Pursuing his journey after his experience at Luz, now called Beth-el, Jacob came into "the land of the children of the east." Here the next twenty years of his life were to be spent, during which he amassed his wealth. As presently he himself said, he went out carrying only his staff: "With my staff I passed over this Jordan" (Genesis 32:10). When he returned, he was wealthy, as his words, again interpreted by the time and place, reveal, ". . . and now I am become two companies."
At this point the story of his dealings with Laban commences. On the human side it is a fascinating account of the conflict of two strong, astute men. There is really little to admire in the methods of either. However, of the two, as we shall see, Laban was the more to be despised. Here, too, we have the beginning of the story of the one great human love in the life of Jacob, the story of his meeting with and eventual winning of Rachel. There is no doubt that it is a pure love story, and all the subsequent history shows how dear to the heart of Jacob was this woman of pastoral life, the shepherdess of her father's sheep.
Laban met Jacob with effusive greetings, and, with the shrewdness that characterized him, there can be no doubt he saw how much he might gain from the services of Jacob. This accounts for the readiness with which he promised him Rachel to wife. The true nature of the man, however, was clearly manifested in the brutal deceit he practiced on Jacob at the end of the seven years. Love, however, is stronger than all opposition and Jacob served Laban another seven years for Rachel. It may be pointed out that he did not wait those seven years, for they were united at once. Nevertheless, he carried out the terms of the bargain.
Second Sunday after Epiphany