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● Gen 27:46 . . And Rebecca said to Isaac: I am weary of living
because of the daughters of Heth. If Jacob take a wife of the
daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the
land, I might as well die.
Abraham purchased a cemetery plot from Heth's clan back in chapter 23.
I think Rebecca was becoming very lonely for the company of daughters-in
law of a kindred spirit. Christians considering marriage should really give
some serious thought to how their parents feel about a prospective spouse.
It's just not fair to force your choice down there throat with the haughty
protest: It's MY life!
No man is an island, entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent:
A part of the main. (John Donne, 1624)
All that people do, everything they say, every decision they make; has a
You know, Isaac really wasn't a bad man. But something happened to him
that made him lose interest in his patriarchal duties. I really do think the
man was having problems with depression; which may have been associated
somehow with his eyesight.
What if you could never again see Orion and the Milky Way, nor a sunset,
nor the colors of the rainbow, nor watch the flight of migrating geese or a
buzzing humming bird, nor see the bees busily collecting their pollen, nor
the wind shaking the trees, nor the fluorescent colors of Autumn foliage, nor
the splendor of the Grand Canyon, nor a spider's web illuminated from
behind by morning sunlight, nor the ocean's waves, nor fireworks on the 4th
of July? And what about all the things you haven't seen yet? Defective
eyesight would prevent you from ever seeing the things that you missed.
There is a well known syndrome that occurs in men called male menopause;
and also known by it's other name: andropause. Although male menopause
is related to the aging process-- with resultant hormonal reductions --men's
problems aren't caused by the very same kinds of changes that occur in
women. Women's menopausal difficulties are chiefly chemical. But with men,
it's mostly psychological.
One of the primary symptoms of andropause is depression. Not just bouts of
depression that come and go, but the chronic kind. Every day, every night:
feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness plague men afflicted with chronic
depression. They feel useless, they feel they'll never be any good again,
they feel expendable; and they feel unnecessary. But worse, they feel
unlovable; viz: not only do they feel like no one cares whether they live or
die, but they feel it is impossible for anyone to care about them at all.
It isn't unusual for men to rapidly deteriorate and die during the first
eighteen months of their retirement years. Why? Because their jobs, and
their careers, made their lives meaningful and worthwhile. It gave them a
reason to live. It gave them strong feelings of value, it made them creative
and gave them feelings of self worth and self esteem, and feelings of
belonging in a man's world. At career's end, they feel expended and
expendable; actually losing interest in living and it's almost as if they will
themselves to pass away because there's nothing left to live for, and people
begin treating them like children instead of mature adults.
When we're young and spry, we look forward to the future with optimism
and anticipation. But when we're older, there is nothing in life to look
forward to anymore but falling apart and leaving it. All the good stuff is over.
And it doesn't help having our bodies deteriorate along the way.
I really think that Isaac's handicap robbed him of all reasonable optimism;
and he saw no reason to go on living; especially at his age. Because of that,
he had no spirit for patriarchal duties. When the boys brought him food that
day, both of them asked their dad to sit up and eat. Sit up!? What the heck
was he doing lying down? Well, I think he was lying around all day feeling
sorry for himself, that's what. Life had become uninteresting to Isaac, and
he was no longer one tough cookie; but rather, one whipped puppy.
But not so Rebecca. No, No; not that quick-legged Aquarian. She was a
fighter, she was a Rocky Balboa. Becky had a head on her shoulders. Ever
the strong decisive woman, she put a bug in Isaac's ear to send Jacob away
to find a spouse. Yes, she was being cunning again; but in the right of it too:
as usual. It was a whole lot better for Jacob to depart with his dad's good
will than running away from home without saying good-bye.
Now that the blessing had actually been dispensed, and it was very clear to
Isaac that Jacob was God's choice to perpetuate Abraham's covenant, there
was no excuse to delay any longer in the matter of finding his son a suitable
wife because men don't live forever, Their children have to take up the flame
and carry it forward. Jacob was a virile man at this point in his life; but
that's getting ready to change. This fact, combined with the immediate
danger of another Cain-and-Abel episode, was more than enough reason for
Isaac to send Jacob away.
Rebecca's personal desire for Jacob to have a wife from her own people, one
with whom she could have fellowship rather than the continual friction she
experienced with Esau's Hittite wives, compelled her to convince Isaac that
her own life wouldn't be worth living anymore if Jacob married the same
kinds of impious women as his brother's.
Was Rebecca a good wife? Even though she tricked her husband? And even
though she was strong and decisive? I really believe she was because even
in the US Navy, sometimes a captain needs his first officer to take over and
run the ship till he's better.
"The Lord God said; It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting
helper for him." (Gen 2:18)
Isaac benefited from his dad Abraham's wisdom; and he had the providence
of God to thank in the selection of his wife. Rebecca really saved the day,
and got Isaac back up on his patriarchal feet. If it wasn't for her, nothing
would have turned out right. She was indeed the perfect mate for that
particular man. Unlike Eve who brought her man down; Becky propped her
man up. Some women, infected with misandry, are pleased when their man
● Gen 28:1a . . So Isaac sent for Jacob and blessed him. He
This is the first time, at least on record, that Isaac has shown any real
interest in Jacob's spiritual condition. You just have to wonder if Jacob
received any religious instruction at all from his dad. I would not be
surprised if Rebecca has been Jacob's only tutor up to this point.
Isaac went through a very traumatic experience. I think he was shaken, and
it appears to have succeeded in bringing him back to his senses. Now he
renders upon Jacob the full extent of Abraham's blessing; which he really
should have done a long time ago.
● Gen 28:1b-4 . .You shall not take a wife from among the Canaanite
women. Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel, your
mother's father, and take a wife there from among the daughters of
Laban, your mother's brother. May El Shaddai bless you, make you
fertile and numerous, so that you become an assembly of peoples.
May He grant the blessing of Abraham to you and your offspring,
that you may possess the land where you are sojourning, which God
assigned to Abraham.
It would have been much wiser of course, if circumstances had permitted, to
keep Jacob at home and dispatch a trusted servant up to Haran to fetch a
wife back down to Canaan like Abraham did for Isaac. But at this point, I
guess that option was out of the question. Isaac's patriarchal laxity is having
quite a domino effect upon Jacob's future. He's going to be tricked into
taking two wives, sisters at that, and squander twenty years of his life
indentured to a very crafty, dishonest man.
● Gen 28:5 . .Then Isaac sent Jacob off, and he went to Paddan
aram, to Laban the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of
Rebecca, mother of Jacob and Esau.
I just have to wonder if Isaac would have thought of Laban at all if not for
Rebecca putting a bug in his ear.
Not only was Laban an Aramean, but so were Abraham, Lot, Sarah, and
Rebecca. The boys (Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and Esau) were born in Canaan.
So of what country were they? Canaan wasn't a united sovereignty like the
USA. It was a frontier territory. Along the coast were Philistine colonies; the
remainder populated by many communities scattered all over the place
much like Native American peoples were in America's early days.
I don't know about Ishmael and Esau, but Isaac and Jacob looked ahead to a
future country that they would call home. That country didn't exist just yet
in Jacob's day, but it would eventually, and he would be a somebody there--
Abraham's covenant guarantees it. Those men haven't missed out on
anything. According to the New Testament's Jesus, they will all return some
day and live in that land as citizens in land promised to Abraham.
"I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take
their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of
heaven." (Matt 8:11)
The writer of Hebrews said, that although those three men were pilgrims in
Canaan, they will one day live inside it as citizens in a town of their own.
"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his
inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was
going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a
foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs
with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with
foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Heb 11:8-10)
I don't know exactly how much detail those men knew in their day; but that
"city with foundations" is going to be some piece of work. (cf. Rev 21:2-27)
● Gen 28:6-7 . .When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and
sent him off to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, charging him,
as he blessed him "You shall not take a wife from among the
Canaanite women" and that Jacob had listened to his father and
mother and gone to Paddan-aram,
That had to shake Esau up even more. Up to this point, for many, many
years, he had been daddy's little boy. Now, practically overnight, Jacob
takes center stage. It must have been very disturbing and I have no doubt it
made Esau feel extremely insecure; probably for the first time in his life.
Jacob listened to his parents. The difference between Jacob and Esau really
shows in that respect. Esau did pretty much whatever he pleased. But Jacob
wasn't like that. Even at 75 years old he took his parents advice. American
kids today are famous for ignoring their parents guidance; and they usually
end up regretting it too.
His dad was smart all along, but the boy was too immature at the time to
see it. He thought smartness came packaged with youth. In his mind; older
people were expendable, obsolete, and out of touch with reality. But
education doesn't necessarily make one wise: just conceited.
Although Esau was Isaac's favorite, I really don't think he ever disciplined,
scolded, nor lectured his eldest son for anything. I think he let Esau run wild
so as to avoid stressing their relationship. Even though Esau's wives were a
misery to Isaac and Rebecca, apparently no one ever spoke up and said
anything about it till now; and as a result; Esau fell for one of the oldest
ruses in the book:
A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong;
Gives it a superficial appearance of being right. (Thomas Paine)
● Gen 28:8 . . Esau realized that the Canaanite women displeased his
Now that Esau no longer enjoyed the status of a pampered athlete, he's a
little more attuned to the opinions of others around him; most especially to
the dad who at one time gave the impression his eldest was so wonderful.
● Gen 28:9a . . So Esau went to Ishmael and took to wife, in addition
to the wives he had,
Some feel that Esau did that to create an alliance with Ishmael; since he too
was a disfavored son. But Ishmael was already deceased by this time. He
was at least fourteen years older than Isaac, who was by this time around
135. Ishmael died at 137; twelve years prior to this chapter. It is much more
likely that Esau betrothed a woman from Ishmael's family in an attempt to
redeem his marriages to the Hittite girls. Ishmael's girls, at least, were kin.
● Gen 28:9b . . Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham,
sister of Nebaioth.
Ishmael being long dead; his son Nebaioth made the arrangements for
You know, life sometimes dealt cruelly with girls in that day. Romance was
out of the question. Even if there was a boy in the neighborhood that took
their breath away, the girls weren't allowed to even date, let alone marry
him. They had to marry a man their dads or their brothers selected--
oftentimes a total stranger and often someone quite a bit older than
themselves. You'll often see it said in the Bible that so and so loved a
particular girl; but hardly ever will you see where she loved him back.
I believe that Abraham was a conscientious parent and made certain
Ishmael received religious training. By the time Ishmael was evicted at
fifteen or so, he had a pretty good basic knowledge regarding Abraham's
god. And his mom Hagar was familiar with Him too. So it would not surprise
me if Mahalath was pretty sound in the correct beliefs. She was a much
better choice than the Hittite girls, and she is never once said to be a
heartbreak to either Isaac or Rebecca. I would like to think Mahalath was
very good company for Rebecca; which would have been a real comfort to
her now that Jacob was gone.
Unfortunately, Mahalath was too little too late. It was like closing the gate
after the horses have run out of the corral. I'm sure Mahalath was okay; but
Esau's new wife could never change God's decree concerning Jacob. Esau
lost out: and he lost out big.
● Gen 28:10 . . Jacob left Beer-sheba, and set out for Haran.
It's difficult for me to believe that Jacob made the 450 mile trip to Haran all
by himself. He may have, I don't know. I'm not saying he didn't. After all,
Hagar was apparently traveling alone when she ran away from Sarah back in
chapter 16. But that was a very dangerous, foolish thing to do. A lone
person in wild country is just asking for trouble. What if they were to fall and
break a leg? Or were attacked by brigands and wild animals?
The route to Haran was used by caravans so Jacob may have traveled along
with one for safety's sake; and if not then maybe with travelers on foot like
himself sort of like the pilgrims who trek the El Camino de Santiago de
Compostela in Spain.
● Gen 28:11a . . He came upon a certain place
According to Gen 28:19, the "certain place" was Bethel. The site started out
as Luz; but later came to be known by the name Jacob gave it. Today it's
commonly believed Bethel was somewhere around Beitin, about twelve miles
north of Jerusalem and maybe two and a half miles northeast of Ramallah.
At this point, Jacob was maybe sixty miles from Beer-sheba-- probably the
second or third day of his journey.
● Gen 28:11b . . and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set.
Travel at night without a car with good electric headlights was not a good
idea in those days. Palestine was once the habitat of bears and lions; and
the odds were against you of getting lost and losing your way in the dark.
● Gen 28:11c . .Taking one of the stones of that place, he put it
under his head and lay down in that place.
I doubt the stone was very large. Probably just enough to elevate his head a
little so he wouldn't lie with his cheek right down on flat dirt. That is so
uncomfortable. Try it. Put a towel or something down on the floor and lie
down on the side of your head. It's much more comfortable to stack a few
books first and then put the towel down. He probably did it like that and
cushioned the stone with a bag or a coat.
● Gen 28:12a . . He had a dream;
In the book of Genesis, dreams are a common means of communication
between God and human beings. Is that still going on? I really don't know.
But if it ever happened to me, I would consider it a nightmare.
● Gen 28:12b . . a ladder was set on the ground and its top reached
to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it.
The word for "ladder" is from cullam (sool-lawm') which is actually a
staircase. This is the one and only place in the entire Old Testament where
that specific word is used. One of the problems with Old Testament Hebrew
is that scholars are not quite sure what some of the ancient words really
mean. Cullam could just as easily mean an elevator or an escalator. In
Jacob's era, even ziggurats were a common staircase to heaven. (cf. Gen
There's something very conspicuous about the staircase in Jacob's dream:
there were no people on it-- only the angels of God. So what does that
mean? Well . . the staircase was, after all, merely a figment, not a reality.
But it has to signify something real or it would be just a big fat waste of a
perfectly good vision. I would say the staircase clearly represents, at the
very least, an avenue to God.
But why show Jacob a stairway to heaven if human beings weren't using it in
his day? I think that the very existence of a pathway to God meant that one
day not only angels, but human beings too would be using it-- because, in
reality, that stairway represents Christ; Jacob's great, great, great grandson.
(cf. John 1:45-51)
● Gen 28:13a . . And behold, Yhvh stood above it and said: I am Yhvh
God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac;
On the page of Scripture, this is Jacob's very first close encounter with his
father's god. Till now, Yhvh had been merely data in Jacob's head;
something he picked up in home-school yeshiva.
Exactly why God chose to become personal with Jacob at just that moment
in his life is a mystery. But the moment came not around the dinner table at
home with family; but actually when Jacob stepped away from his family.
It was as if Jacob's own family-- the holiest family on earth at the time-- the
keepers of the knowledge of the one true god --was actually hindering
Jacob's spiritual progress; and if anything is to be learned at all from his
experience, it's that his own father, the spiritual head of the house, was the
one to blame for it. It certainly wasn't Rebecca; no, not when it was to her
that God revealed the eldest of the two lads would serve the younger: and
I'm really curious why God didn't repeat His edict to Isaac.
● Gen 28:13b-14 . . the ground on which you are lying I will assign to
you and to your offspring. Your descendants shall be as the dust of
the earth; you shall spread out to the west and to the east, to the
north and to the south. All the families of the earth shall bless
themselves by you and your descendants.
Those are essentially the very same promises that God originally made to
Abraham. The most important one, that of blessing to all nations, has been
passed on down, not to all the descendants of Abraham, but only to special
ones. Beginning with Isaac, then Jacob, then to Judah, and eventually to
David, and then to Messiah.
Not all Hebrews are a blessing to all the families of the earth. Only those
Hebrews who inherited the patriarchy are a blessing because it is through
them that Messiah's line propagated. The other Hebrews really don't count
for much in that respect except that the nation, as a whole, is credited with
safe-keeping the Bible. (Rom 3:1-2)
● Gen 28:15 . . Remember, I am with you: I will protect you
wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave
you until I have done what I have promised you.
Actually, hardly any of those promises were fulfilled in Jacob's lifetime— his
offspring didn't become as populous as the dust of the earth, nor did they
spread out to the east and the west and to the north and to the south. Nor
did all the nations of the earth bless themselves by Jacob and his
descendants. So what gives? How could God say: "I will not leave you until I
have done what I have promised you"
I believe God has continually associated with Jacob to this very day, ever
since the day of their first close encounter at Bethel. That didn't stop with
Jacob's demise. No, their association goes on.
"Now even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are
raised, when he called the Lord "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and
the God of Jacob." For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all
live to Him." (Luke 20:37-38)
In order to live "to" God (viz: live unto God) it is necessary to be in
existence. God has always been with Jacob, and never left him even once—
all these many years; better than three-thousand of them by now. And all
this whole time Jacob has lived under God's protection because God
promised He would protect Jacob wherever he went; and in order for that
promise to be meaningful, it has to include the afterlife. (cf. Ps 139:7-10,
● Gen 28:16-17a . . Jacob awoke from his sleep and said: Surely the
Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it! Shaken, he said:
How awesome is this place!
Actually Jacob was very frightened. I believe that place gave him the creeps.
It isn't unusual for an encounter with God to unnerve people. Even the very
best saints get shook up by it. Daniel just about fainted when God talked
with him (Dan 10:17. And Moses was very frightened when God descended
upon Mt. Sinai. (Heb 12:18-21)
● Gen 28:17b . .This is none other than the house of God, and that is
the gateway to heaven.
The Hebrew word for "house" is somewhat ambiguous. It can indicate one's
dwelling, and it can indicate one's entire estate. For example; Pharaoh's
house at Gen 12:15 consisted of a palace while Abraham's house at Gen
14:14 consisted of all that he owned and possessed. Jacob apparently
assumed (probably correctly) that the site where he met with God was a
favorite of God's in Canaan, and had it staked out for himself: and who's to
argue with that?
● Gen 28:18a . . Early in the morning, Jacob took the stone that he
had put under his head and set it up as a pillar
The word for "pillar" is from matstsebah (mats-tsay-baw') which is
something stationed; viz: a column or (memorial stone)by analogy, an idol.
All over the Mojave Desert in California are man-made stone monuments
that mark the location of historical events and/or sites. One of my favorites
is the Foot And Walker pass where Butterfield stagecoach passengers had to
disembark and walk because the slope was too steep for horses to pull the
coach with them inside it.
Jacob's pillow stone became a souvenir of his very first close encounter with
the Bible's God. To set it up, he would need something to elevate it and
make it prominent. So he probably gathered more stones into a pile, like a
cairn, and then put his pillow block on the very top as the cap stone.
● Gen 28:18b . . and poured oil on the top of it.
The Bible doesn't say where Jacob got the idea to pour oil on his historical
marker; so we'll just have to take an educated guess at it. It's very likely,
considering the situation, that anointing the pillow stone with oil (probably
either an edible, or medicinal oil rather than a petroleum based lubricant)
dedicated it as a memorial to Jacob's contractual bond between himself and
There's reported to be widespread evidence (I haven't seen it for myself)
from the ancient Near East, for the use of oil in international treaty
relationships, and in effectuating business contracts. The practice seems to
have been a token of peace, friendship, and assumed obligation. In Jacob's
case, the anointing is connected with the making of a vow that bound him to
● Gen 28:19 . . He named that site Bethel; but previously the name of
the city had been Luz.
Luz retained it's original name for a long time afterwards. On his way back
home after twenty years with Laban, the name hadn't yet been changed to
Bethel (Gen 36:6). Precisely when the site's name was officially changed to
Bethel is difficult to ascertain.
The word for "Bethel" is from Beyth-' El (bayth-ale') which means (what
else?) house of God.
According to Jewish folklore, the stone Jacob chose for his pillow was
actually one of the stones Abraham used to construct the altar where he
bound Isaac. Jewish folklore also believes the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to
be the site where Abraham offered his son. Those lore imply that Bethel and
the Temple Mount are geographically the same. But it's highly unlikely. The
Temple Mount is in Jerusalem; and Bethel was about 12 miles to the north.
The exact geographic location of the offering of Isaac is totally unknown at
In the days of Solomon's rule, Israel became divided into a north and a
south, sort of like America's fracture during the Civil War. A king named
Jeroboam ruled the northern part and another king named Rehoboam ruled
the southern part. The northern part was called Israel, and the southern part
was called Judah. Jeroboam became concerned that his subjects in the north
might change sides due to the Temple being located in the south. (1Kgs
Point being, the Temple Mount was at Jerusalem in Rehoboam's realm; and
Bethel was on Jeroboam's turf in the north; and if the people really wanted
to get on God's bad side, they worshipped in the north.
● Gen 28:20-21 . . Jacob then made a vow, saying: If God remains
with me, if He protects me on this journey that I am making, and
gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safe to
my father's house-- Yhvh shall be my God.
What's he saying? That the Lord has not been his god up to this point? Not
necessarily. It wasn't uncommon in those days for people to worship other
gods right along with Yhvh. This practice was later strictly forbidden by the
first of the so-called Ten Commandments. (Ex 20:1-3)
Jacob's uncle Laban (the very father of his beloved Rachel) was notorious for
polytheism. On the one hand, he recognized Yhvh's divinity (Gen 24:50 and
31:29) while on the other hand he harbored a collection of patron gods in his
home (Gen 31:19 and 31:30). In the ancient Semitic world; patron gods
were equivalent to Catholicism's patron saints-- objects of devotion
venerated as special guardians, protectors, and/or supporters; viz:
alternative sources of providence.
Jacob knew about Abraham's god and believed that He existed (Gen 27:20).
But that's merely an educated consent, and nothing personal. It's like
knowing and believing that Mr. Barak Hussein Obama is the President of the
United States. But so what? Has the President ever come to your home for
coffee or dinner? Have the two of you been to a movie together or to a
picnic? Where was he when you were sick, down and out, and/or feeling
helpless, hopeless, despondent and depressed? See what I'm saying?
Lots of people glibly venerate the Bible's God. But very, very few can
honestly say: The Lord is my friend, He cares about me, He cares about my
life, He protects me and provides for me wherever I go. I am His, and He is
mine. We are one; we are together.
Jacob's vow reflects a personal decision of his own volition to make Yhvh the
sole object of his religious devotion to the exclusion of all the other gods
that people commonly venerated in his day. So we could paraphrase Gen
28:20-21 to read like this:
"If God remains with me, if He protects me on this journey that I am
making, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safe
to my father's house-- then Yhvh shall be my only patron."
● Gen 28:22a . . And this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, shall
be God's abode;
Jacob's pillow stone wasn't really meant to be a dwelling or a container as
we typically think of human habitat or animal cages. It was meant to be a
sort of monitoring device. An 8th century BC Aramaic treaty inscription from
Sfire, in Syria, terms each upright stone on which the treaty is inscribed as
an abode of the gods.
The Hebrew word for "God" is 'elohiym (el-o-heem') which is a plural word
meaning gods of all descriptions; both the good and the bad; and the true
and the false. So that we could translate Gen 28:22a-- "shall be the abode
of the gods."
The stone(s) symbolize a divine presence monitoring fulfillment and/or
infractions of the terms of a treaty or a vow. So Jacob's pillar was not only
the custodian of his vow, but was also its regulatory agency taking note
whether Jacob and Yhvh keep their promises to each other. The very same
thing turns up again in Gen 31:44-52.
● Gen 28:22b . . and of all that You give me, I will set aside a tithe
This is probably the very first Biblical instance of the so-called "faith
promise". Though coming from a wealthy family; and heir apparent to his
father Isaac's personal fortune, the fulfillment of this particular vow was
contingent, not upon what Jacob possessed already; but upon God's future
Jacob didn't promise a set dollar figure, but promised a "tithe" which in
English Bibles is commonly translated a tenth; but in reality the Hebrew
word 'asar (aw-sar') just means to apportion; which Webster's defines as: to
divide and share out according to a plan; especially to make a proportionate
division or distribution of.
The value of a nondescript tithe therefore is left up to individual discretion.
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not
reluctantly or under compulsion, for God prefers a whole-hearted giver."
"And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year
you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now
finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by
your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is
there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to
what he does not have." (2Cor 8:10-12)
Jacob was under no obligation to reciprocate and compensate God for the
promises. Their fulfillment was dependent neither upon Jacob's generosity
nor his piety. Fulfillment was dependent solely upon God's own personal
integrity. So why should Jacob dedicate a tithe? Well; like I said, he didn't
have to. Jacob's response was totally spontaneous and voluntary. His tithe
was motivated from a sense of fair play, rather than a response to Holy
mandates. In other words: Jacob reciprocated God's kindness with kindness
of his own.
A faith that gives out of friendship, rather than obligation, is much better
than a religion that mandates a tithe. And the gift should be given where the
giver feels whole-hearted about it; viz: they should have some say in where
their offering goes, and they should be able to feel quite satisfied about it
rather than feel as though their pockets were picked.
So; how was Jacob going to transfer some of his assets into God's account?
There was neither Temple nor synagogue in his day, and certainly no
Aaronic priesthood. Abraham did his business with Melchizedek but there is
no record of either Isaac or Jacob doing business with one of Mel's
When all else fails, a very, very good way to give to God is by helping people
less fortunate than yourself; in other words: pay it forward.
"He who is generous to the poor makes a loan to Yhvh: He will repay him his
due." (Prv 19:17)
There are lots of charities benefiting disadvantaged people. United Way lists
quite few to pick from. Believe me, those causes are a whole lot more
satisfying than just mindlessly tossing money into a basket passed around
on a Sunday morning.
● Gen 29:1 . . Jacob resumed his journey and came to the land of the
The geographic region in Turkey where Jacob went wasn't actually east by
his reckoning. It was just about dead north. But the people who populated
that region had roots in the east. Here's another version.
"Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the sons of the
Many of the peoples in and around Haran, although they lived northward
from Canaan, were actually descendants of early pioneers who migrated out
west from the world of Babylon; just as Abraham and his dad Terah had
done many years prior to Jacob's birth. (cf. Gen 11:1-2)
● Gen 29:2a . .There before his eyes was a well in the open.
The balance of Jacob's trip, from Luz to this well, is passed over in silence.
Apparently nothing of significance occurred along the way. If Jacob traveled
at, say, 25 miles per day, it would have taken him about eighteen days to
If he stuck to the trade route, he could have stopped in Damascus and took
in some of the local sights and maybe stayed at a "motel" before pushing
on. Food wouldn't really be a problem because there surely were plenty of
settlements and/or vendors along the trade route.
Major highways, like the old US routes 66, and 101, always had lots of
merchants offering overnight accommodations, plus all the goods and
services a traveler would likely need to see them through. I wouldn't be a bit
surprised if there existed in that day fast food equivalents of McDonalds and
● Gen 29:2b-3 . .Three flocks of sheep were lying there beside it, for
the flocks were watered from that well. The stone on the mouth of
the well was large. When all the flocks were gathered there, the
stone would be rolled from the mouth of the well and the sheep
watered; then the stone would be put back in its place on the mouth
of the well.
Apparently this well wasn't fed by an artesian source but was a variety that
kept itself filled by seepage out of a substrate aquifer. A well like that--
which is more like a cistern --can become rancid very quickly by bird
droppings, dead critters, and debris if it's not kept covered. Although
structuring the watering time created a rush hour, it was sensible. That way
the well wasn't left open for too long a time and there was less chance of
● Gen 29:4a . . Jacob said to them: My friends, where are you from?
Exactly what language Jacob spoke in his greeting isn't said; but during his
era; Akkadian was a common language in Mesopotamia where Laban lived.
I don't think this well is the very same one where Abraham's servant met
Rebecca. For one thing, it's out in the open, not actually connected with any
specific town. If it had been, then Jacob could have assumed the shepherds
lived nearby and not asked them where they were from.
This particular well was within walking distance of pasture land. Any grasses
close in to the towns were likely over-grazed. That's just one of the natural
results of progress and urban sprawl.
● Gen 29:4b-6a . . And they said: We are from Haran. He said to
them: Do you know Laban the son of Nahor? And they said: Yes, we
do. He continued: Is he well?
Laban's location, and his state of affairs, would of course be Jacob's primary
concern. After all, he just traveled nearly 500 miles to find him. If the man
was dead or moved away, then the trip was all for nothing; and in those
days, there was no way to call ahead.
● Gen 29:6b . .They answered: Yes, he is; and there is his daughter
Rachel, coming with the flock.
According to Gen 31:1 Laban had sons too, not just daughters. But the boys
may have been too young at the time to go out in the fields alone. So big
sister had to do all the ropin' and brandin' till her little brothers grew a few
more hat sizes.
Does that maybe indicate Rachel was a bit of a tomboy? Maybe. Personally;
I think she was. But I don't think she was one of those hard, masculine
kinds of tomboys, like some tough she-male working shoulder to shoulder
with roughneck oil drillers, or packing a 9mm Glock, a nightstick, and a can
of pepper spray as a cop, or putting out fires with a hook and ladder
company, or dressed full-out for combat in Afghanistan.
I think Rachel was one of those women who can survive in a man's world if
need be; yet retain their feminine side too. They still like cosmetics, dinner
out, husbands, family and children, pampering themselves with a trip to the
beauty parlor, and shopping for new shoes and a purse-- but don't mind
running a lawn mower, trimming the hedges, or firing up a leaf blower when
they have to.
There's a lot of single moms out there nowadays who haven't much choice
but to wear a man's hat now and again-- not to prove a point, but just to get
Herding sheep out in the open is risky for a lone woman. But apparently
Rachel wasn't afraid of any of the local men; who no doubt were motivated
by male chivalry to look out for her; and besides, we're going to see just up
ahead that her dad was not a man to trifle with. Anybody who messed with
Rachel would have to answer to Laban; and he was a man who took nothing
Jacob is going to fall for this tomboy-ish angel in a very short time; and no
surprise. Men often hook up with women that resemble their moms. That is
so weird because some of those very same guys were brought up by moms
from hell. But that's what they're used to. So, without even thinking about
it, they often gravitate to those very same attributes in a girl.
Well, Rachel and Rebecca were like peas in a pod. They were both confident,
fearless, and decisive: not to mention tens to boot. I think Jacob felt very
secure with women like that.
● Gen 29:7 . . He said: It is still broad daylight, too early to round up
the animals; water the flock and take them to pasture.
The Hebrew word for "broad" is gadowl (gaw-dole') which means great (in
any sense). Gadowl is variously translated as high day, the sun is high, early
in the day, and much daylight.
Apparently the usual time for watering flocks was later in the afternoon just
prior to bedding them down for the night.
Jacob just blew into the neighborhood and he's already telling strangers
what to do! No doubt an attitude he brought with him from Isaac's ranch.
Down there the servants jumped when Jacob said something. Up here in
Haran though, things were just a wee bit different.
● Gen 29:8 . . But they said: We cannot, until all the flocks are
rounded up; then the stone is rolled off the mouth of the well and we
water the sheep.
Actually, someone may have owned that well; and set the rules for it's use.
In those days, whoever dug for water usually had the rights to it; somewhat
like a prospector's claim in the gold fields out in 1850's California.
Apparently the owner didn't mind people using the water as long as they
respected his feelings about it. But Jacob had a mind of his own, and
seemed to care very little for the property rights of others.
There's a clash of civilizations going on in this scene. Jacob was from the
frontier lands of Canaan where men of mettle did pretty much as they
wished. I'm guessing that Haran was a bit more sophisticated.
And then too; Jacob was a privileged kid born with a silver spoon in his
mouth. I've seen the kind of superiority complex that kind of upbringing
sometimes instills within children. Well; that's going to change. Jacob is
entering the school of hard knocks, and he's going to learn a thing or two
from professor Laban. But when it's all over, Jacob will be a better man for
● Gen 29:9-10 . .While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came
with her father's flock; for she was a shepherdess. And when Jacob
saw Rachel, the daughter of his uncle Laban, and the flock of his
uncle Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone off the mouth of the
well, and watered the flock of his uncle Laban.
Violating local customs is an insolent thing to do; and almost certainly
guaranteed to get you off on the wrong foot. And besides: fair is fair. The
other shepherds were there ahead of Rachel, and no telling how long they'd
been waiting. Word of Jacob's favoritism, and his disdain for fair play, would
Coming from a privileged family; Jacob was accustomed to doing pretty
much as he pleased and answering to no one for it. But arriving in Haran, he
was a nobody: a homeless drifter. Now he's going to learn what it's like to
be just another face in the crowd; and he is also going to learn what it's like
to do as you're told. Unkie Laban is just the bull o' the woods for some long
overdue rich-kid attitude adjustment.
● Gen 29:11 . .Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and broke into tears.
Poor Jacob. He'd been under a lot of stress lately; and probably feeling very
alone in the world. His cousin must have seemed to him like an angel of
mercy come to rescue his soul from the abyss. First he helped water her
flock; for no apparent reason to Rachel other than courtesy; which she
seemed to accept without any fuss. But then he impulsively kissed her (on
the cheek I hope) and started sobbing. Rachel must have stared at Jacob
like a man gone mad from a brain tumor.
● Gen 29:12 . . Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's kinsman,
that he was Rebecca's son; and she ran and told her father.
Zoom! Out of there like a bottle rocket (so to speak). Boy that girl sure
takes after auntie Becky. Rachel lit out of there like the critters sent from
Jessie the Cowgirl to fetch Sheriff Woody in Toy Story2.
● Gen 29:13a . . On hearing the news of his sister's son Jacob, Laban
ran to greet him;
I seriously doubt that Laban sprinted. The man was over 100 by now and
near the age of Jacob's mom; maybe even older than her. Isaac and
Rebecca were married twenty years before she became pregnant for the
very first time, and Jacob is around 75 at this point. For a man Laban's age
"rushed" and/or "hurried" seems more reasonable than ran.
● Gen 29:13b . . he embraced him and kissed him,
Foreign customs often offend Americans. I was visiting the home of a
Portuguese man in San Diego a number of years back when his son and
daughter-in-law showed up unexpectedly. Dad and son greeted each other
with a hug; and kissed full on the lips. I just about died; it was so gross. And
then he kissed the daughter-in-law full on the lips too. I think you have to
grow up in those kinds of customs to really be comfortable with them.
● Gen 29:13c-14a . . and took him into his house. He told Laban all
that had happened, and Laban said to him; You are truly my bone
Adam said pretty much the very same thing about Eve at Gen 2:23 because
she wasn't created from the dust as he had been, but was manufactured
from already existing human tissue amputated from his body. In other
words: ol' Laban was saying "You and I are one and the same" because
tricking a father in order to supplant a brother was just the thing Laban
would have thought of himself had he been in Jacob's shoes.
● Gen 29:14b-15 . .When he had stayed with him a month's time,
Laban said to Jacob: Just because you are a kinsman, should you
serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?
It's curious that Laban would offer Jacob employment. I'm guessing that
Jacob had offered to help out around Laban's ranch only just long enough for
the heat blow over back home; but Laban became impressed with Jacob's
work ethic and wanted him on permanently. Sometimes good help is very
hard to find; and worth paying for.
● Gen 29:16-17a . . Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the
older one was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah
had weak eyes;
According to Jewish folklore, Leah had weak eyes from crying all the time at
the prospect of being forced to marrying Esau.
The word for "weak" is from rak (rak) which means, variously: tender, soft,
weak, and/or gentle.
So rak doesn't necessarily mean that something is feeble. It can also mean
that something is kind and/or gentle as opposed to harsh and/or cruel. And
in this case, where the beauty of two girls is being compared, I don't think
the author of Genesis meant to convey that Leah's eyesight was weak; only
that she had nice eyes, but little else to offer.
Pity. Leah was a good girl; but just about bankrupt in what really matters to
most guys; and as any woman with assets can vouch; most men think
better with their eyes than with their brains. In other words: when it comes
to women, men's brains switch off and it's all about the view after that: if
you know what I mean.
● Gen 29:17b-18a . . Rachel was shapely and beautiful. Jacob loved
Duh. Why does that not surprise us? You know, Jacob was fortunate about
something. In those days, a man didn't have to win a woman's heart. He
had to win her custodian's heart. So men could pick out a girl like they might
pick out a shirt or a new car. Girls, through no fault of their own, could
easily get stuck with a very disagreeable man.
But there is something very missing in this story-- Rachel's love for Jacob.
The man was ga-ga over her. But how did she really feel about him?
● Gen 29:18b-19 . . so he answered; I will serve you seven years for
your younger daughter Rachel. Laban said; Better that I give her to
you than that I should give her to an outsider. Stay with me.
Done! And just like that; a girl became engaged. Jacob traded seven years
of his life for Rachel. But it wasn't really about money, and they actually
dickered over wages later. What Jacob actually proposed was a service
commitment; like the contracts musicians sign with recording companies;
and professional athletes sign with big league teams like the Blazers or the
Mets; and like the terms of service to which young men commit themselves
to the armed forces.
So Jacob didn't really buy Rachel with money. She was more like a bonus for
signing up as a full-time employee with Laban. And the seven years weren't
Laban's idea. They were Jacob's; and I think he made it so many years
because he wanted to offer Laban a deal so lucrative that he couldn't
possibly refuse it.
● Gen 29:20 . . So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they
seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.
It's a fact of human experience that men will sell their souls to satisfy their
wants. But I'm guessing there was more to Rachel than just her looks. After
seven years living in such close proximity, Jacob still wanted her. If she had
been one of those tough, thin skinned, defensive, obtuse, chafing and
demeaning Tomb Raider kind of girls, I'm pretty sure Jacob would have lost
interest by then. I say "pretty sure" because there are some men who will
live with a witch in spite of the abuse they endure just so's they can sleep
with the woman of their dreams; viz: a trophy wife rather than a man's best
● Gen 29:21 . .Then Jacob said to Laban; Give me my wife, for my
time is fulfilled, that I may cohabit with her.
The word "cohabit" is not actually in the Hebrew. It should read "go near".
What Jacob said, in the common colloquialism of our day, is what men
sometimes say when they want to sleep with a particular girl. They
sometimes say: Wow! I'd sure like to get next to that! (chuckle) Very
● Gen 29:22-23 . . And Laban gathered all the people of the place and
made a feast. When evening came, he took his daughter Leah and
brought her to him; and he cohabited with her.
Jacob has got to rank as just about the dumbest groom in history. He knew
both of those girls like the back of his hand. For seven years he lived right
next door and saw them both every day. Leah and Rachel didn't even
resemble each other. The one was shapely and beautiful. The other was not.
Even if he couldn't see well enough in the dark to tell the difference, he
certainly should have been able to feel the difference; and to recognize the
difference in their voices.
Was that man so totally plastered with booze from the reception that he
couldn't even tell who, or what, he slept with that night? Haw-Haw-Haw
But the real mystery was Leah. Wouldn't you think that she would have
spoke up and said something before things got out of hand? That sly girl.
(chuckle) Personally I think she had a big crush on Jacob. Later on Leah will
try very hard to get Jacob to transfer his affections to her and forget about
This so reminds me of Sadie Hawkins' day in the Little Abner comics of the
old days. In the town of Dog Patch, men didn't grow on trees; there just
wasn't enough to go around; and on top of that, some of the hillbilly girls
weren't much to look at either. Subsequently, some of the local gals had a
tough time getting husbands.
So, in memorial of an old spinster lady named Sadie Hawkins, a special day
was set aside each year wherein the bachelorettes had a chance to get
hitched. All they had to do was run down one of the unattached men; and
whoever they caught, absolutely had to marry them; no exchanges and no
But hey! Where was Rachel!?! Was she tied up out in the barn or something?
Well; I hate to say it, but I really don't think she ever did want to marry Mr.
Jacob. I really think she was in on the whole scam all along and I think
Rachel was seriously hoping Jacob would settle for Leah and forget all about
her. But alas; such was not to happen. Jacob was very determined. He
accepted his fate with Leah, but went after Rachel anyway.
NOTE: The covenant that Yhvh's people eventually agreed upon with God as
per Lev 18:18 protects sisters like Rachel and Leah so that men are not
permitted to cohabit with both girls at the same time.
● Gen 29:24 . . Laban had given his maidservant Zilpah to his
daughter Leah as her maid.
Zilpah didn't say anything either. In fact she very likely assisted Leah to
bathe and prepare for her wedding night. Poor Jacob. He was so defeated. It
was like the whole world, and even the stars above in their courses, were in
a grand conspiracy to dupe the old boy that night.
● Gen 29:25 . .When morning came, there was Leah! So he said to
Laban: What is this you have done to me? I was in your service for
Rachel! Why did you deceive me?
There is really no one to blame for this situation but Jacob himself. They say
to never look a gift horse in the mouth. But I think your wedding night has
to be the exception. For crying out loud, you'd think the man would have
enough sense to make sure the woman in his bed was the one who was
supposed to be there. Yes, Laban was a rascal. But then so was Leah, and so
was Zilpah; and Rachel too. And maybe this gave Jacob cause to remember
how he tricked his own dad back home into giving him Esau's blessing.
(chuckle) There's an old saying: What goes around, comes around.
● Gen 29:26 . . Laban said; It is not the practice in our place to marry
off the younger before the older.
Jacob lived in "our place" for seven years. I tend to think he knew full well
Perhaps Jacob expected the locals would make an exception for him because
he was a rich boy from down south. But no; local custom was local custom,
and even Mr. Silver Spoon In Your Mouth was going to have to accept it.
NOTE: I suspect the wedding guests all knew that Jacob was being tricked
on his wedding night, but I also suspect that they never forgot his lack of
fair play back at the well when he first blew into town. You know, when
you're unfair with people, you have to expect that they will be
unsympathetic when unfairness comes your way.
● Gen 29:27 . .Wait until the bridal week of this one is over and we
will give you that one too, provided you serve me another seven
Serving Laban the first seven years for Rachel was Jacob's idea; except that
instead of getting Rachel; he got Leah. Now Laban's proviso is that Jacob
serve yet another seven years for Rachel; which will total fourteen for a girl
he was supposed to get in seven. I think most any normal red-blooded man
would have refused.
But Jacob was an Ethan Frome kind of guy. I don't think he wanted to hurt
Leah, and maybe even felt partially responsible for her predicament.
That's a crummy reason to marry a girl, but I don't think Jacob could have
lived with himself if he threw Leah back now. After all, Jacob was her first
love, and it's not like she was used goods or anything.
It's true that Jacob was not above fraud; but basically, he was a fairly
● Gen 29:28-29 . . Jacob did so; he waited out the bridal week of the
one, and then he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife. Laban had
given his maidservant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid.
Maidservants weren't just female commodities. They were actually a part of
the household, and often treated with a pretty fair degree of respect.
● Gen 29:30 . . And Jacob cohabited with Rachel also; indeed, he
loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served him another seven
I'm sure Jacob never mistreated Leah. But he wasn't crazy about her in a
romantic way. It's like the relationship between Robert Philip and his fiancé
Nancy Tremaine in the Disney movie Enchanted. Nancy is neither a bad girl
nor a bad choice-- the chemistry just isn't there.
Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, Jacob's situation probably led
to some favoritism. And in this case, I think Jacob began spending most of
his time with Rachel and leaving Leah out in the cold; so to speak; viz: she
was in the unenviable limbo of a burden to her husband. However, since
Jacob chose to keep Leah, he was morally obligated to treat her as if he was
infatuated with her, even if he really wasn't.
When you get right down to it; Leah didn't do any more to Jacob than what
he did to his dad; so all in all: what right had Jacob to complain? I've a
pretty strong feeling that after Leah's week was fulfilled, no more was said
about this incident.
● Gen 29:31 . .The Lord saw that Leah was unloved and he opened
her womb; but Rachel was barren.
God didn't make Rachel barren. She was already that way. And Leah was
too. In fact, every one of the matriarchs were barren women. It must have
been in their genes. But The Lord elected to repair Leah and leave Rachel
out of whack for a while longer.
I really don't think what The Lord did was punishment against Jacob and
Rachel. I think it was a countermeasure to force Jacob to pay a little more
attention to Leah. It's very important for spouses to bond. Allowing Jacob to
focus too much of his attention on Rachel would soon make Leah the odd
man out; and a very lonely woman.
But why would God do that-- take an interest in Leah's problems? Because,
as Hagar discovered, Abraham's god is a sensitive god who sees people (Gen
16:13-14). And it seems very obvious to me that He was sympathetic to
And that tells me something. It's true that Leah was in on the scheme to
trick Jacob. But God didn't get upset with her for that. In fact, it looks to me
like He was actually very pleased that she married Jacob. After all, it was
through Leah that the man predicted in Dan 7:13-14 would come, not
Rachel. I believe that is very significant.
I would even go so far as to say that Leah was the one God Himself would
have picked for Jacob if he had only sought a wife in the very same manner
that Abraham had sought one for Isaac. But no. Jacob took matters into his
own hands, came to Haran in person, and fell in love with the wrong girl.
Well; he ended up marrying Leah anyway in spite of his feelings for Rachel;
just like his dad ended up blessing Jacob in spite of his feelings for Esau.
Most guys have visions of the girl they would like to marry. She's young,
gorgeous, shapely, and compliant. But the reality is: most will never find a
girl like that. So they settle for what they can get and become resigned to
missing out on life. Big mistake. Leah was no less a woman just because she
wasn't Miss Haran circa 1770 bc. And when the chips are down in life, your
very best friend had better be your wife. Beauty means nothing when a man
is out of work, or coming down with cancer. That's when guys need a faithful
friend, not a love pet.
Unbeknownst to Jacob, he was destined to father the twelve tribes of Israel.
Up to now, It had been one patriarch fathering just one descendant. But that
all changed with Jacob. The nation of Israel quite literally started with him.
(chuckle) That guy lived solo for better than eighty years of his life and then
all of a sudden, WHAM, in just one week's time, four women moved in with
him. Then, in just seven years time, he had a posse of juveniles running
around the house. Awww-Haw-Haw-Haw-Hawww
● Gen 29:32 . . Leah conceived and bore a son, and named him
Reuben; for she declared: The Lord has seen my affliction. Now my
husband will love me.
Reuben's name is from Re'uwben (reh-oo-bane') which means: See; a son!
Children do have a way of bonding a (normal) man to their mother. It
doesn't always work, but often does.
● Gen 29:33 . . She conceived again and bore a son, and declared;
This is because The Lord heard that I was unloved and has given me
this one also. So she named him Simeon.
Simeon's name is Shim'own (shim-one') which means: hearing. Leah was
obviously a woman of prayer and had no reservations about sharing her
personal problems with the god of her choice.
● Gen 29:34 . . Again she conceived and bore a son and declared;
This time my husband will become attached to me, for I have borne
him three sons. Therefore he was named Levi.
Levi's name is Leviy (lay-vee') which means: attached; viz: bonded.
Jacob was indeed a family man now. In spite of his romantic passions for
Rachel, he would never again feel the same way about Leah. She could
never be just another woman in the house now that she was the mother of
his children. Jacob couldn't help but feel bonded to her. God's idea worked.
You say: how do I know it worked? Because the next boy was named in
gratitude to God for saving the marriage.
● Gen 29:35 . . She conceived again and bore a son, and declared;
This time I will praise The Lord. Therefore she named him Judah.
Then she stopped bearing.
Well done! And Judah was a real honor too. His became the tribe of Israel's
kings; and from them descended David, and Christ.
The Hebrew word for "Judah" is Yehuwdah (yeh-hoo-daw') from whence the
word Yehuwdiy (yeh-hoo-dee') is derived; which means a Jehudite i.e.
Judaite; viz: a Jew.
The scheme God implemented to bond Jacob to Leah would probably not
work with men like Esau. Not all guys are cut out to be family men. But
Jacob was definitely cut out for it because he was a man who liked being
home at night (Gen 25:27).
● Gen 30:1a . .When Rachel saw that she had borne Jacob no
children, she became envious of her sister;
Sibling rivalry is bad enough. But when siblings compete for the affections of
the same love object, it's all the worse. I don't know what it is about kin, but
it's much easier to compete with someone outside the family than those
within. Rivalry within family is not just a competition; it is more like the
passions of a blood feud. The feelings run deep, and hot, and painful. People
who never had a brother or sister cannot understand this. You just have to
live it to know what it's like.
● Gen 30:1b . . and Rachel said to Jacob: Give me children, or I shall
Somehow Rachel felt the fault was Jacob's as if he were doing something to
deliberately prevent conception. According to Jewish folklore, it was a
common practice in that day for a man with two wives to give the prettier
one some sort of birth control herb to prevent her from getting pregnant and
losing her figure. Thus the prettier of the two was reserved for pleasure; and
the other for bearing children. Genetically, that was a pretty dumb idea since
the practice results in the perpetuation of inferior stock. I seriously doubt
you'll ever see breeders of dogs, cats, livestock and/or race horses
conducting their business like that.
Jacob wasn't doing anything to Rachel. She was just simply unable to have
children. If only she had followed her sister Leah's example in prayer instead
of getting in one of those moods, then she wouldn't have been so ready to
rag on Jacob for something over which he had no control.
● Gen 30:2a . . Jacob was incensed at Rachel
Jacob's anger was no doubt an unpleasant mixture of hurt and indignation.
He really did love Rachel. She wasn't just a girl toy. For her to insinuate that
he was keeping her around just for pleasure must have bitten deeply into his
soul. Romantic love can easily turn into hate-- very suddenly and very
quickly; like turning a page in a book.
Romantic love is very different than the love of a loyal friend. Romantic love
seeks its own best interests and is very fragile and easily wounded. Fraternal
love is much better. It's like a strong anchor. The more a storm buffets the
ship, the deeper the anchor digs into its moorage.
● Gen 30:2b . . and said: Can I take the place of God, who has denied
you fruit of the womb?
I'm sure that just as soon as Jacob lashed out at Rachel he regretted it. His
retort implied that she was a sinner who didn't deserve children. What an
ugly thing to say. But he was upset and felt betrayed by his best girl. So his
reaction is understandable. But isn't there a better way? Yes.
Instead of attacking her husband in an attempt to put blame, Rachel would
have been much better off just finding a nice quiet spot and telling God how
she was feeling about her sterility-- how it was hurting her and making her
feel inferior to her sister: and threatening her marriage. Would God respond
to that? Yes. Because that is exactly what Rachel did do eventually. It's just
too bad she didn't think of it sooner.
If Rachel felt that God cared about her at all, then she would have
recognized that barrenness was serving some sort of Divine purpose; even if
she couldn't think of one at the time. But Rachel's circumstances were
causing her feelings to override her thinking; and making her emotional and
reactive instead of objective and rational.
● Gen 30:3-5 . . She said: Here is my maid Bilhah. Consort with her,
that she may bear on my knees and that through her I too may have
children. So she gave him her maid Bilhah as concubine, and Jacob
cohabited with her. Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son.
That was indeed a strange custom, and a cruel one at that. Why is it nobody
ever thought to ask the maids how they felt about it? I just don't think it's
ethical to subjugate women to the status of mere breeder stock.
Those who give their babies away in adoption, often don't want to see them
when they're born-- not even a glimpse; they don't even want to know their
gender. They want their baby delivered and whisked out of the room
immediately with no more feeling than doing their business in the lou.
Women who get abortions typically do not want to see a sonogram of their
babies nor listen to its heartbeat because that's just too bonding and
sensitive. Pharaoh's daughter (Ex 2:6) fell apart when she gazed upon baby
Moses weeping. What normal woman can resist something like that?
The maid's baby would be legally Rachel's, but she would never be the
biological mother. Nothing can ever change a thing like that.
● Gen 30:6 . . And Rachel said: God has vindicated me; indeed, He
has heeded my plea and given me a son. Therefore she named him
Dan's name means judge, and/or the past tense: judged. (or possibly: a
In Rachel's mind, Bilhah's success proved that God wasn't withholding
children from her for being a sinner, as Jacob had insinuated. But Dan
wasn't really Rachel's child. He was only hers by adoption.
But who was going to nurse Dan? There was no such thing as formula in
those days. Somebody had to be his wet nurse. Well . . what about Dan's
biological mom? Didn't she just go through a pregnancy? So Dan remained
with his biological mother at least until he was weaned; and probably longer
too. It wasn't like they all lived miles apart. All four women were practically
living under the same roof.
So although Dan was reckoned legally Rachel's child, he wasn't taken away
from home. Trouble is; Bilhah became a single mom with no husband. But
she wasn't really alone. At least she had Dan; and her boy had Jacob; and
everyone was together, in one way or another.
I am he,
As you are he,
As you are me,
And we are all together. (The Beetles; I Am The Walrus, 1967)
● Gen 30:7-8 . . Rachel's maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob
a second son. And Rachel said; A fateful contest I waged with my
sister; yes, and I have prevailed. So she named him Naphtali.
rayyyrrr! scratch! Man that woman was scrappy! No second place winner;
Rachel would keep kicking at you even if her arms were pinned down on the
mat. Move over Chyna! (Chyna used to be a WWF professional female
"Naphtali" is from Naphtaliy (naf-taw-lee') which means: my wrestling. Not
just any wrestling, but "my" wrestling. Apparently Rachel took things very
personal. The bitter rivalry between her and Leah had become the total
focus of Rachel's life.
● Gen 30:9 . .When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took
her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as concubine.
Since Jacob favored Rachel, when did he find time for Leah and Zilpah? Well;
don't women have a certain time of the month? It was very unsanitary in
those days to sleep with women during their period and, in fact, was later
forbidden by the laws of the covenant that Yhvh's people agreed upon with
God. (Lev 15:19-24, 18:19)
So every month, like clockwork, Jacob was forced to sleep with Leah
whether he liked it or not. I guess he could have slept on the couch, but that
would look stupid. So Leah got a shot at him at least one week a month. And
she made the most of it, you can be sure of that! So now she farmed him
out to Zilpah's bed for that week to see what would happen. If Rachel could
have children by her maid, then by golly Leah was going to do it too. Boy,
those sisters were really at war!
● Gen 30:10-11 . . And when Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son,
Leah said: What luck! So she named him Gad.
Gad is from gad (gawd) which means: a troop. (chuckle) Leah was having
enough boys to field a recon squad.
● Gen 30:12-13 . .When Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son,
Leah declared: What fortune! meaning, Women will deem me
fortunate. So she named him Asher.
Well; what had the local women been deeming her up till then? Women can
be so cruel to each other. Leah wasn't attractive, and she was getting up in
years before she met Jacob. Women in Leah's neighborhood very likely
made her the object of sneering gossip: "Oh, here comes that old maid.
Hasn't she found a husband yet? Poooooor thing; tsk." And they would put
on their best pity faces for Leah as she walked by.
The name "Asher" is from 'Asher (aw-share') which means: happy.
● Gen 30:14 . . Once, at the time of the wheat harvest, Reuben came
upon some mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother
Leah. Rachel said to Leah: Please give me some of your son's
Mandrake is the common name for any of a genus of herbs. The species to
which the name is particularly applied has two varieties, vernal and
autumnal, both native to the Mediterranean and Himalayan regions and
especially to Greece. The whole plant has a fetid odor. As late as the Middle
Ages, a dose of the oddly shaped root was sometimes given to patients as a
narcotic before surgical operations. In the United States, mayapple is often
The mandrake has traditionally been an object of superstition, largely
because of the resemblance of its forked root to the human figure. Used as
an aphrodisiac, the mandrake was also variously regarded as a charm for
pregnancy-- a sort of fertility drug --also for invulnerability, and for
Leah certainly didn't need mandrakes to have children. She was doing just
fine without a charm or a fertility drug. But she may have wanted them
around the house for medicinal purposes and home remedies. Rueben was
trained to recognize mandrakes and he brought them home because he
knew his mom would want them: and of course Rachel would want them too
because she was infertile.
● Gen 30:15a . . But she said to her: Was it not enough for you to
take away my husband, that you would also take my son's
Of the two sisters, Leah is the only one to label Jacob "my" husband.
Personally, I don't think Rachel ever really thought too much of Jacob.
One of the very first social skills children learn from their parents is sharing.
Jacob's family was so bitterly divided that his wives, two blood kin sisters,
were not even disposed to display even the simplest of graces towards each
other. In other words, Leah was saying: if you want some mandrakes, go
out and find your own!
● Gen 30:15b-16 . . Rachel replied: I promise, he shall sleep with you
tonight, in return for your son's mandrakes. When Jacob came home
from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said:
You are to sleep with me, for I have hired you with my son's
mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.
Haw! Jacob became a gigolo in his own home. His wives were not only
fighting amongst themselves because of him, but they were bartering for
him like a commodity too. Jacob was sure in a pickle. He was probably like
most men; just wanting peace and quiet in his own home. If that's what the
women arranged for him that night, well alright; if it made them happy and
kept the noise down then what the hey.
You would think the home life of the patriarchs would be the most sterling
role models you could ever want. But no. They were actually pretty
disappointing. And why was that? Becuz they were people. They weren't a
celestial breed of supernatural beings whose home planet was located out in
space somewhere between the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud.
No, the patriarchs didn't fall down from Jupiter as a superior race of
extragalactic agents, not did they draft in on the tail of a comet and drop off
in the land of Palestine. None of that. They were just as human as anybody
else and they were all slaves to human proclivities and predilections right
along with the rest of the Adams' family.
● Gen 30:17 . . God heeded Leah, and she conceived and bore him a\
God was favorably inclined to grant Leah's wishes. But why doesn't God
grant the wishes of all barren women? Is that fair? Why is God sensitive to
some while ignoring the feelings of others? I wish I could answer that. The
brutal fact is: God is merciful to whom He wishes to be merciful. Love it or
leave it; we're stuck with a God who has a mind of His own and does as He
pleases. (cf. Matt 20:1-15)
● Gen 30:18 . . And Leah said: God has given me my reward for
having given my maid to my husband. So she named him Issachar.
Issachar's name is Yissaskar (yis-saw-kawr') which means: he will bring a
reward (or possibly; he is a reward). To Leah, Issachar really was worth his
weight in gold to her as a mother.
I really don't understand Leah's reasoning. Why would God approve of
putting her husband in bed with the maid? Sounds like a plot for a soap
opera to me. But nevertheless, Leah was happy with the way things turned
You know, that really shows the importance that women in that day put
upon children. Leah was willing to share her husband with another woman
as long as it meant more babies for herself. Isn't that something? How many
women would feel that way today-- especially here in abortion-prone,
career-minded, day-care dependent, glass-ceiling, women's-lib, feminist
I would like to point something else out too. Leah was crazy about kids and
she was crazy about her husband. That is not so apparent with Rachel. She
only wanted kids out of envy for her sister's fertility. And she even sold
Jacob's affections for nothing more than some wild herbs. A lordly price.
I really shouldn't be too harsh with Rachel. I truly believe she was stuck in
an arranged marriage against her will. After all, it wasn't her idea to marry
Jacob. Her dad engineered the whole thing. And Leah had already worn the
shine off Jacob by the time Rachel got a shot at him so that was no big
treat. I just don't think Rachel's heart was really in it.
I feel sorry for her. She really should have been given a home of her very
own; not thrown into someone else's marriage to wreck it with strife and
rivalry-- most especially not her own sister's. Rachel deserved better than
that. She really got a raw deal in life, that's for sure.
● Gen 30:19-20a . .When Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a
sixth son, Leah said: God has given me a choice gift; this time my
husband will exalt me, for I have borne him six sons.
So far, Leah is the only woman in the house calling Jacob "my" husband;
and from one night to the other, she never really knew where he'd be-- with
her, one of the maids, or with Rachel. Jacob probably had a toothbrush and
shaving gear in every one of their bathrooms.
Well . . Leah wanted her husband to live at home with her, not with one of
the other women. Sleeping with the others was just a fact of life around
there and she was getting used to it. Leah could deal with that. But when he
was done fooling around with the others, she wanted him to come home to
her, not stay overnight with one of them. Since God had blessed her with
the most boys, and the most children, it only seemed right in Leah's mind
that she had more claim on Jacob than anybody else and he really should be
bonded to her more than the others.
● Gen 30:20b . . So she named him Zebulun.
Zebulin's name is from Zebuwluwn (zeb-oo-loon') or Zebuluwn (zeb-oo
loon'); or Zebuwlun (zeb-oo-loon') which mean: habitation. Synonyms for
habitation are: occupancy, residence, domicile, and home. In other words,
Zebulin is where a man hangs his hat.
● Gen 30:21 . . Last, she bore him a daughter, and named her Dinah.
Dinah's name is from Diynah (dee-naw'). That word is the feminine of duwn
(doon) which means: judgment, justice. and/or fair play.
You can bet Dinah was an instant hit with the women. Now they had
someone to make dolls for, and cute little dresses, and tiny little knickers.
And they could show her how to paint her fingernails, perm her hair, and put
on make-up and eye shadow. I would guess that Dinah did more to help the
women forget their differences and become friends than anything else
And Jacob no doubt liked her immensely. It is just about impossible for a
normal man to resist the charms of a bouncy little cherub. I've seen the
toughest blue collar beasts you can imagine become mushy morons around
little girls. When one of those teensy sweethearts puts her chubby little arms
around a man's neck and says "Daddy, I love you" it's all over but the burial.
If sons were indeed prized in those days, then the daughters were icing on
NOTE: Dinah is the very first girl on record born to the people of Israel.
Does that mean the omniscient Almighty had somehow forgotten all about
her? (chuckle) No. God's memory works just fine. But I think God has a day
planner, sort of like the appointment books that professional people utilize to
plan their schedules.
Well; I think God had set a date for Rachel's pregnancy quite some time
before this event and as He turned the pages of His planner to check His
busy schedule; lo and behold there was Rachel. Most of us just mark our
calendars for appointments with doctors and dentists; but someone like God
no doubt sets up His appointments on a much grander scale than that. This
is all just conjecture, of course, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt.
Personally I suspect that God's day planner is all in His head so He doesn't
have to keep a literal appointment book to remind Himself; though He does
seem to keep some literal books; e.g. the book of the living (Ps 36:28), the
book of the earth (Jer 17:13), and the lamb's book of life Rev 21:27.
● Gen 30:22b . . God heeded her and opened her womb.
Does the word "heeded" mean Rachel finally decided to pray for a baby? I
think so. Some people are driven to drink by the problems of everyday life.
God's people are often driven to their knees.
● Gen 30:23 . . She conceived and bore a son, and said: God has
taken away my disgrace.
It's one thing to adopt children, or take in foster kids, or become a step
parent. But nothing can take the place of having your very own. Rachel
possessed two legal children by her maid Bilhah. But those were really and
truly Bilhah's babies, not Rachel's. Until she had her very own, Rachel
remained low on the totem pole of feminine esteem.
Men just can't appreciate how important babies are to (normal) women.
Even tough women don't really feel like real women until they have a child. I
worked as a vacuum cleaner salesman many years ago when I was very
young. The owner of the business was married to a successful woman in her
mid forties who had no children of her own; and actually, never wanted any.
But whenever she was in the presence of moms, they made her feel like a
loser because in her mind, moms were the real women. In other words: she
was a freak of nature born without a mother's heart; and that is a fatal flaw
in any woman's character: business or otherwise.
That woman's confession amazed me because hers was a strong, assertive,
self-confident kind of personality with scratch-proof, dent-proof hide like
depleted uranium armor plating. But every suit of armor has a chink in it
somewhere and that was hers.
"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth." (Ps
Arrows are not only weapons of war, but also tools of readiness, strength,
and defense. In Rachel's day, children were old age security. They still are
for many people in third world countries; and for those of us who face
retirement on fixed incomes. When my wife and I finally wax old and feeble,
we hope our son will care enough about us to make sure we don't die
hungry and poverty-stricken.
● Gen 30:24 . . So she named him Joseph, which is to say: May The
Lord add another son for me.
Joseph's name is from Yowceph (yo-safe') which means: let him add (or
perhaps simply the active participle: adding)
Yowceph is the future tense of yacaph (yaw-saf') which means: to add or
augment (often adverbial, to continue to do a thing) So in colloquialism,
maybe Rachel was really saying: Yeah! Keep 'em comin'.
● Gen 30:25-26 . . After Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to
Laban: Give me leave to go back to my own homeland. Give me my
wives and my children, for whom I have served you, that I may go;
for well you know what services I have rendered you.
Jacob had agreed to remain with Laban for fourteen years. Well, time's up,
and Laban had no further moral or legal claim either upon Jacob or upon his
● Gen 30:27 . . But Laban said to him: If you will indulge me, I have
learned by divination that The Lord has blessed me on your account.
The divination that Laban was talking about was a dark art. The word for
"divination" is from nachash (naw-khash') which means: to hiss, i.e. whisper
a (magic) spell; generally, to prognosticate.
Nachash was one of the sinful practices that God condemned in the
Canaanite peoples. (Deut 18:9-14)
Apparently, somewhere along the line, Laban became very puzzled how
Jacob was doing so well in animal husbandry. In the fourteen years that
Jacob worked for him, his flocks not only increased; but they increased
So he consulted with a mystic seeking to find out the secret of Jacob's
success. Lo and behold, the diviner discovered Jacob really had no trade
secrets to hide at all. He was actually under Yhvh's auspices-- Abraham's
god --whom Laban didn't worship himself but at least recognized as an
Laban was justifiably reluctant to let Jacob go. He prospered greatly because
of Jacob's abilities and because of his faithfulness; and especially because of
his connection to Abraham's god. He was willing to strike almost any bargain
that would keep Jacob on the job working for him. Once before he had
gotten the better part of the bargain by letting Jacob name his price; so now
he made the same proposition again.
● Gen 30:28 . . And he said: Specify your wage to me and I will give
The wage Laban had in mind wasn't an hourly rate or monthly salary like we
typically think of wages. Pay was a separate matter to be negotiated later.
The deal they would make concerned what it would cost Laban to keep Jacob
working for him. In other words; a signing incentive.
● Gen 30:29-30a . . But he said: You know well how I have served
you and how your livestock has fared with me. For the little you had
before I came has grown to much, since the Lord has blessed you
wherever I turned.
Yes, Laban knew very well how fortunate he was to have Jacob working on
his ranch. But Jacob just wanted to be sure his uncle Laban didn't think
Jacob was too stupid to know it. Jacob rarely stood up for himself. But this
time the circumstances required him to be firm.
● Gen 30:30b . . And now, when shall I make provision for my own
Jacob spent fourteen years of his life making another man rich. Well, it was
high time he did himself some good for a change.
● Gen 30:31-34 . . He said: What shall I pay you? And Jacob said: Pay
me nothing! If you will do this thing for me, I will again pasture and
keep your flocks: let me pass through your whole flock today,
removing from there every speckled and spotted animal-- every
dark-colored sheep and every spotted and speckled goat. Such shall
be my wages.
. . . In the future when you go over my wages, let my honesty
toward you testify for me: if there are among my goats any that are
not speckled or spotted or any sheep that are not dark-colored, they
got there by theft. And Laban said: Very well, let it be as you say.
Jacob was supposed to do the culling. But Laban apparently didn't trust him
so took it upon himself to cull out all the mixed breeds and then hide them
three days distance in who knows what direction. So if Jacob was going to
acquire any sheep and cattle, he was going to have to get them from the
flocks of pure breeds; making it even more difficult for him to build a herd of
his own. I'm sure Laban figured that he would be able to hang on to Jacob
many, many years while the poor slob languished away waiting for the blue
ribbon flocks to produce mixed breed animals.
Laban really did have a criminal mind. He was incredibly unscrupulous,
greedy, selfish, and dishonest; and a very heartless man to boot. It's
difficult to digest he was really related to Abraham.
● Gen 30:35-36 . . But that same day he removed the streaked and
spotted he-goats and all the speckled and spotted she-goats-- every
one that had white on it --and all the dark-colored sheep, and left
them in the charge of his sons. And he put a distance of three days'
journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob was pasturing the
rest of Laban's flock.
By keeping the mixed breeds so far away from the blue ribbon flocks, there
was no chance Jacob might sneak around and put them together for mating
when Laban wasn't looking. Although there is no record of Jacob ever
cheating Laban, the old man surely remembered that Jacob wasn't totally
honest. He stole his brother's blessing, and tricked his dad. If Jacob would
scam his own close family, then he could sure do the same thing to
outsiders. You can hardly blame Laban for not trusting Jacob when the chips
● Gen 30:37-39 . .Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond
and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the
white which was in the rods. And he set the rods which he had
peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, even in the watering
troughs, where the flocks came to drink; and they became hot when
they came to drink. So the flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks
brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted.
To the modern mind, what Jacob did was purely superstition; but in that
day, it wasn't. Jacob was experienced at animal husbandry. He had tended
flocks for several decades; beginning with his dad Isaac's, and then with his
uncle Laban's. Jacob wouldn't have tried the striped-rods trick if he hadn't
seen it work already before.
Who really knows what goes on in the minds of goats and sheep? There's a
patch of color down in the throats of young Great Blue Herons that when the
parents see it, the color makes them gag and vomit up the contents of their
stomachs into the craws of the growing youngsters. Even human beings are
stimulated by sight. Food we are about to eat stimulates the saliva glands,
plus there's the phenomenon of blushing, and nauseous reactions produced
by gruesome sights, and the effects of pornographic pictures stimulating the
reproductive apparatus are cases in point.
Jacob didn't use the striped-rods trick to produce multicolored animals, but
rather as a visual aphrodisiac to stimulate the parents to mate more often
than usual; thus increasing his chances of producing the kind of animals he
wanted for himself. When Laban's flocks saw the stripes on the sticks, they
went into what animal husbandry calls heat. From thence, Jacob counted on
recessive genes to do their work. Even though he never studied Mendelian
genetics, Jacob knew from experience that even blue-blooded animals
produce "black sheep" once in a while.
Leaving nature to its course, it could have been many years before Laban's
flock of blue-bloods produced enough hybrids for Jacob to move away
anytime soon. But up ahead we'll see that he had the advantage of a higher