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Genesis 29-31

Supplemental notes for the Daily Bible Study Bible Reading Plan

by Wayne Blank

Genesis Chapter 29

Upon Jacob's arrival in "the land of the people of the east," he encountered some shepherds from Haran who knew Jacob's relatives there.

Syria

"He said to them, "Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?"

They said, "We know him."

He said to them, "Is it well with him?"

They said, "It is well; and see, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep!" (Genesis 29:5-6 RSV)

And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's kinsman, and that he was Rebekah's son; and she ran and told her father. When Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister's son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house." (Genesis 29:12-13 RSV)

Jacob "was in love with Rachel" and asked to marry her. Her father Laban consented, in a manner not uncommon of the time.

"Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me." So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her." (Genesis 29:19-20 RSV)

When the time came for the marriage, Laban resorted to a wedding night switch that resulted in Jacob marrying Rachel's older sister Leah (pronounced in Hebrew as lay-ah) instead. When Jacob protested, he was also given Rachel in marriage, plus two concubines, Zilpah and Bilhah.

"And in the morning, behold, it was Leah; and Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?"

Laban said, "It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the first-born. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years."

Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to wife. Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her maid. So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years." (Genesis 29:25-30 RSV)

The firstborn son of Jacob was Leah's son Reuben. Simeon, Levi and Judah were also born to Leah thereafter.

Genesis Chapter 30

Jacob's family continued to grow, with eventually eleven sons (see Children of Jacob) and one daughter, Dinah, born to the four women - Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah. Of all of the sons of Jacob, only Benjamin was born in the land of Israel - all the rest were born in what is today Syria.

Sheep The relationship between Jacob and Laban became more businesslike and competitive. Jacob arrived with almost nothing but when the time came for him to leave, thanks to an unconventional breeding program, it was Laban who owned almost nothing.

"But that day Laban removed the he-goats that were striped and spotted, and all the she-goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in charge of his sons; and he set a distance of three days' journey between himself and Jacob; and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flock.

Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the rods. He set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the runnels, that is, the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, the flocks bred in front of the rods and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. And Jacob separated the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban; and he put his own droves apart, and did not put them with Laban's flock. Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding Jacob laid the rods in the runnels before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the rods, but for the feebler of the flock he did not lay them there; so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.

Thus the man grew exceedingly rich, and had large flocks, maidservants and menservants, and camels and asses." (Genesis 30:35-43 RSV)

Genesis Chapter 31

The transfer of wealth from Laban to Jacob naturally resulted in resentment toward Jacob - but it was actually The Lord that made it happen.

Gilead

"Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, "Jacob has taken all that was our father's; and from what was our father's he has gained all this wealth." And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. Then The Lord said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you."

"So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was, and said to them, "I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. You know that I have served your father with all my strength; yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not permit him to harm me. If he said, 'The spotted shall be your wages,' then all the flock bore spotted; and if he said, 'The striped shall be your wages,' then all the flock bore striped. Thus God has taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me." (Genesis 31:1-9 RSV)

Nevertheless, Jacob knew that it was time to return home. Fearing that Laban and his sons would prevent him from taking his wives and flocks, they fled.

"So Jacob arose, and set his sons and his wives on camels; and he drove away all his cattle, all his livestock which he had gained, the cattle in his possession which he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac." (Genesis 31:17-18 RSV)

Fact Finder: What happened when Laban pursued Jacob?
See Jegar-sahadutha


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