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Genesis 29

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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.
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1 And so Jacob, setting out, arrived in the eastern land.
2 And he saw a well in a field, and also three flocks of sheep reclining near it. For the animals were watered from it, and its mouth was closed with a great stone.
3 And the custom was, when all the sheep were gathered together, to roll away the stone. And when the flocks had been refreshed, they placed it over the mouth of the well again.
4 And he said to the shepherds, "Brothers, where are you from?" And they answered. "From Haran."
5 And questioning them, he said, "Do you know Laban, the son of Nahor?" They said, "We know him."
6 He said, "Is he well?" "He is very well," they said. "And behold, his daughter Rachel approaches with his flock."
7 And Jacob said, "There is still much daylight remaining, and it is not time to return the flocks to the sheepfold. Give the sheep to drink first, and then lead them back to pasture."
8 They responded, "We cannot, until all the animals are gathered together and we remove the stone from the mouth of the well, so that we may water the flocks."
9 They were still speaking, and behold, Rachel arrived with her father's sheep; for she pastured the flock.
10 When Jacob had seen her, and he realized that she was his maternal first cousin, and that these were the sheep of his uncle Laban, he removed the stone which closed the well.
11 And having watered the flock, he kissed her. And lifting up his voice, he wept.
12 And he revealed to her that he was a brother of her father, and the son of Rebekah. And so, hurrying, she announced it to her father.
13 And when he had heard that Jacob, his sister's son, had arrived, he ran to meet him. And embracing him, and kissing him heartily, he brought him into his house. But when he had heard the reasons for his journey,
14 he responded, "You are my bone and my flesh." And after the days of one month were completed,
15 he said to him: "Though you are my brother, will you serve me for nothing? Tell me what wages you would accept."
16 In truth, he had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah; and truly the younger was called Rachel.
17 But while Leah was bleary-eyed, Rachel had an elegant appearance and was attractive to behold.
18 And Jacob, loving her, said, "I will serve you for seven years, for your younger daughter Rachel."
19 Laban responded, "It is better that I give her to you than to another man; remain with me."
20 Therefore, Jacob served for seven years for Rachel. And these seemed like only a few days, because of the greatness of love.
21 And he said to Laban, "Give my wife to me. For now the time has been fulfilled, so that I may go in to her."
22 And he, having called a great crowd of his friends to the feast, agreed to the marriage.
23 And at night, he brought in his daughter Leah to him,
24 giving his daughter a handmaid named Zilpah. After Jacob had gone in to her, according to custom, when morning had arrived, he saw Leah.
25 And he said to his father-in-law, "What is it that you intended to do? Did I not serve you for Rachel? Why have you deceived me?"
26 Laban responded, "It is not the practice in this place to give the younger in marriage first.
27 Complete a week of days with this mating. And then I will give this one to you also, for the service that you will provide to me for another seven years."
28 He agreed to his pleading. And after the week had passed, he took Rachel as a wife.
29 To her, the father had given Bilhah as her servant.
30 And, having at last obtained the marriage he desired, he preferred the love of the latter before the former, and he served with him another seven years.
31 But the Lord, seeing that he despised Leah, opened her womb, but her sister remained barren.
32 Having conceived, she gave birth to a son, and she called his name Reuben, saying: "The Lord saw my humiliation; now my husband will love me."
33 And again she conceived and bore a son, and she said, "Because the Lord heard that I was treated with contempt, he has also given this one to me." And she called his name Simeon.
34 And she conceived a third time, and she gave birth to another son, and she said: "Now likewise my husband will unite with me, because I have borne him three sons." And because of this, she called his name Levi.
35 A fourth time she conceived and bore a son, and she said, "Only now will I confess to the Lord." And for this reason, she called him Judah. And she ceased from child-bearing.