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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
1And Ya‛aqoḇ moved on and came to the land of the people of the East.
2And he looked and saw a well in the field, and saw three flocks of sheep lying by it, for out of that well they watered the flocks, and a large stone was on the well’s mouth.
3And all the flocks would be gathered there, then they would roll the stone from the well’s mouth and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the well’s mouth.
4So Ya‛aqoḇ said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?” And they said, “We are from Ḥaran.”
5And he said to them, “Do you know Laḇan son of Naḥor?” And they said, “We know him.”
6So he said to them, “Is he well?” And they said, “Well. And see, his daughter Raḥĕl is coming with the sheep.”
7And he said, “See, it is still high day, not the time for the livestock to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go and feed them.”
8But they said, “We are not allowed until all the flocks are gathered together, and they have rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, then we shall water the sheep.”
9While he was still speaking with them, Raḥĕl came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.
10And it came to be, when Ya‛aqoḇ saw Raḥĕl the daughter of Laḇan his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laḇan his mother’s brother, that Ya‛aqoḇ went near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laḇan his mother’s brother.
11And Ya‛aqoḇ kissed Raḥĕl, and lifted up his voice and wept.
12And when Ya‛aqoḇ told Raḥĕl that he was her father’s relative and that he was Riḇqah’s son, she ran and told her father.
13And it came to be, when Laḇan heard the report about Ya‛aqoḇ his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Then he told Laḇan all these matters.
14And Laḇan said to him, “You are indeed my bone and my flesh.” And he stayed with him for a new moon.
15Then Laḇan said to Ya‛aqoḇ, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for naught? Let me know, what should your wages be?”
16And Laḇan had two daughters, the name of the elder was Lĕ’ah, and the name of the younger was Raḥĕl.
17And Lĕ’ah’s eyes were weak, but Raḥĕl was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance.
18And Ya‛aqoḇ loved Raḥĕl, so he said, “Let me serve you seven years for Raḥĕl your younger daughter.”
19And Laḇan said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.”
20So Ya‛aqoḇ served seven years for Raḥĕl, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.
21Then Ya‛aqoḇ said to Laḇan, “Give me my wife, for my days are completed, and let me go in to her.”
22And Laḇan gathered all the men of the place and made a feast.
23And it came to be in the evening, that he took Lĕ’ah his daughter and brought her to Ya‛aqoḇ. And he went in to her.
24And Laḇan gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Lĕ’ah as a female servant.
25And in the morning it came to be, that see, it was Lĕ’ah. So he said to Laḇan, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Raḥĕl that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?”
26And Laḇan said, “It is not done this way in our place, to give the younger before the first-born.
27Complete the week of this one, then we give you this one too, for the service which you shall serve with me still another seven years.
28And Ya‛aqoḇ did so and completed her week. Then he gave him his daughter Raḥĕl too, as wife.
29And Laḇan gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Raḥĕl as a female servant.
30And he also went in to Raḥĕl, and he also loved Raḥĕl more than Lĕ’ah. And he served with Laḇan still another seven years.
31And יהוה saw that Lĕ’ah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Raḥĕl was barren.
32And Lĕ’ah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Re’uḇĕn, for she said, “For יהוה has looked on my affliction, because now my husband is going to love me.”
33And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because יהוה has heard that I am unloved, He gave me this son too.” And she called his name Shim‛on.
34And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband is joined to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So his name was called Lĕwi.
35And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now I praise יהוה.” So she called his name Yehuḏah. And she ceased bearing.