Genesis 29:1. Jacob went on his journey. Our version fails here to express the lively sense of the Hebrew, as in most versions. Levabit pedes; he tripped along with light feet, being now assured that all the promised righteousness would in due course fall to his lot.
Genesis 29:6. Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep. Such was the state of primitive society. Exercise brought the boon of health, strength, and long life. Why should our daughters be nuns in their father’s house? But alas, in London, and many large towns, it is not in the power of parents to procure proper exercise for daughters; the needle not requiring strength, leaves the half-fainting artist with but little strength. Laban could safely trust his daughters among the shepherds, who were probably aged and married men, and either his own or his kinsmen’s servants.
Genesis 29:10. Jacob rolled the stone from the well’s mouth. There were three flocks, and consequently three shepherds; yet Jacob was stronger than the three. Rachel, as well as the daughters of Jethro, assisted in keeping her father’s flocks; but Laban does not appear to have increased very much in riches.
Genesis 29:11. Kissed Rachel, because she was his cousin, and he had never seen her before. He wept, because God had so far succeeded his way. In these tears of softening joy, he felt something speaking within, that God would henceforth crown his life with every good.
Genesis 29:18. I will serve thee seven years. The rich men of the earth indulged themselves in polygamy. Hence the father of a virgin prudently required a dowry of the man to whom he gave her, that in case of being despised on his marrying another woman, he might secure her maintenance by the dowry; but the dowry so deposited was always reserved for the children. Jacob being poor, offers a full servitude instead of money.
Genesis 29:21. Give me my wife. The seven years being completed, he demanded Rachel on the ground of right. And he wished to receive her conformably to the laws and usuages of families, with the consent of her father, and the good wishes of the public; three grand points in constituting the validity of marriage.
Genesis 29:25. In the morning behold it was Leah! A fine ado, no doubt, and which nothing could compromise but the promise of Rachel. Laban believed in the covenant of God confirmed to Jacob, and had predetermined to force his eldest daughter on so auspicious a man, and prince of his father’s house. For this purpose he instructed her in the part she was to act, and having induced her to comply with the design, he the more easily imposed on Jacob by means of the veil which virgins wore. Genesis 24:65. Laban acted a base and treacherous part, but tried to excuse himself on the ground of custom; but that did not satisfy the disappointed lover, who had paid a severe dowry of servitude for his wife, because Laban should have urged that law, if he had meant to urge it, at the time of the covenant; not after the nuptial benedictions had been pronounced on the bride. Thus Jacob, who had deceived his own father, was now deceived by his father-in-law!
Genesis 29:27. Fulfil her week. The marriage festivals usually continued a whole week. 14:10; 14:12; 14:17. The law of affinity in marriage was not yet revealed. In the early progress of society there was often a necessity for the near of kin to marry. Jacob thinking the world partially under God’s displeasure for idolatry, thought himself entitled to the liberty allowed in the family of Adam and Noah, but it filled his house with discord.
Genesis 29:28. He gave him Rachel. It appears from the number of children Jacob had at the end of twenty years, that he married Rachel immediately after the week of feasting was expired.
Genesis 29:29. Bilhah. The dotal maid was the property of the bride. See Genesis 16. 24.
Genesis 29:30. He loved Rachel more than Leah; which in Genesis 29:33 is called “hated.” Why then allow of polygamy at all, seeing a man can love but one woman, as a wife should be loved. Yet these patriarchs were reckoned models of purity in their age. They touched not the dotal maid till the lawful wife had done bearing. No man in Europe can draw inferences of polygamy or concubinage from it, for the nations are now very populous. In primitive society no brother would allow his sister to be treated as a harlot.
Genesis 29:32. Leah—called his name Reuben, variously rendered, Behold my son; son of vision, or of providence.
Genesis 29:33. She called his name Simeon, that is, hearing, or joyful hearing.
What a series of calamities befel poor Jacob! They began in his youth, and continued to old age; but were mixed with many mercies. On a review of providence it would seem in some sort a general law, that all men highly honoured of God should be greatly tried. Perhaps he sees that our soaring vanity needs to be checked by a constant cross.
Amidst all his afflictions we see a superintending providence every moment extending its watchful eye over our patriarch. How seasonable and consolatory were the dream, and the promises made to him at Bethel. How opportune and pleasing was the meeting with Rachel in the field, and how deep the impression which heaven made in that interview on Jacob’s heart. Let us ever learn to rely on the promised care of the Almighty: he is watchful on all occasions to promote our happiness.
If Jacob served fourteen years with pleasure for Rachel, and thought himself more than paid in the boon of a favourite wife, what should ministers do for the glory of God, and the Redeemer of the world. Is there any cross we should decline, any labour we should reckon hard, or any treatment we should think severe, if we may obtain the conversion of sinners, and the approbation of our Master?
Was Laban wicked and sordid to violate his faith with Jacob, and require a double servitude for his daughter’s beauty? With what greater pleasure then should we serve the Father of spirits, who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and of great compassion.—But at the same time let all parents learn to keep faith with their children; for family vices are a sort of sins the most difficult to purge.
If it was not Leah’s lot to be the favourite wife, she had a gratifying compensation in being singularly happy as a mother; nor was it a small diminution of Rachel’s beauty, that she was barren. Thus it is that providence has attempered society together, often as St. Paul observes, putting honour on the more uncomely parts, that every one may have cause to be humble, and cause to rejoice before the Lord. Let no good man therefore be discouraged. The God of Israel ever lives to help him out of all his troubles.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 29". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany