INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS 29
This chapter informs us of Jacob's coming to a well near Haran, where meeting with some shepherds he inquires after Laban, Genesis 29:1; and there also with Rachel his daughter, the shepherds made known to him, and acquainted her who he was, Genesis 29:9; upon which she ran to her father, and told him who was at the well, who went forth and brought him to his house, and kindly entertained him, Genesis 29:13; with whom he agreed to stay and serve seven years for Rachel his daughter, Genesis 29:15; at the end of which Jacob demands his wife, but instead of Rachel, Leah was brought to him as his wife, Genesis 29:21; which being discovered, and complained of, it was proposed he should have Rachel also, provided he would serve yet seven years more, to which he agreed, Genesis 29:26; and the chapter is concluded with an account of four sons being born to Jacob of Leah, Genesis 29:31.
Then Jacob went on his journey,.... After the above vow at Bethel, and having had some intimation that what he desired would be granted him; or "he lift up his feet"
and came into the land of the people of the east; the land of Mesopotamia or Syria, which lay to the east of the land of Canaan, see Isaiah 9:11; hither he came by several days' journeys.
And he looked, and behold a well in the field,.... Near Haran; he might purposely look out for a well, as knowing that there people frequently came for water for their families, or shepherds to water their flocks, of whom he might get intelligence concerning Laban's family, and where they dwelt; or he might lookout for this particular well, where his grandfather's servant had met with his mother Rebekah, of which he had been informed, and very probably had some directions how to find it: of this well; see Gill on Genesis 24:11; to which may be added what another traveller says
and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; in order to be watered, when it should be opened:
for out of that well they watered the flocks; the shepherds:
and a great stone was upon the well's mouth; so that until that was rolled off, they could not be watered, which was the reason of their lying by it: this stone was laid upon it, partly to keep the water from flowing out, and being wasted, that there might be a sufficiency for the flocks; and partly to keep the water pure and clean, that it might be wholesome for the flocks, as well as entire for the use of those that had a property in it.
And thither were all the flocks gathered,.... The three above mentioned, Genesis 29:2,
and they rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the sheep; that is, when they watered the sheep, they used to roll away the stone from the mouth of the well in order to do it; for as yet the flocks, now lying by it, had not been watered, as appears from Genesis 29:7,
and put a stone upon the well's mouth in this place; this they were wont to do every time they watered the flocks.
And Jacob said unto them,.... To the shepherds, though not expressly mentioned; it cannot be imagined he spoke to the flocks, but to the keepers of them:
my brethren, whence be ye? a kind and affable way of speaking, used even to strangers, since all men are brethren by nature; or might be used by Jacob, because they were of the same occupation with himself, shepherds, asking them of what city they were, and from whence they came? and which being answered, would lead on to a conversation, which was what he wanted:
and they said, of Haran are we; the very place he was bound for, and was sent unto, Genesis 27:43.
And he said unto them, know ye Laban the son of Nahor?.... He was the son of Bethuel, and grandson of Nahor; grandsons being called the sons of their grandfather; and Nahor might be more known than Bethuel, Haran being Nahor's city, Genesis 24:10; and not Bethuel his mother's father, but Laban her brother is inquired after; perhaps Bethuel was dead, and Laban was the head of the family, and well known, and it was to him he was sent:
and they said, we know him; perfectly well; he lives in our city, and is our neighbour.
And he said unto them, is he well?.... In good health, he and his family, or "is peace unto him"
and they said, he is well; or has peace; he and his family are in good health, enjoying all the comforts and blessings of life:
and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep; at that very instant she was coming out of the city with her father's flock of sheep, to water them at the well; an instance of great humility, diligence, and simplicity; this was very providential to Jacob.
And he said, lo, it is yet high day,.... Noonday, when the sun is highest; at which time in those hot countries flocks used to be made to lie down in shady places, and by still waters, to which the allusion is in Psalm 23:2; or however the sun was still up very high, and there was a great deal of the day yet to come; for so the phrase is, "yet the day is great" or "much"
neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together; off of the pastures, to be had home, and put into folds, which was usually done in the evening:
water ye the sheep, and go and feed them; give them water out of the well to drink, and then lead them out the pastures, and let them feed until the night is coming on: this he said not in an authoritative way, or in a surly ill natured manner, and as reproving them for their slothfulness; but kindly and gently giving his advice, who was a shepherd himself, and knew what was proper to be done; and this appears by the shepherds taking in good part what he said, and returning a civil answer.
And they said, we cannot,.... That is, water the sheep; either because the stone was a great one, as Jarchi observes, and therefore used to be removed by the joint strength of all the shepherds when they came together, though Jacob rolled it away of himself afterwards; but this is imputed to his great strength: or rather it was a custom that obtained among them, or an agreement made between them, that the stone should not be removed from the mouth of the well, and any flock watered:
until all the flocks be gathered together; and therefore they could not fairly and rightly do it, without violating the law and custom among them:
and till they roll the stone from the well's mouth; that is, the shepherds of the several flocks:
then we water the sheep; and not till then.
And while he yet spake with them,.... While Jacob was thus discoursing with the shepherds:
Rachel came with her father's sheep; to water them at the well. She was within sight when Jacob first addressed the shepherds, but now she was come to the well, or near it, with the sheep before her:
for she kept them: or "she was the shepherdess"
And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of Laban his mother's brother,.... Coming with her flock towards the well, and for whom and whose flock only the shepherds might be waiting:
and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother; wherefore out of respect to him and his, he being so nearly allied to him, it was
that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, either with the help of the shepherds, or of himself by his own strength; which the Jewish writers
and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother; this he did partly out of respect to his relations, and partly that he might be taken notice of by Rachel.
And Jacob kissed Rachel,.... Which he did in a way of courtesy and civility; this was done after he had acquainted her with his relation to her; he saluted her upon that:
and lifted up his voice, and wept; for joy at the providence of God that had brought him so opportunely to the place, and at the sight of a person so nearly related to him; and who he hoped would be his wife, and was the person designed of God for him.
And Jacob told Rachel,.... Or "had told"
that he was her father's brother; his nephew by his sister, for such were sometimes called brethren, as Lot, Abraham's brother's son, is called his brother, Genesis 14:12,
and that he was Rebekah's son; sister to her father, and aunt to her, and whose name and relation she doubtless knew full well:
and she ran and told her father; leaving the care of her flock with Jacob; Rebekah, in a like case, ran and told her mother, Genesis 24:28, which is most usual for daughters to do; but here Rachel runs and tells her father, her mother very probably being dead, as say the Jewish writers
And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister's son,.... That there was such a man at the well, thus related to him, and what he had done there, had rolled away the stone, and watered his flock. The Jewish writers
that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house; Jarchi and other interpreters represent this as done with avaricious views, and that he expected Jacob had brought presents with him, as pieces of gold, pearls and jewels, and such like precious things Abraham's servant brought and gave him when he came for Rebekah, Genesis 24:53; but I see not why we may not take all this to be hearty, sincere, and affectionate, arising from nearness of relation, and a sense of it:
and he told Laban all these things; how he was sent hither by his parents on account of the hatred of his brother Esau, because he had got the birthright and blessing from him; how God had appeared to him at Luz, and the promises he had made him; how providentially he had met with Rachel at the well, and perhaps might him at, if he did not openly declare, the end of his coming thither for a wife.
And Laban said to him, surely thou art my bone and my flesh,.... Nearly allied in blood, being his sister's son:
and he abode with him the space of a month; or "a month of days"
And Laban said unto Jacob, because thou art my brother,.... Or nephew, his sister's son; see Gill on Genesis 29:12,
shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? nearness of kin was no reason why he should serve him freely, or for nothing, but rather why he should be more kind to him than to a stranger, and give him better wages:
tell me, what shall thy wages be? by the day, or month, or year; signifying he was willing to give him anything that was just and reasonable, which was very well spoken; and this gave Jacob a fair opportunity of opening his mind more freely to him, and for answering a principal end for which he came, as follows:
And Laban had two daughters,.... Grown up and marriageable:
and the name of the elder was Leah; which signifies labour or weariness:
and the name of the younger was Rachel; before mentioned, whom Jacob met with at the well, Genesis 29:10; and whose name signifies a sheep, as before observed; see Gill on Genesis 29:9.
Leah was tender eyed,.... Blear eyed, had a moisture in them, which made them red, and so she was not so agreeable to look at; though Onkelos renders the words,"the eyes of Leah were beautiful,'as if her beauty lay in her eyes, and nowhere else:
but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured; in all parts, in the form of her countenance, in her shape and stature, and in her complexion, her hair black, her flesh white and ruddy, as Ben Melech observes.
And Jacob loved Rachel,.... As he seems to have done from the moment he saw her at the well, being beautiful, modest, humble, affable, diligent, and industrious:
and he said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter: signifying, that he desired no other wages for his service than that, that he might have her for his wife, at the end of seven years' servitude, which he was very willing to oblige himself to, on that condition; for having no money to give as a dowry, as was customary in those times, he proposed servitude instead of it; though Schmidt thinks this was contrary to custom, and that Laban treated his daughters like bondmaids, and such as are taken captives or strangers, and sold them, of which they complain, Genesis 31:15.
And Laban said,.... Deceitfully, as the Targum of Jonathan adds, pretending great respect for Jacob, and that what he had proposed was very agreeable to him, when he meant to impose upon him:
it is better that I should give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man; by which he not only intimates that he preferred him, a relation, to another man, a stranger; but as if he did not insist upon the servitude for her, but would give her to him; unless he means upon the terms proposed, and so it should seem by what follows:
abide with me: the term of seven years, and serve me; suggesting, that then he agreed Rachel should be his wife; and so Jacob, a plain hearted man, understood him; but he designed no such thing.
And Jacob served seven years for Rachel,.... The whole term of time, diligently, faithfully, and patiently. Reference is had to this in Hosea 11:12,
and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her; for though to lovers time seems long ere they enjoy the object beloved; yet Jacob here respects not so much the time as the toil and labour of service he endured in it; he thought that seven years' service was a trifle, like the service of so many days, in comparison of the lovely and worthy person he obtained thereby; all that he endured was nothing in comparison of her, and through the love he bore to her: besides, the many pleasant hours he spent in conversation with her made the time slide on insensibly, so that it seemed to be quickly gone; which shows that his love was pure and constant.
And Jacob said unto Laban, give me my wife,.... Meaning Rachel, who was his wife by contract; the conditions of her being his wife were now fulfilled by him, and therefore he might challenge her as his wife:
for my days are now fulfilled; the seven years were up he agreed to serve him for his daughter; and therefore it was but just and right she should be given him:
that I may go in unto her; as his lawful wife, and it was high time Jacob had her; for he was now, as the Jewish writers generally say
And Laban gathered together all the men of the place,.... Of the city of Haran, which may be understood of the chief and principal of them, to make the marriage of his daughter public and authentic:
and made a feast; a marriage or marriage feast, as the Septuagint version, see Matthew 22:2; which was usual, when a marriage was solemnized, expressive of joy on that account.
And it came to pass in the evening,.... After the feast was over, and the guests were departed; when it was night, a fit season to execute his designs, and practise deceit:
that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him, to Jacob, in his apartment, his bedchamber, or to him in bed: for it is still the custom in some eastern countries for the bridegroom to go to bed first, and then the bride comes, or is brought to him in the dark, and veiled, so that he sees her not: so the Armenians have now such a custom at their marriages that the husband goes to bed first; nor does the bride put off her veil till in bed
and he went in unto her; or lay with her as his wife; a modest expression of the use of the bed.
And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid, for an handmaid. It was usual to have many given them at this time, as Rebekah seems to have had, Genesis 24:59; but Leah had but one, and this was all the portion Jacob had with her. The Targum of Jonathan is,"and Laban gave her Zilpah his daughter, whom his concubine bore unto him:'hence the Jews say
And it came to pass, that, in the morning, behold, it was Leah,.... The morning light discovered her, and her veil being off, her tender eyes showed who she was: it is much her voice had not betrayed her; but perhaps there might be a likeness of voice in her and her sister; or she might keep silence, and so not be discovered in that way; but to excuse her from sin is not easy, even the sin of adultery and incest. Manythings may be said indeed in her favour, as obedience to her father, and, being the eldest daughter, might be desirous of having an husband first, and especially of having the promised seed, which God promised to Abraham, and was to be in the line of Jacob: and it may be, as Schmidt observes, that Laban had persuaded her to believe, that the matrimonial contract he had made with Jacob was on her account, and that she was truly his spouse; and the same he might say to Rachel, which made her easy, or otherwise it is difficult to account for it that she should acquiesce in it; for it can hardly be thought to be done without her knowledge, when it was for the solemnity of her marriage that the men of the city were called together, and a feast made for them; for that she should deliver up to her sister the things or signs that Jacob had given her to carry on the fraud, as the Jewish writers
and he said to Laban; when he arose in the morning, and at first meeting with him:
what is this that thou hast done unto me? what a wicked thing is it? as it was, to put another woman to bed to him that was not his wife, and in the room of his lawful wife; or why hast thou done this to me? what reason was there for it? what have I done, that could induce thee to do me such an injury? for Jacob knew what he had done, of that he does not inquire, but of the reason of it, and expostulates with him about the crime, as it was a sin against God, and an injury to him:
did I not serve thee, for Rachel? even seven years, according to agreement? was not this the covenant I made with thee, that she should be my wife at the end of them?
wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? by giving Leah instead of her: though Laban is not to be justified in this action, yet here appears in Providence a righteous retaliation of Jacob; he beguiled his own father, pretending he was his brother Esau; and now his father-in-law beguiles him, giving him blear eyed Leah instead of beautiful Rachel.
And Laban said, it must not be so done in, our country,.... Or "in our place"
to give the younger, that is, in marriage:
before the firstborn; but it does not appear there was any such custom, and it was a mere evasion; or otherwise, why did not he inform him of this when he asked for Rachel? and why did he enter into a contract with him, contrary to such a known custom? and besides; how could he have the nerve to call the men of the city, and make a feast for the marriage of his younger daughter, if this was the case?
Fulfil her week,.... Not Rachel's week, or a week of years of servitude for her, but Leah's week, or the week of seven days of feasting for her marriage; for a marriage feast used to be kept seven days, according to the Jewish writers
and we will give this also; meaning Rachel that stood by; and the sense is, that he and his wife, if he had any, or his friends about him, would give to Jacob Rachel also to be his wife, upon the following condition:
for the service which thou shall serve with me yet seven other years; which shows the avaricious temper of the man.
And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week,.... The week of the days of the feast of Leah, as the Targum of Jonathan adds; he agreed to it; during which time he cohabited with Leah as his wife, and which confirmed the marriage: how justifiable this was, must be left. The marrying of two sisters was forbidden by the law of Moses, Leviticus 18:18; and polygamy was not allowed of in later times, and yet both were dispensed with in times preceding; and there seems to be an overruling Providence in this affair, which oftentimes brings good out of evil, since the Messiah was to spring from Leah, and not Rachel; See Gill on Genesis 29:35; and having more wives than one, and concubines also, seems to be permitted for this reason, that Jacob might have a numerous progeny, as it was promised he should: and indeed Jacob was under some necessity of marrying both sisters, since the one was ignorantly defiled by him, and the other was his wife by espousal and contract; and though he had served seven years for her, he could not have her without consenting to marry the other, and fulfilling her week, and serving seven years more; to such hard terms was he obliged by an unkind uncle, in a strange country, and destitute:
and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also; not after seven years' service, as Josephus
And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter, Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid. As he had given Leah an handmaid he gave Rachel another; and this in the Targum of Jonathan is said to be a daughter of Laban by a concubine also, as the former.
And he went in also unto Rachel,.... Cohabited with her as his wife:
and he loved also Rachel more than Leah; she was his first love, and he retained the same love for her he ever had; as appears by his willingness to agree to the same condition of seven years' servitude more for her sake, and which he performed as follows:
and served with him, yet seven other years; that is, Jacob served so many years with Laban after he had married his two daughters, and fulfilled the weeks of feasting for each of them.
And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated,.... Not properly and simply hated by Jacob, as appears by his doing the duty of an husband to her, but comparatively; she was less loved than Rachel: and there are many things to be said for it; she was not beautiful as Rachel was; she was not Jacob's choice, as she was but imposed upon him through deceit, and he was forced to marry her, or he could not have Rachel his beloved wife: but the Lord had pity on her, and that she might have a share in her husband's affections:
he opened her womb; or gave her conception; as Onkelos paraphrases it:
but Rachel was barren; bare no children as yet, and for many years after, Genesis 30:22.
And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben,.... That is, "see the son", as if she by this name called upon her husband, her friends, and all about her, to look at him, and view him; perhaps hoping and imagining he might be the famous son, the promised seed, the Messiah that was to spring to Abraham, in the line of Jacob; but if she so thought, she was greatly mistaken; for this son of hers proved unstable, and did not excel; or rather God hath seen or provided a son, as Hillerus
for she said, surely the Lord hath looked on my affliction; being deceived by her father, not so much loved by her husband as her sister was, and perhaps slighted by her:
now therefore my husband will love me: more than he has done, and equally as my sister, having bore him a son.
And she conceived again, and bare a son,.... As soon as she well could. The Jews
and said, because the Lord hath heard that I was hated; or less loved than her sister:
he hath therefore given me this son also; to comfort her under the trial and exercise, and engage her husband's love the more unto her:
and she called his name Simeon: which signifies "hearing", and answers to the reason of her having him as she concluded.
And she conceived again, and bare a son,.... A third time, as soon as she well could after the former birth:
and said, now this time will my husband be joined to me; in greater affection and stronger ties of love, and cleave unto her:
because I have born him three sons; which she considered as a threefold cord, binding his affections to her, which could not be easily broke:
and therefore was his name called Levi; which signifies "joined"; from him the Levites sprung, and had their name.
And she conceived again, and bare a son,.... A fourth son, a son in whose line, and from whose tribe, the Messiah was to spring:
and she said, now will I praise the Lord; she had praised him before for looking on her affliction, and hearing her cries, and giving her one son after another; but now she determines to praise him more than ever, having a fresh instance of his goodness to her: the Targum of Jonathan adds this as a reason,"because from this my son shall come forth kings, and from him shall come forth David the king, who shall praise the Lord.'And why may it not be as well supposed that she had knowledge of the Messiah springing from him, which would greatly heighten and increase her joy and praise?
and therefore she called his name Judah; which signifies "praise". A further improvement is made of this name, and the signification of it, in Genesis 49:8. According to the Jewish writers
and left bearing; that is, for a while, for after this she bore two sons and a daughter; see Genesis 30:17.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Genesis 29". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany