1 Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has acquired all this wealth.”
2 And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before.
3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.”
4 So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock,
5 and said to them, “I see your father’s countenance, that it is not favorable toward me as before; but the God of my father has been with me.
6 And you know that with all my might I have served your father.
7 Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.
8 If he said thus: ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said thus: ‘The streaked shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked.
9 So God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me.
10 “And it happened, at the time when the flocks conceived, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the rams which leaped upon the flocks were streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted.
11 Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’
12 And He said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you.
13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’ ”
14 Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house?
15 Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money.
16 For all these riches which God has taken from our father are really ours and our children’s; now then, whatever God has said to you, do it.”
17 Then Jacob rose and set his sons and his wives on camels.
18 And he carried away all his livestock and all his possessions which he had gained, his acquired livestock which he had gained in Padan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
19 Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s.
20 And Jacob stole away, unknown to Laban the Syrian, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee.
21 So he fled with all that he had. He arose and crossed the river, and headed toward the mountains of Gilead.
Laban and his sons were becoming greatly concerned. What had seemed like an extremely good contract at the time they made it had taken a most surprising and distressing turn. Jacob had kept his part of the bargain faithfully, but some how his flock was prospering and theirs was suffering. Laban’s sons, in particular, who could see their inheritance slipping away from them (Laban was an old man by this time, no doubt), became unreasonably bitter, accusing Jacob of a thieving appropriation of their father’s wealth. — Morris, page 478.
Knowing that he would not be allowed by Laban to leave openly with his flocks and family, Jacob realized he would have to leave unannounced. He knew that Laban would, if he could, take all his possessions from him before he would allow him to leave (Genesis 31:42). …
To secretly inform his wives about his plan, Jacob had to send for them to come out into the fields, where he was keeping the flocks. … He told them their father no longer felt toward him as he formerly did, because of his increasing prosperity. He recounted numerous instances when Laban had deceived him and when he had changed his wages for no reason except to hinder Jacob’s increase in wealth. When he saw the cattle were producing speckled cattle, he would tell Jacob he had decided only the striped would be his wages. Then, when the cattle would produce striped offspring, he would change it again. In every case, however, the Lord had kept blessing Jacob. No matter what Laban had tried to do to him, God had protected and prospered him. During all this time, Jacob had continued to serve Laban to the very best of his ability, trying to keep his own word. … Jacob also knew Leah and Rachel were aware of this, and they could hardly fail to have been deeply impressed with the way the Lord was miraculously prospering their husband in spite of all their father could do to prevent it. Jacob made no claim that it was by his own ability or ingenuity that he had acquired such wealth; he gave all the credit to the Lord. — Morris, page 479.
God revealed in a dream, through His angel, that the reason He had [prospered Jacob] was His awareness of what Laban was attempting to do to Jacob. He reminded Jacob that He had spoken to him at Bethel, twenty years before. In the vow, made at that time, when he had set up and anointed a pillar in commemoration of God’s promise, Jacob had contemplated someday returning to his father’s house in peace. Now the time had come, and god told him to be on his way, returning to his homeland. — Morris, page 480.
Rachel and Leah revealed in their words here that they had long resented the way that their father had essentially “sold” them to Jacob. He had treated them as “strangers” or “foreigners,” rather than as his own daughters. The exorbitant price which Jacob had paid for them—fourteen years of free service to Laban—made them love Jacob but resent their father. Rather than treating this payment like a dowry, to provide a financial base for his daughters’ future well-being and security, as should have been done, he had “devoured” it all himself, using it probably to build up his own holdings, and had given nothing to them personally. They rightly felt that, since their husband had been responsible for the great prosperity of their father, and since this was in effect what Jacob had given in order to marry, them, these possessions by all rights should have come to them. … Consequently, they felt justified in interpreting God’s dealings with Laban, in causing his flocks to gradually become those of Jacob, as imply taking what had rightly belonged to them and their children and restoring it to them. — Morris, page 481.
The vast majority of new animals born to Laban’s flocks [were stripped, speckled, and spotted], thus greatly enhancing Jacob’s wealth at the expense of Laban’s. Though this may seem to contradict Laban’s affirmation in the previous chapter that God had blessed him on Jacob’s account (see Genesis 30:27), a careful reading bears out that this new turn of circumstances is completely consistent with (and an early example of) God’s accompanying covenant promise to “curse the one who slights you” (Genesis 12:3); for as Jacob tells his wives Rachel and Leah, “Your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times.” From his ensuing statement it is clear that this refers to the time following their agreement of Genesis 30:31-34, according to which Jacob was to have all the stripped, speckled, and spotted sheep and goats. [No matter how Laban changed the deal] observes Jacob, “God has taken away Laban’s livestock and given them to me” — bearing out not only the covenant paradigm of “cursing for slighting,” but also raising the expectation that He will often curse the cursor in much the same way as he/they sought to curse the covenant family. … He does not (and nor should we) attribute the accumulation of stripped, speckled, and spotted livestock to anything but the activity of God. — Wechsler, pages 235-236.
Jacob lost no time in preparing to depart. … The entire assemblage, when ready, must have made quite a large caravan. … Rachel, before leaving, and quite unknown to Jacob, had slipped into Laban’s tent and stolen his “images” (literally, teraphim, or small idol figurines used in divination and as household deities supposed to bring good luck to the owner). Their use frequently cropped up on later Israelite history, but was definitely idolatrous and contrary to the true faith of Jehovah. … Laban had become an idolater, though he did know about Jehovah in a general way. … It is also possible, as implied in some of the Nuzu tablets excavated around 1930, that the teraphim were associated with the inheritance and property rights of their owner. — Morris, pages 482-483.
A key verb which underscores, both explicitly and implicitly, the theological immaturity and sin of all of the three major (human) figures in this episode—i.e., Jacob, Rachel, and Laban— is the verb “to steal,” which is here employed eight times (vs. 19, 20, 26, 27, 30, 32, 39 [twice])—the same verb employed by God to describe the prohibited action of the eighth commandment (see Exodus 20:15). Rachel stole Laban’s household idols, and in the next verse we are told that Jacob stole Laban’s heart. There is a subtle and sophisticated semantic irony here, for by the immediately following statement “by not telling him that he was fleeing” the reader might naturally assume that the “stealing” of Laban’s “heart” centered in the surreptitious removal of his daughters and grandchildren (i.e., the “sons” of v.28), as Laban himself seems to suggest in vs.26-27; yet the parallelism of this reference to “stealing” Laban’s “heart in v.20a with the reference to “stealing” Laban’s “idols” in v.19b, suggests in fact that his heart was more attached to his idols than his own flesh and blood ( part of the reason, perhaps, that Rachel chose to steal them)! And indeed it is with recovering his idols that Laban demonstrates a clear preoccupation in the ensuing verses. — Wechsler, page 237.
Jacob and his party forded the River Euphrates (the river is sufficiently shallow at certain points near its source for this) and headed for Mount Gilead, for to the southwest. Mount Gilead is actually a mountainous region east of the Jordan River. Its northern edges are nearly three hundred miles from Haran; so a long journey stretched ahead of them. … Once they began moving the flocks along, they would be able to make only fifteen or twenty miles a day. Thus, once they started driving the cattle, it would take them probably ten days or so to reach the Mount Gilead region. — Morris, page 483.
25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country.
26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.”
27 And Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the Lord has blessed me for your sake.”
28 Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.”
29 So Jacob said to him, “You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me.
30 For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the Lord has blessed you since my coming. And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?”
31 So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks:
32 Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages.
33 So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me.”
34 And Laban said, “Oh, that it were according to your word!”
35 So he removed that day the male goats that were speckled and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had some white in it, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and gave them into the hand of his sons.
36 Then he put three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.
37 Now Jacob took for himself rods of green poplar and of the almond and chestnut trees, peeled white strips in them, and exposed the white which was in the rods.
38 And the rods which he had peeled, he set before the flocks in the gutters, in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, so that they should conceive when they came to drink.
39 So the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted.
40 Then Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the streaked and all the brown in the flock of Laban; but he put his own flocks by themselves and did not put them with Laban’s flock.
41 And it came to pass, whenever the stronger livestock conceived, that Jacob placed the rods before the eyes of the livestock in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.
42 But when the flocks were feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s.
43 Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.
By this time, Jacob had more than fulfilled his contract with Laban. He was with Laban a total of twenty years altogether (Genesis 31:38), including the fourteen years he had served for Leah and Rachel. — Morris, page 470
Jacob went to Laban and announced his decision to return to his home. … Laban, however, was very reluctant to see him go. He had prospered greatly because of Jacob’s abilities and faithfulness, and he was willing to make almost any bargain that would keep him working for him. Laban even acknowledged that the Lord was with Jacob, and that it was of the Lord that he had profited so much through Jacob. …
The phrase “learned by experience” (v. 27) … represents the Hebrew word nachash, and means literally “learned by enchantments.” He [apparently] had in some way either carried out certain divination practices of his own, or else consulted some kind of soothsayer or oracle. — Morris, page 471.
Wechsler comments on Laban’s “enchantments.”
Though recognizing the fact that the Lord has blessed him, Laban’s affirmation is based not on personal faith in the sovereignty of the True God, but rather (in addition to simple observation of his material wealth) on divination, in which the reference is not merely to “discerning” something, as the English verb “to divine” is often used, but in fact to the pagan religious practice (e.g., “reading” livers, observing the flight of birds, etc.) that is elsewhere specifically condemned by God (cf. Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 17:17). Nonetheless, God’s promise of blessing for those who bless His covenant family is not dependent on the nature of one’s faith. — Wechsler, pages 234-235.
It was reasonable that Jacob, having fulfilled all his commitments to Laban, should begin to provide for his own family. Laban again, therefore, asked what he could give him to make him stay. Jacob did not wish Laban to “give” him anything. … Instead, he agreed to shepherd and supervise Laban’s flocks, exactly as he had been doing, and his pay would consist of those animals yet unborn that would be less desirable to Laban because of their markings. It would thus be entirely up to God as to how many animals would become Jacob’s.
Only those future animals that would be born speckled or striped or spotted, or abnormally colored in some way, would become Jacob’s wages. The dominant color traits in Laban’s flocks and herds were evidently white among the sheep, black among the goats, and brown among the cattle. …
Jacob further proposed that, not only would none of the living speckled animals be taken by him, but they would not even be used fore breeding purposes. he woudl separate them into a separate flock, and keep them away from the normal-colored animals. Only such spotted and speckled animals as would be born in the future from the normal-colored animals would become his. … This arrangement clearly was highly favorable to Laban and of very doubtful value to Jacob. …
Laban … immediately jumped at the chance to seal such a bargain. He would lose nothing that now belonged to him, and it appeared very unlikely that Jacob would acquire any future animals by this process either.
Laban decided not to trust Jacob to keep the two sets of flocks separate. He himself, probably aided by his sons, went through the flocks, culling out all the striped and spotted goats, the brown sheep, and other odd-colored animals, and he put them into a separate flock. … Then, to make it quite impossible in the future for there to be any mixing, he gave the speckled flock into the hands of his sons, and told them always to keep them at least three days journey away from the main body of animals which would be tended by Jacob — Morris, pages 472-474.
Even though a species of animal may have certain “dominant” traits (such as the white color in this type of sheep), there are, in each generation, certain individual animals that manifest one or more “recessive” traits (such as the brown color among sheep). … Jacob believed that he could simply trust God to increase the statistical proportion of animals in future generations of Laban’s flocks that woudl appear with these recessive traits. …
Many commentators have suggested that Jacob deceived Laban by making this bargain, and that he used unfair means to increase the proportion of spotted and striped animals. It should not be forgotten, however, that Jacob was given the opportunity by Laban to set his own wages. … He made the bargain as difficult for himself, and as generous to Laban, as it could possibly have been. There is no basis at all for any criticism of Jacob’s conduct in this regard.
It may be that Jacob had learned certain things [about the transmission of hereditary factors] which modern biologists have not yet even approached. … It is surely very unlikely that an external image can be transmitted through the visual apparatus to the brain and thence in some way as a signal to the DNA structure to specify certain characteristics to be triggered in the embryo, [but] it is nevertheless true that certain chemicals can and do have a significant prenatal influence if they can reach the embryo or, prior to conception, the DNA in the germ cells. … If nothing else, water treated thus may have served as an aphrodisiac and fertility promoter among the cattle. At least one such chemical substance found in these threes has been used for such a purpose in both ancient and modern times. … This in fact seems indicated by v.38, in which the word translated “conceive” in the KJV is actually the Hebrew yacham, meaning “to be hot” [or “in heat”]. … Jacob wanted to speed up the reproduction process and to induce the animals to have as many offspring as possible in the shortest time possible. …
When the animals did conceive and bear, Jacob was possibly quite surprised to note that a larger proportion than he had expected were ring-streaked, speckled, and spotted. He placed these animals in a group by themselves, after they were weaned, no doubt, and thus had the beginning of a flock of his own. …
A further measure was taken by Jacob to ensure that the flocks so produced would be composed of strong animals. He divided the flocks into two shifts, composed of stronger and weaker animals, respectively. He used the rods in the troughs when the stronger animals drank, but not when the weaker ones came there. Thus the stronger animals were stimulated to mate, and the others were not. This measure, likewise, to the extent it would be effective, constituted a sound practice of animal husbandry, and should have been of as great benefit to Laban as to Jacob. It would ensure that, statistically at least, most of the newborn lambs and kids, whether solid color or spotted, would be sturdy and healthy. However, there continued to be produced an abnormally large proportion of spotted and speckled young. This meant that a greater and greater percentage of the animals in Jacob’s flock were strong animals, and an increasing percentage in Laban’s were weaker animals.
It was not until later that Jacob came to understand the providential intervention that caused the unusual percentage of streaked and spotted animals to be born (see Genesis 32:10). In the meantime, within the space of only a few years … Jacob’s flock had grown so large, and he had prospered from it so greatly, that he had to employ many servants, both male and female, and had purchased many camels and asses. He had quickly become a very prosperous rancher. — Morris, pages 474-477.
Wechsler has a different take on Jacob’s handling of the flocks.
Jacob—still not trusting in the sufficiency of God’s covenant provision—continues his behavioral pattern of seeking to better his circumstances through his own machinations and maneuverings. It is in this connection that the elaborate process of intermittently setting up freshly peeled rods of poplar, almond, and plane trees should be understood—that is, to emphasize the degree of Jacob’s human striving to attain what God has otherwise promised to bestow in His own sovereign power and grace. — Wechsler, page 235.
I don’t know. The preponderance of commentaries treat Jacob as a schemer and, therefore, in the wrong. But in the absence of any Scriptural support for the view, I’m reserving judgment and inclining toward Morris’ viewpoint.
30 Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!”
2 And Jacob’s anger was aroused against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”
3 So she said, “Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, and she will bear a child on my knees, that I also may have children by her.”
4 Then she gave him Bilhah her maid as wife, and Jacob went in to her.
5 And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son.
6 Then Rachel said, “God has judged my case; and He has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan.
7 And Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son.
8 Then Rachel said, “With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.
9 When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took Zilpah her maid and gave her to Jacob as wife.
10 And Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son.
11 Then Leah said, “A troop comes!” So she called his name Gad.
12 And Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son.
13 Then Leah said, “I am happy, for the daughters will call me blessed.” So she called his name Asher.
14 Now Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
15 But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” And Rachel said, “Therefore he will lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.”
16 When Jacob came out of the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” And he lay with her that night.
17 And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.
18 Leah said, “God has given me my wages, because I have given my maid to my husband.” So she called his name Issachar.
19 Then Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son.
20 And Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good endowment; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she called his name Zebulun.
21 Afterward she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah.
22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.
23 And she conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach.”
24 So she called his name Joseph, and said, “The Lord shall add to me another son.”
Rachel, of course, could hardly have been unmoved by the fact that her sister had been blessed with four sons while she remained barren. She could also [maybe] see Jacob’s love gradually shifting from her to Leah because of this. Her envy finally surfaced in a petulant outburst to her husband: “Give me children, or else I die.”
Possibly she felt that, if Jacob would spend more time in her own bed, and not so much with Leah, she would be more likely to conceive. Otherwise her remonstrance was merely an emotional exclamation, since she certainly realized that it was not Jacob who was sterile. Jacob himself no doubt had been deeply disappointed also in the fact that Rachel had not been able to produce children, since it was she whom he had loved and had chosen to be the mother of the see God had promised in the first place.
Her outburst … angered him. He struck back at her with a strong suggestion that there was something wrong in her own life, since God had not judged her worthy of being blessed with children. — Morris, page 465.
Rachel prevailed on Jacob to “go in unto Bilhah. … This was an accepted social custom of the day. In fact, it is quite possible that it was for this very purpose—as a guard against barrenness—Laban gave each of his daughters a personal maid. … It is not clear whether or not the statement, “she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her” is to be taken literally, though as a symbolic gesture of proxy childbirth, the maid may well have been actually delivered of the child while lying on the lap of her mistress. In any case, Bilhah was immediately successful, and she bore Jacob a son, whom Rachel named Dan, meaning “Justice,” testifying through this name that God had heard her prayer and justified her in her husband’s sight.
Bilhah … soon became pregnant with a second son. This one Rachel named Naphtali, which means “Wrestlings.” This unusual name was a reference to her long-continued rivalry with her sister. — Morris, page 466.
Leah, however, was not yet ready to accept defeat. Though she herself had stopped bearing, she also had a maid, and she reasoned that what had worked for Rachel would work for her too. Therefore she prevailed upon Jacob to take Zilpah, her maid, also as his wife, that she might have additional children by her. …
The matter or productivity was apparently of such overriding concern that the question of physical jealousy of their maids did not enter much into it. … As far as Jacob was concerned, he seems to have been rather pliant, going indiscriminately to whichever bed was most conveniently available at the time. …
Leah’s maid, Zilpah, also had two sons in quick succession, once Jacob had gone into her. Leah named them Gad and Asher, meaning “Fortunate” and “Happy,” respectively. — Morris, page 467.
Jacob now had eight sons, and presumably from six to eight years had elapsed since his marriage. The eldest son, Reuben, was thus probably about seven years old by this time. He was at least old enough to play by himself in the field. One day during the season of the wheat harvest, Reuben chanced to discover mandrakes growing in the field. He plucked them and brought them home to Leah.
The mandrake is a small orange-colored berrylike fruit, much esteemed in ancient times as an aphrodisiac and inducer of fertility. It has been called the “love-apple” and, in Western countries, the “May-apple.” It has also been used as a narcotic and emetic, especially its large roots. It was no doubt because of its supposed value in promoting fertility that both Leah and Rachel desired it.
When Rachel saw what Reuben had brought his mother, she wanted them herself, hoping that they might solve her problem of barrenness. … Rachel finally acquired them from Leah by making a bargain which must have been unpleasant for her. She agreed to insist that Jacob lie with Leah that night. — Morris, page 468.
Leah earnestly desired to have a son of her own again, and prayed to that end. God, in grace, heard her prayer, and once again Leah conceived. She named her own fifth son Issachar, meaning “Reward.” … She soon had another son, whom she named Zebulun, meaning “Dwelling.” This, she said, was in testimony of God’s gracious gift to her, assuring her that her husband now would be willing to dwell with her.
At this point, Jacob’s first daughter was born to Leah. Later, Jacob had other daughters (Genesis 37:35; 46:7, 15), but the only one whose name and whose mother’s name is given is Dinah, meaning “Judgment.” — Morris, page 469.
Finally, after many years, the Lord answered Rachel’s prayers, and she also conceived. … The name she chose for her son when he was born, Joseph, can be derived both from “Taken Away” and “May He Add,” thus indicating both her thanksgiving and her faith that God would give her yet another son. — Morris, page 470.
15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?”
16 Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.
17 Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance.
18 Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”
19 And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.”
20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her.”
22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast.
23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her.
24 And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid.
25 So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?”
26 And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.
27 Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.”
28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also.
29 And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as a maid.
30 Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.
32 So Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben; for she said, “The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me.”
33 Then she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon.
34 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi.
35 And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Now I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she stopped bearing.
The only specific weakness that is mentioned [in Leah] is that she was “tender-eyed.” This does not necessarily mean “weak-eyed,” however, as some have interpreted it; it could mean that she did not have eyes as dark and lustrous as those of Rachel, or it might even refer figuratively to Leah as a woman of compassion. — Morris, page 460.
At this time [after Jacob had served 7 years for Rachel], if not earlier, Laban devised one of the most mendacious schemes imaginable, resolving to substitute Leah for Rachel on the wedding night. Then, he could extract still another seven-year period of free service from Jacob, as well as solve the problem of getting a husband for Leah at the same time. He felt reasonably certain, knowing Jacob’s honorable character, that he would not cast out Leah once He had gone in to her; and if Jacob should actuallyl refuse to work another seven years as he would demand, then at worst it would not be too difficult to find another husband for Rachel. Even if Jacob decided to elope with Rachel (a practically unthinkable development in terms of the customs of the land), Laban would still not have lost anything. — Morris, page 461.
Jacob continued in service to Laban for the seven additional years on which he had agreed. He did not have to wait all this time for Rachel, however, but went in to her as soon as Leah’s festive week was finished. This is clear from verse 30, which indicates that he went in to Rachel first, and then served Laban another seven years. Rachel was his true love, of course, and he could hardly avoid showing this. Nevertheless, he did learn to love Leah also, even though he loved Rachel “more than Leah.” — Morris, page 463.
Whereas Abraham and Isaac had only had one son each to whom the promises were given, all the sons of Jacob were to share in the promises. Only one would be the progenitor of the Messiah, but all would be the “children of Israel” and would constitute the promised nation, the chosen people. Therefore, a detailed account is given in the latter part of chapter 29 and the first half of chapter 30 concerning the birth of Jacob’s twelve sons and one daughter. — Morris, pages 463-464.
That God was concerned for Leah, as well as Jacob and Rachel, is indicated in verse 31. Rachel, like Sarah and Rebekah before her, was “barren” for a time, until the Lord answered her prayers for a son. In the meantime, though, since Jacob was so partial to Rachel (he did not, of course, “hate” Leah, as the literal meaning of the word would suggest; he only loved Rachel more, and so “slighted” Leah), God opened Leah’s womb first and gave her, in fairly rapid succession, four sons.
Each of her sons was named by Leah in accordance with her feelings a the time. Her first-born was named Reuben, meaning “Behold, a son!” Her second was Simeon, “Hearing,” in thanksgiving for the fact that God had heard her prayers. The next was Levi, meaning “Attachment,” expressing her confidence that three sons would thus ensure Jacob’s permanent attachment to her. Then came Judah, whom she called simply “Praise,” as a token of her praise to Jehovah. — Morris, page 464.
Wechsler digs into the matter of the meaning of the word translated “hate,” and shows that in Hebrew it can simply mean “prefer.” Jacob loved Leah. He just preferred Rachel more.
1 So Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the East.
2 And he looked, and saw a well in the field; and behold, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks. A large stone was on the well’s mouth.
3 Now all the flocks would be gathered there; and they would roll the stone from the well’s mouth, water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the well’s mouth.
4 And Jacob said to them, “My brethren, where are you from?” And they said, “We are from Haran.”
5 Then he said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” And they said, “We know him.”
6 So he said to them, “Is he well?” And they said, “He is well. And look, his daughter Rachel is coming with the sheep.”
7 Then he said, “Look, it is still high day; it is not time for the cattle to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go and feed them.”
8 But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and they have rolled the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.”
9 Now while he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.
10 And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went 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 lifted up his voice and wept.
12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative and that he was Rebekah’s son. So she ran and told her father.
13 Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. So he told Laban all these things.
14 And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” And he stayed with him for a month.
Many writers on Genesis treat this period of Jacob’s life as though it were a punishment for his treatment of his brother. Actually, however, they were for the most part very happy and prosperous years … he did receive some rather shabby treatment at the hand of his Uncle Laban. On the other hand, Laban did give him a job, permitted him to marry his daughters, and made it possible for Jacob to build up extensive holdings of his own. — Morris, page 455.
Jacob spotted the well through the rather unusual circumstances that, although it was still fairly early in the afternoon, there were already three flocks of sheep lying near the well waiting to be watered. There seems to have been a local regulation regarding the well stipulating that its stone covering only be removed at a certain time in the evening, at which time all the flocks of the vicinity were to be watered in turn, in order of arrival. Those that arrived first would get through first; hence, there were some that would come to “get in line” quite early. The shepherds tending the flocks were apparently either women or young lads, the latter being the case with the three flocks Jacob first saw. The stone on the well was too large for any one or two of them to move; it was easier therefore to have the well opened by several helping each other once a day. This type of well was apparently not a well of flowing water, but rather of stored water.
It is interesting to note that both Jacob and the young shepherds still spoke the same language. The language of Haran was Aramaic, or Chaldee, and was evidently a language well known to Abraham, and therefore also to Isaac and Jacob.— Morris, pages 456-457.
When Jacob saw Rachel, there is no doubt that he was thrilled beyond words. She was a beautiful woman (Genesis 29:17), in addition to being industrious and strong enough to care for her father’s sheep. …
One receives the impression in reading the narrative here that with Jacob it was a case of love at first sight. Before even introducing himself, Jacob went up to Rachel, after watering the sheep, and proceeded to kiss he, so overcome by emotion was he. This was not intended as a kiss of personal love, of course, but rather simply a kiss of greeting; but even this was practiced only by relatives or close friends, so it must surely have startled Rachel. She was even more shocked when she saw this strong man begin to weep and cry in a loud voice!
Then, however, he managed to control his emotions long enough to tell her who he was. He was her cousin, the son of her father’s beloved sister, No doubt Rachel had heard much from Laban about the beautiful Rebekah, who had left home so long ago under such remarkable circumstances. …
When she learned who Jacob was, she immediately ran as fast as she could to tell her father the glad news. Rebekah had left her brother almost one hundred years before, on almost a moment’s notice; and so far as the record goes, he had never seen her since. — Morris, pages 458-459.
As an example of the “Jacob was wrong” view, here’s what Mackintosh says:
In chapter 28, Jacob utterly fails in the apprehension of God’s real character, and meets all the rich grace of Bethel with an “if,’ and a miserable bargain about food and raiment. We now follow him into a scene of thorough bargain-making. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” There is no possibility of escaping from this. Jacob had not yet found his true level in the presence of God, and therefore God uses circumstances to chasten and break him down. …
How often do we find, as in Jacob’s case, that even although the Lord may come near to us and speak in our ears, yet we do not understand His voice or take our true place in His presence. “… Jacob learnt nothing by all this, and it therefore needed twenty years of terrible schooling, an that, to in a school marvelously adapted to his flesh; and even that, as we shall see, was not sufficient to break him down. … The bargain-making Jacob meets with the bargain-making Laban, and they are both seen, as it were, straining every nerve to outwit each other. Nor can we wonder at Laban, for he had never been at Bethel—he had seen no open heaven, with a ladder reaching from thence to earth—he had heard no magnificent promises from the lips of Jehovah, securing to him all the land of Canaan, with a countless seed: no marvel, therefore, that he should exhibit a grasping groveling spirit; he had no other resource … But to find Jacob, after all he had seen and heard at Bethel, struggling with a man of the world, and endeavoring, but such means, to accumulate property, is peculiarly humbling. — Mackintosh, pages 289-290
I am more inclined to agree with Morris’ view that Jacob wasn’t the evil schemer that most people enjoy making him out to be. Of course he wasn’t perfect, but nobody is, and I don’t see any evidence that Jacob’s sins were greater than those of the ordinary follower of God who has faith but fails in action often. If Jacob wasn’t right to go to Haran to find a wife, where was he to get one?
30 Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.
31 He also had made savory food, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that your soul may bless me.”
32 And his father Isaac said to him, “Who are you?” So he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.”
33 Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, “Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him—and indeed he shall be blessed.”
34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me—me also, O my father!”
35 But he said, “Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing.”
36 And Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!” And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”
37 Then Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?”
38 And Esau said to his father, “Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me—me also, O my father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.
39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: “Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above.
40 By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass, when you become restless, that you shall break his yoke from your neck.”
41 So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
42 And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, “Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you.
43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran.
44 And stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury turns away,
45 until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?”
46 And Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife of the daughters of Heth, like these who are the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
The prediction in verse 40, that Esau should break Jacob’s yoke from off his neck was fulfilled upwards of 900 years later, as recorded in 2 Kings 8:20-22—In his days Edom revolted against Judah’s authority, and made a king over themselves. So Joram went to Zair, and all his chariots with him. Then he rose by night and attacked the Edomites who had surrounded him and the captains of the chariots; and the troops fled to their tents. Thus Edom has been in revolt against Judah’s authority to this day.—Williams, page 32.
The truth suddenly came home to Isaac like a mighty blast of icy wind. In spite of all his intentions, God had overruled, and he had blessed Jacob instead of Esau. Furthermore, he realized that he had been deceived by his beloved wife and his faithful son, in order to prevent him from doing what he knew he had no right to do. God had spoken through him in spite of himself; so he told Esau: “Therefore, Jacob indeed shall receive the blessing.” This was clearly the will of God, and there was nothing he could do to change that! He had tried to do so, but God had stopped him.
As the impact of these thoughts came over him, “Isaac trembled very exceedingly.” Hebrew scholars tell us the original language is extremely graphic, something like, “Isaac trembled most excessively with a great trembling.” — Morris, pages 438-439.
As the truth dawned upon [Esau] as well, he also gave vent to his emotions. He “cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry.” But perhaps his father could bless him anyway … Surely no human tribunal would enforce a contract acquired by deception; so why should Isaac, and why should God?
Isaac simply blamed Jacob for a clever deception which robbed Esau of his intended blessing. Esau bitterly recalled that Jacob had already “taken away” his birthright (forgetting that, at the time, he had despised it); and now, he complained, he had likewise taken away his blessing.
Esau commented on the relevance of Jacob’s very name to the situation. It will be recalled that he was named “Jacob” because, as he was born, he was holding his brother by the heel. The name means something like “heel-gripper” and, therefore, by extension, “One who trips another by the heel.”
Agonizingly, Esau begged his father for a blessing of some kind for himself. … But the portion of the blessing in which Esau was most interested, that of political superiority, had been given irrevocably to Jacob, and all Esau’s crying could not change the situation. The sad commentary in Hebrews refers to his pleading in these words: “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears’ (Hebrews 12:16-17). — Morris, page 440.
Esau resolved to murder his brother as soon as his father died, evidently assuming his father was indeed at the point of death (Genesis 27:2). Uttered in the hearing of some of the servants, his threatening words were brought to his mother’s attention. Again showing herself to be a woman of quick decision, she called Jacob and instructed him to leave the house “for a few days,” in order to visit her brother Laban in Haran. Knowing Esau’s nature, she assumed his anger would pass away quickly and he woudl soon return to his carefree ways.
However, her “few days” turned out to be over twenty years! So far as the record goes, she never saw Jacob again after that day. … Later events proved that she was correct. Esau did soon forget his anger, and he did prosper quite adequately in a material sense, which was really all he cared about (Genesis 33:1, 4, 9). Isaac repented and gave Jacob his sincere blessing, instructing him to marry a woman of their own people, not a Canaanite, as Esau had done (Genesis 28:1-4). — Morris, page 442.
As to Esau, the apostle calls him “a profane person, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright,” and “afterwards, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of change of mind, though he sought for it carefully with tears (Hebrews 12:16-17). Thus we learn what a profane person is, viz., one who would like to hold both worlds—one who would like to enjoy the present without forfeiting his title to the future. — Mackintosh, page 279.
12 Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him.
13 The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous;
14 for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him.
15 Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth.
16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”
17 Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.
18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them.
19 Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there.
20 But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they quarreled with him.
21 Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah.
22 And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
23 Then he went up from there to Beersheba.
24 And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.”
25 So he built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
26 Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath, one of his friends, and Phichol the commander of his army.
27 And Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?”
28 But they said, “We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you. So we said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you,
29 that you will do us no harm, since we have not touched you, and since we have done nothing to you but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.’ ”
30 So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank.
31 Then they arose early in the morning and swore an oath with one another; and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.
32 It came to pass the same day that Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.”
33 So he called it Shebah. Therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.
The wells of Genesis have significant names and are associated with significant events: (1) Beer-lahai-roi, “the well of him who liveth and seeth me” (Genesis 16:14; 24:62; 25:11). (2) Beeer-sheba, “the well of the oath” or “covenant” (Genesis 21:25-33; 22:19; 26:23-25; 46:1-5). (3) Esek, “contention” (Genesis 26:20). (4) Sitnah, “hatred” (Genesis 26:21). Esek and Sitnah were Isaac’s own attempts at well-digging. Afterward he dwelt by the old wells of his father. and (5) Reho-both, “enlargement” (Genesis 26:22). Upon Isaac’s return to Beer-sheba, the Lord made Himself known. —Schofield, page 39-40.
in verse 12 occurs the first mention of seed-sowing in the Bible, along with the information that the Lord blessed it with a hundredfold increase. Seed-sowing is frequently used in the New Testament as symbolic of witnessing; and it is noteworthy that the first mention is in the familiar parable of the sower, in which the good seed likewise brought forth a hundredfold (Matthew 13:23).
Isaac at this point prospered so greatly that his power began to eclipse even that of Abimelech and the Philistines. His herds and flocks, the richness of his crops, the increasing number of his servants, became so great that the envy of the Philistines, already vexed because of Abimelech’s protection of him, finally led to retaliation.
An adequate supply of water was, of course, absolutely necessary for Isaac’s operation; and this was obtained from the man wells dug by Abraham, his father, in the Philistine country. the Philistines decided to plug up all these wells and to force him out of their country. Abimelech himself called on Isaac to depart from their land, since he had become more powerful than his own nation. — Morris, page 422.
Isaac could have resisted this demand, since the earlier Abimelech had given his father the right to dwell anywhere in the land he might choose (Genesis 20:15), and since the wells belonged to Abraham by right of construction. Also he might well have been able to defeat the Philistines colonists in battle, if it had come to that, since he now had ample manpower.
Isaac chose to let them have their way. He moved away, therefore, from the capital, going east and further up the valley of Gerar. Here there were other wells which Abraham had constructed, but these had already been plugged up when Abraham died. … Isaac embarked on a program of reopening these wells … he used the same names Abraham had given them.
In addition, his servants dug another well, evidently lower in the valley, and this turned out to be an artesian well, a well of “living water.” the Philistine herdsmen, however, claimed this water belonged to them … Rather than argue the point, Isaac instructed his own herdsmen to let them have the well and to dig another farther up the valley. he gave the first well the ironic name of Esek (the “Quarrel Well”). They proceeded to dig the second well, but the men of Gerar followed them there and demanded that well also.
Isaac then named it Sitnah (the “Hatred Well”) and again gave it to them. He moved much further away this time, beyond any region to which the Philistines had any reasonable claim. Finally, this time the men from Gerar no longer followed him; so the new well he dug was called Rehoboth (“the Well of Ample Room”). Isaac left some of his flocks and herds in this location, with their herdsmen, while he himself went on still farther. — Morris, page 423.
While the well-digging was under way at Beersheba, a delegation of the Philistines again appeared—this time none less than King Abimelech himself, along with his chief captain Phichol and another man. … They knew Jehovah was blessing Isaac and that he was growing stronger all the time. Now that he was out of their land, they decided it was the policy of wisdom to stay on good terms with him. … They proposed a mutual nonaggression treaty, somewhat like the one Abraham and the earlier Abimelech had made on this same spot nearly a century before. Isaac was quite agreeable, especially after his recent encounter with God.
As they were departing … Isaac’s servants came to him with the happy news that the well they were digging had struck a good supply of water. It was appropriate that the well be called “the Well of the Oath” (Beersheba), not only because of the pact signed that day, but also because of the similar covenant and name assigned the place by Abraham long ago. No doubt Isaac had in mind God’s great covenant, which He had confirmed to him here. — Morris, page 425.
Isaac at length makes his way from amongst the Philistines, and gets up to Beersheba. “And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, ‘I am the God of Abraham they father; fear, not, for I am with the, and will bless thee.'” Mark, it was not the Lord’s blessing merely, but the Lord Himself. And why? Because Isaac had left the Philistines, with all their envy and strife and contention, behind, and gone up to Beersheba. Here the Lord could show Himself to His servant. The blessings of His liberal hand might follow him during his sojourn in Gerar, but His presence could not there be enjoyed. To enjoy God’s presence, we must be where He is, and He certainly is not to be found amid the strife and contention of an ungodly world; and hence, the sooner the child of God gets away from all such, the better. It is a very common error to imagine that we serve the men of this world by mixing ourselves up with them in their associations and ways. The true way to serve them is to stand apart from them in the power of communion with God, and thus show them the pattern of a more excellent way.
The true way to act on the hearts and consciences of the men of the world is to stand in decided separation from them, which dealing in perfect grace toward them. — Mackintosh, page 264-265.
The patriarchal parallels continue: just as Abram’s “chain of sin” in Genesis 12:10-20 was followed in chapter 13 by the depiction of strife between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen over the land’s resources, so too in this present passage we are told that the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac over the preciously rare Middle Eastern commodity—water. To his credit, though Isaac’s entourage undoubtedly outnumbers and outpowers the Canaanite herdsmen (since he would have inherited, inter alia, the formidable fighting force of Abram described in Genesis 14:14-15), he patiently moves on from each disputed site until he found a location that the herdsmen did not quarrel over. Then, just was to his father Abram (see Genesis 13:14-17; 15:1), God subsequently affirms His covenant protection and provision for Isaac, in exemplary response to which the patriarch built an altar … and called upon the name of the Lord. — Wechsler, pages 227-228.
That this is the same Abimelech who interacted with Abraham—which view we incline to—is supported by the following observations: (1) the name of the commander of his army—i.e., Phicol—is the same in both accounts (see Genesis 21:22); (2) the life-span of man at this point is in the 200-year range (i.e., Terah died at 205 years; Abraham at 175, and Isaac at 180), which is perfectly consistent with a reign of 80-plus years; and (3) the initiative and wording of Abimelech’s covenant with Isaac is very similar—at points even identical—to that expressed by Abimelech in Genesis 21:22-23. More importantly, this passage stands as a testimony to God’s absolute, gracious sovereignty in evangelism, for here—just as in chapter 21—the patriarch fails to exhibit the confident trust and righteous behavior of a believer in the True God—even common human decency, doing what most people in general know “ought to be done” (see Genesis 20:9). And yet in both instances the one most directly sinned against (Abimelech) affirms, on his own initiative, not only a covenant of peace with the failed evangelist, but also the supreme sovereignty and gracious character of his God! Indeed, that Abimelech’s appreciation—and perhaps faith in—the True God has been deepening since his encounter with Abraham is tantalizingly suggested by the fact that, whereas he only employs the general term “God” (Elohim) in his meeting with Abraham, he here refers to Him when talking to Isaac by His covenant name “Yahweh.” — Wechsler, pages 228-229.