Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Genesis 29

Verse 1


Jacob comes to the well of Haran, Genesis 29:1-3; inquires of the shepherds concerning Laban, Genesis 29:4-8. They show him Rachel, Laban’s daughter, coming with the sheep, Genesis 29:9. Jacob goeth near to her; waters the flock, Genesis 29:10; tells her who he was, Genesis 29:12. She tells it her father, who brings him to his house, hears what had happened to him, Genesis 29:12-14. They bargain that Jacob should serve seven years for Rachel, Genesis 29:15-19. He performs his service, and desires her to be given him, Genesis 29:20,21. Laban makes a feast, and invites all the men of the place, Genesis 29:22; and puts Leah, his eldest daughter, in the room of Rachel, Genesis 29:23-26. Jacob obtains Rachel, promising other seven years’ service, Genesis 29:27-30. Rachel is beloved and barren; Leah hated, and bears Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Genesis 29:31-35.

Heb. Jacob lift up his feet; which may note either the gesture of his body, that he went on foot; or the temper of his mind, that he went not sadly and unwillingly, drawing his legs after him, as we use to say, but readily and cheerfully, being encouraged by God’s word.

The land of the people of the east; which lay eastward from Canaan, as Mesopotamia did.

Verse 2

They, i.e. the people belonging to that place, watered; or, the flocks were watered; it is an impersonal speech.

A great stone was upon the well’s mouth, to preserve the water, which was scarce in those parts, and to keep it pure.

Verse 4

He calls them

my brethren, partly in token of respect and affection, and partly because they were of the same nature and employment with himself.

Verse 6

According to the manner of those times, Exodus 2:16 Song of Solomon 1:7,8, when humility, innocency, simplicity, and industry were in fashion, both among men and women of great quality. There are some that quarrel with the Scripture, and question the truth of such relations, because they judge of the state of ancient times and things by the present age, whereby they discover great folly and deep ignorance of the state of former ages.

Verse 7

Neither is it time that the cattle should be taken from their pasture, and brought to be watered.

Verse 10

The vale of Siddim was chosen by those five kings for the place of battle, that their adversaries being ignorant of the place might unawares fall into those pits, which they by their knowledge of it thought to escape.

Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, i.e. their armies; a figurative speech, frequent in Scripture and other authors; for their persons escaped: see Genesis 14:17. They either,

1. Fell into the pits which they designed for others; or rather,

2. Were slain, as this word is oft used, as Joshua 8:24,25 Jud 8:10 12:6; and here too; for those that fell are here opposed to those that remained.

Verse 12

Lot now suffered for his cohabitation with bad neighbours.

Verse 13

Abram the Hebrew; so called, either,

1. From his great and good predecessor Eber, Genesis 10:24 11:14, in and by whom the primitive language and true religion were preserved; and therefore though Abram had five other progenitors between Eber and him, which were persons of less note, he is rightly denominated from Eber, the Hebrew, because he was the first that revived the memory and the work of Eber, that kept up the same language, and eminently propagated the same true religion. Or,

2. As others think, from his passing over the river Euphrates, from beyond which he came into Canaan.

These were confederate with Abram, i.e. had entered into a league for their mutual defence against common enemies. Whence we learn that it is not simply and universally unlawful to make a league with persons of a false religion.

Verse 14

He armed his trained servants, whom he had disciplined and instructed both in religion and in the military art too, both which were necessary to make them good soldiers, that they might both fight with skill and courage, and also rely upon God, and engage his assistance; which was now especially necessary, when so small a party were to engage against so numerous an army.

Dan is commonly thought to be a town then called Leshem, Joshua 19:47, or Laish, Jude 18:7, and afterwards Dan; see Jude 18:7,29; so it is an anticipation. But it may be doubted whether this was a city; or if it were, whether it were not another town called by the same name, which was frequent in those parts. And some think this is not a town, but the very fountain of Dan, whence Jordan had its name.

Verse 15

He divided himself, i.e. his forces into several parties, that coming upon them from several quarters he might strike them with greater terror, whilst they thought his army far more numerous than it was.

Verse 16

He brought back all the goods which the victorious kings had taken from the princes and people mentioned before in this chapter.

Verse 17

So called either upon this occasion of the meeting of divers kings here; or because king Melchizedek either had his habitation, or was much delighted with it, and conversant in it. See 2 Samuel 18:18.

Verse 18

Quest. Who was this?


1. Shem, as the Jews and many others think, who probably was alive at this time, and, no doubt, a great prince. But neither is it probable that Shem should be a king among the cursed race of Ham; nor will this agree with the apostle’s description of Melchizedek, Hebrews 7:3, without father and mother, & c. Whereas Shem’s parents, and the beginning and end of his days, are as expressly mentioned by Moses as any other.

2. A Canaanitish king, by the Divine Providence made both a king over men, and priest unto the true God, brought in here in this unusual manner, without any mention of his parents, birth, or death, for this end, that he might be an illustrious type of Christ. Of this matter see more upon Hebrews 7:3.

King of Salem, i.e. of Jerusalem, called elsewhere Jebus, and Salem, Psalms 76:2.

Bread and wine; not for sacrifice to God; for then he had brought forth beasts to be slain, which were the usual and best sacrifices: but partly to show the respect which he bore to Abram, and principally to refresh his weary and hungry army, according to the manner of those times. See Deuteronomy 23:3,4 25:18 Jude 8:5,6,15 1 Samuel 17:17.

He was the priest of the most high God: thus in succeeding ages the same persons were often both kings and priests, as the learned note out of Virgil and other authors. And this clause is here added, as the cause and reason, not for his bringing forth or offering bread and wine, as some would have it, (for that is ascribed to him as a king, as an act of royal munificence), but of the following benediction and decimation. In those times God had his remnant scattered here and there even in the worst places and nations.

Verse 19

And, or therefore, ( as the particle is oft taken, i.e. because he was a priest of God),

he (i.e. Melchizedek)

blessed him, ( Abram,) which was one act of the priestly office. See Poole on "Hebrews 7:6". See Poole on "Hebrews 7:7". So it is a prayer for him, that God would confirm and increase the blessing which he had given him. Or, blessed is; so it is an acknowledgment of God’s blessing conferred upon Abram both formerly, and in this late and great victory. Or, blessed shall be; so it is a prediction concerning his future and further blessedness, whereof this was only an earnest.

Verse 20

Not Melchizedek gave to Abram, as some Jews foolishly understand it; for Abram swears that he would not keep nor take any of the recovered goods of the kings of Sodom, or his brethren, Genesis 14:23. But Abram gave to Melchizedek, as appears both from Hebrews 4:7, and from the nature of the thing, for the tithes confessedly belong to the priest, such as Melchizedek, and not Abram, is here described to be.

All, not of all the recovered goods, but of all the spoils taken from the enemies.

Verse 22

This was the ancient manner of swearing. See Exodus 6:8 Numbers 14:30 Deuteronomy 32:40 Ezekiel 20:5,6.

Verse 23

That I will not take; Heb. If I shall take. Understand, God do so and so to me, which is expressed 1 Samuel 14:44. A defective manner of swearing used amongst the Hebrews, either to maintain the reverence of oaths, and the dread of perjury, seeing they were afraid so much as to mention the curse which they meant; or to show that they were willing to submit to any punishment which God should inflict upon them, without exception, if they violated their oaths.

Even to a shoe-latchet, i.e. any thing, though never so small or mean, lest thou shouldst claim a share with God in the honour due to him, to whose blessing alone I do and I will owe my riches. Or, lest thou shouldst say, Abram is enriched with my spoils; and however he pretended kindness and charity, yet indeed it was his covetousness that put him upon this work.

Verse 25

Though Laban could not solidly answer the question, yet Jacob could do it, and had just cause to reflect upon his own former action of beguiling his father; for which God had now punished him in the same kind.

Verse 26

This seems to be a false pretence; but if it had been true, custom is to give place to justice, by which he was obliged to perform his contract with him.

Verse 27

Fulfil her week, the seven days usually devoted to the feast and solemnity of marriage, as Jude 14:12,15,17. And this he desired, that a week’s cohabitation with Leah might either knit his affections to her, or at least confirm the contract and marriage with her.

Verse 28

It was not so strange that Laban should give, as that Jacob should take, not only two wives, but two sisters to wife, which seems to be against the law of nature, and was expressly forbidden by God afterward, Leviticus 18:18; though it be also true that God might dispense with his own institution, or permit such things in the patriarchs upon special reasons, which are not to be drawn into example.

Verse 31

Leah was hated comparatively to Rachel, less loved, slighted. So that word is oft used, as Deuteronomy 21:15 Matthew 6:24 10:37, compared with Luke 14:26 John 12:25. Thus variously doth God distribute his favours, that all may be contented and none despised.

Verse 32

The Lord hath looked upon my affliction with an eye of pity and kindness, as that general phrase is oft understood.

Verse 33

The Lord hath heard, i.e. perceived or understood; hearing being oft put for understanding.

Verse 34

This time will my husband be joined unto me in more sincere and fervent affection.

Verse 35

Now will I praise the Lord more solemnly and continually; for otherwise she did praise and acknowledge God for the former mercies. cir. 1749

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Genesis 29". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.