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Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 29

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east.

Then Jacob went ... - Hebrew, lifted up his feet. He resumed his way next morning with a light heart and elastic step, after the vision of the ladder; for tokens of the divine favour tend to quicken the discharge of duty (Nehemiah 8:10).

And came into the land ... Arabia, Mesopotamia, and the whole region beyond the Euphrates, are by the sacred writers included under the general designation, 'the East' (Judges 6:3; 1 Kings 4:30; Job 1:3). Mesopotamia is specially referred to in this passage. Between the first and the second clause of this verse is comprehended a journey of four hundred miles.

Verse 2

And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well's mouth.

And he looked ... - as he approached the place of his destination, he, according to custom, repaired to the well adjoining the town, where he would obtain an easy introduction to his relatives.

Three flocks ... and a ... stone, ... In Arabia, owing to the shifting sands, and in other places, owing to the strong evaporation, the mouth of a well is generally covered, especially when it is private property. Over many is laid a broad, thick, flat stone, with a round hole cut in the middle, forming the mouth of the cistern. This hole is covered with a small stone, which is fastened by a lock, the key of which is kept by the owner. There are numerous wells and cisterns of water of this description in the East. The well around which Jacob saw the shepherds with their flocks waiting was "in the field," and consequently was not that "without (outside) the city" (Genesis 24:11), down the hewn steps of which Rebekah descended to obtain water with a pitcher; neither were there any troughs into which the water was poured. It must have been at a distance from Haran, because Jacob does not appear as yet to have descried the city. Such was the description of the well at Haran.

Verse 3

And thither were all the flocks gathered: and they rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well's mouth in his place.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 4-5

And Jacob said unto them, My brethren, whence be ye? And they said, Of Haran are we.

Jacob said ... My brethren ... Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? He was the grandson of Nahor. Bethuel is passed over as of no note in the family (see the note at Genesis 24:53; Genesis 24:55). Finding from the shepherds who were reposing there with flocks, and who all belonged to Haran that his relatives in Haran were well, and that one of the family was shortly expected [ baa'aah (H935)], participle, is coming], he inquired why they were idling the best part of the day there, instead of watering their flocks, and sending them back to pasture? Jacob's object evidently was to get these shepherds out of the way, in order that his introduction to his fair cousin might take place in private, and the conversation relative to their respective families might not be heard by strangers.

Verses 6-7

And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 8

And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well's mouth; then we water the sheep.

They said, We cannot, until. In order to prevent the consequences of too frequent exposure in places where water is scarce, it is not only covered and secured, but it is customary to have all the flocks collected round the well before the covering is removed in presence of the owner, or one of his representatives; and it was for this reason that those who were reposing at the well of Haran with the three flocks were waiting the arrival of Rachel.

Verses 9-11

And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep: for she kept them.

While he yet spake ... Rachel came. Among the pastoral tribes the young unmarried daughters of the greatest sheikhs tend the flocks, going out at sunrise, and continuing to watch their fleecy charge until sunset. This practice of employing young women to watch the flocks obtains still among the modern Bedouins; and among some tribes these are exclusively employed, insomuch that Burckhardt declares, 'a boy would feel himself insulted were any one to say "Go, and drive your father's sheep to pasture." These words, in his opinion, would signify 'you are no better than a girl.'

Watering them, which is done twice a day, is a work of time and labour, and Jacob rendered no small service in volunteering his aid to the young shepherdess. It was an act of civility on the part of a stranger, readily accepted by Rachel as rendered by a kinsman. The interview was affecting, the reception welcome, and Jacob forgot all his toils in the society of his Mesopotamian relatives. Can we doubt that he returned thanks to God for His goodness by the way?

Verse 12

And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son: and she ran and told her father.

Jacob told Rachel ... According to the practice of the East, the term "brother" is extended to remote degrees of relationship, as uncle, cousin, or nephew.

Verse 13

And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 14

And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month.

He abode ... a month. Among pastoral people a stranger is freely entertained for three days; on the fourth he is expected to tell his name and errand; and if he prolongs his stay after that time, he must set his hand to work in some way, as may be agreed upon. A similar rule obtained in Laban's establishment, and the wages for which his nephew engaged to continue in his employment was the hand of Rachel.

Verse 15

And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 16

And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

The name of the elder was Leah (weak-eyed, Gesenius), and the name of the younger was Rachel, [ Raacheel (H7354), sheep, ewe] - who might be so called from the mildness of her temper, or, as Harmer suggests, from the reverse (Genesis 30:1). Since, however, Jacob and Laban used different languages (Genesis 31:47), these names of the two daughters may only be the Hebrew equivalents of the original names.

Verse 17

Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.

Leah ... tender-eyed - i:e., soft blue eyes-thought a blemish; according to others, weak, dull, bleary eyes. [Septuagint, astheneis (G772); Vulgate, lippi.]

Rachel ... beautiful and well favoured, [ yªpat (H3303) to'ar (H8389)] - i:e., comely, and [ wiypat (H3303) mar'eh (H4758)] handsome in form (cf. 1 Samuel 16:18; 1 Samuel 17:42). The latter was Jacob's choice.

Verse 18

And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.

I will serve thee seven years - a proposal of marriage is made to the father without the daughter being consulted, and the match is effected by the suitor either bestowing costly presents on the family, or by giving cattle to the value the father sets upon his daughter, or else by giving personal services for a specified period, as a compensation to the father for the loss of his daughter's services.

Serving as a labourer in various departments of work to purchase a wife is quite common in the East still, and Sir H. Rawlinson, speaking of the Persian army, mentions that in more than one instance known to him, 'a man, in order to obtain a young woman as a bride, served as a substitute for her brother.

As to the particular term of seven years, it seems to have been regarded in early times as a full and complete period of service (cf. Exodus 21:2). Even after betrothal, the contact of the parties is restricted. The Arabs will not allow them to see each other; but the Hebrews were not so stringent, nor, perhaps, the people in Mesopotamia. At all events, with Jacob the time went rapidly away; because even severe and difficult duties become light when love is the spring of action.

Verses 19-20

And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 21

And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.

Jacob said, Give me my wife. The betrothals often continue for years, as they did in Jacob's case, before a man demands his wife. When a man demands his betrothed, a day is fixed for the nuptials, and for seven nights before, he is expected to give a feast-which, however, is frequently furnished-always among the lower classes-by the guests themselves-one sending coffee, another sugar, etc. The principal period of this continuous feast is the night before the consummation.

Verse 22

And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.

Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast, [ waya`as (H6213) mishteh (H4960)] - made a banquet, a symposium [Septuagint, epoieese gamon]. In both these phrases, the idea of the marriage feast is more prominent than the marriage itself (cf. Esther 2:18; Matthew 25:10), and, indeed, both the Hebrew and Greek words are sometimes used for mere feasting (Esther 9:22; Luke 14:8). These nuptial festivities lasted for the most part seven days (cf. Judges 14:12), but sometimes fourteen days (Tobias 8:19).

Verse 23

And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.

In the evening, that he took Leah ... and brought her to him. The ample bridal veil enveloped the whole person, so that it was impossible to discern the features of the wearer. This circumstance favoured the execution of a selfish scheme of Laban, by whom an infamous fraud was practiced on Jacob, and on his showing a righteous indignation, the useage of the country was pleaded in excuse. No plea of kindred should ever be allowed to come in opposition to the claim of justice. But this is often overlooked by the selfish mind of man, and fashion or custom rules instead of the will of God. This was what Laban did, as he said, "It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the first-born." But, then, if that had been the prevailing custom of society at Haran, he should have apprised his nephew of it at an early period and in an honourable manner. This, however, is too much the way with the people of the East are still. The duty of marrying an older daughter before a younger, the tricks which parents take to get off an older daughter who is plain or deformed, and in which they are favoured by the long bridal veil that entirely conceals her features all the wedding-day, and the prolongation for a week of the marriage festivities among the greater shiekhs, are accordant with the habits of the people in Arabia and Armenia in the present day.

Verses 24-26

And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid. No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 27

Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.

Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also, ... i:e., complete without disturbance or interruption the week's marriage festival of this one, and then Rachel will be given you on the same condition, a term of seven year's service. The mercenary character of Laban is now fully brought out.

Verse 28

And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.

Gave him Rachel ... also. It is evident that the marriage of both sisters took place nearly about the same time, and that such a connection was then allowed, though afterward prohibited (Leviticus 18:18). There was not only bigamy, but polygamy on a larger scale than has hitherto appeared in the sacred record. Those marriages, however, must not be judged of by the rules of the Christian, or even the Mosaic, code of morality. For although the will of the Creator was sufficiently indicated by the union of a single pair at first, a clear definite marriage law, specifying the prohibited degrees of consanguinity had not been enacted, and the idea of incest, therefore, must be excluded.

Verse 29

And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid.

Gave to Rachel ... Bilhah ... to be her maid. A father in good circumstances still gives his daughter from his household a female slave, over whom the young wife, independently of her husband, has the absolute control.

Verse 30

And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.

He loved also Rachel more than Leah. This affection for Rachel seems to have been love at first sight, and of the most ardent character; more like what is read in romance book sthan what is paralleled in real life. It is not wonderful that she should occupy a place in his regards far superior to that of her sister, the more especially as that sister had been an accomplice in the infamous plot which had been contrived to entrap him into a marriage with her.

Verse 31

And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

When the Lord saw ... This statement is of great importance in the progressive development of the covenant. It is not to be considered as made by the sacred historian merely in the style of Scripture, which ascribes all ordinary events to the agency of God; but purposely to show that in the third, as in the earlier stages, the Israelite nation originated not from nature but from grace.

Leah was hated - i:e., not loved so much as she ought to have been. Her becoming a mother ensured her rising in the estimation both of her husband and of society.

Verse 32

And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.

Son ... called his name Reuben - i:e., behold! a son. Names were always significant; and those which Leah gave to her sons were expressive of her varying feelings of thankfulness or joy, or allusive to circumstances in the history of the family. There was piety and wisdom in attaching a signification to names, as it tended to keep the bearer in remembrance of his duty and the claims of God.

Verse 33

And she conceived again and bare a son; and said Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated he And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.

Simeon - i:e., favourable bearing.

Now this time will my husband be joined unto me. This language is still used in the East by a wife who has become the mother of one or two sons. Mr. Graham, an intelligent missionary, describes ('Jordan and Rhine') the case of a wife who had born twin sons; and when the rumour spread through the neighbourhood in the city, the Moslem ladies came in troops, crying, 'What has God willed! How glorious! How fortunate! Now your husband will love you, and your name shall be great.'

Verse 34

And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.

Levi - i:e., a joining.

Verse 35

And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.

Judah, [ Yªhuwdaah (H3063)] - i:e., praise or thanksgiving. [It is a Chaldeeism derived from the Hiphil of yaadaah (H3027), to praise, of which the common form is yowdeh, in the present, and howdaah, in the past (Rosenmuller's 'Scholia,' in loco).]

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 29". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/genesis-29.html. 1871-8.
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