Genesis 30: Jacob’s Wives Give Birth to More Children; Jacob Swindles Laban 


Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Bilhah gives birth to Dan and Naphtali, Zilpah gives birth to Gad and Asher, Leah gives birth to Issachar and Zebulun, and, after acquiring mandrakes from Leah, Rachel gives birth to Joseph. Jacob informs Laban that he has served his time and is ready to leave, and Laban allows him to take any brown sheep and multi-colored goats. Jacob figures out how to breed these animals from Laban’s flock and grows very wealthy.

II. Photo

Jacob asks Laban for brown and multi-colored animals: “Let me pass through your whole flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted animal — every brown sheep and every spotted and speckled goat. Such shall be my wages.” (v. 32)

III. Select Verses

22: Now God remembered Rachel; God heeded her and opened her womb.

31-43: He said, “What shall I pay you?” And Jacob said, “Pay me nothing! If you will do this thing for me, I will again pasture and keep your flocks: let me pass through your whole flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted animal — every dark-colored sheep and every spotted and speckled goat. Such shall be my wages. In the future when you go over my wages, let my honesty toward you testify for me: if there are among my goats any that are not speckled or spotted or any sheep that are not dark-colored, they got there by theft.” And Laban said, “Very well, let it be as you say.”  But that same day he removed the streaked and spotted he-goats and all the speckled and spotted she-goats — every one that had white on it — and all the dark-colored sheep, and left them in the charge of his sons. And he put a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob was pasturing the rest of Laban’s flock. Jacob then got fresh shoots of poplar, and of almond and plane, and peeled white stripes in them, laying bare the white of the shoots. The rods that he had peeled he set up in front of the goats in the troughs, the water receptacles, that the goats came to drink from. Their mating occurred when they came to drink, and since the goats mated by the rods, the goats brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted young. But Jacob dealt separately with the sheep; he made these animals face the streaked or wholly dark-colored animals in Laban’s flock. And so he produced special flocks for himself, which he did not put with Laban’s flocks.  Moreover, when the sturdier animals were mating, Jacob would place the rods in the troughs, in full view of the animals, so that they mated by the rods;  but with the feebler animals he would not place them there. Thus the feeble ones went to Laban and the sturdy to Jacob. So the man grew exceedingly prosperous, and came to own large flocks, maidservants and menservants, camels and asses.

IV. Outline

1-8. Rachel provides Jacob offspring through Bilhah

    1. Rachel complains to Jacob about her barrenness

    2. Jacob pushes back, saying it is in god’s control

    3-4. Rachel gives Jacob her servant Bilhah to produce offspring

    5-6. Bilhah gives birth to a son and Rachel names him Dan because Yahweh has “judged” (dan) her

    7-8. Bilhah gives birth to a second son and Rachel names him Naphtali because she has had godly “twists” (niftalti) with her sister but prevailed

9-13. Leah provides Jacob offspring through Zilpah

    9. After seeing Bilhah give birth, Leah gives her servant Zilpah to Jacob for offspring

    10-11. Leah names Zilpah’s first son Gad (fortune)

    12-13. Leah names Zilpah’s second son Asher (happiness/blessing) 

14-21. Leah gives birth to two more sons and a daughter

    14a. Reuben finds mandrakes in the field

    14b-15. Rachel trades her night with Jacob for Leah’s son’s mandrakes

    16. Leah sleeps with Jacob

    17-18. Leah has a fifth son and names him Issachar as a “reward” (sekhar) for giving Zilpah to Jacob

    19-20. Leah has a sixth son and names him Zebulun because Jacob will “exalt” (yizbeleni) her for providing six sons

    21. Leah has a daughter named Dinah

22-24. Rachel gives birth to a son

    22. Yahweh opens Rachel’s womb

    23-24. Rachel names her first son Joseph because Yahweh has “gathered in” (’asaf) her shame

25-43. Jacob swindles Laban as he prepares to leave Haran

    25-26. Jacob tells Laban he is ready to go home with his wives and children 

    27-34. Laban agrees to let Jacob leave with any brown sheep or multi-colored goats

    35-36. Jacob removes the said goats, gives them to his sons, and seperates them from Laban’s flock by a distance of three days

    37-39. Using white rods as visual stimulation, Jacob breeds multi-colored goats from amongst Laban’s animals

    40. Using brown sheep as stimulation, Jacob breeds brown sheep from Laban’s animals

    41-42. Jacob would only do this with the strong offspring, thereby leaving the weak to Laban

    43. Jacob grew wealthy, owning great flocks, slaves, and riding animals

V. Comment

Three notes:

  • It is only after Rachel gives birth that Jacob is ready to return home. This might be coincidence, meaning Rachel gave birth at exactly the seventh year of her marriage, which was the fourteen year mark of Jacob’s stay. It might also be a sign of Jacob’s love for Rachel, meaning he was only ready to leave once she gave birth.
  • The last episode of this chapter, in which Jacob breeds a strong flock for himself, is both fascinating and perplexing. As Gordon J. Wenham points out, it is helpful to recall that sheep are normally white and goats are normally black, so the speckled, spotted, and brown animals Jacob takes are neither white nor black. Jacob’s breeding tactics rely on the assumption that the color of the children are determined by the color that the parents saw during intercourse. Also, using a more scientifically explainable method, Jacob mates the strong animals amongst themselves, thereby creating a strong group of offspring. He also mates the weak animals amongst themselves, thereby creating a weak group of offspring.
  • As Wenham points out, “This story [about the flocks] has always given listeners and readers a great sense of satisfaction. The mean old cheat Laban at last meets his comeuppance at the hands of his nephew Jacob, whom he had so unkindly cheated out of Rachel on his wedding day.” (260)

VI. Works Used

Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 16-50 (Grand Rapids, Michigan : Zondervan, 2000).

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 29: Jacob Finds Rachel; Laban Tricks Jacob; Leah Gives Birth to Four Sons 

time-is-broken-2-by-applepo3-320x214Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

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.

II. Photo

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.

IV. Outline

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]

V. Comment

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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Genesis 28: Jacob Leaves for Haran and Encounters Yahweh in a Night Vision at Bethel

c76762b310f1a113a87108f9eb1da5abHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Isaac sends Jacob to Rebekah’s family in Haran to find a non-Canaanite bride. Esau marries a non-Canaanite daughter of Ishmael to please his father. On his journey, Jacob has a night vision of a ladder stretching from earth to heaven with angels on it and Yahweh above it. Yahweh promises to return Jacob to his land and to provide him with abundant offspring. Jacob sets up a pillar in that place, which he names Bethel (“the house of god”), and vows that a temple will be built there.

II. Photo

Jacob can see to the heavens: “And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” (v. 12)

III. Select Verses

3-5: May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and numerous, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give to you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your offspring with you, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien—land that God gave to Abraham.” Thus Isaac sent Jacob away; and he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.

8-9: So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please his father Isaac, Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael, and sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.

10-15: Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring;  and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16-18: Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

19-22: He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one tenth to you.”

IV. Outline

1-5. Isaac sends Jacob to Haran [along the upper Euphrates] to find a wife from Laban’s daughters and affirms that Abraham’s blessing belongs to him

6-9. Esau observes and marries the non-Canaanite Mahalath, a daughter of Ishmael, to please Isaac

10. Jacob sets off for Haran

11-22. Jacob encounters Yahweh in heaven at Bethel

11-15. In a dream, Jacob sees Yahweh on a ladder with angels, and Yahweh promises to give him many offspring and to return him to his land

16-17. Jacob awakes, realizing he is at the gate to heaven

18. Jacob sets up the stone he was sleeping on as a pillar and anoints it with oil

19. Jacob renames the site Bethel (the house of god); it was formally named Luz

20-22. Jacob’s vow: if Yahweh sustains him and returns him, the stone will become Yahweh’s temple, and Jacob will offer 1/10 of his possessions to Yahweh

V. Comment

Jacob’s vision at Bethel will become a recurring theme in the ongoing narrative. In Genesis 31:13, Yahweh introduces himself as follows.

  • I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me.

This event is mentioned three times in chapter 35, verses 1, 3, and 7:

  • God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel, and settle there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”
  • “Then come, let us go up to Bethel, that I may make an altar there to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”
  • And there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because it was there that God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 27: Rebekah Helps Jacob Steal Esau’s Blessing From Isaac

3Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Isaac, who has become blind in his old age, prepares to give Esau a final blessing over a meal. While Esau is out hunting, Rebekah has Jacob trick his father so that Jacob receives Esau’s blessing of agricultural sustenance and power over his brothers. When Esau returns, Isaac blesses him to be a nomad who will break free of his enslavement. Esau is bitter and prepares to kill Jacob. Rebekah readies Jacob to flee to her brother in Mesopotamia.

II. Photo

Rebekah disguises Jacob: “Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob” (v. 15)

III. Select Verses

5-17: Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food to eat, that I may bless you before the LORD before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. Go to the flock, and get me two choice kids, so that I may prepare from them savory food for your father, such as he likes; and you shall take it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.”But Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, “Look, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a man of smooth skin. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him, and bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.” His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my word, and go, get them for me.” So he went and got them and brought them to his mother; and his mother prepared savory food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.

28-29: May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

38-40: Esau said to his father, “Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. Then his father Isaac answered him: “See, away from the fatness of the earth shall your home be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you break loose, you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

41: Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

IV. Outline

1-40. Rebekah helps Jacob steal Esau’s blessing    

    1a. Isaac was old and blind

    1b-4. Isaac asks Esau to hunt game so that he can bless him before he dies

    5-10. Rebekah overhears and tells Jacob to prepare a meal as a ruse

    11-12. Jacob points out that Esau is hairy but he is not

    13. Rebekah insists, taking any blame upon herself

    14-17. Rebekah prepares the meal and puts the goat skins on Jacob’s hands and neck

    18-27. Despite his many suspicions, Isaac is convinced that it is Esau who has brought him a meal

    28-29. Isaac blesses his “firstborn” with sustenance and power over his brothers

    30-31. Esau returns and prepares a meal

    32-38. Isaac explains what has transpired, Esau is distraught, and Esau asks for a different blessing

    39-40. Isaac blesses Esau with a nomadic lifestyle, initial servitude, and eventual freedom

41-46. Rebekah readies Jacob to flee

    41. Esau plans to kill Jacob after Isaac’s death

    42-45. Rebekah hears and tells Jacob to flee to her brother Laban in Haran [along the upper Euphrates]

    46. Rebekah expresses her dissatisfaction with the Hittite women, thereby suggesting that Jacob leave Canaan

V. Comment

Note: verse 36 has a second etymology for the name Jacob, this time from Esau’s perspective:

Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob (ya‘qov)? For he has supplanted me (ya‘aqveni) these two times. He took away my birthright (bekhorati); and look, now he has taken away my blessing (birkhati).”

The original etymology, based on Jacob holding on to Esau’s heel during their twin birth, appeared in Genesis 25:26.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 26: Isaac’s Adversarial Relationship with the Philistines; Esau’s Marriages

Fresh water from new well

Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

A famine strikes and Isaac settles in Philistine Gerar, where he presents Rebekah as his sister, gains protection from the king, and becomes very wealthy. The Philistines grow jealous and send him on his way to Beer Sheba. Isaac makes an oath (sh-v-‘) of peace with the Philistine king Abimelech, hence the name Beer Sheba (the well of sh-v-‘). Esau marries two Hittite girls, causing distress to his parents Isaac and Rebekah.

II. Photo

Water is found in Beer Sheba: “That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they had dug, and said to him, ‘We have found water!’”  (v. 32)

III. Select Verses

1-5: Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar, to King Abimelech of the Philistines. The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; settle in the land that I shall show you. Reside in this land as an alien, and I will be with you, and will bless you; for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will fulfill the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and will give to your offspring all these lands; and all the nations of the earth shall gain blessing for themselves through your offspring, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

7-10: When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “My wife,” thinking, “or else the men of the place might kill me for the sake of Rebekah, because she is attractive in appearance.” When Isaac had been there a long time, King Abimelech of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw him fondling his wife Rebekah. So Abimelech called for Isaac, and said, “So she is your wife! Why then did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought I might die because of her.” Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”

12-14: Isaac sowed seed in that land, and in the same year reaped a hundredfold. The LORD blessed him, and the man became rich; he prospered more and more until he became very wealthy.  He had possessions of flocks and herds, and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him.

23-25: From there he went up to Beer-sheba. And that very night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you and make your offspring numerous for my servant Abraham’s sake.” So he built an altar there, called on the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.

34-35: When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite; and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.

IV. Outline

1-6. Isaac travels to Gerar

    1a. Another famine hits the land

    1b. Isaac travels to Abimelech, king of the Philistines in Gerar

    2-5. Yahweh tells Isaac to stay in the land and recapitulates his covenant with Abraham

    6. Isaac remains in Gerar

7-11. Isaac presents Rebekah as his sister

    7. Isaac presents Rebekah as his sister to save his own life

    8. Abimelech catches Isaac (root: tz-h-q) playing romantically (root tz-h-q) with Rebekah

    9-10. Abimelech chastises Isaac for potentially bringing punishment upon the Philistines, who would have slept with Rebekah

    11. Abimelech warns the Philistines not to touch Isaac or Rebekah

12-22. Isaac in Philistia 

    12-13. Isaac becomes a wealthy farmer in Philistia

    14-15. The Philistines grew envious and stopped up the wells dug by Abraham’s servants

    16. Abimelech tells Isaac to leave

    17. Isaac settles in the valley of Gerar and re-dug the wells of his father, giving them names

    19-20. The Philistines claimed the “contention” well their own

    21. The Philistines claimed the “hostility” well their own

    22. Isaac dug another well named Rehoboth “widening,” which he kept, because Yahweh made room for him to flourish

23-33. Isaac in Beer Sheba

    23. Isaac travels to Beer Sheba

    24. Yahweh appears to Isaac in a dream, blessing him with numerous offspring

    25a. Isaac builds an altar and calls in the name of Yahweh

    25b. Isaac’s servants dig a well there

    26-31. Abimelech comes to Isaac, makes an oath (shevuah) of peace over a meal, and departs in peace

    32-33. Isaac’s servants found water in their well, Isaac named the well “oath” (shevuah), hence the name Beer Sheba 

34-35. Troubles with Esau

    34. Esau marries Judith and Basemath, daughters of Hittites, at the age of forty

    35. This causes problems for Isaac and Rebekah

V. Comment


  • Regarding Isaac calling his wife Rebekah his “sister,” see Abraham’s similar actions with Sarah/Sarai in Egypt (Genesis 12:10-20) and in Gerar with Abimelech (Genesis 20:1-18).
  • Regarding the naming of Beer Sheba (verses 26-33), see Genesis 21:25-31 where the name is a reference to the seven (sheva’) ewes Abraham gave to Abimelech as proof that Abraham dug the well.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 25: The Death of Abraham; The Death of Ishmael; The Birth of Esau and Isaac; Jacob Purchases the Birthright

Curried-Lamb-Lentil-and-Root-Vegetable-StewHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Abraham, whose offspring with Keturah are listed, leaves everything he owns to Isaac, dies at the age of 175, and is buried alongside Sarah at the Cave of Machpelah. Ishmael, whose twelve sons are listed, dies at the age of 137. After twenty years of barrenness, Yahweh grants Rebekah and Isaac twins named Esau and Isaac. Jacob sells Esau some stew for Esau’s birthright.

II. Photo

Esau gives away his birthright for some stew: “Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (v. 34)

III. Select Verses

1:Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah.

5-6: Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, while he was still living, and he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.

8-10: Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with his wife Sarah.

11: After the death of Abraham God blessed his son Isaac. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi.

16: These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes.

21-26:  Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

29-34: Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

IV. Outline

1-6. Abraham’s other children

    1. Abraham marries Keturah

    2-4. Abraham’s offspring with Keturah

    5. Abraham gives everything to Isaac

    6. Abraham gives his other sons gifts and sends them to the eastern desert

7-10. Abraham dies

    6-8. Abraham dies at 175 years old

    9-10. Isaac and Ishmael bury him next to Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah

    11. Yahweh blesses Isaac, who settles in Beer Sheba

12-18. The death and offspring of Ishmael

    12. Introduction

    13a. Introduction (again)

    13b-16. Ishmael’s twelve sons, chieftains of twelve tribes

    17. Ishmael dies at 137 years old

    18. Ishmael’s descendants dwelled from Egypt to Assyria

19-34. The story of Isaac begins

    19. Introduction

    20-26. The birth of Esau and Jacob

        20. Isaac was forty when he married Rebekah

        21. Isaac prays for Rebekah, who is barren [for 20 years, see v. 26], and Yahweh hears his prayer

        22. Rebekah has incredible pain

        23. Yahweh explains that she has twins, and the older will serve the younger 

        24-26a. The first twin is red (’edom, see v. 30) and hairy and named Esau, the second is gripping his heel (‘eqev) so is named Jacob (ya‘aqov)

        26b. Isaac was sixty at this time

    27-28. Esau grows to be a hunter loved by Isaac, Jacob a “tent dweller” (homebody? shepherd?) loved by Rebekah

    29-34. Jacob acquires Esau’s birthright

        29. Jacob cooks a stew and Esau arrives hungry

        30. Esau asks for the red (’edom) stew, hence Esau is called Edom [a nation in Transjordan]

        31-33. Esau is famished, so he trades Jacob his birthright 

        34. Esau recovers and hates the birthright

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

Photo copied from

Genesis 24: Abraham’s Servant Finds Isaac a Wife Named Rebekah 

06062rHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Abraham sends his servant to his relatives in Mesopotamia to find a wife for his son Isaac. Yahweh provides the servant with a sign by sending Rebekah to give him and his ten camels water to drink. Rebekah is brought from her family to Isaac, who finds comfort in her after the death of his mother Sarah.

II. Photo

Rebekah is the chosen one: “Quickly emptying her jar into the trough, she ran back to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels.” (v. 20)

III. Select Verses

2-4:  And Abraham said to the senior servant of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, “Put your hand under my thigh and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell, but will go to the land of my birth and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

12-24: And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, grant me good fortune this day, and deal graciously with my master Abraham: Here I stand by the spring as the daughters of the townsmen come out to draw water; let the maiden to whom I say, ‘Please, lower your jar that I may drink,’ and who replies, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels’ — let her be the one whom You have decreed for Your servant Isaac. Thereby shall I know that You have dealt graciously with my master.”  He had scarcely finished speaking, when Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, the son of Milcah the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor, came out with her jar on her shoulder. The maiden was very beautiful, a virgin whom no man had known. She went down to the spring, filled her jar, and came up.  The servant ran toward her and said, “Please, let me sip a little water from your jar.” “Drink, my lord,” she said, and she quickly lowered her jar upon her hand and let him drink. When she had let him drink his fill, she said, “I will also draw for your camels, until they finish drinking.” Quickly emptying her jar into the trough, she ran back to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels. The man, meanwhile, stood gazing at her, silently wondering whether the LORD had made his errand successful or not. When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold nose-ring weighing a half-shekel, and two gold bands for her arms, ten shekels in weight. “Pray tell me,” he said, “whose daughter are you? Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” She replied, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.”

58-60: They called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will.” So they sent off their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “O sister! May you grow Into thousands of myriads; May your offspring seize The gates of their foes.”

67: Isaac then brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he took Rebekah as his wife. Isaac loved her, and thus found comfort after his mother’s death.

IV. Outline

1. Abraham’s old age

2-9. Abraham’s servant swears to get a bride for Isaac from Abraham’s homeland instead of Canaan, assuming she agrees

10-11. The servant travels to Nahor in Mesopotamia with ten camels [and men – v. 32], and stops at a well

12-14. The servant asks Yahweh for a sign: a girl who will not only give him water, but his camels too

15-20. Rebekah, the beautiful virgin daughter of Abraham’s nephew, acts out the servant’s sign

22-25. The servant gives Rebekah golden jewelry; Rebekah reveals her lineage; The servant is granted lodging for the night

26-27. The servant blesses Yahweh for guiding him to the house of Nahor, Abraham’s brother

28. Rebekah tells her mother’s household of the events

29-32. Rebekah’s brother Laban brings the servant and his men into the home, washes their feet, and feeds the camels

33. The servant is offered food, but demands to speak

37-49. The servant recounts his story in great detail and asks for Rebekah

50-51. Laban and Bethuel agree

52-53. The servant bows before Yahweh and gives presents to Rebekah, Laban, and his mother

54-59. Despite a debate about time, the servant is permitted to leave immediately with Rebekah, who agrees to the plan

60. Rebekah’s family blesses her

61. Rebekah and her servant girls leave with the servant

62-65. Rebekah falls off her camel when she first sees Isaac

66-67. Isaac takes Rebekah into his mother’s tent and finds comfort after his mother’s death


V. Comment

A few notes:

  • Verse 7 appears to be yet another retelling of the covenant between Abraham and Yahweh, this time from Abraham’s perspective.
  • Nahor is both the name of the place where the story unfolds and the name of the brother of Abraham (vv. 10, 15).
  • According to Genesis 22:21-23 and verses 15, 24, and 47 of our chapter, Nahor is the brother of Abraham, Bethuel is Nahor and Milcah’s son, and Rebekah is Bethuel’s daughter. Laban is Rebekah’s brother and Bethuel’s son.
  • Rebekah runs to the “house of her mother,” a phrase that appears only four times in the Bible (Gen 24:28; Ruth 1:8; Song 3:4; 8:2), compared to the one hundred and forty occurrences of the “house of the father.” The mother also plays a role in verse 53 and 55.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

Photo copied from

The Second Book of Samuel: Synopsis, Outline, Chapter-by-Chapter Summaries

The beginning of II Samuel in the Aleppo Codex, written ca. 930 CE

The Second Book of Samuel (Hebrew-English Text) contains twenty-four chapters and continues where the First Book of Samuel left off. The first portion (chs. 1-10) recounts David’s solidification of power and his successes as the second king of Israel. The second portion (chs. 11-24) recounts David’s sins of murder and adultery and the hard times that follow. These include the death of his child, a civil war by another son, exile, the loss of his wives to another man, a second civil war, a famine, and a plague brought on by David’s sinful census. Despite these punishments, David remains a legitimate king and a devotee of Yahweh.


Outline (by chapter)

1-10. David solidifies his power and begins his rule successfully 

    1. David mourns Saul and Jonathan 

    2-4. David, who is anointed king in Hebron, outperforms and outlives Saul’s heir

    5a. David captures Jerusalem

    5b-6. David conquers the Philistines and returns the ark to Jerusalem

    7. Yahweh’s promise of kingship to David

    8. David’s military victories and leading men (first list)

    9. David honors a descendant of Saul and Jonathan

    10. The Ammonite war (Part I)

11-24. David’s sin and the hard times that follow

    11-12a. David’s sin with Batsheba and the naming of his punishment

    12b. The birth of Solomon

    12c. The Ammonite war (Part II)

    13. David’s son Absalom avenges the rape of his sister

    14-19. Absalom rebels, causing David to flee Jerusalem, but is eventually defeated by David, who returns to Jerusalem

    20a. Sheba’s failed coup

    20b. David’s leading men (second list)

    21a. David hands over Saul’s descendants to death to prevent a famine

    21b. David is nearly killed in a victory over the Philistines and is forced to retire from war

    22. David’s Thanksgiving psalm for being saved from death (=Psalm 18)

    23a. David’s theophany about the just rewards of doing good and evil

    23b. A list of David’s mighty warriors

    24. David’s sinful census and the plague that follows


Chapter-by-chapter summaries

2 Samuel 1, David Mourns Saul and Jonathan: An Amalekite tells David how he killed Saul to end his suffering. David kills the Amalekite and composes a lament for Saul and Jonathan.

2 Samuel 2, Two Kings in Israel: David moves to Hebron and is anointed king of Judah. Saul’s son Ish-bosheth is anointed king of the other tribes. The generals of the two sides lead their armies into an internecine battle.

2 Samuel 3, David’s Rise; Abner’s Untimely Death: After having a falling-out with Ish-bosheth, Abner and his forces join David’s side. Joab avenges his brother’s death by killing Abner. David mourns for Abner and protests his own innocence.

2 Samuel 4, Ish-bosheth is Murdered; David Avenges his Death: Rechab and Baanah secretly murder Ish-bosheth. They tell David about their deed and he has them both put to death. Ish-bosheth’s head is buried in Abner’s grave.

2 Samuel 5, David is Anointed; David Conquers Jerusalem; David Defeats the Philistines: All of the tribes anoint David as king of Israel. David captures Jerusalem from the Jebusites and makes it his stronghold. He then routs the Philistines who assemble against him.

2 Samuel 6, Uzzah is Killed; The Ark is Moved to Jerusalem; Michal’s Punishment: God kills Uzzah for touching the ark. David transfers the ark to Jerusalem amidst a spectacular celebration. After rebuking David for his foolish dancing, Michal is punished with barrenness.

2 Samuel 7, God’s Promise to Perpetuate the Davidic Dynasty: David expresses his desire to build the temple. Although God rejects David’s request, he promises to perpetuate the Davidic dynasty forever. David prays to God and asks him to uphold his promise.

2 Samuel 8, David’s Military Might: David is victorious over the Philistines, Moabites, Arameans, Edomites, and the king of Zobah. David acquires great wealth and rules his kingdom righteously. His cabinet members are enumerated.

2 Samuel 9, David Honors Mephibosheth: David wishes to honor one of Jonathan’s descendants. He finds his son Mephibosheth and gives him land, grants him servants, and feeds him in Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 10, David Defeats the Ammonites and Arameans: David sends courtiers to the king of Ammon and they are publicly humiliated. David assembles his army and routs the Ammonite and the Aramean armies.

2 Samuel 11, David and Batsheba – Adultery and Murder: David impregnates a married woman named Batsheba. He attempts to cover up the pregnancy by having Batsheba’s husband sleep with her, but her husband refuses to do so. David has the husband killed and takes Batsheba as his own wife.

2 Samuel 12, David’s Punishment; Solomon’s Birth; The Ammonite Capital is Captured: Nathan condemns David by telling him a parable and predicting family difficulties. David and Batsheba’s son dies, but the two have a second son named Solomon. David’s general conquers the Ammonite capital.

2 Samuel 13, An Incestuous Rape; Absalom’s Revenge: Amnon rapes his sister Tamar. Absalom kills Amnon and flees from his father David.

2 Samuel 14, Absalom is Brought to Jerusalem: After pardoning a man for killing his brother, David decides to forgive Absalom for killing Amnon. Absalom is brought to Jerusalem to meet with David.

2 Samuel 15, Absalom’s Rebellion: Absalom leads a revolt and forces David to flee Jerusalem. David sends spies to Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 16, David’s Decline: Ziba supports David and accuses Mephibosheth of treason. David shows restraint when Shimei hurls epithets and stones at him. Absalom sleeps with David’s concubines in Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 17, Hushai Saves David’s Life: Hushai delays Ahitophel’s attack on David. David escapes and Ahitophel commits suicide. David’s and Absalom’s forces prepare for battle.

2 Samuel 18, David is Victorious; Absalom is Killed: David’s army routs Absalom’s forces. Absalom gets tangled in a tree and is killed by Joab. Messengers tell David about the battle and the death of his son.

2 Samuel 19, David’s Rise: David weeps for his son. He makes his way back to Jerusalem, pardons those who wronged him, and honors those who honored him.

2 Samuel 20, Sheba’s Revolt: Sheba leads the Israelites away from David. Joab pursues Sheba and besieges him in the city of Abel. The siege ends when Joab is given Sheba’s severed head.

2 Samuel 21, A Deal with the Gibeonites; David’s Close Call; Victory in Philistia: Saul’s descendants are killed by the Gibeonites. After a close call in battle, David retires from the military. His men defeat many Philistine warriors.

2 Samuel 22 (≈Psalm 18), David’s Thanksgiving Song: David sings a thanksgiving song praising Yahweh for saving him from his enemies.

2 Samuel 23, David’s Theophany; David’s Warriors: David relates a message he once received from God. David’s warriors and their military exploits are enumerated.

2 Samuel 24, David’s Census and its Repercussions: David takes a census of the people. God is enraged and kills 70,000 Israelites with a plague. David propitiates God with burnt sacrifices.

Genesis 23: The Death and Burial of Sarah

silver coins bagHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Sarah dies and Abraham buys the cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite and buries her in it.

II. Photo

Abraham buys the cave of Machpelah: “Abraham paid out to Ephron the money that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites — four hundred shekels of silver at the going merchants’ rate.” (v. 16)

III. Select Verses

1-2: Sarah’s lifetime — the span of Sarah’s life — came to one hundred and twenty-seven years. Sarah died in Kiriath-arba — now Hebron — in the land of Canaan; and Abraham proceeded to mourn for Sarah and to bewail her.

17-20: So Ephron’s land in Machpelah, near Mamre — the field with its cave and all the trees anywhere within the confines of that field — passed to Abraham as his possession, in the presence of the Hittites, of all who entered the gate of his town. And then Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre — now Hebron — in the land of Canaan. Thus the field with its cave passed from the Hittites to Abraham, as a burial site.

IV. Outline

1. The years of Sarah’s life

2a. Sarah’s death

2b-4. Abraham mourns and asks the Hittites for a burial plot

5-6. The Hittites grant Abraham his request

7-9. Abraham asks for the Machpelah cave from Ephron at full price

10-16. Abraham and Ephron agree on a 400 sheqel price and make the transaction

17-18. The transaction is made before the Hittites

19. Abraham buries Sarah

20. Summary: Abraham bought the cave from the Hittites for burial

V. Comment

Although Genesis 23 concerns the death and burial of Sarah, only three verses are devoted to that topic (1-2, 19). The rest of the chapter concerns Abraham’s purchase of the cave of Machpelah in order to bury Sarah, not the burial itself. Stephen C. Russell notes a number of peculiarities in this chapter including the impression that Abraham buys the field from Ephron and the Hittites, not just from Ephron. This can be seen from the initial discussion between Abraham and the Hittites that do not involve Ephron (vv. 3-10), the emphasis that the field was sold “in the presence of the Hittites” (v. 18), and the repetition that the “cave passed from the Hittites to Abraham” (v. 20). Another peculiarity is that the purpose of the acquisition, i.e., the burial of Sarah, is mentioned excessively (vss. 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13) whereas the actual burial is only devoted one verse (v. 19). For Russell, these peculiarities can be explained with an understanding ancient and modern tribal economies. In some tribal societies, ownership is not exclusive to one person; many people can have different types of rights to one piece of land. A king might own the rights to choose what a piece of land is used for and who gets to use it, though the king may not have the right to use it himself. Similarly, a citizen might own the rights to use a piece of land for pasture but not agriculture, and the king may be able to grant the land to another family upon his death. This joint ownership is attested in documents from ancient Mari and Ugarit, which mention sales “from so-and-so and the king” and sales “from so-and-so and the tribal elders.” In the case of our chapter, Abraham is buying the cave of Machpelah from two parties. First, he buys the rights to use the land as a burial cave from the Hittite elders, who serve as wardens. Second, he buys the cave from Ephron, who had been using it for another purpose. According to Russell, “Abraham seeks the right to use land in a particular way: as a burial site. As such he requires rights that will be transferable to his heirs. Although Ephron has an estate of production in the land, the Bnei Heth hold an estate of administration in Ephron’s land. Their involvement in the transaction thus guarantees the permanent transfer to Abraham of rights to use the land as a burial site, including the right to bequeath the land to his heirs.” (170)

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

Stephen C. Russell, “Abraham’s Purchase of Ephron’s Land in Anthropological Perspective,” Biblical Interpretation 21-2 (2013), 153-170.

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Genesis 22: The Test of Abraham with Isaac; The Genealogy of Nahor

tied hands ropeHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Yahweh commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac and Abraham lifts the knife in readiness. Yahweh stops Abraham and blesses him with powerful and numerous offspring. The descendants of Abraham’s brother Nahor are listed.

II. Photo

Abraham is prepared to sacrifice his son: “He bound his son Isaac; he laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham picked up the knife to slay his son.” (vv. 9-10)

III. Select Verses

1-2:  Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test. He said to him, “Abraham,” and he answered, “Here I am.” And He said, “Take your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you.”

6-8: Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac. He himself took the firestone and the knife; and the two walked off together. Then Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he answered, “Yes, my son.” And he said, “Here are the firestone and the wood; but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “God will see to the sheep for His burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them walked on together.

9-13: They arrived at the place of which God had told him. Abraham built an altar there; he laid out the wood; he bound his son Isaac; he laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to slay his son.  Then an angel of the LORD called to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham!” And he answered, “Here I am.”  And he said, “Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from Me.” When Abraham looked up, his eye fell upon a ram, caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son.

15-18: The angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I swear, the LORD declares: Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your favored one, I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore; and your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed My command.”

IV. Outline

1-19. The test of Abraham

    1a. Introduction to Abraham’s test

    1b-2. Yahweh tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in Moriah

    3. Abraham prepares for the sacrifice and journey

    4-6. On the third day of the journey, Abraham and Isaac arrive

    7-8. Isaac asks where the sheep is, Abraham replies that Yahweh will provide

    9-10. Abraham binds Isaac to an altar and prepares to slaughter him

    11-12. A messenger of Yahweh tells Abraham to stop; it is now known Abraham fears Yahweh

    13. Abraham sacrifices a ram that appears in the thicket

    14. Abraham names the site “Yahweh appears”

    15-18. Yahweh blesses Abraham via a messenger with numerous, powerful, and blessed descendants

    19. Abraham returns to Beersheba

20-24. The genealogy of Nahor, Abraham’s brother

    20-23. The children of Nahor and Milcah

    24. The children of Nahor and his concubine Reumah

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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