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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 29

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Genesis 29:0


Jacob Meets RachelJacob Meets RachelJacob's Success in Haran(Genesis 29:1-55)Jacob Arrives at Laban's HomeJacob Arrives at Laban's Home
Genesis 29:1-3Genesis 29:1-3Genesis 29:1-3Genesis 29:1-3Genesis 29:1-8
Genesis 29:4-8Genesis 29:4-8Genesis 29:4-8Genesis 29:4a
Genesis 29:4b
Genesis 29:5a
Genesis 29:5b
Genesis 29:6a
Genesis 29:6b
Genesis 29:7
Genesis 29:8
Genesis 29:9-12Genesis 29:9-12Genesis 29:9-12Genesis 29:9-12aGenesis 29:9-14a
Genesis 29:12-14
Genesis 29:13-14Genesis 29:13-14Genesis 29:13-14 Jacob's Two Marriages
Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel Jacob Serves Laban for Rachel and LeahGenesis 29:14-19
Genesis 29:15-20Genesis 29:15-20Genesis 29:15-20Genesis 29:15-17
Genesis 29:18
Genesis 29:19-20
Laban's Treachery Genesis 29:20-30
Genesis 29:21-30Genesis 29:21-30Genesis 29:21-30Genesis 29:21-25
Genesis 29:26-27
Genesis 29:28-30
The Children of Jacob(Genesis 29:31-24) The Children Born to Jacob(Genesis 29:31-24)Jacob's Children(Genesis 29:31-24)
Genesis 29:31-35Genesis 29:31-8Genesis 29:31-8Genesis 29:31-35Genesis 29:31-8

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 29:1-3 1Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the sons of the east. 2He looked, and saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep were lying there beside it, for from that well they watered the flocks. Now the stone on the mouth of the well was large. 3When all the flocks were gathered there, they would then roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the well.

Genesis 29:1 "Then Jacob went on his journey" This phrase is translated literally "lifted up his feet" (BDB 669 and 919). This is the only place that this unique idiom occurs in the OT. It seems to show something of the excitement and purpose that Jacob felt after his meeting with God at Bethel.

"and came to the land of the sons of the east" In Judges 6:3 and 33 this seems to refer to an Arabian tribe (cf. Job 1:3; Isaiah 11:14; Ezekiel 25:4, Ezekiel 25:10). However, here it seems to refer to the inhabitants of Haran (cf. Jeremiah 49:28). Possibly, it refers to the northern Arabian tribes between Bethel and Haran that Jacob might encounter.

Genesis 29:2 "He looked, and saw a well in the field" The journey is completely omitted and in Genesis 29:2 Jacob finds himself close to Haran, but not certain of his exact location. Wells were the place to meet the local folk. The presence of God is obvious in this "by chance" encounter. Haran is the context for chapters 29-31.

"Now the stone on the mouth of the well was large" This was common in this culture and was (1) to stop evaporation; (2) keep the water clean; or (3) for the purpose of security (unauthorized use).

Verses 4-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 29:4-8 4Jacob said to them, "My brothers, where are you from?" And they said, "We are from Haran." 5He said to them, "Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?" And they said, "We know him." 6And he said to them, "Is it well with him?" And they said, "It is well, and here is Rachel his daughter coming with the sheep." 7He said, "Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them." 8But they said, "We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep."

Genesis 29:4 "brothers" This is the use of the term (BDB 26) for a greeting without implying a family relationship. We use this same greeting among fellow Christians in the southern USA today.

In Genesis 29:12 and 15 the same term is used of a relative, but again not literally a "brother." This recognition of family is called "my bone and my flesh" in Genesis 29:14 (cf. Genesis 2:23).

Genesis 29:5 "Do you know Laban, the son of Nahor" Here is a good example where the word "son" (BDB 119) in Hebrew can refer to "father" or "grandfather." Bethuel is Laban's father and Nahor is his grandfather (cf. Genesis 24:24, Genesis 24:29).

Genesis 29:6 "Is it well with him. . .It is well" This is the term shalom (BDB 1022). See Special Topic at Genesis 15:15.

"Rachel his daughter coming with the sheep" There are no coincidences in the lives of God's servants (cf. Genesis 24:15; Exodus 2:16, see The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whithall Smith). There is the unseen hand of God here, as with Joseph in Genesis 37:15-17 (also in the book of Esther where God's name never appears but His presence and guidance are obvious).

Genesis 29:7 "Behold, it was still high day" Jacob was a shepherd and he knew that what was being done was against the best shepherding practices (this knowledge will impress Laban). This will allow him to show off his muscles (cf. Genesis 29:10) for Rachel! Apparently, it worked! I bet Rachel was shocked at being kissed by this stranger (cf. Genesis 29:11), but after he told her who he was there was great joy. The fact that Jacob weeps shows the cultural propensity of Oriental men to show their emotions much more than their western counterparts (cf. Genesis 29:13).

Jacob addresses the other shepherds in idiomatic IMPERATIVES functioning as rhetorical questions.

1. water, BDB 1052, KB 1639, Hiphil IMPERATIVE

2. go, BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. pasture, BDB 944, KB 1258, Qal IMPERATIVE

Verses 9-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 29:9-12 9While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. 11Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted his voice and wept. 12Jacob told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and that he was Rebekah's son, and she ran and told her father.

Verses 13-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 29:13-14 13So when Laban heard the news of Jacob his sister's son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Then he related to Laban all these things. 14Laban said to him, "Surely you are my bone and my flesh." And he stayed with him a month.

Genesis 29:13 "when Laban heard the news of Jacob his sister's son, he ran to meet him" The rabbis say he ran because he thought that Jacob would have presents just as Eliezer had brought (Genesis 24:10). However, I'm not ready to impugn his motives at this point. It is true that Laban is going to out-manipulate Jacob, the manipulator, but this seems to be the plan of God for maturing Jacob.

Genesis 29:14 "a month" The term (BDB 294) is related to the term "moon" (BDB 294). The Hebrews used a lunar calendar marked by the phases of the moon (i.e., new moon, new month).

Verses 15-20

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 29:15-20 15Then Laban said to Jacob, "Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?" 16Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17And Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face. 18Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, "I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel." 19Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me." 20So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.

Genesis 29:15 This is very subtle, but it seems that Laban had already caught on to the idea that Jacob had an eye for Rachel and he was in a round-about way asserting that since Jacob did not have the dowry he could work for him. Possibly he had also noted his shepherding skills.

Genesis 29:16 "Leah" The etymology of her name (BDB 521, KB 513) is somewhat in dispute: (1) Akkadian root, "cow"; (2) Arabic root, "wild cow"; or (3) "wearied" (from VERB, KB 512). From Genesis 29:17 it seems that she was not as attractive physically as was Rachel.

"Rachel" Her name meant "a ewe" (BDB 932, KB 1216). Apparently, nomadic people were often named after animals.

Genesis 29:17

NASB, RSV, JPSOA, NIV, LXX"eyes were weak" NKJV“eyes were delicate" NRSV“eyes were lovely" TEV, NJB“lovely eyes" REB"dull eyes" Peshitta"attractive eyes"

The ADJECTIVE (BDB 940, KB 1230) means

1. Hebrew root-soft, tender, slender

2. Arabic root-weak, thin, poor

Most English translations take the Arabic in this context because of the root meaning of her name. But, this verse may be an attempt to compliment both girls.

"beautiful of form and face" The ADJECTIVE (BDB 421) is used twice in two CONSTRUCTS.

1. BDB 421 and 1061 denote fair/beautiful in form

2. BDB 421 and 909 denote fair/beautiful in appearance

All of the primary Patriarchs' wives were beautiful, attractive (but barren) women.

Genesis 29:18 "Now Jacob loved Rachel. . .and I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel" This was a very generous offer, far more than Laban would ever have asked. But he was thrilled and took full advantage of it. Something of the true love between these two can be seen in Genesis 29:19-20, Genesis 29:30.

Genesis 29:19 "stay with me" This is a command (BDB 442, KB 444, Qal IMPERATIVE), but in context it is an idiomatic way of accepting Jacob's offer to work seven years for Laban as a price for a bride.

Verses 21-30

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 29:21-30 21Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her." 22Laban gathered all the men of the place and made a feast. 23Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him; and Jacob went in to her. 24Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. 25So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?" 26But Laban said, "It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn. 27Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years." 28Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. 29Laban also gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid. 30So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years.

Genesis 29:21 "Then Jacob said to Laban, 'Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her'" Obviously, Laban was in no hurry even at the end of seven years, to give Jacob his daughter. This shows something of the tendency that will be seen throughout these verses concerning the manipulative techniques of Laban. He was looking out for his immediate family's interests.

Genesis 29:23 "Jacob went in to her" There has been much discussion about why Jacob, after all this time, did not know that this was Leah. Some of the theories are: (1) it was dark (i.e., Genesis 29:23, "in the evening"); (2) she was veiled (cf. Genesis 24:65); (3) he was drunk (the term "feast" [BDB 1059] in Genesis 29:22 is from the root "to drink" [BDB 1059], implying a wild party)! It seems to me that #3 fits the social context the best.

Genesis 29:24 "Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid" We learn from the Nuzi Tablets, which describe the Hurrian culture of the same period (2nd millennium B.C.), that this was a common practice. In case the daughter was barren, the servant could bear a child in her behalf (cf. Genesis 29:28-29; Genesis 30:3). Verses Genesis 29:24 and 29 are a narrator's parenthesis preparing us for chapter 30.

Genesis 29:25 "behold, it was Leah" Although it was obvious from Laban's character that this kind of behavior was to be expected, it is surprising that Leah did not say something or that Rachel did not say something. But, we must judge this day in light of its own culture and not in ours, and because of the lack of specific textual information modern interpreters must not speculate.

Genesis 29:27 "complete the bridal week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years" This bridal week was common to this culture (cf. Judges 14:12, Judges 14:17). It is also reflected in the extra-canonical book of Tobit Genesis 11:18. The concept of the month being broken into weeks is uniquely biblical (cf. Genesis 2:1, Genesis 2:2). The fact that Laban could make the unbelievable request that Jacob serve him seven more years shows the exploitive attitude of this man. Jacob has met his match and now knows how it feels to be tricked (cf. Genesis 27:35).

Verses 31-35

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 29:31-35 31Now the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, "Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me." 33Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, "Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also." So she named him Simeon. 34She conceived again and bore a son and said, "Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." Therefore he was named Leviticus 3:0; Leviticus 3:05And she conceived again and bore a son and said, "This time I will praise the LORD." Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.

Genesis 29:31 "unloved" This is a Hebrew idiom which is, literally, "hated" (BDB 971, KB 1338, Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE, cf. Genesis 29:33), but because of its use in Deuteronomy 21:15; Malachi 1:2-3; John 12:25 and Luke 14:26, we know that it is simply an idiom of comparison which should be translated "unloved," not "hated." It speaks of priority. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah.

Genesis 29:32 "Leah conceived and bore him a son and named him Reuben" Reuben (BDB 910, "behold a son" from the VERB "to see," BDB 909) is the popular etymology for the term "seen" (BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal PERFECT, "to see").

To bear a son was a great honor. Leah was certain Jacob would be pleased and acknowledge her with more attention.

Genesis 29:33 "Then she conceived again and bore a son. . .Simeon" The word "Simeon" (BDB 1035) is the popular etymology from the Hebrew word "heard" or "the Lord heard" (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal PERFECT).

Genesis 29:34 "She conceived again and bore a son. . .Levi" His name (BDB 532 I) is from the popular etymology for "joined" (BDB 530 I, KB 522, Niphal IMPERFECT). Leah longed for a deeper emotional relationship with Jacob.

Genesis 29:35 "she conceived again and bore a son. . .Judah" This one is the son that God chose to fulfill His promise. His name means "praise" (BDB 397), which is a play on "I will praise YHWH" (BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil IMPERFECT). His name becomes the name of a tribe, then a nation, and then all Jewish people. The three older sons will be rejected because of their improper acts. Again, it is interesting that God chose the woman who was less loved to bring forth the line of the Messiah. This reversal of expected events is common in Genesis and shows YHWH's control and sovereignty.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Genesis 29". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/genesis-29.html. 2021.
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