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