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Deeper Commentary

Gen 29:1 Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the children of the east- A 450 mile journey. Balaam was from here (Num. 23:7), and he apparently had a relationship with Yahweh. So the knowledge of the true God was somehow still around there; perhaps Abraham had told his family why he was leaving Ur, or had sent message back there of his relationship with Yahweh. But as noted on Gen. 25:6, to go to the East was a sign of leaving the land of promise and returning to where the true seed of Abraham should have left from. Jacob's parents had operated on the principle that Isaac would not go to the land of the east, rather Rebekah must leave there. So the whole journey was not on the right basis; yet still God worked through it, and out of so much failure and dysfunction there, forged the people of Israel, His covenant people.

Gen 29:2 He looked, and behold, a well in the field, and, behold, three flocks of sheep lying there by it. For out of that well they watered the flocks. The stone on the well’s mouth was large- The repeating similarities between our lives and those of others also reveal to us that God at times arranges for us to suffer from our alter ego- persons who behave similarly to us, and who through those similarities cause us suffering. In this way we are taught the error of our ways, both past and present. It seems that Jacob the deceiver suffered in this way from Laban the deceiver- in order to teach him and cause his spiritual growth. For example, as Jacob deceived his blind father relating to an important family matter, so Laban deceived Jacob in the darkness of the wedding night. And Jacob learnt from this- whereas Laban [so it seems] just didn't "get it". Indeed, so many themes repeated in Jacob's life in order to teach him. For example, when he first meets Rachel, there are three other flocks of sheep waiting to be watered (Gen. 29:2); but the implication of Gen. 29:10 is that Jacob rolled away the stone from the well and watered them and ignored the other three flocks. But did not this stone return upon his own head when God rolled away the reproach of the other three women in Jacob's life (Leah and the two servant girls) but not that of Rachel, who initially remained barren? Is this the significance of the three unwatered flocks? We wonder at the significance of these three flocks of sheep. Perhaps the reference is to the division of the earth / eretz dwellers into the three sons of Noah.

Jacob went to Haran expecting to find a wife. He was the favourite son of his mother Rebekah, and she wanted him to marry into her family. He also, at either 57or 77 (depending how you read the chronology of his life), was eager to marry. He had always lived with mum and dad, the favourite son of his mother, staying at home with her all the time. Jacob introduces himself as "Rebekah's son" (29:12), although it would have been more normal to describe himself as Jacob ben-Isaac. Gen. 29:10 labours the point three times that Laban was "his mother's brother".  Her marriage had been arranged at a well; she had encountered the invitation to marry Isaac at the well in Haran. And now Jacob is at a well near Haran, just possibly the same well. He was psychologically set  up to fall in love with any woman from his mother's family. And a pretty girl comes to the well to water her sheep; just as his mother had done. Men have a tendency to want a wife to be a surrogate mother for them. Isaac too, Jacob's father, had been the same. He too had been a mumma's boy, the obsessive love of his elderly mother, and so he was comforted after her death by Rebekah. He took Rebekah into his mother's tent, as if he had kept her tent just as it was when she died, and slept with her there. Clearly, he treated his wife as a surrogate mother. Jacob was going down the same path. He had lived at home, apparently single, for a long time. And now he was looking for a surrogate mother. And he found her. Both Isaac and Jacob come over as weak men, mumma's boys who had not individuated from mummy and their father's house. Just as the macho man who falls for the girl who looks like his mother and irons his work clothes as she did, and cooks like mum did at home... is not really strong, psychologically, not rugged at all- but weak. He is not (at least, not yet) a real man, his own person. My point is, that from such weak, pathetically pampered mumma's boys, came the house of Israel, God's people. For He worked to make them men, to individuate them.

Rebekah had told him to go there "for a few days" and, by implication, to find a wife there and return with her to Canaan. This is why we read that the seven years service for Rachel seemed to Jacob but "a few days" (:20). And this is why he says to Laban at the end of the period that he has served his days for Rachel (:21). Jacob told himself throughout the seven years of service that this was the "few days" his mother had spoken of. He was totally dominated by the desire to do his mother's  will. But he ended up serving another 7 years for Rachel; when he ought to have just accepted Leah and returned to Canaan. Rachel was an idolater, just like the wives whom Esau had married who were a grief of mind to Rebekah. So Jacob failed to see the spirit behind his mother's reasoning, and just followed her desires on the basis of living out parental expectation. Just as many raised Christian do today, at least in the shape of their early lives.

Gen 29:3 There all the flocks were gathered. They rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again on the well’s mouth in its place- This was their tradition- to wait until all the flocks were gathered and then remove the stone. Jacob felt this to be inefficient, as the sheep could have been grazing for the hours they were kept hanging around the well (:7). The headstrong, intelligent, hard working Jacob was to soon face years of looking after sheep day and night, consumed by the frost at night. Truly he was brought down, that he might be exalted.

Gen 29:4 Jacob said to them, My relatives, where are you from? They said, We are from Haran- Jacob apparently didn't know how close he was to Haran. There would've been no informative signposts on the road of the type we are used to. He addresses them as "brothers", a standard Middle Eastern form of address; but he could have sensed that he was drawing near to where his relatives lived. He was psychologically set up to expect a meeting of his relatives and his future wife, by a well- just as had happened to Eliezer in choosing a wife for Jacob's father. So he was hopeful that these indeed might be his relatives.

Gen 29:5 He said to them, Do you know Laban, the son of Nahor? They said, We know him- Laban was Nahor's grandson, but Hebrew genealogies frequently skip generations. The identification of Laban with Nahor is significant, in that Nahor is specifically defined as an idolater. Jacob's marriage back into the family of origin must be read as continuing a long line of such failure. Abraham was to separate from his native land and family, in order to be given a new land and family / seed. But he was very reluctant to do so. And Isaac and Jacob likewise were. But despite this refusal to fulfil the apparent conditions for the promises to be fulfilled, God still as it were drove forward His purpose to fulfil them. By grace alone.

Gen 29:6 He said to them, Is it well with him? They said, It is well. See, Rachel, his daughter, is coming with the sheep- The structure of the Hebrew language seems to reflect something of God's way of thinking. In Biblical Hebrew, there's no term for "yes" in replying to a question. Instead, the person answering repeats the question. Thus here Jacob asks: "Is he well?"; and the shepherds reply "Well". God's way of saying "Yes" to our prayers / requests is to repeat back to us as it were our requests; and thus the form and wording of our prayers becomes in some sense important; for what we ask for is what we will receive back, if He answers positively.

"Rachel" means "ewe", identifying her with her sheep. Jacob's heart would have been in his mouth, expecting to meet his future wife. The fact Laban used his daughter to water the sheep indicates that he was not wealthy. For this was the work of slaves. And if one young woman could control his entire flock, his flock was not large. We reflect how Laban had been made rich by the lavish presents given him in return for his sister Rebekah marrying Isaac. Back then, Rebekah had shepherded and watered the flock. But despite Laban's avarice, his economic position had apparently not progressed much. I suggested on Gen. 24 that Laban only agreed to the quick marriage of his sister because he wanted the expensive gifts on offer. But desire for wealth has no lasting effect, as we see here. We also reflect that Jacob was from a very wealthy family; and he was marrying in to a relatively poor family. His 14 years of slave labour for his wives was therefore a bringing of him down from his previous soft and prosperous life.

Gen 29:7 He said, Behold, it is still the middle of the day, not time to gather the livestock together. Water the sheep, and go and feed them- Jacob displays here the typical zeal and acumen of the Abraham family. The shepherd girls were wasting time, as he saw it; they should water the animals and then take them for feeding, rather than losing feeding time milling around the well with them. However it may be that Jacob wanted to meet Rachel alone, or at least, without the presence of the male shepherds; and he therefore took the initiative to get these men watering their flocks, so that he could meet Rachel without them. He was absolutely psychologically set up to expect that he would be meeting his future wife.

Or Jacob could be read as accusing the men of being lazy- perhaps he thought they were hired hands, and were gathering the animals together to water them and then return them to their stalls. But, he considered, it was too early in the day to be doing that.

Whatever, Jacob was driven to observe that what they were doing with the flocks was not, to his mind, very wise. He comes over as hard working and knowledgeable about pasturing animals. And then... Rachel, the beautiful shepherd girl, appears on the scene. Herself the very picture of hard work; her name meaning 'ewe', she is associated with the sheep. He was psychologically set up to fall in love with her. And yet my suggestion is that he would have been better off marrying into the Canaanite worshippers whom Melchizedek had pastored, rather than into an idolatrous family. Of whom Rachel turned out one of the most fanatic idolaters. But that was his choice, and we see God confirming him in it, and setting him up to fall headlong in love with Rachel and marry into that unbelieving family. We are indeed confirmed in the way in which we wish to go.

Gen 29:8 They said, We can’t, until all the flocks are gathered together, and they roll the stone from the well’s mouth. Then we water the sheep- They may be alluding to some local custom; for Jacob alone could move the stone. It wasn't that they couldn't budge the stone. Perhaps they were fearing evaporation from the well or water warming if the stone was left off for too long. But see on :7 and :10.

Gen 29:9 While he was yet speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she kept them- This is emphasized (:7 too). "Coming with the sheep" would have restimulated images of his mother Rebekah coming with her father's sheep to a well near Haran. The record very cleverly presents Jacob as bound to fall in love with Rachel at first sight, and indeed he does.

Gen 29:10 It happened, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban, his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban, his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother- As explained previously, Jacob was psychologically set up to fall in love with Rachel at first sight. We don't read that he fell in love on first sight, but rather that he moved the stone. He had been psychologically set up to expect that like his father, he too would find a wife in Laban's family (Gen. 28:2), and God would bless him in his mission (Gen. 28:15). So when he finds that one of the pretty shepherd girls he meets by a well is in fact Laban's daughter, his heart and whole psychology would have been elated. And so he finds the physical strength to impress the girl by shifting the heavy stone; or, as suggested on :8, to upset the local customs of only moving the stone once  all the flocks were gathered. And then the stress and relief issues forth in the tears of emotional breakdown (:11). This has absolute credibility in psychological terms and confirms the internal veracity of the inspired record.

We see reflected here Jacob’s psychological domination by his mother- Laban is three times called “his mother’s brother”. And he followed his mother's weaker side too. Rebekah rejected the promise of Gen. 25:23 in ch.27; as Jacob in Gen. 33:3-5. There is sustained emphasis on Jacob's obedience to his parents, especially to his mother (Gen. 27:8,13,43; 28:7). The whole story is a foretaste of the issues involved with Christians and parental expectation in our day. It might not be going too far to say that he grew up far too much under her thumb; he meekly obeyed her faithless suggestion that he deceive his father into granting him the blessing, content with her assurance that it would be mum's sin, not his (and I imagine her pecking him on the cheek as she gave him the tray with Isaac's food on). No wonder he fell madly in love at first sight, when he first saw the girl he knew his mother wanted him to marry. Jacob introduces himself as "Rebekah's son" (29:12), although it would have been more normal to describe himself as Jacob ben-Isaac. 29:10 labours the point three times that Laban was "his mother's brother". The fact Deborah, his mother's nurse, was taken under the wing by Jacob, further suggests his very close bond with his mother; he buried Deborah under Allon-Bachuth- 'the oak of his (Jacob's) weeping' (Gen. 35:8).  Jacob struggled to accept his father's God as his God. And yet he in so many ways is portrayed as deeply influenced by Rebekah his mother.

Gen 29:11 Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept- That he should break down in tears is absolutely in line with the psychology of the situation which I have outlined so far in this chapter. The pressure release would have been enormous, mixed with joy that the apparently chosen wife for him was very beautiful. And yet God's intention was that he should marry Leah, not Rachel. Jacob was being led this way to try to teach him that marriage is not about the flesh but the spirit. For Rachel never comes over as very spiritually minded, indeed she was so attached to the family idols that she stole them when the family left Laban's encampment.

Gen 29:12 Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebekah’s son. She ran and told her father-
We note his self-identity as "Rebekah’s son"- not Jacob ben-Isaac, as would've been the usual introduction. See on :10. Her running was another connection with how Rebekah, Jacob's mother, had likewise run from the well back to her father with the news.

Gen 29:13 It happened, when Laban heard the news of Jacob, his sister’s son, that he ran to meet Jacob, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things- Again the similarities are so clear with Eliezer's visit to get Rebekah as a wife for Isaac. Circumstances do indeed repeat in human lives, so that we might discern the principles and lessons.

Gen 29:14 Laban said to him, Surely you are my bone and my flesh. He lived with him for a monthWe recall Laban wanting Rebekah to stay with them about a month before agreeing to marry Isaac. As noted above, the similarities with the marriage of Rebekah are so clear. But the spiritual aspect wasn't paralleled at all. To continue that, Jacob ought to have explained that Rachel would have to leave the land of the east and return to the eretz with him; and he should have pointed out to everyone that he had had a vision at Bethel which had assured him that this was God's program for him, and he wished to remain part of it. But the spiritual side of things was quite lacking. He apparently only saw a pretty girl who restimulated his feelings for his mother.

We note that "my bone and my flesh" means 'blood relative', and the same term is used of our relationship to the Lord Jesus within His body (Eph. 5:30). This is indeed a challenging level of intimacy; our relationship with Him is no mere occasional hobby. In a very detailed study of this language, the theologian Henricus Renckens concluded: "In Israel, in order to say that someone was a blood relation, one said: "He is my flesh and my bones" (Gen. 29:14; Jud. 9:2; cp. Gen. 37:27; 2 Sam. 5:1; 19:13 ff.; Is. 58:7)" (H. Renckens, Israel's Concept of the Beginning: The Theology of Genesis 1-3 (New York: Herder & Herder, 1964) p. 228). This is how close we are to the Lord Jesus- blood relatives. This language could in no way be justified if Jesus were God Himself in person.

Gen 29:15 Laban said to Jacob, Because you are my brother, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what will your wages be?- Laban had been given a fortune in the ten camels' worth of expensive presents and metals which he had been given when Rebekah married Isaac. But his avarice is clear. He saw in Jacob a good worker. We meet here the idea of 'serving', and in the next verse, the idea of older and younger siblings. Jacob had laboured wrongly and in his own strength to bring about God's prediction that between him and his brother, the elder would serve the younger. The word "serve" is so repeatedly used about how Jacob served Laban (:18,20,25,27,30; 30:26,29; 31:6,41; Hos. 12:12). Jacob had so wanted the blessing to come true, of his older brother serving him. But he never really got that in his life, and he was made to realize what serving your brother or relative [Laban] was really like. He was being made to understand how Esau would have felt if he had served Jacob as Jacob intended. We too are taught how things we once hankered after would've been, had they come true. And this is why the motif of elder and younger siblings is included in Jacob's experience of "serving", to remind him of the whole drama in his own earlier life about the elder serving the younger.

Gen 29:16 Laban had two daughters. The name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel
- See on :15. If we are to assume these were his only daughters, then he had not been greatly blessed with children. Laban is presented as focused on material wealth and blessing, and yet never really achieving it as he wished, despite his schemes. And Jacob ought to have learnt from that.

Gen 29:17 Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and attractive
- The reference could be to weak eyesight, which was a feature of the Abraham family. Or the reference could be to how Semitic peoples value vivacious, sparkling eyes; Rachel had these, but Leah didn't. Leah was "in appearance dull" [another acceptable translation] in comparison to Rachel. Again we see that Jacob's attraction to Rachel was of the flesh.

Gen 29:18 Jacob loved Rachel. He said, I will serve you seven years for Rachel, your younger daughter
Jacob had been promised that he was to “let people serve you” (Gen. 27:29) and yet he effectively said he didn’t want that promise, by serving Laban for a wife (29:18,25,27); at the end he was brought through life’s experiences to see that the promises are the basis of life, and that we must let God fulfill them to us. Seven years labour was a significant dowry; the once wealthy Jacob, apparent heir of Isaac's huge wealth, was now reduced to a penniless man in love, willing to sign himself up for seven years hard manual labour in order to get married. It was a huge comedown, and he must have wondered at times how God's promise "I will be with you" would really work out, as it certainly seemed to have little cash value through all those years; "for a wife he kept sheep" (Hos. 12:12).

The deal was clearly defined- it was for "your younger daughter", perhaps stressed because Jacob was aware of the tradition to marry off the elder daughter first. He ought to have realized that it was God's plan he marry Leah, and seeing she was weak eyed, possibly an invalid, he would've served fewer years for her. But he wanted to go his own way and marry the pretty but less spiritual girl, and he suffered for it.

Gen 29:19 Laban said, It is better that I give her to you, than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me- The implication could be that she was already promised to "another man" but Laban was prepared to cancel that agreement. In this case, we again are left with the impression that Jacob was Divinely intended to marry Leah and return with her to his father's house in peace. But he wanted to get around that and have Rachel, and so the whole sorry saga unravelled further; and yet through it all, God worked to build up His people from such unspiritual beginnings. Just as He does with us.

Gen 29:20 Jacob served seven years for Rachel. They seemed to him but a few days, for the love he had for her- This may seem commendable, but we must remember the observations already made that it was the Divine 'Plan A' that he marry Leah. Instead he was obsessed with Rachel and making God's purpose work out in such a way that would reinforce his own desires. In essence, this temptation is present with all God's children. That same kind of obsession had led Jacob and Rebekah to defraud Esau of the birthright and blessing. See on :2.

Gen 29:21 Jacob said to Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her- We note that he didn't sleep with his betrothed for seven years, which is commendable. The fact Jacob had to take the initiative in asking Laban for his betrothed may already hint at a reluctance on Laban's part. Jacob's term "my days are fulfilled" sounds as if he had counted the days; to still feel like this toward Rachel after seven years of betrothal indicates a besotted love for her, although I have suggested earlier that this was an obsession which was ignoring the fact God had clearly intended him to marry Leah and then return to the eretz. See on :2.

Gen 29:22 Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast- Laban was perhaps expecting some attempt by Jacob to take Rachel by force, or otherwise make a scene. So he gathered all the local men to be present. Surely they knew what was being planned. See on :27 "we". The Hebrew for "feast" is literally "a drinking", and this would explain why Jacob didn't realize he had slept with Leah rather than Rachel.

Gen 29:23 It happened in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him. He went in to her- Surely one reason that Jacob disliked Leah subsequently was that he understandably felt she had played a conscious part in the deception. As noted on :32 and :34, she seems to have truly loved Jacob and wished that he would be joined to her in love. He clearly didn't feel joined to her nor love her, at least initially. However it's hard to imagine that Rachel didn't get wind of the conspiracy, and was not in some way part of it too.  We are to suppose that in the earlier part of the ceremony, Rachel was acting the part of the bride; and then, as stated here, only in the evening, when Jacob was drunk, was Leah brought to Jacob. The idea was clearly that once Jacob had slept with her, he had to have her as his wife. So Rachel was surely involved in the deception. After all, where was she whilst all this was going on? What did she feel, what did she say?

Gen 29:24 Laban gave Zilpah his handmaid to his daughter Leah for a handmaid- Laban gave Jacob his castoff maidservant, rather than Leah having her own maidens, as happened with Rebekah. This was somewhat of an insult, and an attempt to get power over Jacob in this way too. Zilpah was apparently given to Leah before the evening, if these verses are chronological. So she too was part of the deception. Jacob must have felt so alone, but that was all part of the Divine plan- to bring him to Him, just as He did at the vision of the ladder at Bethel.

Gen 29:25 It happened in the morning that, behold, it was Leah. He said to Laban, What is this you have done to me? Didn’t I serve with you for Rachel?- We naturally enquire why only "in the morning" did Jacob realize the deception. I suggest he may well have been drunk; as noted on :22, "feast" is literally 'a drinking'. This would form a parallel with how Jacob had given Isaac his father wine when he likewise deceived him, under cover of the darkness of Isaac's blindness.

Why then have you deceived me?- Jacob was verbalizing the thoughts and words of Isaac and Esau whom he had deceived. The truthful answer was more or less: 'For money / material advantage'. And that was the answer which Jacob had to give to the same question asked of himself.

Gen 29:26 Laban said, It is not done so in our place, to give the younger before the firstborn- The obvious response is that he should not have therefore contracted with Jacob for her. There is however evidence that this tradition of only giving the elder first could be waived if the elder was in some way deformed or blind; and there is the possibility that Leah was indeed like this, which would explain why it was Rachel and not Leah who was out with the sheep when Jacob first met her. It would also explain why Laban was at such pains to marry her off; and why Jacob specifically made the contract stating that Rachel was the younger daughter. So in every way, Laban had deceived Jacob, just as he had deceived his own father.

Gen 29:27 Fulfill the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you will serve with me yet seven other years- The "we" connects with "the men of the place"; see on :22. This really left Jacob trapped; he had to agree. His obsessive love for Rachel had led him into the position; whereas if he had married Leah as it seems God planned, then he wouldn't have gotten into the impossible situation he was. For marrying two sisters was not only immoral, it was going to give rise to a miserable domestic life. He, the one time heir to all Isaac's huge wealth, was indeed brought very low.

Gen 29:28
Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week. He gave him Rachel his daughter as wife- He had a Divinely provided opportunity here to accept Leah as the wife God intended, and return home to the eretz, trusting God to keep His promise of bringing him home in peace. But his infatuation with the unspiritual Rachel and his pride led him to agree. And so many spiritual people have become obsessed with an unspiritual partner, leading to many wasted years, and frustration of the Divine possibilities for them. And we all miss Divine possibilities and potentials.

Gen 29:29 Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah, his handmaid, to be her handmaid- As noted on :24, unlike Rebekah, Rachel was not given her own virgins to assist her, but rather her father's ex. We notice that Bilhah and Zilpah were "his" handmaids. No mention is made of his wife. They may well have effectively been his women on the side, perhaps having had his children, and were therefore a way of exercising control over Jacob's family. To later have children by the ex-mistresses of his hated master would've been so emotionally painful for Jacob.

Gen 29:30 He went in also to Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years- Jacob was under the one man: one woman ideal of Genesis; and yet he evidently didn't take this too seriously. His mad infatuation with Rachel meant that he thought nothing of polygamy. The idea of accepting one's married circumstances for the sake of principle was obviously foreign to our Jacob. Many aspects of the Mosaic Law were already in place before it was pronounced to Moses; the prohibition on marrying a second wife who was the sister of the first wife could well have been known among God's people in Jacob's time, seeing that it was a precept based on the principles of Eden (Lev. 18:17,18). "It is wickedness" was God's comment to Moses, and there is no reason to think that His essential moral judgment on this kind of thing has ever changed much. Yet Jacob thought nothing of breaching this command, and committing this "wickedness".

Likewise, Dt. 21 was clear that when in a case when a man had two wives and loved one and hated the other, and the firstborn son was from the hated / loved less wife... he was not to promote the firstborn of the loved wife to be his firstborn, and to demote the firstborn by the hated wife. But this is precisely what Jacob does. He demotes Reuben in favour of Joseph and in fact Joseph's sons: "Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you into Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh, even as Reuben and Simeon, will be mine" (Gen. 48:5); Reuben "was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright" (1 Chron. 5:1). The connection is so precise that we can assume that Dt. 21 is warning Israel to not do what Jacob did. Jacob, the founding father of Israel, was far our of step with the spirit of God's law. The two passages are clearly connected; Dt. 21:17 uses the term "the firstborn of his vigour", just as in Gen. 49:3 about Reuben being the firstborn of Jacob's vigour.

 Leah's reaction to Jacob's evident favouritism for Rachel was to become obsessed with having children, maybe because she saw that as a guarantee Jacob wouldn't divorce her. But from that, was built up the house of God in Israel. When she failed to conceive, she panicked that she was barren, and therefore asked Jacob to have intercourse with her servant Zilpah in order to produce children. During the first seven years of her marriage, she produced 6 sons and 1 daughter. This indicated not only an incredible fertility, but also a high womanly status in those times, seeing that she produced so many more sons than daughters. The fact none of her children died in babyhood was also remarkable for the times. Her fertility became proverbial in later Israel (Ruth 4:11). And yet despite this evident fecundity, whenever she thought she had failed to conceive, she asked Jacob to have intercourse with Zilpah. Despite knowing her fertility, Jacob did so. It seems he sacrificed basic principles in order to placate a neurotic wife who, it would seem, he didn't care too much for anyway, seeing he made it plain he had never wanted to marry her in the first place (29:25,31). The whole sense that we get is that his relationship with Zilpah was unnecessary, and he was far too casual in his attitude to it. Leah felt she was "the hated one" (:33), she was "afflicted" (:32- depressed, miserable, victim of injustice). She was in a miserable position; Jacob loved her sister, her father had used her, and Jacob clearly felt she was guilty of going along with Laban's deception of him. Leah's father didn't love her, but had used her to trick another man in order to get more labour out of him on his farm (and Gen. 31:14-16 reflects how she felt unloved by her father). She was unloved by her husband, and jealously hated by her sister, who was more attractive than her. Rachel surely also hated Leah for having played her role in Laban's great deception on the wedding night. Leah was, in a word, unhappy. And she was unhappy all her life because of what happened on one night. The names of her children express her hope her husband would now love her, or be joined to her; she was married to a man who was not joined to her in the spirit of God's intention for marriage in Genesis. Gen. 29:32: “‘Yahweh has seen my misery’; and she said, ‘Now my husband will love me’”; Gen. 29:33: “Yahweh heard that I was unloved, and so he has given me this one too". Gen. 29:34: “This time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons". She longed for love and true connection with her husband, and thought having children was going to lead to that. Children were going to be her only source of human love; she was obsessed with having children. She recognizes this, and her naming of Issachar in Gen. 30:18 could mean she feels like a whore: "God has given me my reward for giving my slave-girl to my husband". Indeed it would seem from Gen. 30:20 that Jacob didn't live with Leah, but just slept with her when she begged him to, in order to produce children: "Now my husband will live with me, because I have borne him six sons. She named him Zebulun". But all this miserable existence was used in God's bigger purpose to build up the house of Israel. She had been railroaded into a marriage with a man who didn't love her; she felt it was all so unjust and unfair. And in a way it was. The only way forward for her, as she saw it, was to produce many sons for Jacob. And she produced six in seven years, plus a daughter. And none of them died, all survived to adulthood. Which was amazing for those days. Psychologically, she as it were willed herself to do this. Her firstborn Reuben means "See! A son!", as if he fulfilled her all consuming desire to produce a male offspring for Jacob. But out of the misery of her depression and tough situation, she was used to build the house of Israel. And so many dead end situations and unhappy lives are used by God to extend His purpose and to build up His people on this earth. The unloved, the used, those manipulated, or who suffer all their lives for the misjudgment of 'going along' with something unethical one evening... are used powerfully by God. What Leah did at the wedding was somewhere on the border between sin and misjudgment, somewhere between 'going along' with her father [and probably other males in her male dominated society], and the moral failure of not standing up to what was wrong. We've likely all met people like that, whose unfortunate lives were defined by an evening and night many years ago. Whereas Rachel, lover of idols, died before she reached Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Lord Jesus. She dies giving birth to Benjamin, whom she names Ben-Oni, 'son of my sorrow / affliction'; the very word used about Leah's affliction / sorrow / depression. In fact, Rachel didn't at all have a happier life. Gen. 30:1 could well be a suicide threat by her. She had the same affliction / sorrow that Leah had. Life is not so awesome for anyone; but for the believer (Leah), that sorrow is used by God for greater ends, whereas as Paul puts it, "the sorrow of the world works death" (2 Cor. 7:10). The isolation, depression, dead ends, lack of love, being used by others... is all used towards a far more glorious end. But those whom we may feel have a great life, like Rachel- they go through the same feelings. But unproductively, for nothing. Their lives are not in fact awesome at all. The "Leah" type tend to look at the "Rachel" type on social media and think that "Rachel" is having an awesome life... but they suffer as much as "Leah". Whether or not Leah was culpable for going along with Laban's deception, it was after all the failure of a day or so, into which she had been railroaded. And she was suffering because of it all her life. Indeed Jacob was the deceiver who was now being deceived; he had used the darkness of his father's blindness to switch the two brothers, himself and Esau; and now, in the darkness of that night and his own drunkenness, he was himself deceived, and two siblings were switched.  Jacob's anguished "Why have you deceived me?" (Gen. 29:25) is the cry of Esau; he was being made to feel how he had made Esau feel. Again, the issue is related to 'Who is the firstborn?'. The firstborn must be recognized as the firstborn and treated as such. And the answer to his question is so clear to us readers: 'Because that's what you did to your father and your brother'. It's clear enough, but from Leah's viewpoint- 'Why me? Why mess up my life just to complete this Divine circle of 'measure for measure'?'. The idea of going to Haran and marrying Laban's daughters was so that Yahweh would make Jacob "fruitful, and make you multiply so that you become a group of nations" (Gen. 28:3). Rachel was barren, so the channel for the fulfilment of God's purpose and promises was clearly through Leah. But on the ground, she only became fruitful because of the awful background situation she found herself in, driving her psychologically to become hyper fertile and to produce male offspring; as she felt that having many male children was the only answer to her dead end situation. Leah's situation appears to be alluded to in Ps. 10:12-14, where she is presented as programmatic of us all: "Rise up, O LORD; O God lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed... But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief... that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you". There are other allusions to Leah's "affliction" as representative of all God's children (Ps. 9:12; 25:18; 31:7). "The Lord has heard that I am hated" (Gen. 29:33) is perhaps alluded to when David often thanks God for 'hearing' him, the hated one (Ps. 30:11 and often when he says to the effect 'They all hated me, but You heard me').

Jacob had set out for Laban's home intending to get married, and God had promised to be with him. It could be argued that he should have accepted God's choice in Leah, especially as she clearly loved him (:32,34). But he wished to force things through his way, and so ended up marrying two sisters and serving at least 14 years of his life in relative poverty.

Gen 29:31 Yahweh saw that Leah was hated- Jacob maybe did hate Leah because of her part in the deception practiced on him. But it is also possible to understand "hated" as meaning "loved less", he loved Rachel more than he did Leah (:30), and he possibly speaks with fondness of Leah after her death at Gen. 49:31. This is a Semitic idiom, and is seen by comparing Lk. 14:26 [hating parents] with Mt. 10:37 [loving parents less than Christ]. We note that God gave these barren women children because He felt sorry for them, as part of His sovereign purpose; there is no mention of the women and Jacob praying to God for children, as there is with Jacob's parents. Again we see the establishment of God's people Israel upon the basis of unilateral grace and Divine pity rather than human spirituality. One loved and one hated / loved less was exactly the situation God was in with Jacob and Esau (Rom. 9:13). And Jacob was the beloved one. He ought to have perceived this, and responded with a similar grace.

And he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren- Scripture repeatedly speaks as if God notices things and only then responds (also in Jonah 3:10; Ex. 3:4; Dt. 32:19; 2 Kings 14:26; 2 Chron. 12:7; Ez. 23:13; Is. 59:15 cp. Lk. 7:13). If He knew in advance what they were going to do, this language is hard for me to understand. I suggest God so enters our experience that in a sense He may limit His omniscience just as He can limit His omnipotence.

Gen. 29:31 speaks of closed and open wombs, not fallopian tubes. There was no need for inspiration to produce a document that was so scientifically correct that the generation contemporary with it couldn’t cope with it. Indeed, the whole beauty of God’s revelation is that He takes people from where they are as they are, and leads them on to higher truth without having head on confrontation with them regarding their incorrect scientific understandings.

Gen 29:32 Leah conceived, and bore a son, and she named him Reuben- The root meaning fallacy arises from the false assumption that a word has a "proper meaning", which can be reached by tracing it to its source. But seeing that words change their meaning, the 'root' of a word isn't really much of a guide to its meaning. Take the English word 'nice', i.e. pleasant. In the eighteenth century this word meant 'precise' rather than 'pleasant'; and it actually derives from the Latin nescius, meaning 'ignorant'. It's obviously wrong to read the word 'nice' in a contemporary book and think that the word therefore means 'precise', or, even more accurately, 'ignorant'. Context and usage is obviously the key. I'm constantly amazed at how respectable lexicons like Liddell & Scott use the term "prop.", i.e. 'proper meaning', with the evident understanding that the earliest use of a word is somehow its real, 'proper' meaning. This is an utter fallacy. The meaning of the names of Jacob's children are parade examples. Reuben means 'behold a son', but the inspired narrator suggests a meaning of 'affliction' because the consonants with that word are vaguely similar to 'Reuben'.

For she said, Because Yahweh has looked at my affliction-‘Looking upon’ is an idiom for answered prayer or God's response to human request (Gen. 6:12; 29:32; Ex. 2:25; Dt. 26:7; Jud. 6:14). Now apply this to how in Lk. 1:48 Mary exalts:  "he hath looked upon…" (ASV). All this implies that Mary like Elisabeth had requested to have this child- to bear Messiah. She sees what God has done as “His mercy” to her (Lk. 1:50), as if a request had been granted.

For now my husband will love me- The way Leah comments about Jacob to Rachel “Now will my husband love me… now this time will my husband be joined unto me” (Gen. 29:32-34) all imply that Jacob’s marriage was in a mess. Jacob, Rachel and Leah were indeed a tangled web. God joins together a married couple; yet Jacob, apparently, neither loved his wife Leah / Rachel, nor had allowed God to join him unto her in emotional bonding. And there he was, having kids by his domestic servants as well, his boss’s cast-offs. And God loved this man, and worked with him so patiently, to build the house of Israel His people. There’s comfort enough for every man and woman, reading this record. The way Jacob is simply described as the one whom God loved in Ps. 47:4 is majestic in its brevity. God loved Jacob. He really did. Simple as that. When Jacob is the one presented as having struggled with God more than any other.

We can assume from Gen. 49:4 that Reuben later committed incest with Bilhah, his father's concubine. Leah was perhaps obsessed with the fact she had produced Jacob his firstborn son, and came to dote inappropriately upon her son. Whatever happened, the seeds of his later perversion would've been sown in early childhood. Truly Jacob's family life was a tragedy and a moral shambles; and yet out of it came the twelve sons who would be the foundations of God's people. This perhaps was to encourage us as that people, that we were created and are saved by grace and not by any moral purity or spirituality of our own.

Gen 29:33 She conceived again, and bore a son, and said, Because Yahweh has heard that I am hated, He has therefore given me this son also. She named him Simeon- Her hopes that Reuben's birth would lead to Jacob loving her (:32) were misplaced; he still "hated" her, perhaps literally because of her willing part in the wedding night deception, or perhaps in the sense of being loved less; see on :31. If "loved less" is the sense of "hated", then we can conclude that Leah wanted to be loved more than her sister. The whole situation was an unspeakable agony for Jacob, but it was of his making. The wife God gave him was Leah, but he was so infatuated with Rachel that he ignored God's clear movement, and suffered for it in his family life. And yet out of that came God's people, Israel.

Gen 29:34 She conceived again, and bore a son. She said, Now this time will my husband be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons. Therefore his name was called Levi- She seems to have truly loved Jacob and wished that he would be joined to her in love. He clearly didn't feel joined to her, for the reason noted on :23. The Genesis record has explained that God would help a married couple cleave or be joined together (Mt. 19:6). The fact Jacob and Leah were not "joined" therefore reflects how Jacob or perhaps both of them were resisting God's joining power.

Gen 29:35 She conceived again, and bore a son. She said, This time will I praise Yahweh. Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing- She actually started bearing again later (Gen. 30:17); but here we have an example of Scripture reporting things as they seemed at the time; we see  something similar in the language of demons being cast out in the New Testament. The way Leah uses the Yahweh Name implies something positive about her level of spirituality; and despite feeling unloved by her husband, she felt she had something to praise Yahweh for. We don't see this kind of spirituality in the record of Rachel.