Jacob arrives in Mesopotamia. — V.1. Then Jacob went on his journey, literally, he lifted up his feet, that is, he continued on his trip cheerfully, and came in to the land of the people of the East, to Mesopotamia beyond the Euphrates, which lay to the northeast from Canaan. This journey differed somewhat from that of Eliezer, almost a hundred years before, since Jacob, now seventy-seven years old, made the entire distance afoot. V.2. And he looked, and, behold, a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered their flocks; and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth. Knowing that he must be near his destination, Jacob took more careful note of his surroundings and saw this well, or cistern, in the field, with a great stone covering its opening. V.3. And thither were all the flocks gathered, there they were driven at stated times during the day; and they, the shepherds, rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well’s mouth in his place. Water was apparently not too plentiful in the neighborhood, and it was necessary to use the greatest care in keeping the available supply pure. V.4. And Jacob said unto them, my brethren, whence be ye? And they said, Of Haran are we. V.5. And he said unto them, Know ye Laban, the son (in the wider sense, for he was the grandson) of Nahor? And they said, we know him. V.6. And he said unto them, Is he well? “Is there peace to him?” And they said, He is well; and, behold, Rachel, his daughter, cometh, is even now coming, with the sheep. V.7. And he said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together, for he assumed that the shepherds would immediately afterwards take them to the enclosure or corral for the night; water ye the sheep, and go and feed them. This was not an undue assumption of authority on the part of Jacob, but merely a scheme to remove the shepherds, for naturally he would have preferred to meet his cousin, whom he even now regarded as a probable wife, alone, and not in the presence of the slaves. V.8. And they said, 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. Ordinarily, therefore, it took two or more men to roll the stone away from the opening of the cistern, and they had received orders to come together at a stated time, lest there be delay and trouble in the care of the flocks.
Jacob meets Rachel. — V.9. And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep; for she kept them. Rachel was a shepherdess of her father, just as the virgin daughters of the Arabians are to this day. V.10. And it came to pass, 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. The joy which Jacob felt in reaching his destination in safety after his long, lonely, and dangerous journey through the desert and his delight in meeting his cousin so soon, gave him unusual, heroic strength. V.11. And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. His age and relationship made such an intimate greeting altogether proper, and even now bridal affection may have arisen in his heart, for that was one of the purposes of his journey, to take one of the daughters of Laban for his wife. V.12. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, in the wider sense, that of a close relative, and that he was Rebekah’s son; and she ran and told her father. Rachel was now, in turn, overjoyed, a fact which caused her to seek her father with all haste. V.13. And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob, his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house, thus offering him a hearty welcome. And he told Laban all these things, all that was necessary to explain his journey. V.14. And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. He was satisfied with the account as given by Jacob, for it proved conclusively that the latter was his nephew. And he abode with him the space of a month, thus becoming acquainted both with the family and with the circumstances of the family. Thus the Lord had guided the steps of Jacob, just as He watches over the steps of all His children on earth. In spite of many hardships and privations they usually manage to find a home and friends, the Lord thus giving evidence of His fatherly care.
Jacob serves Laban fob Rachel. — V.15. And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for naught? Tell me, what shall thy wages be? Jacob had not been idle during the month after his arrival, but had shown himself so willing and so skilful that Laban was glad to take him into his employ, if they could agree upon terms. V.16. And Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger wag Rachel. That Jacob would eventually press his suit for one of these Laban knew, and his offer served to pave the way. V.17. Leah was tender-eyed, that is, her eyes were weak and dull, she was no beauty in the sense of the Orient; but Rachel was beautiful and well favored, she had beauty of form and beauty of face, her eyes especially showing a brightness and luster which is regarded so highly in the East. V.18. And Jacob loved Rachel and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel, thy younger daughter, this service taking the place of the customary dowry and the presents given to the relatives. V.19, And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee than that I should give her to another man; abide with me. Laban acted with assumed indifference, for his selfishness and covetousness expected great gain for himself by this arrangement. V.20. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days for the love he had to her. In comparison with the prize which was held out to him at the end of the seven years, all the hardships of the service seemed insignificant. His love for Rachel made him cheerful and joyful, even while he longed for the end of the seven years.
Jacob marries Leah and Rachel. — V.21. And Jacob said unto Laban, at the end of the seven years, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her. Note that he calls Rachel his wife, although only engaged to her, for a rightful betrothal is as binding as marriage in the sight of God. V.22. And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast. He arranged the customary marriage-festival, making it as splendid as his wealth allowed. V.23. And it came to pass in the evening that he took Leah, his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. This deception on Laban’s part could be carried out all the more easily, since custom required that the bride be heavily veiled when led to the bridegroom and to the bridal chamber. V.24. And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah, his maid, for an handmaid. This fact is here expressly mentioned on account of later developments. V.25. And it came to pass that, in the morning, behold, it was Leah; and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? Did not I serve with thee for Rachel? Wherefore, then, hast thou beguiled me? While the fraud which was practiced upon Jacob may, in a sense, be regarded as a just punishment, his reproof of Laban was nevertheless fully justified, and he might well, according to the contract, have dismissed Leah. V.26. And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger-afore the first-born. Granted that this was an established custom in the place, or district, where Laban was living, his excuse was still a flimsy pretext, for his business would have been to acquaint Jacob with that custom at the time the contract was made His selfish motives, especially his avarice, here came to the surface, even as it was in evidence more and more in the succeeding years. V.27. Fulfill her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. The nuptial feast lasting seven days, Jacob was to confirm marriage with Leah by accepting her as his wife during this time. In the second week he was then given Rachel as his wife, with the understanding that he would serve another seven years for her, thus really paying a greater price than he owed. V.28. And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week; and he gave him Rachel, his daughter, to wife also. On either aide, sinful weaknesses had played a role and therefore Jacob’s married life in more than one instance became a school of afflictions. V.29. And Laban gave to Rachel, his daughter, Bilhah, his handmaid, to be her maid. This fact is also expressly stated on account of later developments. V.30. And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years. That bigamy, polygamy, is a perversion of God’s original order, since marriage is to be a monogamy, the union of one man and one woman, appears even here, for it was impossible for Jacob to distribute his affections with impartiality. In spite of the fact, therefore, that the blessing of God upon Abraham made use also of these means to make of the descendants of Abraham a great nation, it is clear, nevertheless, that much of the subsequent trouble was due to this unnatural arrangement.
The first sons of Leah. — V.31. And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, that is, that she was loved less than Rachel, he opened her womb and thus prepared her for bearing children, which are His blessing. But Rachel was barren, also by God’s dispensation. V.32. And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben (Behold, a son!); for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now, therefore, my husband will love me. Since children were so particularly desirable at the time of the patriarchs, Leah, whose love for Jacob was so deep and strong that she had even consented to Laban’s deception, hoped to have her husband’s affection turn to her also. V.33. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also; and she called his name Simeon (hearing). God had heard her prayer for another son, and she believed this to be a guarantee that her husband would eventually love her also. V.34. And she conceived again, and bare a son, and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons; therefore was his name called Levi (attachment). From her earlier hope of gaining the full love of her husband and of being on an equality with Rachel before him she now drew back to the hope that he would at least remain attached to her in constant affection. V.35. And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she said, Now will I praise the Lord; therefore she called his name Judah (praise of God, one for whom one praises God); and left bearing. Leah now turned entirely away from herself to Jehovah, who now also stopped her bearing for a time, lest she begin to trust in herself. The lesson that all good gifts come down from God and are given by His merciful goodness cannot be learned too well.