JACOB MEETS RACHEL AND LABAN
After many days of travel Jacob came to the land of his relatives. He could not phone to find his directions to their home, nor did he have any street and house number, but it did not take long for him to contact them. A well was of course the most likely place to meet people. Three flocks of sheep were nearby, waiting to be watered, which they could not until a huge stone was removed from the mouth of the well (v.2). The stone was evidently necessary to prevent humans or animals from accidentally falling into the well. Their practice was to wait until all the flocks were gathered together, then the shepherds would roll the stone away, the flocks would be watered and the stone would be returned to its place.
Jacob finds through questioning the shepherds that he has come to the right place, for their home was at Haran. They knew Laban also, and that he was well (vs.5-6). More than this, at the very moment Laban's daughter Rachel was coming with her flock of sheep to the well.
However, Jacob was puzzled that the shepherds were still waiting to water their flock, but they tell him that they were unable to do this until there were enough shepherds present to roll the stone from the well's mouth. When all were gathered then they would do this and water the sheep. There is a picture in this of men waiting for the time of universal blessing, which will take place in the millennial age.
Then Rachel arrives with her father's sheep (v.9). When Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother's brother, and the sheep of his mother's brother, he was moved with amazing strength, rolling the stone away by himself (v.10). How striking a lesson is this that the energy of faith and love is able to remove great obstacles and bring blessing before the time of "the restitution of all things." This is what is seen in the present "dispensation of the grace of God." The Lord Jesus, in pure love and devotion to God, has shown the strength of that love toward the church, His espoused bride, and toward the sheep of God's flock (another type of the church) in the great sacrifice of Himself, in His resurrection power, and in already having "raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6). Thus the church has been marvelously blessed before the time of the universal blessing in the world, and the living water of the word of God has become most precious to her.
The warmth of family affection then predominates the scene as Jacob kissed Rachel, weeping for joy, telling her that he is the son of Rebekah, her father's sister. Of course they had never met, but family ties can be remarkably strong in spite of this. Rachel left the sheep and ran to tell her father the good news of a relative from a far country (v.12). Laban also ran to meet Jacob and embraced and kissed him. Thus he welcomed him into his home as his own "bone and flesh" (v.14). How good it would have been if this attitude had continued throughout their relationship! But when they parted 20 years later, the atmosphere was hostile rather than congenial (vs.31:25-55).
BARGAINING FOR A WIFE
They had been one month together, with Jacob evidently working for his uncle, when Laban, realizing that Jacob should have wages for his service, asked what Jacob would like for wages. Jacob's character as a bargainer again comes strongly to the fore on this occasion. Laban had an older daughter than Rachel, but she was not so attractive. Jacob was drawn only to Rachel and offered to work for Laban for seven years in order to earn Rachel as his wife (v.18). Laban agreed to this, evidently conveniently forgetting that his sister Rebekah had been given to Isaac immediately when the servant of Abraham brought his message (ch.24:57-61). There was no bargaining then, no suggestion that her father would virtually sell her to Isaac, but simply a willing decision on her part.
Rachel did not belong to Laban, and both Jacob and Laban were totally wrong in placing a mercenary value on a wife. When the Lord created a woman for Adam, He gave her to him as a gift by grace, and grace should always predominate in the sacred relationship of marriage. However, Jacob was willing to work for all this seven years because of his ardent love for Rachel. In fact, the time seemed to him very short in compassion to the prospect of having her as wife. When the time was fulfilled he asked now that Rachel should be given to him (v.21).
Laban therefore made a marriage feast for them. We may wonder what part Rachel had in the feast, and if she thought she was to be married to Jacob. If so, the shock to her would be as great as that to Jacob. When evening came (and of course darkness with only very dim light at best) Laban had Leah go to share Jacob's bed with him, and Jacob had no suspicion of this until the morning (vs.21-25). Possibly he had drunk to much wine at the feast, but he was certainly not prepared for such unprincipled deception as this practiced by a near relative.
When Jacob faced Laban with his deception in giving him Leah instead of Rachel, Laban coolly answered him that in his country the younger must not be married before the elder daughter. Certainly honesty would have at least informed Jacob of this at the time the agreement was made seven years earlier! It may be that Laban made up this policy in his own mind and considered it adopted by his own country! For surely if it had been the usual custom, Jacob would have heard of it before seven years. But Laban knew that the best way to get Jacob to continue working for him was to do just what he did; so he told Jacob that he could work another seven years for Rachel. What could Jacob do? He still had his heart set on Rachel, so he simply submitted to this unjust treatment, and eventually got her also as a wife.
However, the deception of his uncle might well have reminded Jacob that he himself had before deceived a relative, his own father. Such things have a way of recoiling, under the governing hand of God. It is a striking fact that those who form the character of deceivers will very likely be deceived themselves (2 Timothy 3:13). In this case too Jacob painfully learned the rights of as firstborn, which he had ignored in the case of his brother Esau.
There is a serious spiritual lesson for us in the history of Jacob's two wives. Rachel (meaning "sheep") is typical of the lovely state of soul in humble submission to God that believers would like to attain. She was the desire of Jacob's heart. But in struggling to get Rachel, he only got Leah, meaning "wearied." For Leah is a picture of what I really am, not what I desire to be. there was conflict between the two. I may try hard to make myself different, only to find myself "stuck" with what I really am, as Jacob was "stuck" with Leah! This is the struggle of Romans 7:1-25, where "I" is seen fighting against "I."
CHILDREN BORN TO LEAH
It was Leah who bore children, while Rachel remained fruitless for a long time. So that it is the hated "I" that seems to predominate in the experience of a believer who really wants to be what he thinks he should be. Leah bore four sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah (vs.31-35), while Rachel remained childless. It is good to consider that in spite of Jacob's dislike for Leah, he never made a suggestion of resorting to people's present day practice of putting away his wife. In fact, he kept her longer than Rachel, who died in childbirth and was buried on the way to Ephrath (ch.35:19), before Jacob came to his father at Mamre. We are not told of Leah's death, but Jacob says he buried her at Mamre (ch.49:30-32).
Thus the proper experience of the believer is that he keeps the fact of what he is longer than he keeps the desire to attain a high spiritual state. In fact, when Rachel died she gave place to Benjamin (meaning "son of my right hand"), a type of Christ in exaltation. Thus, when the Lord Jesus takes the place of my desire for a better spiritual life, it is not hard for me to give up that desire for I have title to forget myself and find everything in Christ Jesus my Lord. I remain just what I am, but I have a perfect Object, and actually it is only through enjoying Him as my Object that I can have any proper state of soul.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 29". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany