Genesis Chapter 29: Jacob meets Rachel, Jacob marries Rachel but Gets Leah, Their Children

Feb 27th, 2010 | By | Category: Genesis, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Genesis Chapter 29: Jacob meets Rachel, Jacob marries Rachel but Gets Leah, Their Children

Gen. 29:1 Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east.

Jacob continued his journey and got to “the land of the people of the east.” Haran was northeast of Israel—that is, way to the north and slightly to the east—yet it is described as “the land … of the east.” This detail shows that the Ishmaelites in particular had branched out in that area to the north. Esau had gone due east to Edom.

Gen. 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.

Jacob saw a well and then three flocks of sheep in repose near the well. A “great” (or large and heavy) stone covered the mouth of the well.

Gen. 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.

Verse 3 is a commentary, or editorial comment, on the custom in that locale for watering the sheep. The sheep were not watered until all of the flocks had gathered. Then several men rolled the stone from the mouth of the well so that the sheep could drink.

Why was the well covered with a stone? Why were the sheep all watered at once? The reason was to protect the well from pollution and evaporation. This “well” was probably a cistern, a receptacle to collect rain water, rather than a spring from the ground.

Comment: Nominal Christendom controlled the access of the “sheep” to water (truth).

Gen. 29:4 And Jacob said unto them, My brethren, whence be ye? And they said, Of Haran are we.

Gen. 29:5 And he said unto them, Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We know him.

Gen. 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.

When Jacob found the others were from Haran, he asked if they knew Laban. They said yes, and that his daughter Rachel was coming with sheep. Apparently, Rachel was the only woman there with a flock of sheep. We are reminded of Rebekah’s timely appearance to Eliezer.

Gen. 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.

Jacob commented, “It is high day and not time for the flocks to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and then go and feed them.”

Gen. 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.

Gen. 29:9 And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them.

Gen. 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.

Rachel arrived with her father Laban’s sheep. Jacob boldly went to the well, removed the “great stone,” and watered Laban’s sheep. Jacob’s act proves that he was strong and powerful, for he rolled back the stone alone, whereas “they” (more than one) had customarily done this (verses 2 and 3).

Q: Why did some shepherds go to the well so early if they could not water the sheep until a later time?

A: They wanted to be first in line, for it took time to water flocks and to wait for others.

Q: Why didn’t the shepherds intervene to keep the stranger Jacob from rolling the stone away?

A: They not only saw his strength but also probably made allowance, knowing that Jacob had come from a distance. And they could see his interest in Laban’s family.

Jacob was very strong but humble. Some strong men will humbly take insults without fighting back.

Comment: Jacob represents Jesus, and now was the time to pour out water (truth) for the sheep.

In the Book of Genesis, a “well” was frequently a theme—Gen. 16:7 with Hagar, Gen. 21:19 with Hagar, Gen. 21:25 with Abraham and Abimelech, Gen. 24:13 with Eliezer and Rebekah, Gen. 26:17-33 with Isaac and Abimelech, and here in Gen. 29:10 with Rachel and Jacob. The Bible (the Well, the truth) is for the Lord’s people, but others have used the Scriptures out of various motives.

Gen. 29:11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.

Jacob kissed Rachel—perhaps cheek to cheek in a perfunctory manner—and then he wept emotionally in gratitude for having reached his destination.

Gen. 29:12 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.

Gen. 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.

Gen. 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.

When Rachel learned who Jacob was, she ran to tell Laban, and Laban then ran to meet Jacob.

Laban embraced and kissed Jacob and took him home. After Jacob had recounted his experiences, Laban said, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” No doubt it was Jacob’s telling of details about his mother, Rebekah, that convinced Laban Jacob truly was his relative.

Initially, Laban was eager to greet Jacob and grant hospitality, but later greed and deception shone forth. God gave schooling and discipline to Jacob through his hard experiences with Laban.

Gen. 29:15 And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?

“Brother” can mean “kinsman” depending on context. By this time, Jacob had been staying with Laban for a month. Jacob was looking for a wife.

Q: Why now, after this time period, did Laban ask Jacob what he wanted for wages for serving him?

A: Jacob had been working for Laban. Probably Laban had not asked him to work—it was just Jacob’s nature to feel that he should earn his keep. As a result, Laban’s conscience began to bother him. Possibly, too, there had been tender looks between Jacob and Rachel.

Gen. 29:16 And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

Gen. 29:17 Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and wellfavoured.

Verses 16 and 17 are a parenthetical editorial comment about Laban’s having two daughters, Rachel being the beautiful one.

Gen. 29:18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.

As his wages, Jacob said he would like to have Rachel for his wife, and he gave the proposition: he would work for Laban for seven years to have her. (This is a picture of Christ and the Church.)

Jacob was penniless when he arrived. He did not come as Eliezer did with camels, servants, riches, etc., so Jacob was in an embarrassing situation. But he was a thinking man, very pragmatic. To serve Laban seven years was a dowry he could give.

Gen. 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.

Laban’s character is reflected in his reply to Jacob. Notice that Laban did not actually say he would give Rachel to Jacob at the end of seven years—just “It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.” Laban was scheming. He wanted Jacob’s service, for Jacob was a good worker.

Gen. 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.

What a beautiful comment about Jacob’s love for Rachel!

Gen. 29:21 And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.

Gen. 29:22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.

Gen. 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.

Gen. 29:24 And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid.

Gen. 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?

Gen. 29:26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.

Gen. 29:27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.

Gen. 29:28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.

Gen. 29:29 And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid.

Gen. 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.

Two “weeks” were involved: one week for Leah and one for Rachel. These were weeks of years, that is, two seven-year periods. Symbolic weeks are years (a day for a year), as in Daniel’s 70 “weeks,” or years.

Laban practiced deception. He had a ready excuse in regard to the custom in that locale, but nevertheless, he beguiled Jacob in giving Leah instead of Rachel at the end of seven years. Laban also gave Zilpah to Leah to be her handmaid, and later he gave Bilhah to Rachel for a handmaid.

Q: What is the significance of Leah’s being first and Rachel second?

A: Leah pictures natural Israel, who first got the opportunity to be the Bride class, but the antitypical Rachel proves to be the Little Flock. More particularly, there were two “seven-year” periods, for both the Jewish Age and the Gospel Age have seven stages. The two periods suggest the “double,” that is, two equal periods of time. From Jacob’s death to the Crucifixion was the first period of 1,845 years (1813 BC to AD 33). From the Crucifixion to 1878 was the second period of 1,845 years.

The type can be extended further. If Leah represents the Ancient Worthies and Rachel pictures the Little Flock, then (1) Bilhah would be the Great Company given to the Church after the marriage, and (2) Zilpah would be a comparable Great Company class in the Jewish Age to be given to the Ancient Worthies as assistants in the Kingdom Age.

The Jewish nation was called the Lord’s people and/or kingdom. David sat on the throne of that kingdom. If the nation had been faithful, all of the Little Flock would have been Israelitish. It is interesting that Hagar brought forth fruitage before Sarah, and Leah brought forth fruitage before Rachel.

Hosea 12:12 reads, “And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel [Jacob] served for a wife [Rachel in the final analysis], and for a wife he kept sheep.” The Old Testament “Syria” was Haran, Mesopotamia, Padan-aram. Jacob “fled”; that is, he went quickly, without possessions, because Esau intended to slay him.

Over and over in Scripture, the second-born was favored over the firstborn. Several examples are Isaac versus Ishmael, Jacob versus Esau, and Rachel versus Leah. “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first” is the principle and deep lesson. As the potter, God chooses people in His own way. By grace, we are called. For example, God bypassed Asia for the Western world, which does not mean people of the West are better than people of the East. From the poor, plain, and uneducated (primarily), God works miracles to develop Christlike characters.

Q: Is verse 30 saying that after Jacob married Rachel, he served another seven years, for a total of 21 years?

A: No. Jacob served seven years and married Leah. Then Laban said that Jacob could have Rachel too if he served another seven years, but Jacob married Rachel before serving the full additional seven years. Therefore, verse 30 refers to the second seven years. The proof is Genesis 31:41, which states, “Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.” In other words, Jacob served Laban for six years after the 14 years, for a total of 20 years, not 21. God arranged that after Jacob got two wives, he would serve a few more years and be able to leave with goods (flocks).

Gen. 29:31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

Gen. 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.

Gen. 29:33 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.

Gen. 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.

Gen. 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 gave birth to four children, but after these four were born, she evidently could not have any more children for a while, for God shut up her womb. The sequence of the four children was Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah (the tribe Messiah came from). The names were given by Leah based on circumstances she underwent in bearing the children; that is, a distinctive experience occurred in her life, in her emotions, or in her thinking. For instance, “Reuben” means “Look, a son.” The name was based on her realization that Jacob loved her less than Rachel.

For the time that Jacob was married to Leah only, there was no conceiving. God has a master “computer” or “control switch” whereby He can open and close a womb in order to make a type. Rachel had to suffer the experience of barrenness in order to fulfill a type. The same was true with Sarah. God does not interfere with free moral agency, but whether we know it or not, He does shape providences and circumstances in our lives to a large extent—either for good or for testing. However, God does not tempt anyone with evil intent. As it were, then, the button was pressed down for Rachel—she had to be barren while Leah bore four sons.

Jacob loved Rachel more, but Leah, in contrasting her sons with the barrenness of Rachel, would proportionately feel the Lord was favoring her. Hence the interpretation of providence is tricky. Satan also provides circumstances in our lives to deter us, so it is difficult to properly interpret providences. Prayer is needed and even fasting at times. Sometimes we learn through wrong choices, which may lead to hard experiences. Hopefully, mistakes become steppingstones in the future. If our senses are rightly exercised, we can discern good from evil in both doctrine and principle.

The name Simeon pertains to hearing. God heard Leah’s prayers and desires and rewarded her with a second son. Levi means “joined,” for with his birth, Leah thought that surely now her husband would be joined to her and the bond with Jacob would be closer. Judah means “praise.” How Leah rejoiced to have four sons! As we will see, the names of all 11 children (not Benjamin) pertained to the rivalry between Leah and Rachel for the number of children. When considered prophetically, the emotions of Leah as a mother can be lifted to a higher plane than she ever realized.

The consolation for Rachel was that her husband loved her dearly. We are reminded of Hannah. When she was crying because of her barrenness, her husband Elkanah, said, “Am not I better to thee than ten sons?” (1 Sam. 1:8).

Jacob served seven years and then got Leah. Laban promised Jacob that he could have Rachel if he agreed to serve another seven years, but he could marry her before the seven years were fulfilled. (The wording allows this possibility.) Leah had the four sons during the second seven-year period when Jacob was also married to Rachel and Rachel’s barrenness was apparent.

Greed showed forth in Laban, but he seemed to fight this weakness at times—such as when he gave Rachel to Jacob before the second seven years were served.

Because of the type and the antitype, the account seems to have been purposely worded in an ambiguous way to allow either interpretation—that Jacob served two full seven-year periods before marrying Rachel or that he married her after Leah and then fulfilled the second seven-year period of service to Laban. In the antitype, the Church will not become the Bride of Christ until the fulfillment of the seven-stage “week.” The seven periods of the Church are seven days in one sense, as taught by the seven days of waiting by the Levitical priesthood before entering service (Lev. 8:33-35). The seven “days” of the Gospel Age are seven unequal periods of time.

Incidentally, the meaning of the word “day” depends on context. It can mean 24 hours, a year, a long but definite period of time, 1,000 years, or 7,000 years (a Creative Day).

The ambiguous wording in regard to the two seven-year periods shows the reality versus the ideal, the ideal being the antitype. Jacob needed Rachel during the second seven-year period in order for 11 children to be born by the time he left Laban. Other places in Scripture seem to indicate one thing, but a closer examination shows another meaning is intended. For example, Antiochus Epiphanes seems to fulfill the prophecy in Daniel chapter 11. And Jesus’ parables must be examined from the standpoint of what is hinted at for the antitype.

(1987–1989 Study)

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