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Genesis 29

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.
29
Jacob Meets Rachel
1Jacob resumed his journey#29:1 Lit Jacob picked up his feet and went to the eastern country.#29:1 Lit the land of the children of the east#Nm 23:7; Jdg 6:3 2He looked and saw a well in a field. Three flocks of sheep were lying there beside it because the sheep were watered from this well. But a large stone covered the opening of the well. 3The shepherds would roll the stone from the opening of the well and water the sheep when all the flocks#29:3 Sam, some LXX mss read flocks and the shepherds were gathered there. Then they would return the stone to its place over the well’s opening.
4Jacob asked the men at the well, “My brothers! Where are you from?”
“We’re from Haran,” they answered.
5“Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?” Jacob asked them.
They answered, “We know him.”
6“Is he well?” Jacob asked.
“Yes,” they said, “and here is his daughter Rachel, coming with his sheep.”
7Then Jacob said, “Look, it is still broad daylight. It’s not time for the animals to be gathered. Water the flock, then go out and let them graze.”
8But they replied, “We can’t until all the flocks have been gathered and the stone is rolled from the well’s opening. Then we will water the sheep.”
9While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10As soon as Jacob saw his uncle Laban’s daughter Rachel with his sheep,#29:10 Lit with the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother he went up and rolled the stone from the opening and watered his uncle Laban’s sheep. 11Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept loudly.#29:11 Lit and he lifted his voice and wept 12He told Rachel that he was her father’s relative, Rebekah’s son. She ran and told her father.
Jacob Deceived
13When Laban heard the news about his sister’s son Jacob, he ran to meet him, hugged him, and kissed him. Then he took him to his house, and Jacob told him all that had happened.
14Laban said to him, “Yes, you are my own flesh and blood.”#29:14 Lit my bone and my flesh#Gn 2:23; 37:27; Jdg 9:2; 2Sm 5:1; 19:12–13; 1Ch 11:1
After Jacob had stayed with him a month, 15Laban said to him, “Just because you’re my relative, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”
16Now Laban had two daughters: the older was named Leah, and the younger was named Rachel. 17Leah had tender eyes, but Rachel was shapely and beautiful. 18Jacob loved Rachel, so he answered Laban, “I’ll work for you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”#Gn 30:26; 31:41; Hs 12:12
19Laban replied, “Better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay with me.” 20So Jacob worked seven years for Rachel, and they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.
21Then Jacob said to Laban, “Since my time is complete, give me my wife, so I can sleep with#29:21 Lit can go to her.” 22So Laban invited all the men of the place and sponsored a feast. 23That evening, Laban took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and he slept with her. 24And Laban gave his slave Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her slave.
25When morning came, there was Leah! So he said to Laban, “What have you done to me? Wasn’t it for Rachel that I worked for you? Why have you deceived me?”
26Laban answered, “It is not the custom in our country to give the younger daughter in marriage before the firstborn. 27Complete this week of wedding celebration, and we will also give you this younger one in return for working yet another seven years for me.”
28And Jacob did just that. He finished the week of celebration, and Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. 29And Laban gave his slave Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her slave. 30Jacob slept with Rachel also, and indeed, he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.#Gn 31:41
Jacob’s Sons
31When the Lord saw that Leah was neglected,#Gn 25:28; Dt 21:15–16; 22:13; 24:3; Lk 14:26; 16:13 he opened her womb;#Gn 30:22 but Rachel was unable to conceive.#Gn 11:30; 25:21; Jdg 13:2–3; 1Sm 2:5; Lk 1:36 32Leah conceived, gave birth to a son, and named him Reuben,#29:32 = See, a Son; in Hb, the name Reuben sounds like “has seen my affliction.” for she said, “The Lord has seen my affliction;#Gn 31:42; Ex 3:7; 4:31; Dt 26:7 surely my husband will love me now.”
33She conceived again, gave birth to a son, and said, “The Lord heard that I am neglected and has given me this son also.” So she named him Simeon.#29:33 In Hb, the name Simeon sounds like “has heard.”
34She conceived again, gave birth to a son, and said, “At last, my husband will become attached to me because I have borne three sons for him.” Therefore he was named Levi.#29:34 In Hb, the name Levi sounds like “attached to.”
35And she conceived again, gave birth to a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she named him Judah.#29:35 In Hb, the name Judah sounds like “praise.”#Gn 49:8; Mt 1:2 Then Leah stopped having children.