Listen: 58 Question 3

The love that Jacob had for Rachel is an inspiring story.  The account of how Jacob met and fell in love with Rachel is found in Genesis, chapter 29.  Rachel’s father, Laban, was Jacob’s uncle.  When Jacob first met Rachel he was so glad to meet someone of his own family.  Let’s start reading in Genesis 29:14-20 where it says, “And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month.  And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be? And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured. And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.”  Imagine working for seven years to get your spouse.  How many people do you know that would do something like that?  But for Jacob, those seven years seemed like only a few days because he loved her so much.

If you are familiar with the story, you will recall that after seven years, Jacob reminded Laban of his promise and a marriage feast was prepared.  The story takes a twisted turn here.  Let’s read Genesis 29:23-26 which says, “And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her. And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid. And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.”  Laban deceived Jacob and brought Leah to him to consummate the marriage at the end of the marriage feast.  How could something like this happen?  Leah must have been a part of this conspiracy; perhaps she loved Jacob and wanted him for herself.  What about Rachel; where was she; was she involved in this devious plot?  How could Jacob mistake Leah for Rachel?  Could it be that he celebrated too much during the marriage feast and was intoxicated when Leah came to him?  Laban’s weak excuse for the deception was that the older sister should marry first.

As this twisted story continues, we see that Laban promised to give Rachel to Jacob if he would serve him for another seven years.  Genesis 29:28-30 says, “And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid. And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.”

Because of this deception and because Jacob was taken in by this deception, there were many problems in this marriage.  Genesis 29:31 says, “And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.”  Rachel began to hate her own sister because she had to share her husband with her.  Because of that, the Lord did not allow Rachel to bear children for a long time.

Jacob had 13 children.  Very briefly, let’s look at the sons and daughter of Jacob.  Leah gave birth to Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.  Then, Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaiden, gave birth to Dan and Naphtali.  After that Zilpah, Leah’s handmaiden, gave birth to Gad and Asher.  Then Leah began to have children again and she gave birth to Issachar, Zebulun, and Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah.  Finally Rachel gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin and she died while delivering Benjamin.  The story is one of jealousy, anger, and hatred.  It’s a story of Leah and Rachel allowing Jacob to have relations with other women, and of Leah bargaining with Rachel so that she could have relations with Jacob.  Because Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other children, this caused even more trouble in this family.  Genesis 37:4 says, “And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.”  Can we possibly think for one moment that the Lord approved of this behavior?

If Jacob had remained faithful to make sure that the woman he married was the one that he loved and worked for, all this would have been avoided.  It is obvious from the narrative that Rachel was the one that the Lord intended for Jacob to marry.  Obviously, the Lord blessed Jacob and his family, but that does not mean that he condoned the behavior of Jacob, Leah, or Rachel.  As we stated in a previous question: at the outset of the very first marriage, the principle was established with marriage partners being in the singular: a man and a woman.  Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”