Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Genesis 29:1-14 Jacob Arrives in Paddan Aram

Jacob arrives in "the land of the eastern peoples" (v.1) and notices a well surrounded by three flocks of sheep.  He sees several shepherds and inquires about where they live.  The men are from Haran, and they are familiar with Jacob's uncle, Laban.  Not only that, but they point out Rachel, Laban's daughter, who is arriving with the sheep. (v.2-6)  Jacob wonders why they are not watering the sheep and then bringing them back out to pasture.  "We can't," they replied, "until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled  away from the mouth of the well.  Then we will water the sheep."  (Genesis 29:8 NIV)  I suppose that this stone was so heavy that they needed several of the shepherds to work together to remove it from the mouth of the well. [Also, I read in a commentary (Jamison, Fausset Brown Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible) that, in order to prevent undue evaporation, the flocks are watered twice a day, and all flocks are gathered together before removing the cover of the well.]

While they were discussing this, Rachel arrives with her father's sheep.  "When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban, his mother's brother, and Laban's sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle's sheep" Genesis 29:10 NIV)  Jacob must have been unusually strong, for it sounds as though he moved the stone himself.

He kissed Rachel (which was a common greeting among relatives) and told her that he was the son of her father's sister, Rebekah.  He also wept for joy.  This may seem rather dramatic, but the man was probably overwhelmed by his journey (about 450 miles) and very glad to have finally arrived safely in Paddan Aram.  Rachel ran and informed Laban about Jacob's arrival, and soon Laban himself was running to greet Jacob.  Laban "...embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things.  Then Laban said to him, 'You are my own flesh and blood.' " (Genesis 29:13-14 NIV)

Perhaps Laban was remembering the time when Abraham's servant had arrived with ten camel loads of goods to ask for his sister Rebekah's hand in marriage.  He may have been disappointed to see Jacob arrive with only his staff in his hand.  Nevertheless, Laban allows Jacob to stay with him in his home.

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