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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Genesis 29

 

 

Verses 1-14

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . Went on his journey.] Heb. Lifted up his feet. (See Psa 74:3.) The idea is that he journeyed with alacrity. Rashi, the Jewish commentator, says, "his heart was elated, and his feet felt light." Came into the land of the people of the East. Mesopotamia, east of Palestine.—

Gen . A well in the field.] "This well is apparently not the same as that in Chron. Gen 24:11, etc. It seems to be further from the city, and different in its management. This well is closed by a large stone, which is only removed at the assemblage of the flocks and shepherds in the evening." Alford.—

Gen . Laban, the son of Nahor.] He was the son of Bethuel, but, according to the usage of the Heb., he is called the son of Nahor, though only his grandson.—

Gen . Is he well?] Heb. "(is there) peace to him?" Not only health, but also general welfare and prosperity.—

Gen . High day.] Heb. "Yet the day is great." i.e., a great part of the day yet remains. "As it was yet too early to gather the flocks into their stalls for the night, Jacob, who was well versed in pastoral life, was at a loss to account for the fact that they were not watered and turned again to pasture instead of wasting a good part of the day idly about the well. After being watered and allowed to rest themselves awhile in the shade, in the middle of the day (Son 1:7), the flocks were usually turned out again to feed till sunset." (Bush).—

Gen . We cannot.] A moral inability is intended. The idea conveyed is that it was not permitted—it was contrary to usage. This commonly understood rule may have been agreed upon in order to secure a fair distribution of the water.—

Gen . And he abode with him the space of a month. "He remained this length of time before any fixed arrangement was made for wages." (Jacobus.)—

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

JACOB'S EXPERIENCE ON HIS JOURNEY

I. That God's presence with him made his duties and his troubles light. Jacob had just left Bethel, where the Almighty had granted him so encouraging a vision, and where he devoted himself to God by so remarkable a vow. Many a weary journey still lay between him and the place of his destination. He would have to encounter danger, uncertainty, and fatigue. But now since he has been at Bethel he walks with life and strength renewed. "He lifted up his feet"—proceeded on his journey with feelings of alacity and joy to which he had long been a stranger. The sorrows of the first day's march are described at length, but the experience of the remainder of this long and wearisome journey is briefly and simply told. The inspired historian dispatches the four hundred miles in a single verse. "Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the East." He who casts his burden upon the Lord ceases to weary himself, and finds that even labour is rest and pain is sweet.

II. That Providence was still his guide. All his life through Providence had guided him, but he knew it not as he ought to know. Now, even in the most ordinary and likely events of life he learns to trace the hand of Providence. The incidents of this history are simple, and, for the most part, they are such as would have happened to any ordinary traveller. Jacob arrives at a well, a company of shepherds assemble for the purpose of watering their flocks. Jacob enters into conversation with them in the free and unrestrained manner of those early times. He asks them whence they are, and finds that they happen to know Laban, his uncle. They tell him that Rachel, Laban's daughter, is coming with the sheep. Jacob suggests to the shepherds that it is too early to gather their flocks, probably using this as an excuse that he might meet Rachel alone. Rachel comes up in the meantime, Jacob is struck with her appearance, for she "was beautiful and well favoured." The purpose of his journey and of all his strange experience is now revealed. Providence brings to this spot the very woman who is designed to be the wife of Jacob. Surely he could not fail to see that even through all the strange trials of his journey, and through the most untoward events, the will of God was being accomplished.

III. That God's gracious dealings with him called for gratitude. Jacob was deeply touched by the kindness of God; and while he embraced Rachel, he "lifted up his voice and wept." They were tears started by the remembrance of his faithless misgivings, but they were also tears of joy at the thought that his difficulties were at an end, and that the great object of his mission had been gained. Jacob makes bold to announce himself and his message, for he was confident of the mercy of God and of the strength of His Holy Covenant. (Gen .) He is altogether a changed man now, and gives proof that he had passed through a great spiritual crisis by acknowledging God in all His ways.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . He went lightly on his long journey. "The joy of the Lord" was Jacob's "strength." It became as oil; wherewith his soul being supplied he was made more lithe, nimble, and fit for action. Let us pluck up our feet, pass from strength to strength, and take long and lusty strides towards heaven. It is but a little afore us; and a ready heart rids the way apace.—(Trapp.)

The way before us may be long and wearisome. There may be much to vex and distress us, but if we serve Jacob's God the consolation of Jacob will be ours. The rest of our journey will be passed over easily, and the history of it may be told in few words—"They went on their journey, and they have entered into the land."

Gen . This is but a slight indication of all that these early shepherds were to their flocks, for in truth they were very different from what they are among us. The shepherds of that time looked upon their sheep as friends; they shared the same dangers as their sheep, and often risked their lives to procure sustenance for the sheep, and, as ever, danger intensified their mutual affection.—(Robertson.)

Gen . Jacob, on making inquiry, learns that Haran is at hand, that Laban is well, and that Rachel is drawing nigh with her father's flocks.—(Murphy.)

Gen . We have here a conception given us of the church as a family. All had a right to move the stone from the well, and take water therefrom, at any hour of the day; but they agreed only to open it once a day, and then take sufficient for the wants of the day, otherwise the well would have been left uncovered, for the stone was too heavy to be so frequently moved on and off for everyone separately, and the consequence would have been that the well would have become impure and the water dried up. The family is the type both of the church and nation; and without the concessions, love, and consideration of a family, both church and nation lose their characteristic principles.—(Robertson.)

Gen . Again, it is a unity of variety required to form a church, for so it is in the family; it is not composed of all brothers or all sisters, all parents or all children, but of all four united in their variety. "Surely thou art my bone and my flesh." (Gen 29:14.) Manifestly here is the sacredness of family ties; Jacob had never seen Rachael before, but when he heard she was the daughter of Laban, his mother's brother, he felt drawn to her by a mysterious power, "and Jacob," we read, "kissed Rachel and lifted up his voice and wept." (Gen 29:11.) Even so are Christians united to Christ and to one another in a spiritual manner.—(Robertson.)

The sight of the daughter of his mother's brother affected him. The tears shed on this occasion must have arisen from a full heart. We cannot say that the love which he afterwards bore to Rachel did not commence from his first seeing her. But, however that might be, the cause of his weeping was of another kind: it was her being "the daughter of his mother's brother," that now affected him. Everything chat revived her memory, even the very flocks of sheep that belonged to her brother, went to his heart. Nor did he wish to be alone with Rachel, but that he might give vent without reserve to these sensations.—(Fuller.)

Gen . Rachel's eager, cordial reception of him, and the simplicity of her joy in carrying home the news, all remind us of Rebekah in the previous history.—(Jacobus.)

Sudden tidings of good excite the feelings. Such is the joy of salvation when the soul recognises her true relationship to God the Redeemer.


Verses 15-20

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . Because thou art my brother.] That is, my kinsman. This word, like "sister," "son," etc., is used with great latitude in the sacred writings.

Gen . Leah was tender-eyed—weak-eyed.] "Leah's eyes were feeble, i.e., dull, without brilliancy and freshness. In the East the clear expressive lustrous eye is accounted the chief feature in female beauty. It was compared to the eyes of a gazelle (1Sa 16:12). (Alford)—Beautiful and well-favoured.] Having a fine shape and fine features—beautiful both in form and in appearance.

Gen . I will serve thee seven years for Rashel.] It is still the custom in the East to serve for a wife. "Jacob could only pay by service. The daughter was not necessarily sold as a slave; but the parent received a price as a compensation for her rearing and training." (Jacobus.)—

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

JACOB'S LOWLY ESTATE

I. Its evidence. Jacob is now found in a mean condition, as is evident from these circumstances:—

1. That he is obliged to accept a position of servitude. For the space of one month Jacob served his uncle, but nothing was said with respect to terms. It was not for Jacob to speak on such a subject, for he had nothing to offer except his labour, he was poor and dependent. Jacob could not assume the proud and advantageous position of one who came with pomp, retinue, and riches. It was, therefore, Laban's part to propose the terms, and Jacob was forced by circumstances to accept the humiliating conditions.

2. He is obliged to prostitute the most sacred affections by consenting to a mercenary bargain. Laban demands of Jacob what his wages should be, which gives Jacob an opportunity of declaring his love for Rachel. He had no dowry to offer her, like his father Isaac. He could only purchase her by his labours, a bargain which was rendered possible by primitive custom. It was humiliating to be obliged thus to earn his wife before he could have her. It was degrading the most tender feelings of the heart thus to make them a subject of commercial treaty. In the days of Hosea, when the children of Israel had grown haughty, the prophet reminds them of these degrading circumstances concerning their ancestor, "Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep." (Hos .)

II. Its consolation. The seven years that Jacob had to serve for Rachel passed away so pleasantly, that they seemed to him but a few days. (Gen .) Love lightens and cheers every task of labour and endurance. A week of years was like a week of days to him. Coleridge says, "No man could be a bad man who loved as Jacob loved Rachel."

III. Its lessons for his posterity. Israel was destined to rise to eminence and power amongst the family of nations. But it was necessary for that people to be reminded of the lowly estate of their forefather. When the Israelite presented his basket of first fruits before the Lord, he was instructed to confess, "A Syrian ready to perish was my father" (Deu ). The nation was thus taught that all its greatness and prosperity were not due to natural endowments and industry, but to the electing love of God. The strength of His grace was made perfect in weakness.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . Laban proposes a fixed contract. This may have been only to protect himself against any undue expectations of Jacob. He will pay him like an ordinary servant. Or it may have been in a fair and manly generosity.—(Jacobus).

Jacob was the type of the active, industrious man. He was not an idle guest, but employed himself about his uncle's business, thus making such return as was in his power for the kindness he received.

Laban pretends love and equity to his covetous aims and reaches. Hypocrites, whatever they pretend, have a hawk's eye to praise or profit. They must be gainers by their piety or humanity, which must be another Diana to bring gain to the crafts-master. The eagle, when she soareth highest, hath an eye ever to the prey.—(Trapp.)

Gen . Daughters in those countries and times were also objects of value, for which their parents were wont to receive considerable presents (Gen 24:53).—(Murphy).

Gen . He had nothing to endow her with; he would therefore earn her with his hard labour, which, as it shows Laban's churlishness to suffer it, and his baseness to make a prize and a prey of his two daughters, so it sets forth Jacob's meekness, poverty, patience, and hard condition here. He was a man of many sorrows, and from him, therefore, the Church hath her denomination; neither were the faithful ever since called Abrahamites but Israelites.—(Trapp).

We see here the degraded position in which women were regarded among the ancients. They were looked upon merely as slaves or servants; and therefore, as by marriage the father was deprived of his daughter's services, he always demanded some dowry or compensation; thus, Jacob served seven years to recompense Laban for the loss of his daughter's services.—(Robertson.)

Gen . Jacob, as a younger brother, had an unquestionable claim to Rachel, the youngest daughter of Laban. Among all the Bedouin Arabs at the present day a man has the exclusive right to the hand of his first cousin; he is not obliged to marry her, but she cannot be married to another without his consent.—(Bush.)

Gen . This verse beautifully represents Jacob's lightheartedness in the presence of his beloved. It is wonderful to our minds to remember that these seven years were from the 78th to the 85th year of Jacob's age.—(Alford.)

No other feeling of the human mind could have shortened and sweetened the term of that lengthened bondage. Ambition, avarice, fear, and a host of similar passions, will all make the bond-slave obedient to the beck of the hardest taskmaster; but there is none, save love, the master passion of the human heart, which can enable its possessor to render not only a willing, but a happy and joyful obedience.—(Blunt.)

And yet lovers' hours are full of eternity. But love facilitated the service, and made the time seem short. Should anything seem hard or heavy to us, so we may have heaven at length. The affliction is but light and momentary; the glory massy, and for all eternity. Hold out, Faith and Patience. Love is a passion, and seen most in suffering; "much water cannot quench it." (Son .) Nay, like fire, it devours all delays and difficulties, spending and exhaling itself, as it were, in continual wishes to be at home, "to be with Christ; is far better." (Php 1:23.) Oh, let the eternal weight of the crown weigh down with us the light and momentary weight of the cross.—(Trapp.)


Verses 21-28

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . He took Leah, his daughter, and brought her to him.] "The fraud was rendered possible by the Eastern custom of the bride being veiled, aided by the darkness of the night." (Alford.)—

Gen . Fulfil her week.] "Attach thyself to her during the accustomed days of the wedding-feast" (Jud 14:12; Tob 11:18.) Alford.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

LABAN'S FRAUD ON JACOB

I. The character of the fraud. Jacob had served for his wife, and now demands her as his just right. When the time came for the bride to be conducted to the marriage chamber, Laban substitutes Leah for Rachel. It was not difficult to carry out this deception, as it was evening and the bride was conducted to the chamber of the husband closely veiled. In the morning Jacob discovered the fraud, and complained, "Did not I serve with thee for Rachel? Wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?" (Gen .) This fraud was,

1. Deliberate. It was not the result of sudden temptation by which a man is overtaken in a fault, but was quite in accordance with the settled habits and principles of Laban's character. He was a covetous and scheming man, and had little scruple in demanding the services of a helpless relative under plausible professions of disinterestedness.

2. Bold. Laban attempts to justify his conduct by a reference to the custom of the country. (Gen .) But, why did he not mention this objection before, and why did he promise that which he considered he ought not to perform? He is bold and daring in the defence of his conduct as he was crafty in designing it.

3. Selfish. He proposes to give him Rachel when another week is fulfilled. (Gen .) Jacob's labours were very valuable to him, and this was a shrewd device to bind Jacob for a longer term of service.

II. The fraud considered as a retribution. Jacob had deceived his own father, and now he is himself deceived. The measure which he meted is measured to him again. The sheep of God's pasture may be found and restored, but they are often brought back wounded and lacerated, and smarting from the effects of their own folly and sin. Jacob who had deceived is now, in turn, overreached. Leah also deceived her husband, and as a natural consequence lost his affections. There are sins which in this world are often punished in kind. "Be sure your sin will find you out." (Num ).

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . Laban, like some in their gifts to God, is not wanting in ceremony. He "made a feast," gave his daughter a hand-maid, and went through all the forms; but the gift was a deception.—(Fuller).

Gen . According to the custom of those eastern nations, the bride was conducted to the bed of her husband, with silence, in darkness, and covered from head to foot with a veil; circumstances all of them favourable to the wicked, selfish plan which Laban had formed to detain his son-in-law longer in his service. He who employed undue advantage to arrive at the right of the first-born has undue advantage taken of him in having the first-born put in place of the younger. He who could practise on a father's blindness, though to obtain a laudable end, is, in his turn, practised upon by a father, employing the cover of the night to accomplish a very unwarrantable purpose.—(Hunter.)

God pays us often in our own coin, Herod mocked the wise men, and is mocked of them. (Mat .) And how oft do we see those that would beguile others, punished with illusion? God usually retaliates, and proportions jealousy to jealousy, provocation to provocation (Deu 32:21,) number to number (Isa 65:11-12,) choice to choice (Isa 66:3-4,) device to device (Mic 2:1; Mic 2:3,) frowardness to frowardness (Psa 18:26,) contrariety to contrariety (Lev 26:21.) Even the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth (Pro 11:31,) as was Jacob.—(Trapp.)

Gen . It is still customary in the East for a father, who can afford it, to transfer to his daughter, on her marriage, some female slave of the household, who becomes her confidential domestic and humble friend. This slave forms a link between the old and new households, which often proves irksome, but he has little, if any, control over the female slaves in his establishment.—(Bush.)

Gen . A foul disappointment, but so the world ever serves us. The Hebrews have taken up this passage for a proverb, when a man's hopes are deceived in a wife, or anything else, wherein he looked for content or comfort.—(Trapp.)

But he received, notwithstanding his ignorance as to Leah, the wife designed for him by God, who was to become the mother of the Messiah, just as Isaac blessed him unwittingly as the rightful heir of the promise. Ah, in how many errors and follies of man, here and everywhere, do we find God's inevitable grace and faithfulness intertwined.—(Ross.)

Gen . And now he must begin a new hope, where he made account of fruition. To raise up an expectation, once frustrate, is more difficult than to continue a long hope drawn on with likelihoods of performance; yet thus dear is Jacob content to pay for Rachel fourteen year's servitude. Commonly, God's children come not easily by their pleasures. What miseries will not love digest and overcome? And if Jacob were willingly consumed with heat in the day, and frost in the night, to become the son-in-law to Laban, what should we refuse to be the sons of God?—(Bishop Hall).

Jacob's service for Rachel presents us a picture of bridal love equalled only in the same development and its poetic beauty in the Song of Solomon. It is particularly to be noticed that Jacob, however, was not indifferent to Rachel's infirmities (Gen ), and even treated Leah with patience and indulgence, through having suffered from her the most mortifying deception.—(Lange).


Verses 29-35

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Gen . Leah was hated.] The word is to be understood relatively, not absolutely. By the usage of the Heb. to be hated, signifies only to be loved less.

Gen . Reuben.] The name means, "see ye a son."

Gen . Simeon.] Heb. hearing.

Gen . Levi.] Heb. joined. Implies that the husband and wife would be bound together by this threefold cord of attachment.

Gen . Judah.] Heb. praise.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gen

LEAH AND RACHEL: THEIR TRIALS AND COMPENSATIONS

I. Their trials. Leah was "hated" (Gen ), i.e., she was loved less than Rachel. By becoming a party to a heartless fraud she lost her husband's affections. And Rachel, the beloved wife was denied the blessing of children, so coveted by the ancient Hebrew mothers (Gen 29:31). Both had trials, though of a different kind.

II. Their compensations. Leah was blessed with children, which compensated her for the loss of her husband's love. The names of the four sons successively born to her were all significant, and betoken that pious habit of mind which recognised the hand of God in all that befel her. She called the firstborn, Reuben, Heb. "see ye a son." The second, Simeon, Heb. "hearing," for God had heard her prayer and seen her affliction. The third was named Levi, Heb. "joined." Now, surely, would the breach be healed and the husband and wife joined together by this threefold cord. The fourth she called Judah, Heb. "praise," as if recording her thankfulness that she had won the affections of her husband by bearing to him so many sons. Rachel, on the other hand, continued barren. But she was compensated by her beauty, and by the thought that she was first in her husband's affections. Thus with the evils which fall to the lot of individuals, there are compensations.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Gen . Here we have punishment tempered with mercy. This is what the cross has done for us; it prevents penalty from being simply penalty; it leaves us not alone to punishment, but mingles all with blessing and forgiveness. Through it life has its bright as well as its dark side. (Robertson.)

Rachel whom he loved is barren; Leah, which was despised, is fruitful. How wisely God weighs out to us our favours and crosses in an equal balance; so tempering our sorrows that we may not oppress, and our joys that they may not transport us; each one hath some matter of envy to others, and of grief to himself.—(Bishop Hall).

Gen . Children are joining mercies between husband and wife. As many children as parents have, so many bonds of love exist between them.—(Bush).

Signification of the word from which "Judah" is derived: 1 to thank; 2 to commend; 3 to praise; 4 to confess. From this Judah all Jews received their beautiful name.—(Lange).

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 29:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/genesis-29.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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