The narrative moved on to Jacob’s arrival at the land of the people of the East. Here, the passage emphasized on Jacob’s servitude in Laban’s house and his love for Rachel, Laban’s younger daughter. These events serve as several teachings regarding the proper work-ethic, the appropriate attitude toward unfairness, and the sacrifice for love.
Did You Know...?
- The people of the East (29:1) refers broadly to people east of Canaan, including Transjordan, Syria, and north Arabia (Judg 7:12, 8:10; Job 1:3; Isa 11:14; Jer 49:28). [ref]
- Jacob kissed (29:11): Kissing among family members or among others in terms of greeting and respect was common in the Scriptures (Gen 27:27, 33:4, 48:10, 50:1; Ex 4:27, 18:7;
1 Sam 10:1; 2 Sam 14:33, 19:39). The churches in the apostolic time greeted one another with a holy kiss (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Pet 5:14).
- Jacob lifted his voice and wept (29:11): Throughout the Scriptures, the combination of these verbs describes the emotional events of family or friend reunions (Gen 45:14-15, 46:29;
2 Sam 3:32, 18:33), the loss of something that has been taken away (Gen 27:38), the stricken-conscience of guilt and forgiveness (1 Sam 24:16; Gen 50:17).
- “My bone and my flesh” (29:14) is a phrase used in the Scriptures to refer to kinship and close relationships of that between spouses or siblings (Gen 2:23, 37:27; Judg 9:2;
2 Sam 5:1, 19:12, 13; 1 Chr 11:1). In addition, the apostle Paul describes the intimacy and closeness of the relationship between Christ and His people as of His flesh and as of His bones (Eph 5:30).
- Leah (29:16) in Hebrew, the name can literally means “weary” or “wild-cow.”
- Rachel (29:16) can literally be translated as “ewe” in Hebrew.
- Delicate (29:17): The word “delicate” in this context can also be translated in Hebrew as “weak” or “dull”—pertaining to not being sparkling and vivacious in terms of beauty.
- Rachel was beautiful of form (29:18): This phrase can be literally translated in Hebrew as “beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance” with the emphasis of the beauty to be gazed at.
- “Behold, it was Leah” (29:25): According to the tradition and custom of the Ancient East, the bride was usually conducted into the marriage chamber veiled and the veil being so long and close as to conceal not only the face, but much of the person. [ref]
Previously, in Gen 28:15 the Lord promised Jacob that He would be with Jacob and would keep him wherever he went. Thus, when Jacob continued in his journey, he met the shepherds who conveniently knew Laban, the brother of his mother, Rebekah, the father of Rachel, Jacob’s future-wife-to-be (Gen 29:4-6). Although Jacob did not know it, the Lord has guided Jacob directly to the house of Bethuel, the father of his mother (Gen 28:2).
What can we learn about Jacob’s character from his words to the shepherds in Gen 29:7?Hide Answer
Upon seeing the shepherds let their flocks of sheep lying by the well while the day was still high, Jacob commented that they ought to water the sheep and feed them instead of gathering them together (Gen 29:7). The statement of Jacob reflected his laborous work ethic compared to the shepherds. True to his statement, when the shepherds refused to follow Jacob’s advise, Jacob rolled the stone from the well and watered the sheep himself (Gen 29:10).
What can we learn about the shepherds’ characters in their reply to Jacob’s advise from Gen 29:8?Hide Answer
In replying to Jacob’s advise, the shepherds said that they were not able to water the sheep until someone had rolled the stone from the well’s mouth (Gen 29:8). The shepherds’ expression of inability to move the stone suggested that the mouth of the well was difficult to remove. But when Jacob saw that the shepherds were waiting for the shepherdess Rachel to move the stone, he single-handedly moved the stone by himself (Gen 29:10). Jacob’s act showed how the shepherds were not only lazy but that they also had no concern for their own sheep or the shepherdess.
Describe the similarities between Rachel and Rebekah. In terms of their profession;Hide Answer
Both Rachel and Rebekah were used to draw water from the well and to water the animals. Genesis 24:13-20 mentioned how Rebekah drew water and gave the water to the servant of Abraham and to the camels and Genesis 29:9-10 explained how Rachel, who was a shepherdess, was about to draw water from the well to water Laban’s sheep.
In terms of their appearance;
In terms of how they met their spouse;
The reactions of the servant of Abraham;
How did Laban’s act serve as a comfort in Jacob’s unexpected journey? And reflected God’s guidance to Jacob?Hide Answer
Jacob’s great sadness was reflected when he kissed Rachel and lifted his voice and wept (Gen 29:11). Knowing that Jacob was travelling alone from a far journey, away from his family back in Beersheba (Gen 28:10), Laban embraced him, kissed him and brought him to his house, accepting Jacob—whom Laban had just met for the first time—as his bone and his flesh (Gen 29:14). It was a great comfort for the penniless, homeless, lonely-Jacob to be reunited with relatives and to be welcomed in a warm house. Furthermore, Laban’s acceptance of Jacob’s presence proved that the Lord had guided him to safety and providence.
Share an experience on how you can accept your fellow brothers and sisters as your “bone and flesh” in the Lord.
What can we learn about Jacob’s performance of work from Laban’s comments in Gen 29:15 and 18?Hide Answer
After Jacob had stayed for a month helping out Laban’s work, Laban noticed Jacob’s serving and thus proposed to him a wage in replacement of his service. From Gen 29:15, Jacob’s service was evident to Laban, making Laban felt uncomfortable in receiving the service of Jacob for nothing. In addition, when Jacob suggested a seven-year contract of service for Laban’s younger daughter, Laban agreeably accepted the arrangement (Gen 29:18-20) based on the proven one-month service that Jacob had performed.
From Laban’s comments and agreed contract, we learn that Laban saw and valued Jacob’s performance of work. In front of Laban, the relative who had given him a place to stay, Jacob proved himself to Laban the commitment and good performance toward his service.
How do we emulate Jacob’s work-performance in front of our fellow colleagues or even employers at work and at the church?Hide Answer
Just as Laban praised Jacob’s proven work-ethic and performance at work, we too ought to prove our commitment and work-ethic in our labor, whether at workplace or at the church. Once to the church in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul reprimanded the members who had behaved disorderly by eating bread free of charge, not working at all (2 Thess 3:8, 11). Thus, the apostle Paul strongly commanded the members to work with labor if they wanted to eat (2 Thess 3:10) and to follow the examples of the apostles (2 Thess 3:7). Being committed to the work and not slacking in work-ethic are the traits highly emphasized by the Scriptures for us to emulate.
Because of Jacob’s love to Rachel, years seemed only a few days to him. How can we imitate such love in our relationship today: With our spouse;
With our parents;
With our Lord;
Jacob and Rachel waited for seven years and seven days before they got married (Gen 29:20, 28). If single, how do you cope with periods of waiting in your dating life? What helps you keep sexually pure while wait?
What can we learn about Laban’s character from Gen 29:21-26?Hide Answer
From Gen 29:21-26, Laban was a shrewd, deceptive and a selfish man. Jacob’s frustration in Gen 29:21 showed that Laban did not fulfill his agreement to give Rachel as a wife, even after Jacob had completed his seven-year servitude. Laban’s shrewdness was proven by his purposely delayed fulfillment of the marriage agreement. Moreover, the exchange of bride from Rachel to Leah showed the deception of Laban. Deceptively, Laban used the switching of bride to make Jacob enter into another agreement: additional seven-years of servitude in exchange of Rachel as a wife (Gen 29:30). Laban’s deception was supported by his selfishness to attain more gain from Jacob’s servitude.
How did Jacob react to Laban’s treacherous deed?Hide Answer
After being deceived, Jacob could have chosen to be sluggish and negligent in his work of servitude as a revenge for Laban’s inconsiderate act. But Jacob did not do so. Instead, in the book of Genesis 30:30, even after Jacob had been given Rachel for a wife, he continued to faithfully serve Laban so that Laban’s livestock “increased to a great amount.”
What lesson can we learn from Jacob in regards to the unfairness that he received?Hide Answer
Jacob’s example teaches us how to handle unfairness in life. In the gospel of Matthew, the Lord Jesus admonishes us to turn the other cheek also if we are being slapped on the right cheek (Mt 5:39). In other words, the Lord Jesus teaches us not to repay evil with evil, as an eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth; but rather to do good to those who hate us that we may be sons of our Father in heaven (Mt 5:44-45). Jacob “repaid” his uncle Laban’s deceit with an additional seven years of faithful service. Thus, when we have repaid evil with good and have prayed for our enemies, we are truly reflecting the image of the sons of God in us.
Share your experience of how you respond to the unfairness that you have received.
What were the irony experienced by Leah in her married life?Hide Answer
In her life, Leah experienced several ironies. First, her marriage was a result of her father’s deception to Jacob (Gen 29:23). Second, her personal bridal experience, emotion and consummation with her husband were overshadowed by a mere duty of the fulfillment of custom, ceremony and tradition (Gen 29:26, 27). Third, her husband loved someone else instead of her (Gen 29:30).