Through the Word: Leah and Rachel

Genesis 29

God will use the frailties of human nature and the prevailing culture to accomplish his will, often times taking people and families in circles while working out his plan.

We’re back at Rebecca’s well from Genesis 24 but there are some differences.

Last time Abraham did not permit his son Isaac to go back to his father’s people in moon-god worshiping Haran. “Beware that you do not take my son back there,” he’d said to his trusted servant before sending him off to fetch a wife for Isaac.

But this time Jacob himself goes north to Haran. Needs must – his twin brother Esau wants to kill him.

Last time, there was only one wife, Rebecca. Jacob only wants one wife, Rachel, but this culture is polygamous. Jacob the deceiver will in turn be deceived.

The place where Rebecca once drew water for the trusted servant is better described when Jacob arrives and meets Rachel. We know from Genesis 24:11 that the well was outside the city.

Lawrence of Arabia had been to this well and photographed it, the well appears in an old photo from his diary in 1911.

The well Jacob sees matches that description, “There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large.” Genesis 29:2

This time sheep are being watered instead of camels. Jacob asked why they are there while the sun is still high, “ “Look,” he said, “the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.”

We can’t,” they replied, “until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.” Genesis 29:7-8

Rachel then arrives with Laban’s sheep; “While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd.  When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep.

Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud.  He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father.” Genesis 29:9-12

Laban brought Jacob into his house where he stayed for a month and Jacob worked for him. When Laban discussed him having a wage, Jacob said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.” Genesis 29:18

After serving his time, Jacob asked for Rachel to be given as his wife. But Laban tricked him and instead he woke up with Leah, the older sister.

When Jacob asked Laban why he deceived him, his uncle said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.  Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.” Genesis 29:26

I wonder where Rachel was in all of this. Did she know? Did she have a say? Did Laban deceive her too? Were the women even involved in the wedding? Before the marriage, we read that Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. Just the men? We can but wonder at their customs.

Does God approve of polygamy? No, this was a culture he rejected and called Abraham out of. This was not God’s doing but Laban’s. But God built a nation out of this polygamous marriage.

Now, the rivalry begins between Leah and Rachel. Leah bears Jacob four sons; Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.

If it’s a contest Leah is four and Rachel none. But it’s an awful competition. Leah is afflicted and unloved with a husband who is detached from her.

We can hear the cry of her heart in the meaning of the son’s names;

Reuben means “see, a Son” – for she said, “The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.

Simeon means “heard” “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.”

Levi means “attached” “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”

Judah means “praise”“Now I will praise the Lord.”

A nation is being birthed. Is it pleasant? No. Painful? Yes. Pretty? No.

Related post

Through the Word: Rebeccah

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