This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
Jacob was given the blessing by his father, Jacob, and received the covenant promises from God Himself. Though the generations came and went, God and His covenant had remained the same. So Jacob went on his journey to his mother’s household in order to secure a wife through whom would come descendants as numerous as the seashore to inherit an everlasting kingdom and to be called the people of God. Despite these great promises and the examples of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob was immature in His walk with the LORD. However, as always, the LORD used many things in Jacob’s life to mature him and his family.
1 Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the sons of the east. 2 He looked, and saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep were lying there beside it, for from that well they watered the flocks. Now the stone on the mouth of the well was large. 3 When all the flocks were gathered there, they would then roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the well.
After Jacob met the angels at Bethel, nothing else happened that was noteworthy. He arrived in Haran, and providentially arrived at a well. Just as Isaac’s wife was first encountered at a well, so also is Jacob’s. This well was covered with a stone that normally required two or more men to roll it from the mouth of the well to allow access to the water.
4 Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?” And they said, “We are from Haran.” 5 He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” And they said, “We know him.” 6 And he said to them, “Is it well with him?” And they said, “It is well, and here is Rachel his daughter coming with the sheep.” 7 He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” 8 But they said, “We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”
Upon seeing Rachel, Jacob was no longer interested in his conversation with the boys. He was intent on seeing them scram so that he could be alone with this woman that he was already smitten with.
9 While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10 When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted his voice and wept. 12 Jacob told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father.
Lest the previous narratives give an unfavorable picture of Jacob’s masculinity (preferring the indoors and cooking), Jacob put on a remarkable show of strength. This served both to impress Rachel as well as expedite the departure of the boys. Having done that, he greeted Rachel with a familial kiss and told her who he was. She ran to fetch Laban.
13 So when Laban heard the news of Jacob his sister’s son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Then he related to Laban all these things. 14 Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” And he stayed with him a month.
During that month, he must have been helping out with the flocks, probably trying to spend whatever time he could with Rachel. At the end of the month:
15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, 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 And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face. 18 Now Jacob loved Rachel, so 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 to give her to another man; stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.
Jacob had arrived in Paddan-Aram with nothing. Isaac and Rebekah had sent him to obtain a wife, but neglected to send the bride-price. Unlike Abraham’s servant, who arrived to fetch Rebekah for Isaac, Jacob was not accompanied with servants and camels and gold and precious things. So he worked for seven years as payment to Laban for the bride price.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her.” 22 Laban gathered all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him; and Jacob went in to her. 24 Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. 25 So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?” 26 But Laban said, “It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn. 27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years.”
It is ironic that Jacob was deceived by a family member concerning the traditions of firstborn and second born children, for that is why he was sent away from Canaan. Laban should have told Jacob that Rachel was not available for marriage until Leah was married. Yet he made the deal with Jacob, and made a fool of him on his wedding night by giving him the wrong woman. Laban expected Jacob’s outrage, and offered Jacob another deal which would involve another seven years worth of work to pay another bride-price. So Laban married off both of his daughters to a potentially wealthy man and secured fourteen years of free work in the process.
28 Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. 29 Laban also gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid. 30 So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years.
It is always the testimony of Scripture that whenever polygamy is involved, one wife is less-loved than the other(s). Laban did not do his daughters any favors by his deceitful manipulation.
31 Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.” 33 Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, “Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” So she named him Simeon. 34 She conceived again and bore a son and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore he was named Levi. 35 And she conceived again and bore a son and said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.
God blessed Leah with a string of sons. Reuben means ‘look, a son.’ Leah was hopeful that giving Jacob a son would change his disposition toward her. When she gave birth again, she acknowledges that God had heard of her predicament, so she named him Simeon (derived from the Hebrew word ‘heard’). With the birth of a third son, she was still hoping that Jacob would finally become attached to her. Thus she named him ‘Levi’, derived from the word ‘attach’ in Hebrew. She gave birth for the fourth time to a son, and decided that if she could not have the praise of her husband, then she would just praise the LORD. So she named him Judah, which means ‘praise.’
We have already seen spiritual progression of Leah: from craving the affection of her husband to a determination to praise the LORD. Slowly but surely, the LORD will use the next several years to shape the faith and walks of those in Jacob’s household. The third generation of the covenant family must learn to walk by faith in the LORD.
We can always trust God to mature those who believe Him, for the covenant promises serve the purpose of securing a people unto Himself. They are to be His people, and they are to be His God. The plan of redemption that has been in effect since the Garden of Eden has the goal of restoring all things to Edenic conditions. To that end, Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, bore the sins of the many on the cross of Calvary so that they would not be condemned but have eternal life. Thus they will enter into the kingdom of God, freed from the curse of sin. All one must do to be given this gift of salvation and all the blessings that accompany it is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.