Genesis 29: Jacob is Deceived by Laban so He Will Marry Leah
Jacob journeys on to his uncle Laban. Jacob falls in love with Rachel. Although he desires to marry Rachel, he is deceived by Laban into marrying Leah.
Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well. Genesis 29:1-3
Jacob’s mother Rebekah sent her son on a journey to the tents of his uncle Laban in order to find a wife. Jacob arrives at a well in the open country where shepherds are gathered to water their sheep. This scene closely parallels the events of Genesis 24 where the servant of Abraham was sent back to Abraham’s relatives to get a wife for Jacob’s father Isaac. The servant had his camels kneel down near the well outside the town of Nahor. At the well was Rebekah the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor and the sister of Laban.
Jacob asked the shepherds, “My brothers, where are you from?”
“We’re from Harran,” they replied.
He said to them, “Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?”
“Yes, we know him,” they answered.
Then Jacob asked them, “Is he well?”
“Yes, he is,” they said, “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.” Genesis 29:4-6
Abraham’s servant seeking a wife for Isaac arrived at a well outside of the town of Nahor and found Laban’s sister Rebekah. Now Jacob who is seeking a wife is at a well where Laban’s daughter Rachel has come to water her father’s sheep.
“Look,” he said, “the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.”
“We can’t,” they replied, “until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.” Genesis 29:7-8
Genesis 25:2 records that Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Jacob, who noted that the sheep should be taken back to the pasture, would later prove to be a skillful shepherd and breeder of flocks.
While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd. When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. Genesis 29:9-10
Among the pastoral tribes the young unmarried daughters of the greatest elders tend the flocks, going out at sunrise and continuing to watch their animals until sunset. Watering them, which is done twice a day, is a work of time and labor. In volunteering his aid to the young shepherdess, Jacob demonstrated his willingness to be a productive member of his mother’s clan.
Before the sheep could be watered by Jacob who was a shepherd, the stone had to be rolled away.
“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:38
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." John 10:11
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7
Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. Mark 16:2-4
Yeshua the good shepherd laid down His life for His sheep. He resurrected and the stone was rolled away from the tomb. Yeshua ascended to the right hand of the Father and sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within the believer. Now rivers of living water flow from within us. For the sheep to be watered, the stone had to be rolled away.
Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father. Genesis 29:11-12
Jacob was overcome with emotion and wept for joy. After his long lonely journey, he had met his cousin Rachel who he hoped would become his wife.
As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. Then Laban said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.” After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.” Genesis 29:13-15
Among pastoral people a stranger is freely entertained for three days. On the fourth day he is expected to tell his name and purpose. If he prolongs his stay after that time, he must set his hand to work in some way as agreed upon. In a similar fashion, Jacob had been working for Laban but just for his room and board. Now after a month, Laban realized that Jacob was an accomplished shepherd and wanted to employ Jacob on a long term basis.
Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” Genesis 29:16-19
Laban’s older daughter, Leah, had weak eyes. The name Leah means “wearied” or “wild cow.” The dullness or weakness of her eyes was so notable that it is mentioned as a contrast to the beautiful form and appearance of her younger sister Rachel. Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. The name Rachel means “ewe” – a female sheep. An old-fashioned expression is “to make sheep's eyes at somebody.” To make sheep eyes means to look at someone in a way that shows that you love them or are attracted to them. Jacob, who was a shepherd, was in love with the beautiful ewe with sheep eyes but was not attracted to a wearied cow with weak eyes.
So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. Genesis 29:20
Diligently, patiently and faithfully Jacob worked as a servant for seven years to pay the bridal price for Rachel. Because of his strong romantic feelings, just being around Rachel made Jacob’s years of labor seem to fly by.
Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.” So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant. Genesis 29:21-24
Traditionally, an ancient wedding feast included wine. In John 2:1-11, the first miracle of Jesus recorded in the New Testament is when He changed water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana. After being betrothed for seven years and waiting to consummate his marriage, I am Jacob was in a mood to celebrate. The bride wore a veil that was only removed in the bridal chamber. In the dark of night and in high spirits, Jacob made love to Leah believing that she was Rachel.
When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” Genesis 29:25
Jacob, who had deceived his father Isaac, hypocritically was incensed that he had been deceived by his uncle. Prompted by his mother Rebekah, Jacob wore a disguise and pretended to be his brother Esau. After his father had feasted, Isaac whose eyes were darkened with blindness was deceived by Jacob who stole his brother’s blessing. Now the tables have been turned. Prompted by her father Laban, Leah was disguised as Rachel. After a feast, Jacob was tricked because of Leah’s disguise and then in the darkness consummated the marriage with Rachel’s sister. In Jacob’s case of deception, the mother and son conspired together to deceive his father concerning his brother. In this instance, the father and daughter conspired together to deceive Rebekah’s son concerning Leah’s sister. The LORD gave Jacob a taste of his own medicine in order to start the process of sanctifying his character.
Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” Genesis 29:26-27
Even if it was the custom not to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older, Laban should have made that known before he entered into an agreement with Jacob. In any case, Laban intentionally set out to deceive Jacob for his own selfish purposes. Laban not only tricked Jacob into marrying Leah instead of Rachel, but extracted another seven years of labor from him in order to pay a second bridal price.
And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years. Genesis 29:28-30
Jacob did have feelings for Leah but those feelings paled in comparison to his love for Rachel.
When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” Genesis 29:31-32
The names Leah gave her children, expressed her respect and regard, both to God and to her husband. Reuben (!bwar – Reuven, as it is pronounced in Hebrew) is a name that is a compound of two Hebrew words. “Re'u” means “look” or “see,” and “ben” means “son.” Literally the meaning of Reuben is, “behold a son.” The name Reuben expresses the fact that “re'u” - God saw my miserable situation, and therefore blessed me with a “ben” – a son.
Leah gave birth to the firstborn son of Jacob. A firstborn son would be entitled to the birthright and would insure that the family name would be carried on. Leah believed that Jacob would be so pleased with her because she blessed Jacob with a son, that Jacob would love her and favor her as he did Rachel.
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon. Genesis 29:33
Simeon (!w[mX – Shimeon in Hebrew) literally means “heard.” The name Simeon expresses the fact that the LORD “heard” of Leah’s plight and blessed her with a second son.
Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi. Genesis 29:34
Levi is translated from the Hebrew word, ywl (lay-vee) and means “joined to.” Leah hoped that at last Jacob would be romantically attached to her because she had given birth to three sons.
Leah’s eyes were fixed upon her husband Jacob and she was in emotional distress because of her feelings of rejection. But Jacob and been deceived into marrying her and understandably he did not have the strong romantic feeling for Leah as he did for Rachel.
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children. Genesis 29:35
The English name Judah is translated from the Hebrew word, hdwhy – Yehuda which means praised and is related to the Hebrew verb - lehodot, “to thank”. Leah finally realized that she should be thankful to God and give Him praise whether or not her child bearing would change Jacob’s feeling for her. In spite of her circumstances, Leah was thankful and gave the LORD a sacrifice of praise. At that time, she stopped bearing children for awhile.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
How is it possible to rejoice and be thankful even in difficult circumstances even if it is the will of God for the believer?
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17
We can stand in faith regardless of our circumstances because we know that God is working even the hardest situations for our good. Assured that we have a glorious eternal future, we can rejoice and be thankful regardless of difficult worldly trials.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2