>< v.1-10 Back to Mesopotamia We shouldn’t forget the ancestral connection of the Promised Land of Canaan and Avraham’s homeland of Mesopotamia. Avraham sent his servant Eliezer back to what he consider his roots to find a wife for Yitz’chak. And here Ya’akov went back for the exact same purpose.
**Notice in verse 5 how Ya’akov asks if the men know “Lavan the son of Nahor” but we have read that Lavan and Rivkah’s father is B’tuel. Is this a contradiction in Scripture? No. Nahor was Lavan’s grandfather. This was a description of which clan or tribe Lavan belonged to.
Water Wells These were cultural centres. The picture we see upon Ya’akov’s arrival show the shepherds with their flocks waiting for the owner of the well to come at evening when they would roll the rock off the well, collect a fee from them, and then their animals could drink. Ya’akov wanted the shepherds to water their animals and leave so he could have a private conversation with his family…and being family himself, he felt justified to roll the rock off himself and water the animals.
< v.11-20 A Family Reunion Ya’akov greets Rachel with a kiss and introduces himself as Rivkah’s son. Uncle Lavan comes running out to greet Ya’akov with a kiss and an embrace. A month passes and the self-serving Lavan offers wages to Ja’akov as he sees he’d be a valuable addition to his family, as he was a gifted shepherd and a hard worker. We’re told that Lavan had two daughters: Le’ah and Rachel. Ya’akov agreed to work seven years in exchange for Rachel to be his wife.
“Weak eyes/Strong eyes” is an idiom indicating either plainness or beauty. Rachel was beautiful. Le’ah was quiet and plain. Ya’akov made his choice with his own eyes on the basis of physical beauty. There is no record that he consulted YHWH on his choice of a wife.
Esav was strong and macho and God passed him over for Ya’akov, quiet and plain. Rachel, beautiful and impetuous, was passed over by God for Le’ah, quiet and plain.
>< v.21-30 Bitter Taste of Deceit Seven years pass and the 84yo Ya’akov approaches Lavan to extract his “wages”…Rachel. Imagine the devastation of deceit and
betrayal Ya’akov must have experienced the next morning as he woke next to Le’ah instead of Rachel. Was this payback for his own dirty dealings of deception with his father and brother? A week passes after the deception and Ya’akov gets to take Rachel as his wife and agrees to work another seven years for Lavan.
>< v.31-35 YHWH sees Le’ah YHWH made Le’ah fertile, while Rachel remained childless. Almost immediately, Le’ah begins producing sons for Ya’akov. She gives him 4 sons. In naming them she gave God all the honour and praise and glory. [*see sidebar Sons of Le’ah]
>< v.1-13 Sister-Wives Rivalry Rachel blamed Ya’akov for her barrenness, which in the Torah is often seen as a sign of God’s disfavour. He shoots back saying clearly it is not his fault. Rachel takes a cue from history and follows in Sarah’s footsteps offering up her servant-girl, Bilhah, as a concubine-wife. Le’ah offers Zilpah, too.
**The phrase “a child that will be laid on my knees” (v.3) is a Hebrew idiom reflective of a long-standing Middle Eastern custom where by ceremonially placing a child on one’s knee or the lap, that person was signifying that they were legally claiming the child as their own.
< v.14-24 Mandrakes & Drama Re’uven, Ya’akov’s eldest son with Le’ah, went into the field to gather mandrakes. What are mandrakes? Why did he gather these for Le’ah? What is significant about these mandrakes and why did Rachel desire them for herself? They were considered an aphrodisiac and Rachel also believed they would help make her fertile.
< v.25-43 Dividing the Flocks Ya’akov wants to leave after his 14 years of service and have Lavan acknowledge his bond-servitude as paid-in-full. Lavan, a pagan spiritualist that believes in many gods, manipulates Ya’akov by invoking the personal name of Ya’akov’s God, YHWH, as being the source of all the blessings. Ya’akov calls Lavan’s bluff and cuts a deal with him.
All-white sheep and all-dark goats belonged to Lavan.
Spotted, speckled and striped animals belonged to Ya’akov.
Ya’akov utilizes his skills in tending flocks and herds to create a situation that would only benefit him and completely destroy Lavan.
In the end, Ya’akov has a greater increase in his flocks and herds and his animals were stronger.
Lavan realizes he’d been duped but there was no way out of their agreement. This stirred up even more contention between Lavan’s clan and Ya’akov’s not growing family. Trouble was just over the horizon…