Jacob Serves for Rachel


VERSES 1-14  “Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east.
“And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth.
“And thither were all the flocks gathered: and they rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well’s mouth in his place.
“And Jacob said unto them, My brethren, whence be ye? And they said, Of Haran are we.
“And he said unto them, Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We know him.
“And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep.
“And he said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them.
“And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.
“And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them.
“And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.
“And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.
“And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebekah’s son: and she ran and told her father.
“And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things.
“And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month.”

‘Then Jacob went on his journey’. Thus in a few words is epitomized what was probably a very wearisome trek from Canaan to Padan-aram. But finally he arrived; and, like Eliezer when seeking a bride for Isaac, he first met his beloved at a well. Water evidently was not plentiful in the district, and several landowners and their shepherds were compelled to depend upon the same source of supply, the same well.

Evidently there was a degree of order in connection with the use of the well, for those in charge of the three flocks already gathered were waiting for Rachel to appear before the well could be uncovered. Unlike the case of Eliezer when he met Rebekah at the well, Jacob was informed of the identity of Rachel and promptly made himself known to her, greeting her with the customary kiss. Her father was informed of Jacob’s arrival, and he too was happy.

VERSES 15-20  “And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?
“And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.
“Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.
“And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.
“And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.
“And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.”

Jacob was taken into Laban’s home and apparently made himself useful in doing whatever he could. Then Laban, satisfied that Jacob would be an asset on the place, suggested that they enter into some sort of agreement as to the compensation for service rendered. This gave Jacob the opportunity to broach the matter which was on his heart, so he offered to serve seven years in return for Rachel, whom he wanted for his wife.

This seemed fair enough to Laban, and he agreed to the suggestion, saying that he preferred to give Rachel to Jacob rather than to another man. Because of Jacob’s great love for Rachel, his seven years of service for her seemed but a few days. Apparently the hope of having her for his wife kept him encouraged and happy during those seven years, making the time pass quickly.

VERSES 21-30  “And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.
“And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.
“And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.
“And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid.
“And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?
“And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.
“Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.
“And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.
“And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid.
“And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.”

The custom of the time, or of the family, made it necessary that the elder daughter be married first. When Laban made the bargain with Jacob concerning Rachel, he probably thought Leah would be married to another before the seven years were up, but she was not, so it became necessary for Leah to be given first to Jacob as a wife.

Laban knew of Jacob’s great love for Rachel so he did not attempt to reason the matter out with him, but instead practiced a deception by seeing to it that it was Leah that Jacob found in the bridal chamber instead of Rachel. When Jacob demanded to know the reason for this deception, Laban explained, and apparently Jacob bowed willingly to the inevitable and agreed to serve another seven years for Rachel.

A careful study of the account, however, seems to contradict the popular idea that Jacob served the second seven years before Rachel was given to him. Verses 26-30 seem to indicate that Jacob dwelt with Leah exclusively only for a period of seven days, and that then Rachel was given to him, and that he had Rachel as his wife during his second seven years of service.

VERSES 31-35  “And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.
“And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.
“And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.
“And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.
“And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.”

The chief lesson for us in the narrative of these verses is the fact that the Lord overruled in connection with Jacob’s children. It is to be remembered that the twelve sons of Jacob became the tribal heads of the nation of Israel, a nation of whom the Lord said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” (Amos 3:2) It is reasonable to suppose that his overruling providence had much to do with the birth of these sons.


VERSES 1-13  “And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.”
“And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?
“And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.
“And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.
“And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son.
“And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.
“And Bilhah Rachel’s maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.
“And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.
“When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife.
“And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a son.
“And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad.
“And Zilpah Leah’s maid bare Jacob a second son.
“And Leah said, Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher.”

Both Rachel and Leah gave their maids to Jacob in order that children might be born to them which they could claim as their own. This is what Sarah did in the case of Hagar. This was in harmony with the custom of the times; and so far as the account indicates, the Lord did not especially condemn it. In any case, he accepted the sons born from these arranged unions as among the heads of the nation. Apparently if the wife made the arrangement it was considered to be all right.

VERSES 14-21  “And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, Give me, I pray thee, of thy son’s mandrakes.
“And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son’s mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son’s mandrakes.
“And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.
“And God hearkened unto Leah, and she conceived, and bare Jacob the fifth son.
“And Leah said, God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband: and she called his name Issachar.
“And Leah conceived again, and bare Jacob the sixth son.
“And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.
“And afterwards she bare a daughter, and called her name Dinah.”

In this narrative Leah charges Rachel with having taken away her husband. This may be related to the statement in the last verse of the preceding chapter, where we are told that after Judah was born she ceased to bear children. However, in the Lord’s providence, other children were born to her later, in addition to the two sons which were born to her maid and which she counted as her own. She also gave birth to a daughter who was given the name Dinah.

VERSES 22-24  “And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.
“And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach:
“And she called his name Joseph; and said, The Lord shall add to me another son.”

It is proper to say that Rachel was Jacob’s real wife. With this thought in mind, it is interesting to note the fact of her barrenness, for it was the same with Sarah, and also with Rebekah. In all three cases it required a miracle before they could give birth to children.

It was Joseph who was born to Rachel as a result of a miracle—the Joseph who later was to serve so prominently in the saving of his people from death by famine. While it was from the tribe of Judah that Jesus was born, yet the marvelous manner in which the Lord used Joseph clearly indicates that he prefigured Christ, the Savior of the world; and Jesus also was born into the world by a miracle.

VERSES 25-36  “And it came to pass, when Rachel had born Joseph, that Jacob said unto Laban, Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country.
“Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served thee, and let me go: for thou knowest my service which I have done thee.
“And Laban said unto him, I pray thee, if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry: for I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake.
“And he said, Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it.
“And he said unto him, Thou knowest how I have served thee, and how thy cattle was with me.
“For it was little which thou hadst before I came, and it is now increased unto a multitude; and the Lord hath blessed thee since my coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?
“And he said, What shall I give thee? And Jacob said, Thou shalt not give me any thing: if thou wilt do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep thy flock.
“I will pass through all thy flock to day, removing from thence all the speckled and spotted cattle, and all the brown cattle among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats: and of such shall be my hire.
“So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come, when it shall come for my hire before thy face: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the sheep, that shall be counted stolen with me.
“And Laban said, Behold, I would it might be according to thy word.
“And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons.
“And he set three days’ journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.”

God had blessed Jacob in the land of Padan-aram and on the property of his father-in-law, Laban. He had been taken into the family and now he had two of Laban’s daughters for wives. Under ordinary circumstances, one in that situation would have been content to remain with the thought of enjoying with the household whatever of security or wealth he was helping to create.

But Jacob did not go to Padan-aram with the idea of remaining. His heart was still in the land which God had promised to Abraham, and to Isaac and to him. The birth of Joseph may have had some bearing on Jacob’s decision that the time had come to begin making preparations for the return journey to Canaan. Jacob had no understanding with Laban except that which pertained to Leah and Rachel, and he knew that to return to Canaan with his wives and children it would be essential to have some way of providing for them.

With these thoughts going through his mind, he approached Laban and expressed his desire to be sent away that he might return to the land of his fathers. From this request Laban realized Jacob had no intention of considering himself a permanent member of the family, that despite all the years he had been with them he was still as a hired servant. This, naturally, raised the question of wages in Laban’s mind.

This was as Jacob wanted it to be. Laban admitted that he had prospered while Jacob had been in the family. He was even willing to ascribe this to the overruling providence of Jacob’s God. Jacob was quick to follow through with this idea by emphasizing how much more Laban now possessed than before he arrived. Then came the proposition by Jacob as to a method of dividing the cattle, offering to take as his share the ‘ringstraked, speckled, and spotted’.—vs. 39

VERSES 37-43  “And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.
“And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.
“And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.
“And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban’s cattle.
“And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.
“But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.
“And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.”

Jacob’s method of increasing the number of spotted and speckled cattle in Laban’s flocks in order that he might have more to claim for himself, would probably not, genetically speaking, be considered scientific today. It was apparently the Lord’s provision that Jacob acquire large holdings of cattle before he returned to Canaan, so we would be inclined to think that it was his overruling that increased the number of ringstraked and speckled, rather than the method which Jacob used to accomplish it.

The methods employed by the Lord’s people often accomplish that which they think should be done although they may be, in themselves, futile. But if the Lord wants the thing done he overrules our lack of knowledge and accomplishes that which he designs.

Click here to go to Part 17
Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |