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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 29

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-8


Verses 1-8:

Jacob left Bethel, encouraged by the vision of Divine glory and the renewal of the Promise. How many days his journey required is not known. The destination was "the land of the people of the east," literally, "the land of the sons of the east," or Mesopotamia. It was about 450 miles from his home at Beer-sheba-

Jacob sought and found a well; not the one Eliezer had found which was near the town and which was reached by wide stePs It was a well in the open field, used for watering the flocks, and covered by a stone for protection from debris and possibly from hostile raiders. This well was likely a cistern, rather than a well of "live" water.

A group of men had gathered at the well-site when Jacob arrived. They apparently were waiting until others arrived before removing the well-covering and watering their flocks. Jacob addressed them as "My brethern." This was a friendly greeting, from one who was himself a shepherd. He inquired of their city or home, and learned it was Haran. This would be confirmation of Divine guidance in his travels. He then inquired of Laban, son (literally, grandson) of Nahor. The herdsmen knew him, and pointed out that Rachel, Laban’s daughter, was even then approaching with her father’s sheep.

Jacob expressed surprise that they were already gathered at the well for the daily chore of watering the livestock. This was usually done late in the day, and much of the day yet remained. Jacob encouraged them to remove the stone from the well, water the sheep, and be about their business. But the men demurred, evidently having agreed that they would wait until all their fellow herdsmen were there. The reason may have been for convenience, or to prevent debris falling into the well, or to insure equal distribution to all.

Verses 9-14

Verses 9-14:

The phrase "mother’s brother" occurs three times in verse 10. This is no coincidence. It calls attention to the relationship between Jacob, Rachel, and Laban. And it is prophetic of the future problems which would occur between Jacob and his relations. Verse 10 also calls attention to the fact that Jacob took note of Laban’s flocks, perhaps as recognition of the wealth they represented.

Jacob ignored the herdsmen’s rule about waiting for the others to remove the stone from the well. That there appears to have been no opposition on their part implies that Rachel may have been the last to arrive.

Jacob watered Rachel’s flock, no small task in itself. Then he kissed her in cousinly greeting. This implies he had already identified himself to her. In true Oriental fashion, Jacob then wept, partly for joy at finding his relatives and partly in gratitude of God’s guidance.

Rachel ran home to tell her father Laban of Jacob’s arrival. Laban then came to the well and met Jacob. He brought him to his house, where Jacob proved his identity as Laban’s sister’s son. Laban acknowledged this kinship, and took Jacob into his home as guest, for about a month.

Verses 15-20

Verses 15-20:

Laban was a complex character of generosity and selfishness. It is likely he was aware of Jacob’s feelings toward his younger daughter. In his offer to Jacob, he shrewdly laid the groundwork for what followed. Jacob had no money to offer as a dowry to ask for Rachel in marriage. When Laban made his offer to hire him, Jacob seized the opportunity to bargain with his shrewd uncle. He offered to work as an indentured slave for seven years, as a dowry for Rachel. Laban agreed, and the years passed by swiftly for the love-smitten Jacob.

Verses 21-30

Verses 21-30:

At the end of seven years, Jacob demanded of Laban the agreed-upon wages: Rachel as his wife. Laban made a grand wedding feast, and invited the "men" or principal dignitaries of the place. The wedding banquet ordinarily lasted seven days, but the custom varied from place to place.

Now the deception which Jacob had perpetrated upon .his brother Esau came home to him (Ga 6:7,8). The language implies a conspiracy between Laban and Leah. The wily Syrian draped Leah in the heavy bridal veil, which by custom covered the head, fact, and much of the body. He then brought her to Jacob in the marriage ceremony. It was not until the following morning that Jacob discovered the deception. In modern times, such deception would be difficult if not impossible.

The implication is that Leah was a willing conspirator. Perhaps she was smitten with love for Jacob. As subsequent events indicate, she was God’s choice for Jacob’s wife, for to her was born Judah, the forerunner of Christ.

It is in Jacob’s favor that he did not seek to repudiate the marriage to Leah. He did demand, however, an explanation from Laban. Likely Laban’s explanation was the first Jacob had heard of the "requirement" that the younger could not marry until the older had wed. Or he may have chosen simply to ignore this custom due to his love for Rachel and the agreement with Laban.

Laban asked that Jacob "fulfill the week" of Leah, then he would give Rachel to him as his second wife - provided that Jacob would work yet another seven years for her! Laban’s conduct in the entire matter betrays his lack of concern for his daughters and what they might want. But at the same time it shows his appreciation for the talents of Jacob as a shepherd.

Leah’s name means "pining, or yearning." She was "tender-eyed," literally "weak-eyed or dull-eyed." This does not imply that she was ugly or stupid; only that her eyes did not sparkle, as did those of her younger sister. She was loyal to Jacob, and bore him sons and at least one daughter. Two of her sons (Levi and Judah) became progenitors of important tribes in Israel.

Rachel’s name means "ewe." She was a beautiful woman, but she shared her father’s traits of scheming and duplicity. She bore Jacob only two sons: Joseph and Benjamin.

Laban gave to each of his daughters a slave girl as a wedding gift. To Leah he gave Zilpah, whose name means "myrrh tree." To Rachel he gave Bilhah, whose name means "bashful or modest."

Both these slave girls later became secondary wives and bore children to Jacob.

God did not direct Jacob to take more than one wife. He has never repealed His provision of one wife for one man (Mt 19:8). Jacob’s polygamy became a source of trouble to him in later years. God may permit men to do things He does not approve. And He may bless in spite of man’s determination to have his own way. But the blessing will not be the best God has for one to enjoy.

Verses 31-35

Verses 31-35:

These verses show that Leah had faith in Jehovah, and that He was mindful of her plight. "Hated" is literally "loved less." Use of this term does not mean that Jacob literally hated her, but that he loved Leah less than Rachel. This doubtless showed in his treatment of his two wives.

Jehovah saw Leah’s humiliation, and extended a special manifestation of His grace to her (see Jas 4:6). Like Sarah and Rebekah before her, Leah was given a son. Her firstborn son was named Reuben, literally, "behold, a son!" Leah hoped that this son would win a greater portion of her husband’s love, since she had borne his firstborn.

Reuben’s birth likely did not achieve what Leah had desired. Once again Jehovah interposed, and gave her a second son. She named him Simeon, "hearing," implying that God had heard her pleas and had given her this son who would win Jacob’s greater love.

Once more Leah conceived, and bore another son. She named him Levi, "joined or associated," still in the hope that this son would join her husband to her in greater bonds of love.

Another son was born to Leah. She named him Judah, whose name means "praise." This name implies that she finally came to the point in her spiritual life that she was willing to praise Jehovah and rely upon Him regardless of what others might think or feel toward her.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 29". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-29.html. 1985.
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