Jacob Works for His Wives

Genesis 29:1-30

Jacob turns eastward, towards his uncle’s home-town. There he encounters a group of shepherds gathering to water their sheep. He comments that the day is yet young, asking why they are waiting at the well rather than watering their sheep and moving on. The shepherds answer that they must wait till everyone has gathered to remove the rock from the mouth of the well. The Sages comment that the heavy rock was intended to prevent any shepherd from taking water without the others because they were distrustful of one another.

 

As Jacob is talking to the shepherds, his cousin Rachel arrives. He is moved by the sight of her, and, in a display of inhuman strength, single-handedly removes the stone from the well and waters her sheep.

 

Jacob arrives in Laban’s home, having been introduced by Rachel. He tells his uncle his story, and Laban allows him to stay. A month after his arrival, during which time Jacob had worked for Laban as a shepherd, Laban asks his nephew to name his wages. Jacob asks for the hand of his cousin, Rachel, in marriage, and Laban agrees, at the end of seven years of labor. When the time comes, however, Laban deceitfully switches Rachel for her older sister, Leah, a trick Jacob discovers only in the light of the next morning.

 

When confronted over his deceit, Laban says only that in their community, the younger daughter does not marry before her older sister. He offers Rachel’s hand again, in exchange for an additional seven years of labor. Jacob agrees, and when the week-long wedding celebration for Leah draws to a close, he marries Rachel, too, in exchange for his commitment to work. Laban also gives each daughter a maidservant for her new household — Bilhah for Rachel and Zilpah for Leah.

 

As the Israel Bible points out, the Bible associates the land with its inhabitants. The “land of the children of the east”, with its jealous shepherds and the unscrupulous Laban, stands in sharp contrast with the Promised Land where Abraham sought to bring Godliness into the world.

 

Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think God allows Laban’s trickery to succeed? After all, would Jacob not have noticed the switch had God not wanted him to marry Leah?

Comments ( 20 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • G-d knows the future and better than we do. He saw the golden heart of leah. He knew that this woman would pass on to her kids the right attitude towards HaShem, not trusting idols (like Rachel did in the saddle of her camel.) Father Laban could come away with the pretext that the older should marry first. Maybe G-d had allowed this alliance because when Ja’acov would have married Rachel first, the acceptance of marrying Leah should not have come up in his heart.

  • There are two sons left to consider, through Rachael. Joseph is the Messiah figure in his family. He is rejected by his brothers and cast into a pit. He was raised out of that pit and sold into Egyptian slavery. Even so, he would be raised up out of slavery to be in charge of the know world of the time. Known as the "breadman of life", he brought salvation and deliverance to all his family.
    *
    When Benjamin was born, his mother named him "ben-oni", which means (son of my sorrow). On this one occasion only, Jacob goes against the tradition of the mother naming the child and renames him "ben-jamin", which means (son of my right hand). Yeshua is known both as "a Man of sorrows" and as One "standing at the right hand of the Father". Together, Joseph and Benjamin are the strongest examples of Messiah in all of Jacob's family.
    *
    For the rest of the article I've written on this Torah portion, copy/paste the following link.
    http://yourtexascashmaster.blogspot.com/2012/12/pereshah-va-yetze-2012-genesis-28-10-32.html

    • Again, another great article. Thanks for taking the time to share all of this.
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      There is much to be learned and the time is growing short…
      Baruch Hashem.

  • In a continuation of the above name meanings, consider now the sons of Bilah and Zilpah. According to the meaning of their names, consider the following statement.
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    "Elohim has judged and vindicated us through the blood of Messiah (Dan). Because He has prevailed against hasatan (Napthali), we now have the affections of our Husband, Yeshua. As a part of the seed of Abraham, we will gather or assemble ourselves together in or by troops (Gad). With Messiah at the helm of our righteous camp, we will overcome and enter into the joy of our eternal Salvation (Asher).
    *
    This is an excerpt from an article I've written that can be accessed at the following link.
    http://yourtexascashmaster.blogspot.com/2012/12/pereshah-va-yetze-2012-genesis-28-10-32.html

    • Another great article! Again thanks for sharing.
      *
      The meaning of names in the Hebrew language provides us with a wealth of information to be considered in our Torah study.
      Baruch Hashem.

  • As I have said in other comments, There is nothing written in Torah that doesn't have meaning, in letters or groups of letters. Names given also have meaning. When put together, there can appear very curious statements, even prophetic. Consider only the names of each son of Jacob from Leah, in the order of their birth.
    *
    Reuben means (see, a son). Simeon means (hated). Levi means (loved, or attached in love). Judah means (praise). Issachar means (wages). Zebulon means (dwell with honor). Leah finally gives birth to a daughter named Dinah, which is the feminine form of the name "Dan", and means (judged).
    *
    Put together into one statement, we have a Messianic prophecy as follows. "Adonai will send us His son (Reuben) and He will be hated or unloved by some (Simeon) but loved by others (Levi). He will be YHVH's praise (Judah). He will be the wages for our sin (Issachar) so that we might dwell with Him (Zebulon) and be His bride (Dinah)."
    *
    For access to a complete article I've written on this portion copy/paste into your browser the link below.
    http://yourtexascashmaster.blogspot.com/2012/12/pereshah-va-yetze-2012-genesis-28-10-32.html

    • Wonderful article! Thanks for sharing!!
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      Another treasure that is hidden in plain sight for anyone with a heart to know the Truth to find.
      Baruch Hashem.

  • There is a well circulated premise that Leah was Hashem's choice for Jacob's wife, while the other three were not. According to the placement of the "Aleph/Tav" symbol, that is an incorrect assumption. All four of the ladies have a perpetual inclusion of the symbol before their names. It's a curious matter that Rachael ONLY has the symbol put "in place of" her name on two occasions, in v. 21 when Jacob says, "give me "Aleph/Tav" my wife", and again in v. 27 when Laban says, "we will give you "Aleph/Tav" for serving another 7 years.
    *
    That should emphatically settle the issue of which wife was Hashem's chosen for Jacob. It also begs the question, "why was it ONLY Rachael that had her name replaced by the symbol rather than Leah, or the other two ladies?

    • In an attempt to touch on the virtual classroom question, I submit the following. Most marriage ceremonies are usually elaborate "shin-digs". There likely was a lot of pomp and circumstance involved in this marriage, especially a lot of fermented beverages. It should also be understood Jacob would never in his right mind sleep with Leah and think it was Rachael. I'm certain Laban made sure Jacob was thoroughly drunk. His ruse would never have worked otherwise. Jacob was TOO smitten with Rachael. According to my last comment, Hashem's choice was all four of them. Beyond that, He had NOTHING to do with it.
      *
      There's a moral to this story. Don't get drunk before your wedding. That's why we have laws today that nullify any contract consummated in a bar.

    • I would have to answer your challenge with my thought that it was Rachael that would carry on the spiritual inheritance which we already know is true since it was passed on through her son Yoseph.
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      It's clear that the Aleph Tav that is never translated into English leads us on a mysterious journey….amen?
      Baruch Hashem.

  • As I have shown elsewhere in my comments, the "Aleph/Tav" symbol is strategically placed throughout the Tanakh and is a symbol of approval of, or a literal member of the "Godhead". Specifically in regards to Laban, the "Aleph/Tav" appears before Laban in v. 5. In v. 10, the "Aleph/Tav" appears before "the flock of Laban". In both cases, the symbol is so placed because of Jacob's inquiry of Laban, and the watering of his sheep. The symbol is never placed before his name thereafter. Yet, it appears an innumerable amount of times for Jacob. This should clearly identify the deceiver and what Hashem thinks about the treachery.

  • The opening verses of chapter 29 shows Jacob at the well with several flocks gathered around. Although on the surface, the scene seems to present insignificant information, there is something of great value here. In it, we are shown his ability as a shepherd. He immediately asks why they are there because he knows it's not the proper time to water the sheep. They should be doing that later in the evening or early morning. Now was the time to pasture the sheep.

    • Jacob is going to work for Laban. It is very obvious as this scene unfolds that no one, including Laban, is that proficient at the business of being a shepherd. With what Jacob already knows, together with what Elohim is going to teach Jacob about shepherding, we are made aware of how Elohim is going to prosper Jacob.

    • It might be interesting to note that the type of well described here isn't like those we might see anywhere outside Israel. These wells are more like dug-out cisterns hollowed out of limestone. They were used to collect rain water. To keep contaminates out, or keep people from stealing the water, a large stone was placed over its top. This further shows his superior knowledge, because he knows how to get the stone cover off.
      *
      Of course, it might have helped to have Rachael appear just before he removed the stone. Our commentator says he was, "moved by the sight of her". Of a certainty, this boy was "smitten".

  • The nature of Laban was established back when Eliezer came to find a wife for Yitzak. He was a man given over to greed and deception and he proves that time and again. I'm sure it was in his best interests to trick Ya'acov into marrying Leah knowing that he could probably get Ya'acov to work even more years to earn the hand of his beloved Rachel.
    *
    The question as to why Elohim would allow Ya'acov to be tricked seems to fall to a very practical kind of answer. Elohim purposed to establish the Twelve Tribes of Y'srael and for that HE needed 12 strong sons. While I'm sure that Elohim could have made any single woman capable of bearing 12 strong sons, it would have been a terrible hardship. Rachel died in childbirth after only bearing two sons. That Leah managed to bear six sons and one daughter is a testimony to her strength.
    *
    Sharing the birthing between the four women was (for me) a testimony to the kindness of Elohim in this matter. Ya'acov may not have agreed at times as he struggled to deal with four wives, but sometimes, there are burdens we must bear in order to carry out Elohim's will for our lives.
    Baruch Hashem.

  • Sheila

    Laban deceived Jacob in regard to the marriage of his daughters, just as Jacob had connived with his mother Rebekah in deceiving his father Isaac in the matter of his birthright blessing. Now Jacob tastes his own cunning which was God’s means of discipline for the next 20 years which involved the women Leah and Rachel with their scheming father, Laban. Our sins have a way of catching us out and yes the Lord will have His way in developing His character in our lives so the Lord allowed Jacob to be married to Leah as she was the eldest sister.

    • Good point. Additionally, the midrash talks about Leah’s worthiness to be married to Jacob and become mother to six tribes. The Bible described Leah’s eyes as being “soft”, which the midrash attributes to her constant crying — Rebecca had two boys, and her brother had two girls. It was generally assumed that the elder would marry the elder and the younger, the younger. Leah, however, was righteous and did not want to marry the evil Esau. She cried her prayers to God and they were eventually answered.

      • "It was generally assumed that the elder would marry the elder and the younger, the younger. Leah, however, was righteous and did not want to marry the evil Esau. She cried her prayers to God and they were eventually answered."
        *
        I understand the tradition in marriage. However, I'm confused. Where did this "elder/elder", "younger/younger" thing come in? According to Moshe, Esau didn't even figure into the "Leah" sweepstakes. Also, I don't see where Moshe wrote of Leah's prayers. Am I missing something here?

      • Though I don't agree that Yaakov (Jacob) was a deceiver, I agree with you on why Yahweh allowed Laban's deception on Jacob; it could have been because Leah was a righteous woman who needed a righteous man to marry her.

    • There is one truth in this comment. I'm not exactly sure where it is, but it's something like, "you reap what you sew". Or, "thy sins will find you out." Not sure that's Scripture, but the principle behind it is. However, the rest, including the overt connection of this truth, is absolute false accusations against Jacob. See my comments in "Toldot".

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