immediately shows her affection. Jacob moves in with Laban, who allows him to work seven years to marry Rachel. On the wedding night, Jacob is given Laban’s other daughter Leah and her servant Zilpah instead of Rachel and her servant Bilhah. Jacob agrees to work another seven years for Rachel, and is given Rachel and Bilhah in a week’s time. Although Jacob loves Rachel more than Leah, Rachel is barren but Leah gives birth to Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.
Time means nothing to Jacob: “So Jacob served [Laban] seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.” (v. 20)
III. Select Verses
7-12: He said, “Look, it is still broad daylight; it is not time for the animals to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” 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.” While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep; for she kept them. Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud. 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.
21-30: Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, 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?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife. (Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her maid.) So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. He served Laban for another seven years.
31: When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.
34: Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons”; therefore he was named Levi.
1-12. Jacob meets Rachel
1-3. Jacob encounters a group of shepherds at a well in the eastern desert
4-6. The men come from Haran, and even have Laban’s daughter Rachel with them
7-8. The shepherds could not set out without removing the well’s top stone
9-10. Jacob removes the stone when Rachel arrives and waters her sheep
11-12. Jacob kisses Rachel and explains their relationship
13-30. Laban tricks Jacob, who marries Leah and Rachel
13-14. Laban hears the news and Jacob stays with him for one month
15-19. Jacob agrees to work for Laban for seven years to marry his daughter Rachel, not her sister Leah
20. Jacob serves seven years, which pass quickly due to his love for Rachel
21-22. Upon Jacob’s request, Laban organizes a wedding meal
23-24. Laban gives Leah, who has a servant named Zilpah, to Jacob at night, and he sleeps with her
25. Jacob confronts Laban the next morning
26-27. Laban explains that the oldest must marry first and offers Rachel for another seven years of work
28-29. After one week’s time, Jacob is given Rachel, who has a servant named Bilhah
30a. Jacob sleeps with Rachel, who he loves more than Leah
30b. Jacob serves Laban another seven years
31-35. Jacob and Leah’s four sons
31. Yahweh opens Leah’s womb because she is not loved; Rachel is barren
32. Leah’s first son is named Reuben because Yahweh has “seen (ra’ah) my affliction (be‘onyi)”
33. Leah’s second son is named Simeon because Yahweh has “heard” (shama‘) that she is “hated” (senuah)
34. Leah’s third son is named Levi because her husband is now “attached” (l-v-y) to her
35a. Leah’s fourth son is named Judah because she can now give thanks (y-[h]-d-h)
35b. Leah ceases to have children [for now]
This chapter has two unexpected, if not comical twists. In the previous chapter, Jacob’s journey began splendidly with a vision of Yahweh in Bethel. The good fortune continued into this chapter when Jacob reached the eastern desert, where he chanced upon Rachel at a well and followed her to her father’s home. Then, after working seven years to marry Rachel, everything goes wrong on his wedding night. Jacob is given Leah, who he does not love, and needs to work another seven years for Rachel. To make matters worse, he is only given children with Leah, not his beloved Rachel. The second twist is that Jacob, who coerced his brother into selling his birthright and tricked his father into giving him a blessing, is the one who is tricked. Although he does not know it, Jacob sleeps with Leah, not Rachel, on his wedding night.
VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
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