Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: email@example.com) 2004
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GENESIS 29:1-12 (Jacob arrives in Haran and meets Rachel)
29:1 We are given no details of Jacob’s journey from Bethel north 450 miles, 720 km, to Haran in the western bend of the Euphrates. . He was alone, and the journey must have taken at least three weeks of hard walking.
Note: The term “people of the east” is used for the various Arab tribes related to Abraham but not part of the line of Jacob and Isaac (as in Judges 6:3, 33; 7:12; 8:10). Solomon was wiser than the wisest person among all the people of the east (1 Kings 4:30). And Job was one of the richest among them ( Job 1:3). During the exile these Arab people of the east took over the area previously occupied by the Jews (Ezekiel 25:4, 10). And in our day they still fight for control of the narrow strip of land to the west of the Jordan and the Dead Sea.
29:2-3 On the final day, in his eagerness to arrive, Jacob must have started very early in the morning because the shepherds had arrived at the well with their flocks, but had not yet begun watering them. This must have been the same spring where Abraham’s servant found Rebekah (24:13-20). By now the spring had been made into a solid well with a stone rolled in front of it to protect it from being fouled by wild animals. It also seems that, except in the family of Laban, the men had taken over from the women the work of drawing water for their flocks..
29:4-9 Jacob called the men “brothers” or close relatives of his family (22:20-24; 24:15, 24). He probably spoke the language of his mother Rebekah, and the men did not hesitate to introduce him to his cousin Rachel (29:12-13) who had arrived with her own flock of sheep.
29:10-12 The men had not yet rolled the stone away from the well, but when Jacob saw Rachel he did this for her, and watered her flock We should not imagine that Jacob brashly kissed Rachel romantically on the lips. This was the typical Middle Eastern hug appropriate between close relatives. His loud weeping expressed deep relief at having found his mother’s family after the long dangerous and exhausting journey.. He then explained to Rachel that her father Laban and his own mother Rebekah were brother and sister (24:50). The family relationship was even closer because Rachel’s grandfather Bethuel was Isaac’s cousin (22:20-23; 24:15, 24, 47, 50; 28:2, 5).
GENESIS 29:13-30 (Jacob is tricked by Laban into marrying Leah before Rachel)
29:13-20 On hearing the news, Laban rushed out, brought Jacob to his home and checked with Jacob the exact story of the family connection. A month later Laban decided he wanted Jacob to remain with him to work on the family farm. The contract was that Jacob would serve seven years for the right to marry Laban’s younger daughter Rachel. And Jacob was so much in love with his graceful and beautiful fiancee that the seven years passed very quickly.
29:21-22 Jacob is usually viewed as the trickster, but it was Laban who outsmarted and deceived him. When Jacob claimed his bride after the seven years were completed, Laban arranged a feast for all the men (not including the women as in NRSV) of the town.
29:23 Laban had decided that he wanted his older daughter married first. So that evening Leah was brought in to the bed-chamber veiled, and she was introduced into Jacob’s bed instead of Rachel. In the dark of his tent Jacob did not realize what had happened.
29:24-27 The next morning Jacob complained to Laban that according to the marriage contract it was Rachel, not Leah, that he had worked for. He was told that giving the younger girl in marriage before her older sister was not the custom of the country. Jacob could have Rachel as his second wife a week later in exchange for another seven years of service on Laban’s farm.
29:28-30 According to the custom in those days part of the dowry of a wealthy woman getting married was a serving maid who accompanied her (16:1). And Leah came with the serving maid, Zilpah (29:24), that her father gave her. For the required seven days Jacob slept with Leah. A week later Rachel came in to be Jacob’s second wife, and Laban gave Bilhah as her serving maid.. The story of how these two serving maids gave birth to four of the Jewish tribes, is given in the next chapter (30:3-13).
Note: Polygamy, and the use of serving girls to provide an heir, was not forbidden among the Old Testament patriarchs (see 4:19), but these practices inevitably resulted in favoritism and deep family jealousies (16:1-6; 21:8-11; 37:3). Polygamy was still practiced in New Testament times, but Paul required elders to be monogamous (1 Timothy 3:1), and his ideal of marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-16) required the mutual submission of a man and his single wife.
GENESIS 29:31-35 (Leah brings forth the first four sons of Jacob)
29:31-35 It seems that the LORD was displeased when Jacob expressed his affection for Rachel, and neglected his first wife Leah. As a result he chose to enable Leah to bring forth Jacob’s first four sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. In due course the Levites and priests of Israel came from Levi (lewi conected with the verb laawaah meaning be joined, expressing Leah’s faith that now her husband would love her). Eventually the Messiah was born in the line of Judah (yahudaah connected with the Hiphal of the verb yaadaah, meaning to give thanks, or praise).
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