Genesis 29-30: Only God Is Enough
January 12, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
So Jacob runs away from the wrath of his brother Esau to his mother’s brother, Laban (29:1-14). The deceiver (Jacob), however, is about to get some of his own medicine as he is deceived by Laban (29:15-30). In familiar form, to those who have read the story of Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob falls in love with Rachel while meeting her at the watering hole, the well (29:9-12). He offers to work seven years for Laban if he will give Jacob his daughter Rachel as the prize (29:18). These kind of arrangements seem unbearably patriarchal to us, but the story is not concerned with passing judgment at this moment, though on the whole the scenario is clearly described in a way that is meant to turn the stomach. Laban apparently agrees—though he only says it would be better for him to give Rachel to Jacob than anyone else, which is a statement that falls short of an outright agreement (29:19).
Anyway, Jacob works his seven years, and there is a big party (29:20-22). At the end of that, everyone suitably merry after the party, Jacob goes to bed and lies not, though, with Rachel, but with her older sister Leah who Laban has unsuspectingly foisted on him (29:23-24). We are told that Leah had “weak” eyes while Rachel was beautiful (29:17). Perhaps Leah had a wandering eye, a bad squint, or some malady in the eye which marred her appearance. And in the morning “it was Leah!” (29:25). Jacob is understandably annoyed, and Laban tries to back out of it by offering him Rachel after a week if Jacob will work another seven years (29:25-27). This he does (29:28-30), but the situation for Leah must have been awful. An unloved woman (29:31) in an unloving marriage.
God has mercy on Leah and blesses her with children (29:31-35). Rachel is barren (29:31), desperate for a child, and so does an immoral version of a sort of ancient equivalent of surrogacy and gives Jacob her servant, who bears children (30:1-8). Leah, then, seeing she had ceased bearing children, gave her servant to Jacob who bore him two sons (30:9-13). At this point you can almost begin to feel sorry for Jacob who must have had his work cut out to keep happy all these women in his life. Leah then has two more sons and a daughter (30:14-21). Then God remembered Rachel, listened to her, and opened her womb (30:22), and she has a son Joseph (30:23).
At the end of all this time Jacob goes to Laban and offers to leave (30:25-26). Laban realizes that Jacob is a valuable commodity and does all he can to keep him (30:27-31). Jacob comes up with a final ruse, taking from the flock those sheep who are marked in a particular way as his (30:32-36). Laban agrees, assuming it would be rare (30:34), but Jacob has watched enough sheep by now to realize that selective breeding can gradually shift the type of sheep in a particular direction. Perhaps he really does believe that the “peeled white streaks” in the sticks made a difference, but it was certainly true that the selective breeding did (30:37-42). Before too long Jacob is wealthy and prosperous (30:43). All these family shenanigans warn us against placing our ultimate faith in romance, relationships, or family or children. Only God is enough, only Christ can save.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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