A Wife (or two) for Jacob
January 22 - Nº 22 Genesis 29:1-30
Jacob continued his journey. After many days he stopped at a well where several shepherds had gathered to water their flocks. Not sure of his location, he asked where they were from. “Harran,” they replied. Jacob realized he had reached his destination. The shepherds knew his uncle Laban and pointed out his daughter who was on her way across the field with her father’s sheep. Jacob became very emotional as he introduced himself to the cousin he had never met. Rachel ran home to tell her father what had just happened. Immediately, Laban rushed to the well to invite his nephew home. Jacob stayed for a month and worked hard for his uncle. Laban decided it was time to start paying Jacob for all his work. Although he allowed Jacob to determine his own salary, the offer was probably not what Jacob would have hoped for. Instead of being treated as the son of a wealthy, influential man with many servants of his own as he had been in the past, Jacob became a hired servant. Instead of staying around the tents, as he had loved to do, he now had to work out in the fields with the sheep. By the end of the month, Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel, the younger (and more attractive) of Laban’s daughters. All we are told about her older sister, Leah, is that she had “weak eyes.” This may mean that she had poor vision. Or perhaps it meant that she was not very attractive, since the eyes were all that could be seen when a girl was wearing a veil. Anyway, it was Rachel whom Jacob loved, and he was willing to work hard without any compensation (except room and board) for seven years to marry her. Laban agreed to Jacob’s terms. As soon as the seven years were up, Jacob asked for his bride. Laban arranged a huge wedding feast. The celebration lasted all day. But that evening, when it was time for Jacob and Rachel to be alone together for the first time, Laban swapped daughters! Leah was no doubt wearing a full veil when she came into the dark tent. The only light would have come from a small oil lamp. In addition, Jacob would have had plenty of wine during the celebration and may not have been seeing very clearly by then. Regardless, when he woke up the next morning, Jacob was livid to discover he had made love to Leah. He was now married to Leah instead of Rachel! Laban cunningly explained that this was all part of the culture—the younger sister was not permitted to get married before the older one did. He implied that Jacob should have expected this. Jacob completed the bridal week with Leah, then immediately married Rachel. Then he stayed on as a hired hand and worked for Laban another seven years to pay off his new debt. He didn’t really have another option. At some point, Jacob must have realized that Laban’s deception was no worse than what he had done to his own father and brother when he had lied and schemed and stolen Esau’s blessing (see # 20 - January 20).
Have you ever noticed that the things that upset us most about other people are often things we do ourselves? When someone hurts you, do you stop to think how you may have hurt others? We are wise when we examine our own lives before we get upset with others.