Jacob finds his family in Haran
Genesis 29:1 Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east. 29:2 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. 29:3 And thither were all the flocks gathered: and they rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well’s mouth in his place.
Jacob meets Rachel
29:4 And Jacob said unto them, My brethren, whence be ye? And they said, Of Haran are we. 29:5 And he said unto them, Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We know him. 29:6 And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep.
The herdsmen were waiting for the flocks to come to remove the well cover stone so that the sheep could be watered.
29:7 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. 29:8 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.
Jacob seeing Rachel was struck with her and fell in love at first sight; he jumped up to roll away the stone and water her flock.
29:9 And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep; for she kept them. 29:10 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.
Jacob ran to Rachel and kissed her, probably on the hand, cheek or neck as was the custom of greeting a relative. It is from this custom that Paul tells us to greet our brethren with a “holy kiss” (1 Thess 5:26, 1 Cor 16:20, 2 Cor 13:12, Romans 16:16).
29:11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.
29:12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother [near kinsman], and that he was Rebekah’s son: and she ran and told her father.
Laban receives Jacob with joy
29:13 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. 29:14 And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month.
Laban proposes to pay Jacob for any help he gives and Jacob asks for Rachel and not for money.
29:15 And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother [kinsman], shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be? 29:16 And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.
The first stage of the humbling of Jacob was when he was forced to flee before his bother.
Jacob would now be taught through Laban to serve the Eternal and not to seek to exalt himself by his own ways; a lesson that most of us still need to learn!
Jacob offers to serve for seven years for Rachel and Laban accepts. This begins the trial of patience and the intermediate stage of the humbling of Jacob.
29:17 Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. 29:18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. 29:19 And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.
Jacob fulfilled his service for Rachel.
29:20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. 29:21 And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her. 29:22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.
Jacob was caused to drink wine and then in the darkness Leah was brought to him instead of Rachel. By this time Laban would have remembered his sister Rebecca being taken away to Isaac and probably feared that his daughter Rachel would also to be taken far away.
29:23 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. 29:24 And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid. 29:25 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? 29:26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.
Then Jacob serves seven more years for Rachel; for a total of fourteen years service to Laban. Oh, how much he loved that lady and how long God humbled him through Laban for his wicked deeds of deception and theft from his brother.
29:27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this [Rachel] also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. 29:28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. 29:29 And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid. 29:30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.
So Jacob served Laban for twenty-one years
29:31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. 29:32 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.
God then gave Leah a child and this consoled Leah and may have caused Jacob to appreciate her more as the mother of his firstborn.
29:33 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon. 29:34 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. 29:35 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.
Leah had four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; all brothers by the same parents.
Rachel, jealous of her sister Leah, then insists that Jacob take her maid to bear children for her. This is almost a duplicate of the story of Sarai and Hagar with Abraham. Rachel had never known Sarai but would likely have heard the story.
Genesis 30:1 And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. 30:2 And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? 30:3 And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. 30:4 And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.
When Bilhah had produced a son Rachel called the boy’s name Dan “God has Judged.”
30:5 And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. 30:6 And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan. 30:7 And Bilhah Rachel’s maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.
Rachel called the second child of Bilhah, Naphtali; meaning “wrestling.” At this point the contention in the family of Jacob is obvious and God sees that the jealousy between sisters is aroused by competing for the affections of the same husband. Ultimately this leads to the commandment not to marry sisters during their lifetime.
30:8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.
Then Leah decided to follow the example of her sister Rachel and insisted that Jacob also take her maid Zilpah. When Zilpah bears a son; Leah is full of joy that through Zilpah she may have many more sons and names Zilpah’s firstborn Gad “a Troop or company of many.”
30:9 When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. 30:10 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a son. 30:11 And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.
A second son is born to Leah by her maid Zilpah and she calls his name Asher meaning “happiness.”
30:12 And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a second son. 30:13 And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.
Reuben discovered some mandrakes in a field and Rachel desired some of them from Leah Reuben’s mother.
30:14 And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.
Leah shows her jealousy of Rachel and refuses to give any mandrakes to her sister. Rachel then offers Leah her turn with Jacob in exchange for some mandrakes. Here we begin to see some of the issues with polygamy and the contentious jealousies and unhappiness that can rage within a polygamous family. It was certainly possible that Jacob preferred his favorite Rachel and that he had been neglecting his duty to Leah v 15. This would have been the root of God’s command at Sinai that all wives must be treated equally.
30:15 And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes.
Leah then went to Jacob and demanded sex of him, openly telling him that she had bought his services for that day from Rachel.
30:16 And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.
God heard the prayer of Leah and she conceived a fifth son.
30:17 And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.
The child was named Issachar meaning “my reward” for purchasing the services of her husband for that day.
30:18 And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.
Leah then bore a sixth son and called his name Zebulun “a habitation.”
30:19 And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son. 30:20 And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.
Of Jacob’s daughters (others are noted in Gen 46:15), only Dinah, meaning “vindicated,” is mentioned by name.
30:21 And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.
After Leah has borne six sons God opened the womb of the barren Rachel and she named her firstborn son Joseph “increase” because she has finally become a mother and is beginning to increase.
30:22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. 30:23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: 30:24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.
Joseph the firstborn of Jacob’s favorite beloved Rachel becomes the favorite of Jacob, later the birthright of the firstborn would be removed from Reuben for sin and given to the firstborn of the intended first wife.
Jacob then seeks to return home to Canaan and Laban finding much increase and blessing in his services begs him to stay and asks Jacob what wages he wants.
30:25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country. 30:26 Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee.
30:27 And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake. 30:28 And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.
30:29 And he [Jacob] said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me.
Jacob replies that he must think about caring for his own family and no longer about enriching Laban.
30:30 For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and the LORD hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?
Jacob then demands the wages of all the streaked, spotted and speckled cattle and sheep of Laban.
30:31 And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock. 30:32 I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle [lesser cattle; goats and sheep, see v33], and all the brown [discolored] cattle [sheep are often called cattle as in lessor cattle, this refers to brown (discolored) sheep not cows] among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.
30:33 So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown [discolored] among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me.
NOTE: The word cattle throughout this story refers to “lessor cattle,” as in sheep and goats; not to bulls and cows.
30:34 And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.
30:35 And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked [streaked] and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white [were mottled] in it, and all the brown [discolored] among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons. 30:36 And he set three days’ journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.
Then Jacob cheats Laban by stripping some of the bark from sticks [especially hazel and chestnut] and placing them in the water so that tannin is leached into the water from the sticks. Regular drinking of this tannin water resulted in a discoloring of the coats of the developing lambs and kids in the womb. This was clearly wrong on Jacob’s part and Laban was well within his rights to change the deal when he caught Jacob cheating.
30:37 And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes [Peeled strips of the bark off the sticks so that tannin could leach into the drinking water.] in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods. 30:38 And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink. 30:39 And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle [lessor cattle; sheep and goats] ringstraked [discolored, streaked], speckled, and spotted.
Jacob separated out the discolored lambs of the sheep and goats into flocks of his own; and he had brought only the strongest of Laban’s flocks to drink the tannin water of his stripped sticks so that the lambs of the strongest might be his.
30:40 And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked [striped peeled sticks] , and all the brown [discolored] in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban’s cattle.
30:41 And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. 30:42 But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s. 30:43 And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.
Jacob increased by trickery and fraud against his benefactor who was also his uncle and father in law, just as he had taken his brother Esau’s birthright and blessing.
Laban caught Jacob cheating him many times and there was constant friction between them. It took Jacob a long time to learn his lesson to be honest and trust in the Eternal, and God kept Jacob with Laban until Jacob had finally learned his lesson through being repeatedly caught by Laban.