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Genesis 29

29
Jacob Arrives at Laban's Home
1As Jacob continued on his way to the east, 2he looked out in a field and saw a well where shepherds took their sheep for water. Three flocks of sheep were lying around the well, which was covered with a large rock. 3Shepherds would roll the rock away when all their sheep had gathered there. Then after the sheep had been watered, the shepherds would roll the rock back over the mouth of the well.
4Jacob asked the shepherds, “Where are you from?”
“We're from Haran,” they answered.
5Then he asked, “Do you know Nahor's grandson Laban?”
“Yes we do,” they replied.
6“How is he?” Jacob asked.
“He's fine,” they answered. “And here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.”
7Jacob told them, “Look, the sun is still high up in the sky, and it's too early to bring in the rest of the flocks. Water your sheep and take them back to the pasture.”
8But they replied, “We can't do that until they all get here, and the rock has been rolled away from the well.”
9While Jacob was still talking with the men, his cousin Rachel came up with her father's sheep. 10When Jacob saw her and his uncle's sheep, he rolled the rock away and watered the sheep. 11He then kissed Rachel and started crying because he was so happy. 12He told her that he was the son of her aunt Rebekah, and she ran and told her father about him.
13As soon as Laban heard the news, he ran out to meet Jacob. He hugged and kissed him and brought him to his home, where Jacob told him everything that had happened. 14Laban said, “You are my nephew, and you are like one of my own family.”
Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel
After Jacob had been there for a month, 15Laban said to him, “You shouldn't have to work without pay, just because you are a relative of mine. What do you want me to give you?”
16-17Laban had two daughters. Leah was older than Rachel, but her eyes didn't sparkle,#29.16,17 but her eyes didn't sparkle: Or “and her eyes sparkled.” while Rachel was beautiful and had a good figure. 18Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he answered, “If you will let me marry Rachel, I'll work seven years for you.”
19Laban replied, “It's better for me to let you marry Rachel than for someone else to have her. So stay and work for me.” 20Jacob worked seven years for Laban, but the time seemed like only a few days, because he loved Rachel so much.
21Jacob said to Laban, “The time is up, and I want to marry Rachel now!” 22So Laban gave a big feast and invited all their neighbors. 23But that evening he brought Leah to Jacob, who married her and spent the night with her. 24Laban also gave Zilpah to Leah as her servant woman.
25The next morning Jacob found out that he had married Leah, and he asked Laban, “Why did you do this to me? Didn't I work to get Rachel? Why did you trick me?”
26Laban replied, “In our country the older daughter must get married first. 27After you spend this week#29.27 this week: The wedding feast lasted for seven days (see Judges 14.12,17). with Leah, you may also marry Rachel. But you will have to work for me another seven years.”
28-30At the end of the week of celebration, Laban let Jacob marry Rachel, and he gave her his servant woman Bilhah. Jacob loved Rachel more than he did Leah, but he had to work another seven years for Laban.
31The Lord knew that Jacob loved Rachel more than he did Leah, and so he gave children to Leah, but not to Rachel. 32Leah gave birth to a son and named him Reuben.#29.32 Reuben: In Hebrew “Reuben” means, “Look, a son!” Then she said, “The Lord has taken away my sorrow. Now my husband will love me more than he does Rachel.” 33She had a second son and named him Simeon,#29.33 Simeon: In Hebrew “Simeon” sounds like “someone who hears.” because she said, “The Lord has heard that my husband doesn't love me.” 34When Leah's third son was born, she said, “Now my husband will hold me close.” So this son was named Levi.#29.34 hold me close … Levi: In Hebrew “Levi” sounds like “hold (someone) close.” 35She had one more son and named him Judah,#29.35 Judah: In Hebrew “Judah” sounds like “praise.” because she said, “I'll praise the Lord!”
29
Arrival in Haran.#Jacob’s arrival in Haran. The sight of Rachel inspires Jacob to the superhuman feat of rolling back the enormous stone by himself. The scene evokes the meeting of Abraham’s steward and Jacob’s mother Rebekah at a well (24:11–27).The verse begins the story of Jacob’s time in Mesopotamia (29:1–31:54), which is framed on either side by Jacob’s time in Canaan, 25:19–28:22 and 32:1–36:43. In these chapters, Jacob suffers Laban’s duplicity as Esau had to suffer his, though eventually Jacob outwits Laban and leaves Mesopotamia a wealthy man. An elaborate chiastic (or envelope) structure shapes the diverse material: (A) Jacob’s arrival in Haran in 29:1–4; (B) contract with Laban in 29:15–20; (C) Laban’s deception of Jacob in 29:21–30; (D) the center, the birth of Jacob’s children in 29:31–30:24; (C′) Jacob’s deception of Laban in 30:25–43; (B′) dispute with Laban in 31:17–42; (A′) departure from Laban in 31:43–54. As the chiasm reverses, so do the fortunes of Laban and Jacob. Kedemites: see note on 25:6. 1#Wis 10:10. After Jacob resumed his journey, he came to the land of the Kedemites. 2Looking about, he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep huddled near it, for flocks were watered from that well. A large stone covered the mouth of the well.#Gn 24:11–12. 3When all the shepherds were assembled there they would roll the stone away from the mouth of the well and water the sheep. Then they would put the stone back again in its place over the mouth of the well.
4Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?” “We are from Haran,” they replied. 5Then he asked them, “Do you know Laban, son of Nahor?” “We do,” they answered.#Tb 7:4. 6He inquired further, “Is he well?” “He is,” they answered; “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.” 7Then he said: “There is still much daylight left; it is hardly the time to bring the animals home. Water the sheep, and then continue pasturing them.” 8They replied, “We cannot until all the shepherds are here to roll the stone away from the mouth of the well; then can we water the flocks.”
9While he was still talking with them, Rachel arrived with her father’s sheep, for she was the one who tended them. 10As soon as Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of Laban, he went up, rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well, and watered Laban’s sheep. 11Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. 12Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative, Rebekah’s son. So she ran to tell her father. 13When Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him. After embracing and kissing him, he brought him to his house. Jacob then repeated to Laban all these things, 14and Laban said to him, “You are indeed my bone and my flesh.”#Bone and…flesh: the Hebrew idiom for English “flesh and blood” (cf. 2:23; Jgs 9:2; 2 Sm 5:1 = 1 Chr 11:1).
Marriage to Leah and Rachel. After Jacob had stayed with him a full month, 15#Laban’s deception and Jacob’s marriages. There are many ironies in the passage. Jacob’s protest to Laban, “How could you do this to me?” echoes the question put to Abraham (20:9) and Isaac (26:10) when their deceptions about their wives were discovered. The major irony is that Jacob, the deceiver of his father and brother about the blessing (chap. 27), is deceived by his uncle (standing in for the father) about his wife. Laban said to him: “Should you serve me for nothing just because you are a relative of mine? Tell me what your wages should be.” 16Now Laban had two daughters; the older was called Leah, the younger Rachel. 17Leah had dull eyes,#Dull eyes: in the language of beauty used here, “dull” probably means lacking in the luster that was the sign of beautiful eyes, as in 1 Sm 16:12 and Sg 4:1. but Rachel was shapely and beautiful. 18Because Jacob loved Rachel, he answered, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”#Jacob offers to render service (Jos 15:16–17; 1 Sm 17:25; 18:17) to pay off the customary bridal price (Ex 22:15–16; Dt 22:29). 19Laban replied, “It is better to give her to you than to another man. Stay with me.” 20So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, yet they seemed to him like a few days because of his love for her.#Hos 12:13.
21Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, that I may consummate my marriage with her, for my term is now completed.” 22So Laban invited all the local inhabitants and gave a banquet. 23At nightfall he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he consummated the marriage with her. 24Laban assigned his maidservant Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her maidservant. 25In the morning, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban: “How could you do this to me! Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why did you deceive me?” 26Laban replied, “It is not the custom in our country to give the younger daughter before the firstborn. 27Finish the bridal week#The bridal week: an ancient wedding lasted for seven days; cf. Jgs 14:12, 17. for this one, and then the other will also be given to you in return for another seven years of service with me.”#Hos 12:13.
28Jacob did so. He finished the bridal week for the one, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife. 29Laban assigned his maidservant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant. 30Jacob then consummated his marriage with Rachel also, and he loved her more than Leah. Thus he served Laban another seven years.#Dt 21:15–17.
Jacob’s Children.#29:31–30:24] The note of strife, first sounded between Jacob and Esau in chaps. 25–27, continues between the two wives, since Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (29:30). Jacob’s neglect of Leah moves God to make her fruitful (29:31). Leah’s fertility provokes Rachel. Leah bears Jacob four sons (Reuben, Levi, Simeon, and Judah) and her maidservant Zilpah, two (Gad and Asher). Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah bears two (Dan and Naphtali). After the mandrakes (30:14–17), Leah bears Issachar and Zebulun and a daughter Dinah. Rachel then bears Joseph and, later in the land of Canaan, Benjamin (35:18). 31When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he made her fruitful, while Rachel was barren. 32Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben;#Reuben: the literal meaning of the Hebrew name is disputed. One interpretation is re’u ben, “look, a son!”, but here in Genesis (as also with the names of all the other sons of Jacob), it is given a symbolic rather than an etymological interpretation. Name and person were regarded as closely interrelated. The symbolic interpretation of Reuben’s name, according to the Yahwist source, is based on the similar-sounding ra’a be‘onyi, “he saw my misery.” In the Elohist source, the name is explained by the similar-sounding ye’ehabani, “he will love me.” for she said, “It means, ‘The Lord saw my misery; surely now my husband will love me.’”#Gn 49:3. 33She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “It means, ‘The Lord heard that I was unloved,’ and therefore he has given me this one also”; so she named him Simeon.#Simeon: in popular etymology, related to shama‘, “he heard.” 34Again she conceived and bore a son, and she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, since I have now borne him three sons”; that is why she named him Levi.#Levi: related to yillaweh, “he will become attached.” 35Once more she conceived and bore a son, and she said, “This time I will give thanks to the Lord”; therefore she named him Judah.#Judah: related to ’odeh, “I will give thanks, praise.” Then she stopped bearing children.#Mt 1:2; Lk 3:33.