Genesis 29:1-8 Jacob arrives in Haran and comes upon a well. He runs into some shepherds and inquires about Laban and whether he is alive or well. As they talk, Laban’s daughter Rachel approaches. It appears that Jacob was trying to get these men to water their sheep immediately and leave, so he could be alone with Rachel for the meeting.
Notes: The stone covering the well shows that it was regulated. It was there either to prevent other people from taking the water from the well too easily or protect the precious water from evaporating from the hot sun or even wind blowing sand into it.
Genesis 29:9-12 Jacob, apparently moved by the beauty of Rachel, mustered up the strength to move the stone himself and water the flock of sheep that Rachel brought. Jacob then kisses Rachel, probably as an act of family affection rather than of romance. He wept probably from the emotions of meeting a relative.
Notes: Around 97 years had passed since Rebekah departed from Haran and the arrival of her son Jacob back to Haran.
Genesis 29:13-14 As with Abraham’s servant, Laban ran out to greet Jacob, he embraced, kissed, and welcomed his nephew and invited him to stay with them for a month.
Genesis 29:15-20 Jacob most likely told Laban everything that happened back in Canaan. Laban, realizing Jacob came empty handed with no dowry for a bride, offered him wages to stay and work for him. Jacob insisted that instead of being paid money that he would work for Laban free for seven years to have Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel, as his wife.
Notes: Apparently, upon meeting Rachel’s sister Leah, Jacob was not interested in Leah for Rachel was more beautiful. Leah’s eyes were weak, probably means that they were a pale color rather than the dark and sparkling eyes most common. Such paleness was viewed as a blemish. Apparently, Rachel was worth 7 years wages to Jacob. At today’s minimum wage standard, he purchased Rachel for over $100,000.
Genesis 29:23-24 The seven years being complete, Jacob asks Laban for Rachel’s hand in marriage and make it official. Laban deceives Jacob by disguising his daughter, Leah, tricking him to marry her (by consummating, via sexual intercourse - that makes the marriage official) instead.
Notes: It was dark or nearly dark when Leah was introduced to Jacob for the consummation of their marriage, and darkness in a world without artificial lighting can be pitch-black. At this stage, Jacob did not realize that Leah was the bride. She may also have come to him wearing a veil, the sign of a betrothed woman.
Genesis 29:25 In the morning, Jacob discovers that he had slept with Leah and understood he was deceived by Laban. He then questioned Laban and stated that he thought he made it very clear that he served seven years for Rachel, not Leah.
Genesis 29:26 Laban justifies his actions by saying that the custom is to marry off the oldest daughter first.
Genesis 29:27 Laban agrees to give Rachel as a wife to Jacob also after the week long wedding ceremony was over for Leah if Jacob agreed to work another seven years. Laban planned this all along, knowing that Jacob would stay another seven years for he knew how much he loved and desired Rachel.
Notes: As you can see, Laban was motivated by having a larger dowry. Just as Jacob deceived his father by pretending to be his older brother, Laban deceived Jacob by giving him his older daughter instead of the younger. The deceiver is now deceived. What comes around goes around and you reap what you sow.
Genesis 29:28-30 Jacob agrees to Laban’s offer, and after a week takes Rachel as his wife also.
Notes: To marry blood related sisters was not God’s will and the Mosaic code later forbade it (Lev. 18:18) "And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive." Polygamy always brought grief, as you will see in the life of Jacob. Because Jacob loves Rachel and not Leah, much conflict will arise in the future. Not only did Jacob get Leah and Rachel as wives, but each wife was given a maidservant also, Zilpah for Leah and Bilhah for Rachel. The similar sounding names may suggest that the two servants may have been sisters.
Genesis 29:31 The Lord, seeing that Leah was treated unjustly and not loved as she should have been by Jacob, granted her a child and closed Rachel’s womb. This was not so much a punishment to Rachel, but a lesson to Jacob. Regardless that Jacob was deceived, Leah was his wife and he should have treated her with honor, love, and respect.
Notes: Jacob might have demoted Leah, but God took action on her behalf. Leah had also prayed about her husband’s rejection and had been troubled by it, as seen in the names given to her first four sons:
Reuben - "Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me."
Simeon - "Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also."
Levi - "Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons."
Judah - "This time I will praise the LORD."
Notes: Through Judah will the Kings of Israel and the Messiah, Jesus will come.