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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Genesis 29

Verse 1

1. Went on his journey Hebrews, lifted up his feet; the necessary movement of one that walks on a journey .

People of the east Heb, bene Kedem, or, sons of the east; a name given to the tribes inhabiting an undefined territory east of Palestine, and, as appears from this, including the Syrian desert and Mesopotamia . Comp . Judges 6:3; Job 1:3; 1 Kings 4:30.

Verse 2

2. Behold a well in the field Compare the similar account of Eliezer meeting Rebekah at a well . Genesis 24:11-28. That well, however, was “without the city,” but evidently quite near the city; this is more remote, in the field. There the women came out towards evening to draw water for drinking; here shepherds with their flocks were resting, waiting for the time to open the well . That well was not covered, and one could go down to it; this was covered by a great stone, and seems to have been a cistern, like those of which Robinson writes: “Over most of the cisterns is laid a broad and thick flat stone, with a round hole cut in the middle, forming the mouth of the cistern. This hole we found in many cases covered with a heavy stone, which it would require two or three men to roll away.” Biblical Researches, vol. i, p. 490.

Verse 7

7. Yet high day Hebrews, the day is yet great . That is, a great portion of it yet remains .

Water… go… feed Kalisch remarks that Jacob,”strengthened by the consciousness of his brilliant mission, addressed the unknown shepherds not only with cordiality, but with self-assurance and authority, and ventured even a gentle reproof of indolence.”

Verse 8

8. We cannot There was an understanding among them that the stone should not be removed until all the flocks were gathered together. Thus all the shepherds and all the flocks would share equally, and each party prevented from taking any advantage of the other .

Verse 9

9. Rachel came Her coming roused in Jacob’s soul all the tender emotions of home, kindred, loves, and hopes .

With her father’s sheep Note the primitive custom of the daughters of an Eastern chieftain leading the sheep to water. Compare the account of Moses and the daughters of Jethro. Exodus 2:15-22.

Verse 10

10. Jacob saw… went near… rolled… watered There is a romantic gallantry about Jacob’s conduct here that is noticeable . The thrice repeated Laban his mother’s brother deepens and intensifies the thought that he felt himself among his own; his mother had ever been his warmest friend and helper .

Verse 11

11. Kissed… and wept “Delight and sorrow mingled in his heart, and, overwhelmed by his feelings, he paid his tribute to nature by a spontaneous flood of tears . ” Kalisch .

Verse 12

12. Told her father Unlike Rebekah, who ran and told her mother .

Genesis 24:28.

Verse 13

13. Told Laban all All about his journey and its object, the commands of Isaac and Rebekah, and the desire of his own heart .

Verses 15-30

JACOB’S DOUBLE MARRIAGE, Genesis 29:15-30.

What shall thy wages be Jacob, the plain, domestic man, (Genesis 25:27,) doubtless made himself very useful in Laban’s household. His service at the well was but a specimen of his agility and readiness to do whatever work might offer itself. Observing all this during the month of his sojourn, (Genesis 29:14,) Laban generously proposes that his kinsman shall not serve him for nothing.

Verse 17

17. Leah was tender eyed Her eyes were weak (Sept . ασθενεις ) and perhaps inflamed, (Vulg . lippi,) a great blemish, “since bright eyes, with fire in them, are regarded as the height of beauty in Oriental women . ” Keil .

Verse 18

18. I will serve thee seven years A week of years . Jacob had not, like his grandfather’s servant, rich presents to offer as a dowry for his bride, (Genesis 24:53,) but he offers what he can, the cheerful labour of willing and active hands .

Verse 19

19. Better… to thee, than… to another Laban gladly accepts Jacob’s offer . It was worth more to him than gold . This custom of preferring marriage with one’s own kindred, and also the practice of receiving dowry for a daughter, illustrate the manners of the ancient East, which prevail largely even at the present day. While the daughter is not sold as a slave, the practice shows the comparatively low position of women in the East, and how little a wife had to say in the choice of a husband. But the dowry may be looked upon as a reward paid to parents for the care of a daughter’s training and bringing up to womanhood, and also a suitable expression of gratitude on the part of the husband towards the parents of his wife.

Verse 20

20. They seemed unto him but a few days “Words breathing the purest tenderness, and expressing more emphatically than the flowery hyperboles of romantic phraseology the deep attachment of an affectionate heart . Love capable of shortening seven laborious years into a term of insignificant brevity, is a flame animating and purifying the soul; a sacred longing, forming its own delight and happiness . ” Kalisch .

Verse 22

22. Made a feast The marriage festival, in such a home as Laban’s, would doubtless be worthy of all parties . It was continued seven days . Comp . Genesis 29:27-28; Judges 14:12; Judges 14:17.

Verse 23

23. Took Leah There was no formal public ceremony of marriage; the parties were not openly presented to one another, but in the evening the bride, closely veiled, was led to the husband’s tent . Hence the ease with which it was possible to present Leah to Jacob instead of Rachel .

Verse 24

24. Zilpah… for a handmaid Rebekah had a nurse and several damsels . Genesis 24:59; Genesis 24:61. Sarah had her handmaid, Hagar . Such maidservants became the special property of the wife to do with as she pleased . See Genesis 16:1-6.

Verse 25

25. Thou beguiled me Jacob now feels the weight and bitterness of deception . But it is a retribution for his own supplanting and defrauding of Esau .

Verse 26

26. So done in our country Rather, in our place . The Hindu laws, as quoted by Clarke, made it a high offence “for a man to marry while his elder brother remains unmarried, or for a man to give his daughter to such a person, or to give his youngest daughter in marriage while the elder sister remains unmarried.” But if such were the law at Haran, Jacob was ignorant of it until now, and Laban deceived him in not explaining it to him when he bargained for Rachel. Genesis 29:18.

Verse 27

27. Her week The seven days of the marriage feast . Laban proposes, as a recompense, after the week has ended, to give him Rachel also, but on condition that he serve for her yet seven other years. Two wives in eight days, but fourteen years of service for them both . “This bigamy of Jacob must not be judged directly by the Mosaic law, which prohibits marriage with two sisters at the same time, (Leviticus 18:18,) or be set down as incest, (Calvin,) since there was no positive law on the point in existence then . At the same time it is not to be justified on the ground that the blessing of God made it the means of the fulfilment of his promise, namely, the multiplication of the seed of Abraham into a great nation . Just as it had arisen from Laban’s deception and Jacob’s love, which regarded outward beauty alone, and, therefore, from sinful infirmities, so did it become in its results a true school of affliction to Jacob, in which God showed to him by many a humiliation, that such conduct as his was quite unfitted to accomplish the divine counsels, and thus condemned the ungodliness of such a marriage, and prepared the way for the subsequent prohibition in the law . ” Keil .

Verses 31-35

LEAH’S FIRST FOUR SONS, Genesis 29:31-35.

Rachel was barren This would appear like a chastisement for Jacob’s partiality, (Genesis 29:30,) and an intimation that the blessing of posterity was “not of him that willeth, but of God that showeth mercy.”

Verse 32

32. Reuben Which means, see ye a son .

Looked upon Rather, Jehovah looked in my affliction; that is, in my sorrow arising from love withheld, Jehovah looked; therefore will I name my first born Look ye a son! Fondly she hopes now for more of her husband’s love .

Verse 33

33. Simeon Which means a hearing . Jehovah first looked; then he heard . Still she feels bitterly the lack of a husband’s love . Her use of the word hated in this verse illustrates the peculiar meaning of that term . Comp . Genesis 29:30.

Verse 34

34. Levi Which means a joining . Fondly now does she hope for a deeper and truer heart union with her husband .

Verse 35

35. Judah Which means, one to be praised . Compare Genesis 49:8. Thus, in naming these first four sons, Leah breathes the spirit of a pure and noble longing, which fitted her to be the mother of the chosen tribe from which the Christ should spring.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Genesis 29". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/genesis-29.html. 1874-1909.