Thursday, December 23, 2010

Genesis 29:14-30 The Former Deceiver is Deceived

After Jacob had been at Laban's house for about a month, Laban offered to begin to pay Jacob for the work he was doing.  Since Jacob had willingly helped Rachel with the sheep that first day, no doubt he had been continuing to contribute his labor to Laban's household from the start.  By this time, Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel, so he said, "I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel." (Genesis 29:18 NIV)  Laban agreed to this arrangement, and invited Jacob to stay with him. (v.19)  Then follows a beautiful observation about Jacob's love for Rachel: "So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her." (v.20)

Rachel had an older sister named Leah, who was described as having weak or delicate eyes.  Rachel, however, is described as being "lovely in form and beautiful"(v.16-17)

Finally, the time came for Jacob to receive his wife.  "So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast.  But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her.  And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant." (Genesis 29:22-24 NIV)

Many questions arise when I read that passage.  How could Jacob mistake Leah for Rachel?  She was veiled, of course, and it was night.  Why did Leah not protest, or at least let it be known that she was not Rachel?  Was she also interested in Jacob?  Part of her cooperation at least is probably due to the fact that parents routinely arranged such matters for their children, so she may not have had much say in the matter.  Speaking of having a say in the matter, apparently Leah did not say much at all that night, for otherwise I am sure that Jacob would have recognized that the voice was not that of the woman he loved.

However, daylight revealed the truth:  "When morning came, there was Leah!  So Jacob said to Laban, 'What is this you have done to me?  I served you for Rachel, didn't I?  Why have you deceived me?" (Genesis 29:25 NIV)  I can only imagine what Jacob said to Leah when he first realized that he had been deceived.  Perhaps he did not speak to her at all, and only stormed out to confront Laban.  Either way, I cannot help but feel a bit sorry for Leah at this point.

Laban, however, is unrepentant.  "...It is not our custom to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.  Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work." (Genesis 29:26-27 NIV)

Now we can't help but feel sorry for Jacob.  It is with a certain irony that we realize that the deceiver has been thoroughly deceived, and that the one who took advantage of his brother Esau for his own gain has been used in a similar way for Laban's gain.  Jacob, who cooly took advantage of his father's blindness in order to get what he wanted (the right of the firstborn), has been given a firstborn daughter (who he didn't want) with some type of weakness to her vision.  Jacob had fooled his father into believing that he was Esau by covering his own smooth skin with goatskins.  Laban had fooled Jacob into believing that Leah was Rachel by covering his older daughter with a veil of some type.  The deception has come full circle.  And, as in the case when Esau lost his blessing, there was no 'undoing' what had been done.

There is not much that Jacob can do at this point.  He has slept with Leah; she is his wife.  She can not be returned.  He still loves Rachel, and the only way he can have her is to agree to Laban's terms.  "And Jacob did so.  He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife.  Laban gave his servant girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant.  Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah.  And he worked for Laban another seven years." (Genesis 29:28-30 NIV)

This Laban is a slippery character.  The only good thing we can say about him at this point is that at least he did not make Jacob wait seven more years before he gave Rachel to him.  Laban's shrewdness and greed will come up again in his future dealings with Jacob.

As for Jacob, he now has two wives, and I would guess that at least one is probably not speaking to the other!

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