GENESIS-SERIES NR 28
Genesis 29 : The deceiver is deceived
In Genesis 29 Jacob receives a good dose of his own medicine! Almost like the woman who sold an almost new Mercedes for R200. Because her husband cheated her with someone else and left her with the words: “And sell the Merc and EFT me the money”. So she sold the car for R200 and sent him the money.
Jacob – who knew how to deceive – is now deceived. And behind the scenes, the sovereign living God is at work. And in the end, He incorporates into His great Plan the wretchedness of man to fulfil His age-old promise to Abraham. Do not for one moment imagine that the Lord is on the losing side only because the Fall corrupted man so badly.
It is true that the vision that God gave Jacob at Bethel changed his life and gave him a new direction, course and hope. He then knew with assurance that the promise which God had given to Abraham and Isaac, was also given to him. And he believed/trusted the Lord for it. He therefore continued on to Haran with a new perspective – to His uncle Laban – but also to find a wife there.
In the ancient Middle East, a water-well/fountain was as valuable as a gold-mine is today. And every well/fountain belonged to someone. The owner had rules about when the well may be used to water the animals. And the well was covered by a large stone. Usually the shepherds would water the flocks once per day, and in the order in which they had arrived at the well. For that reason some shepherds were already waiting there since early in the day – even if the well was available only late afternoon by order of the owner. That would mean that an entire day could pass without the sheep able to graze.
That was what Jacob was unable to understand. He did not know how far he was from Haran and arrived at a well where the shepherds were already waiting with their flocks. And it was still morning. According to his logic the sheep should have been at pasture rather than standing around waiting.
But the shepherds did not give a mind to Jacob’s argument – although he was right. They were keeping to the rules. Meantime, Jacob also heard from them where Haran was and whether they knew Laban. Great was his surprise to hear that Haran was close-by and that one of Laban’s daughters was at that very moment approaching with her flock, because she was a shepherdess. Jacob thought it was absolutely great, because then she could take him to her father!
When Rachel arrived there, something very strange took place!
Jacob immediately broke with protocol and removed the stone from the mouth of the well and watered Rachel’s sheep. He had no right to do that. It was contrary to the rules of the owner. This behaviour must have bowled Rachel over. Look at the sequence: First he waters her sheep, then he kissed her and began to cry, then he introduces himself as her aunt Rebekah’s son. Then she runs home to go and tell her father.
One would have expected that Jacob would first introduce himself, and then water the animals.
The deduction we can make from this is that Jacob was completely overwhelmed by Rachel’s physical beauty – because within those first minutes that was all he could have known about her. To him, her appearance was all that mattered.
In addition, the fact that he – as a complete stranger – broke the rules to water her flock even before he had introduced himself, made a great impression on her.
In all of this, we must see the invisible providential hand of the Lord at work. He is on the throne and He also reigns through the course of circumstances.
Laban was very friendly disposed towards his sister’s son, but was also on the lookout to see if Jacob was a good worker. To him it was important that he could take advantage from this situation. The month-long visit showed Laban that Jacob was indeed a good worker. And in the meantime, love was growing between Jacob and Rachel. Laban watched this development, and decided that it would not be a bad thing if Jacob could work for him and – should he marry Rachel – his labour could serve in the place of the bride-price. A little 7 year period. It sounds great! What an asset this Jacob would be! And a man can always make a plan to get the 7 years extended to 14 years! Yes, Laban also knew how to deceive someone for his own benefit. And Jacob would blindly fall for it!
The problem was however – in the culture of that time – that a man couldn’t just walk in and marry the younger daughter. The elder was first in line. And that was Leah – whose name means “wearied”. But she had “soft eyes”. She was not lovely in form and beautiful as Rachel, but she had character.
Usually we think of Leah as the ugly duckling with weak eyes – as if she wore thick glasses and could see only what was directly in front of her, but that is far from the truth. In the OT, eyes do not necessarily mean the physical organs, but instead refer to character. Just as “kidneys” are symbolic of someone’s heart and mind (Psalm 7:9; 16:7; 26:2; Revelation 2:23). In the same way we read that “eyes” are symbolic of the inner person (Deut 7:16; 15:9). In Deut 28:54,56 animosity is indicated as “the eyes are bad”.
Thus, Leah’s “weak eyes” had nothing to do with her physical eyes, but with her inner person which was gentle. Nothing is said about her physical appearance, while that is all that is mentioned about Rachel -that she was physically beautiful.
The reason why the Holy Spirit emphasizes this, is to show us where Jacob’s first focus was, the physical. Rachel’s physical beauty was the first and only criteria for his choice of a marriage partner. While the Lord’s focus is on the heart (1 Pet 3:4; Prov 31). Jacob’s focus was not the Holy Spirit’s focus. With that in mind, we can better understand the rest of the events, and understand how the Lord was providentially working behind the scenes.
Three matters are important:
1Jacob’s reward for his distorted focus was that he received exactly that upon which he was NOT focusing. He wanted Rachel, because of her physical beauty. But then he received Leah who was beautiful on the inside. Because Laban deceived him. And Laban gave him Leah while he thought he was marrying Rachel. The following morning, when the sun fell into the tent, who did he find in his embrace? Leah!! But BEHIND Laban’s behaviour, the providential guidance of the Lord was at work in order to teach Jacob spiritual principles.
2When the Lord saw that Leah was less loved, the Lord opened her womb, but not Rachel’s. This is typical of the way the Lord works. Where He sees that someone is treated in an unjust manner or is pushed aside, He will have mercy on those. Therefore, Leah brought forth one baby after another while Rachel remained childless.
3The Lord Jesus was not born from Rachel but from Leah. The Lord Jesus was eventually born from the tribe of Judah (Heb 7:14) and Judah was Leah’s fourth child. Rachel’s only two children were Joseph and Benjamin, but the Messiah would not be born from them. The promised line ran through Leah. And God already willed that before creation and took it up into His divine Plan and decree. Everything happened in conformity with His divine Plan. And that is why Jacob had to marry Leah. Laban wanted to deceive, but by God’s disposal it worked in accordance with His own will and purpose.
To sum up:
1Sin has consequences
The tragedy of all the events that are described in Gen 29, is that Jacob’s 14 years of labour in Laban’s service was totally unnecessary. He could not pay the bride-price to Laban, and therefore he had to work. And why could he not pay? Because he had nothing. His sin against his father Isaac caused him to flee with empty hands. If only he had not deceived his father! Sin always brings separation and loss. The principle is illustrated here. Chapters like these from the OT shout out loud and clear for a Saviour, is it not so? Someone who can wipe out eternal separation and spiritual bankruptcy. The NT shows that it would be Jesus. He who would be born in Bethlehem from Jacob and Leah.
2The grace of God
One might read Genesis 29 and think that the Lord wanted to punish Jacob for what he did to Isaac.
In Genesis 29 one should rather see how the grace of God is at work. The Lord wanted to discipline and teach Jacob. There is a difference between punishment and discipline. Heb 12 makes it clear that the Lord disciplines those whom He adopts as His children. The punishment has been removed by Jesus at Calvary. But discipline is important in any household.
One can see for example how, throughout the 14 years that Jacob had to work for Laban, the Lord’s grace kept Jacob safe. The Lord was keeping him safe from the revenge and anger of Esau.
Without a doubt one can also see the grace of God at work in the fact that Leah became Jacob’s wife. Leah was a great blessing to Jacob. She lived much longer than Rachel. She was buried together with Jacob in the cave of Machpelah. Not Rachel. Judah was born from her, from whom Jesus would come. Levi too was born from Leah – from whom the Levitical priesthood and high-priest would come.
It is significant to compare the manner by which Isaac got Rebekah as wife to the manner Jacob went about it. It is like Spirit against flesh. And it has so much to say for the time and culture we are living in today.
Isaac was subjected to His father, Abraham. He relied on the wisdom of Abraham. The servant who went out to find the woman, did so prayerfully.
In contrast to that, Jacob left home because of a broken relationship with His father and brother, and was literally driven by his hormones. All that mattered to him was how lovely of form and beautiful Rachel was. He was quite prepared to disregard and break the rules and traditions around someone else’s water-well, as long as he could have his own way. A kind of romanticism drove him.
In the culture we are living in today, Rachel would receive the applause and Leah would be boo-ed. We are living in the time of physical romanticism, where God’s principles count for nothing and everything is about emotion and that-which-is-working-and-feels-right.
But it is clear that the Lord stood by Leah. God’s heart works differently to the fallen world’s. And people in whom the Spirit lives, will also develop a heart for the Lord’s ways.
Translated by Marthie Wilson
Main source: Bob Deffinbaugh