Genesis 29 - Jacob's wives.
29:1-14. Arrival at Padan-aram.
Genesis 29:1 Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east.
(This is not referring to the far east, but the eastern limits of the migration of Abraham's family. It would be in the area of the Euphrates river in northern Syria, and southeastern Turkey. This is the location of the city of Haran, in Jacob's day.
Jacob is on a twofold mission, because he was not only seeking a wife from his mother's family, but on the run to get away from Esau's wrath. Many ministers accuse Jacob of being underhanded in obtaining the birthright; however, in view of the nature of Esau, and the ties he had with the Hittites through his wives. It is understandable why God would not all His covenant blessing to pass onto Esau. Everything that happened was of God.
Jacob bought the birthright, and paid the full value of the price that Esau had considered it's worth; that being a bowl of pottage. Then with the help of God, and his mother Rebekah, Jacob collected what was rightfully his.)
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.
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.
(This was Laban's well, and in accordance with an agreement, the others would all wait until Rachel arrived, then they together would help her move the stone that blocked the entrance to the well. Then in return, they could get the water necessary to water their flocks.)
4 And Jacob said unto them, "My brethren, whence be ye?" And they said, "Of Haran are we."
5 And he said unto them, "Know ye Laban the son of Nahor?" And they said, "We know him."
6 And he said unto them, "Is he well?" And they said, "He is well: and, behold, Rachel (= ewe, a traveler) his daughter cometh with the sheep."
(As they were talking, and the men assured Jacob that Laban was well, they pointed out that Rachel his daughter had arrived to water Laban's sheep.)
7 And he said, "Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them."
8 And they said, "We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well's mouth; then we water the sheep."
(This stone must have been a big one, for it required all the men of the area to move it together, and this was a daily process if their animals were to be watered.)
9 And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep; for she kept them.
(Shepherds usually slaves, younger sons, or daughters. Cp. David 1 Sam.17:13-15, Ex.2:16. Note exceptions, Gen 34:17, and reason.)
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.
(So we can see by this verse that Jacob was a strong man, who could do the work of many men. Instead of a large group moving the stone he simply moved it away on his own.)
11 And Jacob kissed Rachel (the Eastern greeting), and lifted up his voice, and wept.
12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son: and she ran and told her father.
13 And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things.
14 And Laban said to him, "Surely thou art my bone and my flesh." And he abode with him the space of a month.
(This phrase "my bone and my flesh", made Laban Jacob's kinsman. Laban welcomed Jacob, and he stayed a uncle Laban's helping out for about thirty days.)
15 And Laban said unto Jacob, "Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?"
(Laban knew that Jacob was his kinsman, and as such should be paid a wage for his work. Only a slave and bondsman works without wages, and that was degrading to both Laban and Jacob to have him working, and in the household without wages. Laban knew of the riches of Isaac, and that Jacob was the heir to all of it, and in his craftiness, Laban did not want Jacob to have anything that he could hold over his head. Laban wanted an understanding from the very start.)
16 And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah (= weary), and the name of the younger was Rachel.
17 Leah was tender (= weak) eyed; but Rachel was beautiful (comely in form) and well favoured (comely in countenance).
(Rachel was the brightest and best in physical appearance, with an out flowing character about her, while her sister Leah was weak and timid.)
18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, "I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter."
(Seven years is the time in the ancient Hebrew custom to buy your freedom; so Jacob was buying Rachel's freedom, to be his wife. In other words, Laban is selling Rachel for seven years labor of Jacob. The other thing to keep in mind, is that Jacob had to be away for a long period of time, because his brother Esau wanted to kill him. So the agreement is acceptable to both of the men, Jacob and Laban.)
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."
20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel (cp. Hos. 12:12); and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.
21 And Jacob said unto Laban, "Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her."
(This crafty Laban is not one to acknowledge that the work has been done and the price paid, so Jacob lets Laban know that it is time to turn Rachel over to him.)
22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.
(Laban was a rich man, with Jacob's blessings being showered over on Laban during these past seven years, and it is time now for the wedding feast.)
23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.
(In the darkness of the night and the lights out, Jacob is ready to receive his wife on his wedding night. Well remember how crafty old daddy Laban was? In the dead of the night Laban sent Leah, the weak and ugly daughter in unto Jacob, instead of his beautiful daughter Rachel. The way that Jacob loved Rachel, he thought this wife was Rachel, and Jacob consummated the marriage.)
24 And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah (= a trickling) his maid for an handmaid.
(Remember back in Genesis 24:57; Rebekah was also given several handmaid when she was married.)
25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah:
(To call attention to the fact that he was deceived, as he had deceived Isaac. Cp. Ch.27.)
When the sunlight of the morning came, Jacob looked at the woman that he thought was his wife Rachel, and then he realized that Laban had pulled a fast one on him. Laban had switched daughters, and now Jacob was married to the wrong woman. Jacob was a strong man, and I'm sure many thing were going through his mind.)
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 (= to delude or betray) me?"
(Though this seems like a very deceitful act, it was also an act of God. It will be through the children of all four of the woman involved, that the twelve patriarchs of Israel will come. Each of these men will be the head of their tribe and grow into many nations.)
26 And Laban said, "It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.
(Notice how Laban waited until after the fact to tell Jacob of the customs of the land. Though the agreement was made prior to the seven years of work, not one word was mentioned until after Laban had found a husband for the weak and older daughter. This is a story to calm down Jacob before things got out of hand.)
27 Fulfill her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years."
(This old sly fox is pretty sharp, and already is trying to work out another deal with Jacob for an additional seven years of work. Laban told Jacob to go ahead and complete the seven days and bind the marriage with Leah, and then work seven more years for him, and then he would give Jacob, Rachel.)
28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.
(A popular mistake to suppose Jacob did not marry Rachel till the end of the second seven years, for in the first seven were born seven sons: Rueben, Simeon,Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, and Joseph. In the second seven: Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulon, Dinah)
29 And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid.
(Bilhah = timid, bashful. This was strictly in accordance with the Code of Khammurabi.)
30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.
31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.
(Love and hate are difficult to translate from the Hebrew, for this is not a hate as we relate the word in English. The word "neglect" is a more correct usage then Hate. Because Jacob loved Leah less then Rachel, God gave Leah a blessing and allowed her to bare children.)
32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben (= behold a man): for she said, "Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me."
33 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, "Because the LORD hath heard I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also:" and she called his name Simeon (= hearing).
(You can see very well that Jacob doesn't hate Leah, for there is quite a strong bond allowing for the childbirth. This is now the first two sons that are forming the twelve tribes of Israel.)
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 (= joiner).
(Levi would become the head of the Levitical priesthood. It is going to be the tribe of Levi that will have the sole purpose of joining together all the tribes of Israel, and they will be scattered amongst all the tribes to keep all the tribes into the one body of YHVH.)
35 And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, "Now will I praise the LORD:" therefore she called his name Judah (= celebrated, praised); and left bearing.
(So we see that Leah has had four sons, and beautiful Rachel is left barren. This chapter goes right into the Chapter 30.)