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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Genesis 29

 

 

Verses 1-14

Genesis 29:1-14

Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east

Jacob’s experience on his journey

I.
THAT GOD’S PRESENCE WITH HIM MADE HIS DUTIES AND HIS TROUBLES LIGHT. 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. 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. (T. H. Leale.)

Providential guidance

1. God’s gracious appearances to a soul may encourage it to go any whither where God would have them.

2. Encouragements from God and engagements to Him will make a man speed in the way where God calleth.

3. Providence bringeth an obedient soul safely to the place appointed for him.

4. Providence sendeth to every part His servants to raise His Church. The East is not exempted, Abraham from hence, Job in this place were eminent, and now Jacob is sent to it (verse 2). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Jacob, the pilgrim

Rich in distant hopes, but cheerless in his immediate prospects, Jacob left the land of promise. He was a true pilgrim; and his whole life was a wearisome and changeful pilgrimage. The gold of his capacious and lofty mind was to be purified from its strong alloy of dishonesty and cunning in the furnace of misery and toil; his moral education commenced at his departure from the parental house, and after many tribulations only, resulted in that peace of mind which is at once the surest symptom and the choicest reward of true virtue. Jacob’s life has always been considered as a type; we see in it, indeed, the eternal image of man’s protracted contests, both against the foe in his heart and with his destinies, till at last the internal enemy is either wearied out by his resistance, or expelled by his energy, or reconciled by his sufferings (see on Genesis 34:1-4). Among the earliest seeds sowed by Jacob were deceit and craft; and flight and exile were the first fruits of his harvest. While his grandfather’s servants had undertaken the journey to the town of Nahor with ten camels laden with all the most precious treasures (Genesis 24:10); the offspring of the alliance concluded in consequence of that journey, left his father’s roof, as a poor wanderer, without an friend or an attendant, and without an animal to lighten the fatigues of the way. (M. M.Kalisch, Ph. D.)

Lessons

1. Providence maketh God’s servants to see in due time some characters of their being near their journey’s end, and accomplishment of His promise.

2. Things of usual account by some may be made by Providence of special use to comfort others. So the welt, &c., here spoken of Jacob (Genesis 29:2).

3. To seek community of good in neighbourhood is the very law of nature. Not each to prevent other.

4. Preservation of public commodities for life and comfort, is that which nature will teach men. It is unnatural to destroy (verse 3-5). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Lessons

1. Providence maketh questions means to the satisfaction of His.

2. Sons are best known by the most eminent of their ancestors.

3. Nahor and his descent, with their way and religion, were known in Syria (Genesis 29:5).

4. It is but Nature’s dictate to inquire of the welfare of related friends.

5. Providence orders peace to others, that with them His servants may have peace.

6. Providence orders meeting of friends and comforts which man cannot project, and doth little think of, Here Jacob meets Rachel (Genesis 29:6). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Rachel his daughter cometh

Lessons -

1. Providential meetings may justly occasion providential advice from strangers to others.

2. Time and business should be rationally managed to the improvement of both (Genesis 29:7).

3. Ingenuity taketh not amiss occasional advice from strangers.

4. Ingenuous men, if they follow not counsel, will give their reason.

5. Impotency to duty justly may excuse it.

6. Iniquity must not be done to others for private advantage (Genesis 29:8). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Lessons

1. God’s good hand sendeth the mercy sometimes to His servants while they inquire about it.

2. The eminent in His church God hath called from the lowest condition in the world.

3. It is not unbeseeming the greatest ladies to be found in honest labour. It was not to Rachel. It suits the mother of the Church to be a shepherdess (Genesis 29:9). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Lessons

1. Discoveries of such as are near in the flesh is enough in nature to move for doing them good.

2. Readiness and pains to show kindness unto friends in the flesh becometh both grace and nature (Genesis 29:10). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Lessons

1. Self-discovery is proper, when God sends friends to meet at unawares.

2. Ingenuity gladly receiveth the manifestation of near friends in the flesh. (G. Hughes, B. D.)

The meeting of Jacob with Rachel and Laban -

I. THE STRANGER AT THE WELL Jacob.

1. The journey ended. Canaan, Bethel, and his father’s house behind him. Mountains, deserts, rivers, and rocky wildernesses between. God had kept Genesis 28:20), so far, from wild beasts and robbers, and all “ perils of the wilderness.”

2. He arrives on the confines of civilized life once more; yet knows not how near the end of his journey he is. Finds flocks, and pasturage, and the dwellings of men.

3. Rests by the well side. Knows that it will soon be the meeting-place of men, from the flocks that are gathering round the spot.

4. The shepherds arrive. He converses with them. Finds they are of Haran, the place he is journeying to. Inquires concerning his kindred. Discovers that they are well, and that Rachel, the daughter of Laban, is on the way to water the flock.

II. THE SHEPHERDESS. Rachel.

1. Primitive habits, and pastoral life in the East. The daughters of large land owners, and men of substance, tending sheep.

2. Rachel approaches the well. Finds a stranger sitting near. Knows him not. He has been told who she is.

3. Though weary with his journey, Jacob rises, and rolls the stone away, and waters Rachel’s flock for her. Rachel doubtless wondering at this unexpected kindness.

4. Jacob, having watered the flock, salutes the shepherdess after the common fashion of the country. A courteous and customary greeting.

5. Jacob weeps tears of joy that he has found the kindred of whom he is in search; and of thankfulness that God has so far guided and blessed him. Rachel wondering.

6. Jacob tells his story. Mentions the name of that Rebekah of whom she had heard, and who years before had gone across the great desert to her distant home.

III. THE WELCOME HOME. The home of Laban.

1. Rachel, full of joyful surprise, hastens forward, and tells the story of the strange traveller to her father.

2. Laban, also surprised, quickly goes to the well to meet him. Salutes him, as Jacob had saluted Rachel, and brings him home. Eastern hospitality.

3. Jacob repeats his story to Laban. Doubtless, while silent about many things, related that the birthright and the blessing were his; and described the vision he had by the way.

4. Laban cordially--because of his relationship especially--invites Jacob to abide with him. Learn:

I. That a good man’s steps are ordered of the Lord, and He delighteth in his way.

II. If we commit our way unto the Lord, He will bring it to pass.

III. As Jacob watered Rachel’s flock, so should we be self-denying and helpful.

IV. Aim, like Rachel, at living a useful life. It was when she was employed in her works of duty that she met with Jacob.

V. Like Jacob, acknowledge God as the giver of all good, and the guide of our life. (Jr. C. Gray.)

We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together

Watering the sheep

A scene in Mesopotamia, beautifully pastoral. A well of water of great value in that region. The fields around about it white with three flocks of sheep lying down waiting for the watering. I hear their bleating coming on the bright air, and the laughter of young men and maidens indulging in rustic repartee. I look off, and I see other flocks of sheep coming, Meanwhile, Jacob, a stranger, on the interesting errand of looking for a wife, comes to the well. A beautiful shepherdess comes to the same well. I see her approaching, followed by her father’s flock of sheep. Jacob accosts the shepherds and asks them why they postpone the slaking of the thirst of these sheep, and why they did not immediately proceed to water them? The shepherds reply to the effect: “We are all good neighbours, and as a matter of courtesy we wait until all the sheep of the neighbourhood come up. Besides that, this stone on the well’s mouth is somewhat heavy, and several of us take hold of it and push it aside, and then the buckets and the troughs are filled, and the sheep are satisfied. We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.” Now a great flock of sheep to-day gather around this Gospel well. There are a great many thirsty souls. I wonder why the flocks of all nations do not gather--why so many stay thirsty; and while I am wondering about if, my text breaks forth in the explanation, saying: “ We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.” This well of the Gospel is deep enough to put out the burning thirst of the twelve hundred million of the race. Do not let the Church by a spirit of exclusiveness keep the world out. Let down all the bars, swing open all the gates, scatter all the invitations: “Whosoever will let him come.”

I. You notice that this well of Mesopotamia had a stone on it, which must be removed before the sheep could be watered; and I find on the well of salvation to-day IMPEDIMENTS AND OBSTACLES, which must be removed in order that you may obtain the refreshment and life of this Gospel.

1. In your case the impediment is pride of heart. You cannot bear to come to so democratic a fountain; you do not want to come with so many others. You will have to remove the obstacle of pride, or never find your way to the well. You will have to come as we came, willing to take the water of eternal life in any way, and at any hand, and in any kind of picture, crying out: “O Lord Jesus, I am dying of thirst. Give me the water of eternal life, whether in trough or goblet; give me the water of life; I care not in what it comes to me.” Away with all your hindrances of pride from the well’s mouth.

2. Here is another man who is kept back from this water of life by the stone of an obdurate heart, which lies over the mouth of the well. You have no more feeling upon this subject than if God had vet to do you the first kindness, or you had to do God the first wrong. Seated on His lap all these years, His everlasting arms sheltering you, where is your gratitude? Where is your morning and evening prayer? Where are your consecrated lives? O man, what dost thou with that hard heart? Canst thou not feel one throb of gratitude towards the God who made you, and the Christ who came to redeem you, and the Holy Ghost who has all these years been importuning you?

II. Jacob with a good deal of tug and push took the stone from the well’s mouth, so that the flocks might be watered. And I would that this morning my word, blessed of God, might remove the hindrances to your getting up to the Gospel well. Yea, I take it for granted that the work is done, and now like Oriental shepherds, I PROCEED TO WATER THE SHEEP.

1. Come, all ye thirsty! You have an undefined longing in your souls. You tried money-making; that did not satisfy you. You tried office under government; that did not satisfy you. You tried pictures and sculptures, but works of art did not satisfy you. You are as much discontented with this life as the celebrated French author who felt that he could not any longer endure the misfortunes of the world, and who said: “At four o’clock this afternoon I shall put an end to my own existence. Meanwhile, I must toil on up to that time for the sustenance of my family.” And he wrote on his book until the clock struck four, when he folded up his manuscript and, by his own hand, concluded his earthly life. There are men in this house who are perfectly discontented. Unhappy in the past, unhappy to-day, to be unhappy for ever, unless you come to this Gospel-well. This satisfies the soul with a high, deep, all-absorbing, and eternal satisfaction.

2. Come, also, to this Gospel-well, all ye troubled. I do not suppose you have escaped. Compare your view of this life at fifteen years of age with what your view of it is at forty, sixty, or seventy. What a great contrast of opinion! Were you right, then, or are you right now? Two cups placed in your hands, the one a sweet cup, the other a sour cup. A cup of joy and a cup of grief. Which has been the nearest to being full, and out of which have you the more frequently partaken? Oh, you have had trouble, trouble, trouble. God only knows how much you have had. It is a wonder you have been able to live through it. It is a wonder your nervous system has not been shattered, and your brain has not reeled. Trouble, trouble, If I could gather all the griefs, of all sorts, from this great audience, and could put them in one scroll, neither man nor angel could endure the recitation. Well what do you want? Would you like to have your property back again? “No,” you say, as a Christian man: “I was becoming arrogant, and I think that is why the Lord took it away. I don’t want to have my property back.” Well, would you have your departed friends back again? “No,” you say: “I couldn’t take the responsibility of bringing them from a tearless realm to one of tears. I couldn’t do it.” Well, then, what do you want? A thousand voices in the audience cry out: “Comfort, give us comfort.” For that reason I have rolled away the stone from the well’s mouth. Come, all ye wounded of the flock, pursued of the wolves, come to the fountain where the Lord’s sick and bereft ones have come. I gather all the promises to-day in a group, and I ask the shepherds to drive their flocks of lambs and sheep up to the sparkling supply. “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth.”, “Though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion.” “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Oh, what a great flock of sheep God will gather around the celestial well. No stone on the well’s mouth, while the Shepherd waters the sheep. (Dr. Talmage.)


Verses 15-20

Genesis 29:15-20

Jacob served seven years for Rachel

Jacob’s lowly estate

I.
ITS EVIDENCE.

1. He is obliged to accept a position of servitude.

2. He is obliged to prostitute the most sacred affections by consenting to a mercenary bargain.

II. ITS CONSOLATION (Genesis 29:20). 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” Deuteronomy 26:5). 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. (T. H. Leale.)

Jacob’s servitude

1. His agreement with Laban.

(2) Laban’s dishonesty in the non-fulfilment of his agreement.

2. In this servitude of Jacob, we find the principle of inevitable retribution. He had deceived his father, and here in his turn he was overreached. Leah deceived her husband, and in consequence lost his affection. Here both deceivers were justly punished. O my beloved brethren, be sure, be sure, be sure, your sin will find you out.

3. We have here, lastly, the principle of compensation; Leah lost her husband’s affections, but she was blessed in her family (Genesis 29:31). 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. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

The education of home

I. THE FOUR CONDITIONS OF A TRUE HOME.

1. There must be a supreme affection (Genesis 29:18). No two should marry unless each feels that life without the other would be incomplete.

2. Marriage must be “only in the Lord” (see Deuteronomy 7:3; 1 Corinthians 7:39;

2. Corinthians 6:14, 15). A mixed marriage is a prolific source of misery. The ungodly partner despises the Christian for marrying in the teeth of principle. The Christian is disappointed because the apparent influence gained before marriage is dissipated soon after the knot is irrevocably tied.

3. A true home should be based on the good will of parents and friends Genesis 28:1-5).

4. There should be some prospect of suitable livelihood.

II. THE EXPULSIVE POWER OF SUPREME AFFECTION (Genesis 28:20). Love’s labour is always light. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

Marriage difficulties

1. No sin against our bodies, or against the trust which man should repose in man or God, goes altogether unpunished.

2. Changes in life are steps in our education by God.

3. God deals with all parts of human dispositions.

4. Yield yourselves unto God.

5. Expect difficulties in your way to do right. (D. G. Watt, M. A.)

The years of exile and servitude

I. THE ERRORS OF THE YEARS OF SERVITUDE.

II. ITS TRIALS.

III. ITS BLESSINGS. (T. S. Dickson.)

Lessons

1. Honest, gracious souls dare not be idle when they do but visit friends. Jacob.

2. Laborious men in God’s fear will want no hirers; Laban looks after such a servant.

3. Labans are first motioners for Jacobs; the covetous masters for honest servants.

4. The most unrighteous men may grant principles of equity which they never mean to practice. So Laban.

5. The faithful servant and labourer is worthy of his due reward. A brother servant that is faithful is worthy of any wages reasonably to be expected (Genesis 29:15). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

The purchase of a wife

As Jacob possessed no property, and could not, therefore, buy his wife, he paid for her by seven years of service. But was this indeed so degrading as it has, by almost general consent, been denounced to be? It is alleged that, as the wife is, in the East, regarded only as a kind of slave, first subordinate to the father, and then to the husband, she was, like the slave, acquired by purchase, and for almost exactly the same price. Such certainly was and is the case among many uncivilized tribes. But does the purchase not admit of another construction? Among some nations, the marriage-price is distinctly regarded as a compensation due to the parents for the trouble and expense incurred by the education of the daughter. From this view there is but one step to the notion that the parents deserve the gratitude of the man to whom they give their child; and the Hebrews, who assigned to the women a position eminently high and honourable, who regarded the wife as an integral part of the husband, and as the indispensable condition of his happiness, and among whom it was a proverbial adage, that “an excellent wife is far more precious than riches”--the Hebrews bought their wives as a treasure and the most valuable possession. It may be seriously asked whether such a purchase was, in principle, not more dignified than the custom according to which the wife buys, as it were, a husband by her dowry, and in consequence of which the daughters of poor parents are in a very precarious position, while, in the East, daughters are at least no burden on their fathers. In practice, that custom is certainly liable to considerable abuses; heartless or avaricious parents, without consulting the inclination of their daughters, may sell them to those who bid the highest price; but scarcely any principle, however lofty, is safe against abuse; besides, it was a law among most tribes, that the daughter’s consent must first be obtained; and it was a custom among some, that the money received by the parents should be applied for the benefit of the bride or the young couple. But suppose even that the manner of courting and acquiring the wife was not in every respect noble and delicate among the Hebrews, it certainly did not affect the relative position of husband and wife; the one was no master, the other no slave; the usual customs could, therefore, safely be retained, as long as they did not endanger the beautiful principles which guaranteed the dignity of the other sex. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

Serving for a bride

It is related that a rich saddler, whose daughter was afterwards married to Dunk, the celebrated Earl of Halifax, ordered in his will that she should lose the whole of her fortune if she did not marry a saddler. The young Earl of Halifax, in order to win the bride, served an apprenticeship of seven years to a saddler, and afterwards bound himself to the rich saddler’s daughter for life.


Verses 21-28

Genesis 29:21-28

He took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him

Laban’s fraud on Jacob

I.
THE CHARACTER OF THE FRAUD.

1. Deliberate.

2. Bold.

3. Selfish.

II. THE FRAUD CONSIDERED AS A RETRIBUTION. There are sins which in this world are often punished in kind. (T. H. Leale.)

Lessons

1. The day revealeth that evil usually which the night covereth, sin may hide itself a little while till the morning.

2. Seeming Rachel over night is found Leah in the morning. Fair offers to be deceits.

3. Honest souls, though drawn into error, are full of indignation against it, and the cursors of it when discovered.

4. Plain covenant work is sufficient to convince deceivers that forsake 2:5. Service for Rachel should have Rachel for its reward.

6. It is gross falsehood and deceit to deny covenant reward, and adulterate it with worse (Genesis 2:25). (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Laban’s deceit

This discloses a baseness in Laban’s character, arousing contempt and aversion; but it ought not to blind us against the redeeming qualities of his heart. In the human mind, fragrant flowers often blossom surprisingly by the side of noxious weeds. The deceit of Laban was practicable, on account of the custom by which the bride is, on the day of marriage, conducted veiled to her future husband. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

Evil result of Laban’s fraud

But the fraud of Laban was not only a moral offence in itself; it was the more deplorable, as it destroyed the principle of monogamy to which the patriarchs on the whole adhered. Jacob had intended to marry Rachel alone; and when he found himself, against his will, allied with Leah, his heart could not renounce her from whom he expected the best part of his happiness; he took her to wife besides Leah; nor was he permitted to dismiss the latter after the solemnization of the marriage. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)


Verses 29-35

Genesis 29:29-35

He loved also Rachel more than Leah

Leah and Rachel: their trims and compensations

I.
THEIR TRIALS. Leah was “hated “ (Genesis 29:31), 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 (Genesis 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 recognized the hand of God in all that befel her. She called the first-born, Reuben (Hebrews) “see ye a son.” The second, Simeon (Hebrews) “hearing,” for God had heard her prayer and seen her affliction. The third was named Levi (Hebrews) “joined.” Now, surely, would the breach be healed and the husband and wife joined together by this threefold cord. The fourth she called Judah (Hebrews) “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. (T. H. Leale.)

Lessons

1. God doth not see as men, not as good men see sometimes in accepting persons.

2. God’s providence may be regardful of them who are neglected by men.

3. Undervalued and hated mercies may, under God’s ordering, prove most fruitful to men.

4. The most regarded by men may be disrespected upon some accounts with God.

5. The most lovely mercies in man’s eye may prove barren and unfruitful to him (Genesis 29:31), (G. Hughes, B. D.)

Worth better than beauty

The cultivation of the beautiful is, indeed, the first step towards civilization; but it is no more than a means of education; it has accomplished its purpose when it has contributed to awaken the interest for thought and truth; the Greeks were an element in the development of mankind; but their mission ceased when they had opened the minds of men for the reception of abstract ideas; and the sentence which a Greek sage wrote over his door: “nothing ugly must enter,” was to be superseded by the Biblical maxim: “deceitful is gracefulness, and vain is beauty; a woman who feareth the Lord, she alone deserveth praise” Proverbs 31:30). While the first woman was merely “ she who gives life” (Eve); the daughter of Lamech, seven generations later, was the “beautiful” (Naamah); this was certainly a progress; but many centuries were required to elapse before men ceased to regard beauty both as the test of worth, and a proof of special Divine favour. To contribute towards this important lesson is the end of this portion; for, “when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren”; by the same act He taught Jacob wisdom, and procured justice to Leah. The latter was clearly aware of this turning-point in her life; for when she gave birth to a son, she exclaimed: “Surely, the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” Nor does she seem to have been unworthy of being blessed with offspring; the love of her husband was the sole object of her thoughts and feelings. (M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Genesis 29:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/genesis-29.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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