The Strange Romance of Jacob and Rachel

Poor Leah. She really didn’t have much of a choice with things. But, we’ll get to that.

After Jacob stole his brother’s blessing, Isaac commanded him to leave Canaan and search for a wife. The reasoning was the same as Abraham’s. It’s just interesting that Isaac didn’t send a servant to find his son a wife. He sent Jacob directly.

Genesis 28:5, “Thus Isaac sent Jacob away. And he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban, the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.”

A quick side note on Esau is found a few verses later.

8 So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, 9 Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.

Notice the phrase, “besides the wives he had.” The difference from Jacob and Esau is that Jacob did not choose to have two wives, Esau, it seems, chose to have many.

Jacob is a tragic figure. He did wrong; he sinned. Yes his mom put the thought in his head, who knows how God would have handled the situation if not for the mother, but he is still responsible for his actions. He blatantly lied to his father. 

When asked who he was in 27:19, Jacob answered his father,

“I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” 20 But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.”

He even brought the Lord into his lie! That’s taking the Lord’s name in vane by the way. Never call upon the Lord’s name for your unrighteousness. Many have done so, even pillaging and warmongering in “the name of the Lord!” God will judge them. 

As for Jacob, God loved him. It is apparent by the discipline God showed Jacob later on, and when the discipline was finally met, a redemption. But we are getting ahead of ourselves!

After these lies:

26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said,

“See, the smell of my son
    is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed!
28 May God give you of the dew of heaven
    and of the fatness of the earth
    and plenty of grain and wine.
29 Let peoples serve you,
    and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
    and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
    and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

God’s will took place just as it was foretold to Rebekah. Jacob would rise above his brother! Okay, so it happened through sin, I’m sure God can overlook that sin! The ends justify the means after all.

Jacob’s Banishment

The banishment of Jacob begins with an awesome dream:

Chapter 28

12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

So, he gets a blessing and an awesome dream! Isn’t it amazing that even in the midst of such hardship, God shows up and gives Jacob hope. Jacob called the place Bethel.

On his travels, Jacob ran into some people from Haran by a well. Now, I’m sure he had heard how Rebekah was found at a well by Abraham’s servant. He knew the story… well. So when he is told that the daughter of his kin was coming, a reversal of that story happened.

9 While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10 Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. 12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father.

In this strange land, Jacob is not coming from plenty. He is not as rich as his grandfather, who once sent a servant with several gifts. Jacob only had himself.

This is why he started working for Laban, in fact he began by working for free.

Chapter 29:

15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. 18 Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Romantic love will make you do strange things, even choosing to become a bond-servant. Loneliness must have also played a role there. Jacob had been cast out of his family. He was willing to work as a servant just to have a sense of belonging.

Who can handle the pain of loneliness? I confess that no matter how long it lasts, even with a bit of numbing over the years, the pain is always and persistently there. 

The lonely man’s proverb is 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

A man would give anything including his freedom to find that tree of life desire fulfilled. And so it was with Jacob. Can you imagine what it was like for him? For seven years he worked an honest man’s living. He saw Rachel but never knew her. He waited for her.

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” 22 So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. 23 But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. 24 (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) 25 And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?”

Laban lied to Jacob.

26 Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.”

Wait, Laban didn’t lie… it was a custom that he um, forgot to mention. He only tricked Jacob, which is a fancier word for lie.

28 Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 (Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.) 30 So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.

Does this trickery and lying sound familiar? Laban used a tradition to force Jacob to work another 7 years. And you know what… Jacob just does it. He takes the discipline of the Lord and submits.

David wrote many psalms on this subject. One of them can be found in Psalms 39:

10 Remove your stroke from me;
    I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
11 When you discipline a man
    with rebukes for sin,
you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
    surely all mankind is a mere breath! Selah

12 “Hear my prayer, O Lord,
    and give ear to my cry;
    hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you,
    a guest, like all my fathers.
13 Look away from me, that I may smile again,
    before I depart and am no more!”

Over the next 7 years God prospers Jacob’s flocks over Laban’s. It is sort of fun to read how this was accomplished, but I will pass on it here. 

God disciplined Jacob for his disobedience and lies. For 14 years Jacob worked for his father-in-law. God also disciplined Laban by prospering Jacob over him. 

And so it seems the blessings of Isaac are finally coming to pass!

And what of poor Leah? Jacob didn’t love her. He hadn’t chosen her. Leah was used as a pawn by her father to get more work from Jacob. Chapter 29 says, “31 When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.”

And so a great battle between Jacob’s two wives takes place. They even offer their own maid servants to Jacob as wives so that they can bear him children. That’s 4 wives!

Is it no wonder that Moses warns the future kings of Israel to only have one wife?

Deuteronomy 17:17, “He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.”

Okay, so the prophetic commandment in Deuteronomy was concerning the fear of foreign wives bringing in their gods, but I still say that God is against more than one wife. 

The overseer or elder in 1 Timothy 3 is, among other things, required to be “the husband of one wife”.

But, the single most important verse against several wives is found in Genesis 3:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

2 become 1… pretty clear to me.

Jacob didn’t even want any other wife besides Rachel. This war of the wives came about without any control from him. And so what do we do when circumstances overwhelm? Turn to Jesus.

Listen friend, I once fell into a depression so deep I had somehow forgoten this. When God was away from me, I could convince myself of almost anything. “God hates me” or “He wants evil over me” or even “He has no control over this world much less my current issues.”

It was the book of Psalms and the story of Martyrs that brought me back to His reality. They are all a testament to God’s goodness in times of trials and tribulation… or a spiritual discipline against my wayward sins.

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