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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 29". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ genesis-29.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 29". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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Then Jacob went on his journey (literally, lifted up his feet—a graphic description of traveling. Inspired by new hopes, and conscious of loftier aims than when he fled from Beersheba, the lonely furtive departed from Bethel), and came into the land of the people of the east—literally, the land of the sons of the east, i.e. Mesopotamia, about 450 miles distant from Beersheba.
And he looked (either to discover where he was, or in search of water), and behold a well in the field,—not the well at which Eliezer's caravan halted, which was a well for the village maidens, situated in front of the town, and approached by steps (vide Genesis 14:1-24.), but a well in the open field for the use of flocks, and covered at the time of Jacob's arrival with a huge stone—and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it. A frequent Oriental scene (cf. Genesis 14:11; Exodus 2:16). "Who that has traveled much in this country has not often arrived at a well in the heat of the day which was surrounded with numerous flocks of sheep waiting to be watered? I once saw such a scene in the burning plains of Northern Syria. Half-naked, fierce-looking men were drawing up water in leather buckets; flock after flock was brought up, watered, and sent away; and after all the men had ended their work, then several women and girls brought up their flocks, and drew water for them. Thus it was with Jethro's daughters; and thus, no doubt, it would have been with Rachel if Jacob had not rolled away the stone and watered her sheep". For out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well's mouth. "Most of the cisterns are covered with a large thick, flat stone, in the center of which a hole is cut, which forms the mouth of the cistern. This hole, in many instances, we found covered with a heavy stone, to the removal of which two or three men were requisite".
And thither were all the flecks gathered. "Fifteen minutes later we came to a large well in a valley among the swells, fitted up with troughs and reservoirs, with flocks waiting around". And they rolled the stone from the well's mouth, find watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well's mouth in his place. From the middle of Genesis 29:2 the words are parenthetical, the watering of the flocks not having taken place till Rachel had arrived (Genesis 29:9) and Jacob had uncovered the well (Genesis 29:10).
And Jacob said unto them (the shepherds of the three flocks), My brethren (a friendly salutation from one who was himself a shepherd), whence be ye? Anticipating that their reply would reveal his whereabouts. And they said, Of Haran are we. This could scarcely fail to remind Jacob of God's premise to guide him in his journey.
And he said unto them (with the view of discovering his kinsmen), Know ye Laban the son of Nahor?—i.e. the grandson, Laban's father having been Bethuel, who, however, here, as in Genesis 14:1-24; retires into the background. And they said, We know him. The language of the shepherds being Chaldaean (vide Genesis 31:47), Jacob, who spoke Hebrew, was able to converse with them either because he had learnt Chaldee from his mother (Clericus), or, as is more probable, because the dialects were not then greatly dissimilar (Gosman in Lange).
And he said unto them, Is he well? Literally, is there peace to him? meaning not simply bodily health, but all manner of felicity; ὑγιαίνει (LXX.); sanusne est? (Vulgate). Cf. the Christian salutation, tax vobiscum And they said, He is well (literally, peace): and, behold, Rachel—"Ewe" (Gesenius)—his daughter cometh with the sheep.
And he said, Lo, it is yet high day (literally, the day is yet great, i.e. much of it still remains), neither is it time that the cattle should he gathered together (i.e. to shut them up for the night): water ye the sheep, and go and feed them—being desirous to get the shepherds away from the well that he might meet Rachel alone (Keil, Lange, Murphy), though perhaps his words with as much correctness may be traced to that prudent and industrious habit of mind which afterwards shone forth so conspicuously in himself, and which instinctively caused him to frown upon laziness and inactivity (Starke, Kalisch, Bush).
And they said, We cannot,—not because of any physical difficulty (Kalisch), since three men could easily have accomplished what Jacob by himself did, but because they had agreed not to do so (Rosenmüller, Murphy), but to wait—until all the flocks be gathered together (when the watering was done at once, instead of at so many different times), and till they roll the stone from the well's mouth;—more correctly rendered, and (sc. then, i.e. when the flocks are assembled) they (i.e. the shepherds) roll away the stone—then (or, and) we water the sheep. The object of watering the flocks collectively may have been, as above stated, for convenience, or to prevent the well from being opened too frequently, in which case dust might rapidly accumulate within it (Kalisch), or perhaps to secure an equal distribution of the water (Murphy).
And while he yet spake with them (literally, he yet speaking with them), Rachel came with her father's sheep: for she kept them—or, she was a shepherdess, the part. רֹעָה being used as a substantive (Gesenius, 'Lex.,' sub. nom.).
And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother,—"the term mother's brother is not unintentionally repeated three times in this verse to describe with the greatest possible stress that Jacob had met with his own relations, with "his bone and his flesh" (Kalisch)—and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother (Jacob from the first takes particular notice of Laban's flock, perhaps regarding them as a sign of Laban's wealth. If Laban's daughter had her attractions for the son of Isaac, so also had Laban's sheep), that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth (probably disregarding the shepherds' rule to wait for the gathering of all the flocks, unless, indeed, Rachel's was the last), and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. The threefold repetition of this phrase does not prove that Jacob acted in all this purely as a cousin (Lange). The phrase is the historian's, and Jacob had not yet informed Rachel of his name.
And Jacob kissed Rachel,—in demonstration of his cousinly affection. If Jacob had not yet discovered who he was to the fair shepherdess, his behavior must have filled her with surprise, even allowing for the unaffected simplicity of the times; but the fact that she does not resent his conduct as an undue liberty perhaps suggests that he had first informed her of his relationship to the inmates of Laban's house (Calvin). On kissing vide Genesis 27:26—and lifted up his voice, and wept—partly for joy in finding his relatives (cf. Genesis 43:30; Genesis 45:2, Genesis 45:14, Genesis 45:15); partly in grateful acknowledgment of God's kindness in conducting him to his mother's brother's house.
And Jacob told (or, had told, ut supra) Rachel that he was her father's brother,—as Lot is called Abraham's brother, though in reality his nephew (Genesis 13:8; Genesis 14:14, Genesis 14:16)—and that he was Rebekah's son (this clause would explain the meaning of the term "brother in the former): and she ran and told her father. Like Rebekah, believing the stranger's words and running to report them, though, unlike Rebekah, first relating them to her father (cf. Genesis 14:1-28).
And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings (literally, heard the hearing, or thing heard, i.e. the report of the arrival) of Jacob his sister's son,—he acted very much as he did ninety-seven years before, when Abraham's servant came to woo his sister (Genesis 14:20, 30)—that (literally, and) he ran to meet him, and embraced him,—so afterwards Esau did Jacob (Genesis 33:4), and Jacob the two sons of Joseph (Genesis 48:10)—and kissed him, and brought him to his house—thus evincing the same kindness and hospitality that had characterized him on the previous occasion. And he (Jacob) told Laban all these things—what his mother bad instructed him to say to attest his kinship (Calvin); the things related in the immediate context (Keil); more likely the entire story of his life, and in particular of his exile from home, with its cause and object (Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Lange).
And Laban said unto him (giving utterance to the impression Jacob's recital had produced upon his mind), Surely thou art my bone and my flesh—i.e. my blood relation (cf. Judges 9:2; 2 Samuel 5:1). Laban meant that Jacob had satisfactorily proved himself Rebekah's son. And he abode with him the space of a month—literally, a month of days (cf. Genesis 41:1; Numbers 11:20), or a month as regards time, "the second substantive describing the general notion of which the first is a specification" (Kalisch).
Jacob at the well of Haran: a romantic adventure.
I. JACOB'S MEETING WITH THE SHEPHERDS.
1. The providential discovery. The well in the field with the three flocks of sheep lying by it enabled Jacob to ascertain his whereabouts, and ultimately led to his finding Rachel. God guides the steps of his people without interfering with the ordinary course of nature, simply directing them m the exercise of sense and intelligence; and doubtless Jacob recognized in his, lighting on the Haran well a first installment of that celestial guidance he had been lately promised. Saints should practice the art of discerning the movement of God's finger in the minutest and commonest events of life.
2. The friendly conversation. Saluting the shepherds as his brethren, i.e. as masters of a common craft, Jacob gathers from their frank communications that he was on the outskirts of Haran, in which his uncle Laban was a prosperous and wealthy citizen, and that his cousin Rachel was on the road to that very well beside which he stood with a flock of her father's sheep. Great is the virtue of asking questions, especially when they are prefaced with politeness. Seldom anything is lost, but frequently much is gained, by courteous inquiries.
3. The prudent counsel. Observing his friends disposed to indolence, and perhaps desirous of meeting Rachel alone, Jacob recommends them to uncover the well, water their flocks, and drive them off again to pasture, since much of the day yet remained. If it was their advantage he sought, his advice was good; if it was his own interest he served, the stratagem was ingenious. God's people should be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves.
II. JACOB'S FIRST SIGHT OF RACHEL.
1. The gallant action. The lovely shepherdess arriving made a deep impression on her cousin's heart. Springing to his feet, he rolls the stone from the well's mouth, fills the troughs, and waters Laban's sheep—impelled thereto, shall we say, as much by consideration for the fair girl who attended them as for the rich flock-master who possessed them. Kindly acts proceeding from loving hearts are sometimes largely assisted by the attractions of their recipients.
2. The loving salutation. "And Jacob kissed Rachel." If before explaining who he was, it must have taken her by surprise even in those unconventional times; but it is probable he may have first announced his name, in which case his behavior was only in accordance with the manners of the age. Suitable expressions of, affection to friends beseem both grace and nature.
3. The irrepressible emote. And Jacob lifted up his voice and wept"—expressive both of joy at finding his relatives, and of gratitude for God's goodness m grading him to the house of his mother's brother. Unexpected good and eminent providences kindle transports of delight in gracious souls.
4. The important communication. "Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son: and she ran and told her father." Friends, and much more Christians, meeting on life's journey, should with frankness discover themselves to each other, and give each other hearty welcome.
III. JACOB'S INTRODUCTION TO LABAN.
1. The uncle's reception of his nephew, "Laban ran to meet his sister's son, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house." Kinship and kindness should ever be allied. Laban's hospitality to Jacob was grounded on the fact of their relationship. So is Christ's entertainment of his people based upon the circumstance that they are "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones."
2. The nephew's return to his uncle. Ingenuous confidence—"Jacob told Laban all these things"—and faithful service. It is implied in Genesis 29:15 that during the month Jacob abode with Laban he served in keeping Laban's sheep. God's people should endeavor as far as in them lies to requite the kindnesses of relatives and friends.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
Jacob among his mother's kindred.
Taught by experience to be patient. His own craft reflected in Laban. Lessons to be learned.
I. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE TEACHING OF GOD IN THE INNER MAN AND HIS LEADINGS IN PROVIDENCE. Jacob learned what he needed to learn—dependence, self-humiliation. Saw the evil of selfishness; understood that the Divine purposes must not be identified in our thought with our personal feelings and desires. We must wait on God to know what his will is.
II. THE INDEPENDENCE OF GOD'S GRACE. The chosen instruments not chosen for their own sake. Often that which displeases us is our special help. Leah, not chosen by Jacob, bore him sons. Rachel, whom he loved, was barren. Even in such mixed soil as these characters the seed of Divine life will grow. Leah gave names to her children which betokened an increasing faith. Jacob's willingness to serve was a gracious victory over self, preparing him for higher filings. Thwarted man is taught to wait upon God.
III. PRACTICAL LESSONS ON THE RELATIONS OF THE SEXES AND MARRIED LIFE, &c. The misery of all that interferes with the sanctity of affection and its supremacy. The certainty that lack of candor and truthfulness will be fruitful in evil results. The importance of right feeling in sustaining religious character; how difficult, where the relationship is not founded on affection, to maintain truth, purity, and a lofty standard of life. We must try to see disappointments from a higher point of view. God may withhold what we desire, but only to give afterwards a fuller blessing.—R.
And Laban said unto Jacob (probably at the month's end), Because thou art—literally, is it not that. thou art (cf. Genesis 27:36; 2 Samuel 23:19)—my brother,—my kinsman (vide on Genesis 29:12)—shouldest thou therefore serve me for naught? (literally, and thou server me gratuitously) tell me, what shall thy wages be? A proof of Laban's generosity and justice (Kalisch); of his selfishness and greed (Keil); of his prudence and sagacity in opening up the way for a love-suit (Large).
And Laban had two daughters (the wife of Laban is not mentioned in the story): the name of the elder was Leah,—"Wearied" (Gesenius); "Dull," "Stupid" (Furst); "Pining," "Yearning" (Lange)—and the name of the younger was Rachel—"Ewe" (Gesenius).
Leah was tender eyed. Literally, the eyes of Leah were tender, i.e. weak, dun; ἀσθενεῖς (LXX.), lippi (Vulgate); cf. 1 Samuel 16:12. Leah's face was not ugly (Bohlen), only her eyes were not clear and lustrous, dark and sparkling, as in all probability Rachel's were (Knobel). But Rachel was beautiful and well favored. Literally, beautiful in form (i.e. in outline and make of body; cf. Genesis 39:6; also 1 Samuel 16:18—"a man of form," i.e. formosus, well made) and beautiful in appearance (i.e. of a lovely countenance). "If authentic history was not in the way, Leah, as the mother of Judah, and of the Davidic Messianic line, ought to have carried off the prize of beauty after Sarah and Rebakah (Lange).
And Jacob loved Rachel (it is more than probable that this was an illustration of what is known as "love at first sight" on the part of Rachel as well as Jacob); and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. Having no property, with which to buy his wife, according to Oriental custom (Kalisch), or to give the usual dowry for her to her father (Keil),—cf. Genesis 14:1-53; Genesis 34:12; 1 Samuel 18:25,—Jacob's offer was at once accepted by his grasping uncle, though he was that uncle's "brother" (1 Samuel 18:15).
And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man. Orientals commonly prefer alliances within the circle of their own relatives. Burckhardt, Volney, Layard, and Lane testify that this is still the case among the Bedouins, the Druses, and other Eastern tribes. Abide with me—a formal ratification of the compact on the part of Laban.
And Jacob served—hard service (Genesis 31:40, Genesis 31:41), in keeping sheep (Hosea 12:12)—seven years for Rachel. The purity and intensity of Jacob's affection was declared not alone by the proposal of a seven years' term of servitude,—a long period of waiting for a man of fifty-seven, if not seventy-seven, years of age,—but also by the spirit in which he served his avaricious relative. Many as the days were that required to intervene before he obtained possession of his bride, they were rendered happy by the sweet society of Rachel. And they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. "Words breathing the purest tenderness, and expressing more emphatically than the flowery hyperboles of romantic phraseology the deep attachment of an affectionate heart" (Kalisch); words too which show the lofty appreciation Jacob had of the personal worth of his future bride.
And Jacob said unto Laban (who, though the term of servitude had expired, appeared to be in no haste to implement his part of the bargain), Give me my wife (i.e. my affianced wife, as in Deuteronomy 22:23, Deuteronomy 22:24; Matthew 1:20), for my days are fulfilled (i.e. my term of service is completed), that I may go in unto her—quo significant intactam adhuc esse virginem (Calvin); a proof that Jacob's love was pure and true.
And Laban (unable to evade or delay the fulfillment of his agreement with Jacob) gathered together all the men of the place (not the entire population, but the principal inhabitants), and made a feast—a "mishteh, or drinking (cf. Genesis 19:3), i.e. a wedding banquet (cf. bride-ale—bridal), which commonly lasted seven days (Judges 14:10; Tobit 11:18), though it appears to have varied according to the circumstances of the bridegroom.
And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him. The deception practiced on Jacob was rendered possible by the fact that the bride was usually conducted into the marriage chamber veiled; the veil being so long and close as to conceal not only the face, but much of the person (vide Genesis 14:1-65). And he went in unto her. The conduct of Laban is perfectly intelligible as the outcome of his sordid avarice; but it is difficult to understand how Leah could acquiesce in a proposal so base as to wrong her sister by marrying one who neither sought nor loved her. She must herself have been attached to Jacob; and it is probable that Laban had explained to her his plan for bringing about a double wedding.
And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah—"the Dropping"? (Gesenius), "Myrrh-juice" (Furst)—his maid (according to Gesenius the word is closely connected with an unused root signifying to spread out, hence a maid-servant) for an handmaid. This was in accordance with Oriental custom (vide Genesis 14:1-61). That Leah obtained only one damsel need not be ascribed to Laban's parsimonious character, but to his already-formed intention to bestow a second on Rachel.
And it came to pass, that in the morning, Behold, it was Leah. If Jacob's deception, even with the veiled bride, may still be difficult to understand, it is easy to perceive in Leah's substitution for Rachel a clear instance of Divine retribution for the imposition he had practiced on his father. So the Lord oftentimes rewards evil-doers according to their wickedness (cf. 2 Samuel 12:10-12). And he said to Laban (who, Calvin conjectures, had given Jacob a splendid entertainment the night before to make him say nothing about the fraud), What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? It says much for Jacob that he did not seek to repudiate the marriage. Perhaps he saw the hand of God in what had happened, and probably considered that though he had chosen Rachel, God had selected Leah as his wife. If so, it must be set to Jacob's credit that at the call of God, thus providentially addressed to him, he was prepared to sacrifice his best affections to the claims of religion and duty. It is not Jacob, but Laban, who proposes that he should also marry Rachel.
And Laban said, It must not be so done—the future expresses the thought that the custom has grown into a strong moral obligation (Kalisch)—in our country (Hebrew, place), to give the younger before the first-born. The same custom exists among the Indians, Egyptians (Lane), and other Oriental countries (Delitzsch).
Fulfill her week,—literally, make full the week of this one, i.e. of Leah, if Leah was given to Jacob on the first night of the festivities (Calmer, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Lange, Ainsworth); but id Leah was married at the close of the seven days, then it must refer to Rachel's week (Bush, Murphy)—and we (including Laban's wife and eldest son, as in Genesis 14:1-50, 55) will give thee this also (i.e. Rachel) for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. Almost every motive that is mean, base, and despicable appears in this behavior of Laban's; if he attached little value to his daughters' affections, he had a keen appreciation of Jacob's qualities as a shepherd.
And Jacob aid so, and fulfilled her week. Literally, the week of this one, either of Leah or of Rachel, as above. Rosenmüller, assigning the first week (Genesis 29:27) to Leah, refers this to Rachel; but the expression can scarcely have two different meanings within the compass of two verses. And he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. The polygamy of Jacob, though contrary to the law of nature (Genesis 2:21-25), admits of some palliation, since Rachel was the choice of his affections The marriage of sisters was afterwards declared incestuous (Le Genesis 18:18).
And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah—"Bashful," "Modest" (Gesenius)—his handmaid to be her maid.
And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah (implying, however, that Leah had a place in his affections), and served with him yet seven other years. The seven years cunningly exacted for Leah was thus the second fraud practiced upon Jacob (Genesis 30:26; Genesis 31:41; Hosea 12:12).
Jacob and Laban, or the deceiver deceived.
I. JACOB'S CONTRACT WITH LABAN. The promised service—seven years of pastoral assistance.
(1) Freely offered. "I will serve thee seven years." Contracts are legally and morally invalid where freedom in the promiser does not exist.
(2) Faithfully rendered. Jacob "served seven years," as he had stipulated. Voluntary engagements should be deemed sacred.
(3) Readily accepted. Laban both appreciated Jacob's merits as a shepherd and regarded Jacob's terms as easy. If Laban's words in closing with Jacob's offer did not indicate his guile, they were at least evidence of his greed.
(4) Harshly exacted. Jacob testifies as much on leaving Laban. Covetous souls do not' shrink from making hard bargains even with relatives and friends.
2. The stipulated wages—Rachel in marriage as a wife. This part of the contract was—
(1) Eagerly desired by Jacob. "Jacob loved Rachel," who was beautiful both in face and form. It is not sinful either to appreciate or desire personal symmetry and grace in those to whom we yield our affections. Female loveliness, though it may enkindle love, need not render the heart that loves less pure.
(2) Patiently waited for by Jacob. This was a testimony to the purity, tenderness, and strength of Jacob's affection. Besides transforming seven years into a few days, and making pleasant and lightsome labor of what would otherwise have been galling bondage, it enabled him to wait God's time for receiving his bride.
(3) Cheerfully assented to by Laban. "It is better that I give her to thee than that I should give her to another man." Yet—
(4) Guilefully withheld by Laban. Avaricious men seldom scruple at deceiving others for the sake of profit. Greed of gain is commonly accompanied by guile of men.
II. LABAN'S DECEPTION OF JACOB.
1. The just request. "Give me my wife." "The laborer is worthy of his hire," and the servant is entitled to his wages.
2. The marriage festival. "Laban made a feast." Seemingly assenting to his nephew's request, the crafty uncle prepares a wedding banquet. Feasting and rejoicing are both becoming and allowable in connection with marriage celebrations.
3. The substituted bride. Either at the end of the first day or at the close of the festivities, "Laban took Leah and brought her," veiled and in silence, to the bridal chamber. For the wickedness of Laban in breaking his promise, defrauding his nephew, wronging his younger daughter, and practically prostituting his elder, excuse is, impossible; for Leah's acquiescence in her father's plot explanation, though not apology, may be found in her manifest love for Jacob, and perhaps in her belief that Laban had secured Jacob's consent to the arrangement. The man who could sell one daughter's affections and sacrifice another's would not stick at deceiving both, if he could.
4. The discovered fraud. "In the morning, behold, it was Leah." The day manifests what the night hides the sins of men; and the light of the great day will disclose what the darkness of time conceals.
5. The lame excuse. Interrogated by Jacob, Laban offers in extenuation of his heartless deception that popular custom demanded the marriage of an elder sister before a younger. So, public opinion, prevailing habit, universal practice, are often pled in apology for offences against the law of God. But the conventional maxims of society are of no weight when set against Divine commandments.
6. The righteous retribution. Though indefensible on the part of Laban, the substitution of Leah for Rachel was a deserved punishment of Jacob. Having wronged Esau his brother, he is in turn wronged by "a brother"—Laban. Having substituted the younger (himself) for the older (Esau), he is recompensed by having the older put into the place of the younger. As Isaac knew not when he blessed Jacob, so Jacob knows not when he marries Leah. As Jacob acted at the instigation of his mother, Leah yields to the suggestion of her father.
7. The amicable settlement. Jacob celebrates the week of festival for Leah, and then receives Rachel as a wife, engaging to serve another term of seven years for her who had lightened the labor of the previous seven. If Jacob's conduct evinced sincere attachment to Rachel and peaceful disposition towards Laban, it displayed doubtful regard for the law of God,
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
The power of true affection.
"And Jacob served seven years for Rachel," &c.
I. THE INWARD SPRING OF THE OUTWARD LIFE. Power of the heart over the will, over the circumstances, over flesh. Time measured by the motions of our thought. The world needs to be taught that the material rests on the immaterial.
II. THE SERVICE OF LOVE THE CONSECRATION AND CONSUMMATION OF HUMAN ENERGY. Christ the highest object of affection. The life of his servant compared with the life of selfish caprice.
III. THE GREAT EXAMPLE OF LOVE SUGGESTED. Jacob a type of Christ; Rachel, of his Church. He served for her. His love made obedience, even unto death, his delight.
IV. SPECIAL TRIAL HAS ITS SPECIAL REWARD. Jacob served doubly for Rachel; but his service was amply paid afterwards, although for a time the veil of disappointment hid the purpose of God. While Leah, as the mother of Judah, was the true ancestress of Messiah, still it was in Joseph, the son of Rachel, that Jacob's heart was satisfied, and that the history of the kingdom of God was most manifestly carried on and its glory set forth. As in the case of Sarah and Rebekah, so in that of Rachel, the birth of the representative seed is connected with special bestowments of grace.—R.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
Christ's love for the Church.
"And Jacob served seven years for Rachel." On the surface this is a step in Jacob's training, in the fulfillment of God's promise at Bethel. It shows a new feature in his character. We see not the man of cunning devices, but one full of pure, self-sacrificing love. Fourteen years of service willingly given to purchase, according to Eastern custom, his bride. But Jacob's love suggests the deeper and purer love of Christ for the Church. Rachel a type of the Bride; a shepherdess and "fairest among women" (So Genesis 1:7, Genesis 1:8); sharer of the sufferings of the Church (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18; Revelation 2:17). For the Church's sake (Ephesians 5:25) Christ "served" (Philippians 2:7); became a Shepherd (John 10:11); with his service and life-blood, "obedient unto death," he purchased her (Acts 20:28), to unite her to himself forever.
I. THE LORD "SERVED" BECAUSE HE LOVED HIS CHURCH. In condescending to unite himself with human nature; in bearing the infirmities of childhood and state of subjection; in bearing the contradiction of sinners and the wrath of God. And still in standing and knocking (Revelation 3:20); in bearing with half-hearted believers (2 Peter 3:9); in pleading with and for the wayward (1 John 2:1; 2 Corinthians 5:20); in seeking and following individual sheep. The love which led to this was free, not deserved or purchased. Rachel brought no dowry to Jacob. The Church has of its own no spiritual wealth (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23). The Bridegroom had to sanctify and cleanse it. By nature unholy, at variance with God's will; yet, knowing this, he loved it (cf. Romans 8:35). For love to Rachel Jacob gave the labor of fourteen years. For the Church Christ grudged nothing—gave himself. Sacrifice a mark of true love. How many will not sacrifice anything—will not leave a gain, a companion, an amusement—to "win Christ." In the garden his human nature shrank from the bitterness of the cup, but he persevered. Why?
II. THE LORD "SERVED" THAT HE MIGHT UNITE US TO HIMSELF. Marriage, the closest earthly tie, used as a type. No mere removal of condemnation satisfied that love, nor even our being made happy; he became such as we are, that we might become such as he is. The Church is his Bride (Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 21:9), sharer of his kingdom (Revelation 3:21; Revelation 20:4), of his blessedness and glory (John 17:22-24). And this belongs to its humblest and weakest member. A union in this life (So Genesis 2:16; John 15:4); peace in committing all cares to him, even our own steadfastness (John 10:28; Romans 8:35; Hebrews 13:6). A union after our departure more close (Philippians 1:23). Here we see dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). The conditions of mortal life hinder clear visions (Exodus 33:20), The law of sin in our members hinders perfect union. Then no impediment (Luke 23:43). Union perfected after the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:7). The body, which now limits conscious union, shall then minister to its completeness. Not till then shall we be perfectly like him in his human nature.
III. HE "SERVED" THAT WE MIGHT HAVE CONFIDENCE IN HIS LOVE. Jacob's love not shaken by time, or by the deceit practiced upon him, a type of Christ's. Often forgetful, often faithless, we might well think, How dare I trust to a love so often neglected? But his love is not wearied out (Isaiah 49:15). He has graven us with the nail-prints on his hands. His word is still, "Look unto me;" trust my love (Psalms 37:5).—M.
And when the Lord saw—literally, and Jehovah saw. As Eve's son was obtained from Jehovah (Genesis 4:1), and Jehovah visited Sarah (Genesis 21:1), and was entreated for Rebekah (Genesis 25:21), so here he again interposes in connection with the onward development of the holy seed by giving children to Jacob's wives. The present section (Genesis 29:31-35) is by Davidson, Kalisch, and others assigned to the Jehovist, by Tuch left undetermined, and by Colenso in several parts ascribed to the Elohist. Kalisch thinks the contents of this section must have found a place in the earlier of the two documents—that Leah was hated,—i.e. less loved (cf. Malachi 1:3)—he opened her womb (cf. 1 Samuel 1:5, 1 Samuel 1:6; Psalms 127:3): but Rachel was barren—as Sarai (Genesis 11:30) and Rebekah (Genesis 25:21) had been. The fruitfulness of Leah and the sterility of Rachel were designed not so much to equalize the conditions of the sisters, the one having beauty and the other children (Lange), or to punish Jacob for his partiality (Keil), or to discourage the admiration of mere beauty (Kalisch), but to prove that "the origin of Israel was to be a work not of nature, but of grace" (Keil).
And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben (literally, reuben, Behold a Son! an expression of joyful surprise at the Divine compassion): for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction. Though not directly contained in the term Reuben, the sense of these words is implied (Kalisch). As Leah's child was an intimation that she had been an object of Jehovah's compassion, so did she expect it to be a means of drawing towards herself Jacob's affection. Now therefore (literally, for now) my husband will love me. She was confident in the first flush of maternal joy that Jacob's heart would turn towards her; she believed that God had sent her child to effect this conversion of her husband's affections; and she regarded the birth of Reuben as a signal proof of the Divine pity.
And she conceived again, and bare a son (probably the following year); and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated (the birth of Reuben had obviously not answered Leah's expectations in increasing Jacob's love), he hath therefore given me this son also (She faith and piety of Leah are as conspicuous as her affection for Jacob): and she called his name Simeon—i.e. Hearing, because God had heard that she was hated (ut supra).
And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me,—לָוָה, to join, is the root from which comes לֵוִי. (Levi), her son's name—because I have borne him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi—Associated, or Joined.
And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the Lord. Well she might; for this was the ancestor of the promised seed (Murphy). There cannot be a doubt that her excellence of character as well as eminence of piety eventually wrought a change upon her husband (vide Genesis 31:4, Genesis 31:14; Genesis 49:31). Therefore she called his name Judah (i.e. Praise); and left bearing. Literally, stood still, i.e. ceased, from bearing. Not altogether (Genesis 30:16); only for a time, "that she might not be unduly lifted up by her good fortune, or attribute to the fruitfulness of her own womb what the faithfulness of Jehovah, the covenant God, had bestowed upon her" (Keil.).
Leah and Rachel, or the two wives.
I. RACHEL THE BELOVED. "Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah." That Leah was not hated in the sense of being regarded with aversion, the numerous family she bore to Jacob proves; that she occupied a lower place than Rachel in her husband's affections is explicitly declared. This preference of Rachel to Leah was—
1. Natural in Jacob. Rachel had been his heart's choice from the first, while Leah had been thrust upon him against his inclination. But even had this been otherwise, as no man can serve two masters, so can no husband love two wives equally—an argument against polygamy.
2. Painful to Leah. Had Leah loved Jacob less than she manifestly did, it is doubtful if the undue regard shown to Rachel would not have inflicted a grievous wound upon her wifely heart; but, entertaining towards him an affection strong and tender, she yearned for a larger share of his esteem, and at each successive child's birth gave utterance to a hope that he would yet be joined to her. No heavier blow can be dealt by a husband to the tender heart of a loving wife than to withdraw from her his love, or even to be cold and indifferent in its expression.
3. Sinful in the sight of God. Though not so beautiful as Rachel, Leah was yet entitled to an equal share with her in Jacob's affection. Equally with Rachel she was Jacob's wife. It was Jacob's sin that he had married her at all when he did not either love or desire her. On detecting the fraud he should have instantly repudiated the engagement. But having publicly ratified the contract with Leah by fulfilling her week, he owed to Leah a full share of his affection as a husband. Nay, though not the wife his inclination had selected, there is reason for believing that Leah, rather than Rachel, was the bride God had chosen (Leah was the ancestress of the Savior); hence doubly was Jacob bound to love Leah equally with Rachel.
II. LEAH THE FRUITFUL. While Rachel enjoyed the highest place in Jacob's affection, she was "barren"—a grievous affliction to one who might possibly be the mother of the promised Seed. The fruitfulness of Leah was—
1. Expressly caused by God. The Lord, who had decreed temporary barrenness for Rachel the fair, opened the womb of Leah the despised; neither to compensate Leah for the loss of Jacob's love, nor to punish Jacob for his sinful partiality; but to manifest his power, to show that children are the heritage of the Lord, to vindicate his sovereignty, to attest that God giveth families to whomsoever he will, and to suggest that the line of promise was designed to be not the fruit of nature, but the gift of grace.
2. Thankfully acknowledged by Leah. While cherishing the hope that her children would eventually unite Jacob's heart to her own, she delightedly recognized her exceptional fruitfulness as a special mark of Jehovah's favor, and gave expression to her gratitude in the naming of her sons: Reuben, see, a son! Simeon, hearing; Levi, joined; Judah, praise.
3. Enviously beheld by Rachel. This appears from the opening statement in the ensuing chapter; and this, though perhaps as natural as Leah's sense of pain at Rachel's preference by Jacob, was yet as sinful as Jacob's excessive partiality towards herself.
1. The sinfulness and sorrow of having more wives at once than one.
2. The wickedness of wedding where one does not love.
3. The sovereignty of God in giving and withholding children.
4. The cruelty and criminality of showing partiality towards those who possess an equal claim on our affections.
5. The duty and profit of remembering and acknowledging family mercies.