Genesis 29


Genesis 29: Jacob Arrives at His Uncle Laban’s House.  

The next three chapters of Genesis record the 20 years Jacob spent in the employment of his Uncle Laban. 

Jacob left Bethel a different man from what he was when he left his home. In New Testament terminology, Jacob was saved at Bethel. Now would begin the journey of sanctification. Jacob had a spring in his step. The phrase ‘ Jacob went on his journey’ can be rendered Jacob lifted up his feet.   

Jacob had experienced a dream in which the God of Abraham and Isaac spoke to him. God gave Jacob the promises of assurance of  what He, God would do for Jacob. You might be thinking- I would walk with a spring in my step if I had such an encounter with God as Jacob did.  But think about it…Jacob had the memory of a dream and God’s promises. But we have even more- we have God’s promises to us in writing- so we can check them as often as we want to for assurance. We also have the Holy Spirit deposited in us guaranteeing what is to come. Should we not walk with a spring in our step? 

In verse 2, Jacob comes upon a well in a field. This was probably the same well that Abraham’s servant came upon when he went on his mission to find a bride for Isaac. The scene is described exactly as Jacob saw it that fateful day- a well in the field with three flocks of sheep lying by it with their shepherds and a great stone covering the well.  

Verse 3 explains what was obviously the custom for watering the sheep. The stone was probably there to protect the water from dust and debris. It would not be rolled away until all the flocks were gathered, then perhaps it was on a first come- first served basis. This may explain why the flocks and their shepherds were gathered   We will soon see the following traits of Jacob and note that he is not shy- but personable. Jacob certainly is not lazy, he is industrious. He possesses substantial physical strength and yet is an emotional man. Jacob is clever in business, shrewd in a deal, has an eye for what needs to be done in order to be more efficient and has amazing abilities as a herdsmen. He was a man with all of the skills to be successful- but in order for God to use him, the potter must flatten the clay on the wheel in order to shape the vessel for His use. We will note that Jacob started this journey with a spring in his step but there will come a time when the Lord will slow down his step and Jacob will walk with a limp and a cane.It will be such a significant change in Jacob’s life, God will give Jacob a new name.  

Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota is quite a controversial figure. He is a former Navy Seal, a professional body builder, wrestler, talk radio host, author, governor and professor.  Once asked his opinion of Christianity- he remarked ; “ it is a crutch for the weak.”  At first many Christians were shocked and outraged- but actually it is perhaps closer to the truth- for unless we realize we can do nothing apart from Him that we must truly learn to lean on Him not our own understanding. So from that perspective- we realize there is much truth in Jesse’s statement- that we must realize we are weak.  

Jacob is about to enter a period in his life when he must be subdued by the Lord. He must be broken in order to be made  whole. Behold as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, Jacob…the Lord God is about to begin to shape Jacob’s life.  

In verse 4- Jacob, never a shy person greets the shepherds with the flocks- ‘my brothers- where are you from?  And they said Haran. Jacob’s excitement builds as he realizes he has arrived at his journey’s end.  

In verse 5 Jacob inquires do you know Laban, the son of Nahor? To which they replied- we know him.  Laban would have been well known for his family and his flocks were substantial in that area.  As we will also observe Laban and his methods of dealing, he was probably known for being the type of person you had to watch closely in a business deal. There may have been some sarcasm in the shepherds’ reply – we know him. Laban may have been the type of business man Dickens described Scrooge as- hard and sharp as flint. 

The encounter continues as Jacob inquires if his uncle is well. To which the shepherds reply he is well and here comes his daughter Rachel with their flocks.  

(verse7) Now Jacob cannot help himself- he is used to telling people what to do and how to do it, having grown up in a privileged home with influential father and grandfather. He observes it is early in day, why don’t they water the flocks and put them out to pasture in stead of sitting around. Jacob would be successful because he was a man of energy who saw what needed to be done and he did it. He was a hard worker and he could not understand why they were sitting around.   

The reply of the shepherds was  we cannot roll away the stone until all the flocks are gathered. In other words, they told Jacob ‘ this is the way we have always done it.’.(vs.8)  

Here is the scene, Jacob, the stranger is talking with the shepherds. He obviously could converse with them in a language he was familiar with- perhaps having learned it from his grandfather, Abraham. But also he could talk about a subject they both had in common, being herdsman. But when Rachel arrives, Jacob forgets about the shepherds, forgets about their custom of watering. Eager to impress, perhaps taken by her beauty and what may have been love at first sight, Jacob rolls away the stone by himself. This display  of physical strength was not unlike the actions of a teenage boy wishing to catch the eye of a pretty girl.    

The next verse tells us Jacob is not only a man of strength but also of emotions. Think about what has happened to Jacob over the past few weeks- there was the deception he and his mother had entered into in order to get the blessing instead of Esau. There was the threat of Esau to kill him.  The official blessing of his father and being sent off a long journey to take for himself a wife. The encounter with God at Bethel. The long nights and days of the journey which had been physically and emotionally difficult. So when Jacob sees the beautiful young woman, who is family, who is beautiful, and perhaps his future  wife, Jacob kisses her and weeps as he tells her who he is. He was overcome with emotions.  

In verse 12, we see Rachel’s reaction, she ran to tell her father Laban.

In verse 13, Laban runs to meet Jacob, his nephew. I am sure he was glad to see the son of his sister Rebekah. But he also remembered the gifts, the gold and the wealth that had accompanied the servant of Abraham all those years ago when his sister Rebekah left to marry Isaac, the son of Abraham.   

Their first meeting and Laban greets his nephew Jacob as bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.  Surely they were related and alike in more ways than just physically. The first month passes and obviously, Jacob being the type of person he is does not sit around the house.  

By the end of the month the following is obvious – as Jacob begins to work  Laban cannot help but notice his nephew Jacob can outwork any two of his sons. It is also obvious Jacob is head over heels  in love with Rachel.  

In verse 15, Laban  decides I cannot afford to lose someone this valuable, with his skills and his family wealth. So Laban goes to Jacob and says I cannot let you work for nothing- tell me what shall your wages be?  Here is our first indication of how clever at a deal is Laban. Rather than making an offer- he first sees how much Jacob thinks he should be paid. Laban  let Jacob name his terms anticipating because of his desire for Rachel he would get a better bargain this way.  

Jacob had been doing some figuring himself. And he probably had been putting in extra effort at work to show Laban what a valuable asset he was. It will  be interesting to watch these two men, so much alike, try to outsmart one another in their dealings. Jacob has a ready answer for what his wages should be…I will work for you for seven years for Rachel. ( Now we are told Laban had two daughters the older daughter, Leah, described as being ‘ tender-eyed’ and Rachel the younger daughter described as beautiful and well favoured.. In other words Rachel was a knock out and Leah was not. How sad that we see judging others on outward appearance has always been the way of the world. The world has always placed a high premium on physical attractiveness. When we know that physical beauty is not an indication of a person’s value.  Yet the forbidden fruit in the garden was pleasant to look at and Satan, formerly known as the angel Lucifer was grand in his appearance.  

Surely Leah knew she was not as attractive as Rachel and perhaps there was some envy there and perhaps some resentment. But remember it is God who made us the way we are and He did so for a reason. But we wonder, did this lack of physical attractiveness and the obvious value that society placed on good looks in any way make Leah feel inferior? 

Verse 20 tells us a lot about the love Jacob had for Rachel. This verse tells us Jacob served seven years but they just seemed like a few days, because his love for Rachel was so great.  

But next we will see what the con artists would call ‘ the switch.’ In the seven years he worked for his uncle, his uncle had time to formulate his plan.  

Laban’s plan is a cunning one. I wonder if during the seven years, Jacob told the story of what he and his mother, Laban’s sister, had done to deceive his blind father, Isaac. Laban would have been impressed with such a cunning plan and it might very well have planted the seed for the deception he is about to carry out on Jacob.  

Jacob had disguised himself like his older brother Esau in order to deceive Isaac, his father and receive the blessing. Now Laban would disguise his oldest daughter Leah to pass her off as her younger sister Rachel.  His plan to switch brides would be tricky. The wedding would take place at night so under the cover of darkness, heavy veils and perhaps wine at the feast  the switch could take place. Rachel was either in on the plot being told by her father she would get to marry Jacob, but he needed to do this for Leah.  

Laban’s plan was based on Jacob’s character and his love for Rachel. He knew having consummated the marriage to Leah physically, Jacob would not desert her. But Laban also knew with his love for Rachel, he could get Jacob for another seven years.  

The plan worked and Jacob did not discover until the next morning in the light of day, he had been deceived.  I believe you could hear the roar that came from that wedding tent all through the camp.   

Angry, deceived and feeling he had been greatly wronged and cheated, Jacob demands of Laban why have you done this to me? Why have you deceive me?  

Laban, cool as a cucumber replies- it is our custom the older daughter must be married first- not the younger.  Stay with Leah and fulfill the wedding week feast, the next seven days then I will give you Rachel also for another seven years of service.  

Jacob was defeated. He agreed. Surely he could not help but notice- what he had done to Esau had now been done to him.  Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. Now Jacob understood how Esau felt. He understood what he and his mother had done in a way he could not have understood before.  

We also will take note of some other information : Leah was given a handmaid to serve her named Zilpah; and Rachel when she weds Jacob will given a handmaid, Bilhah. Both will play roles in the building of the nation of Israel.  

I would caution you as we read about God’s chosen people and see the polygamy involved, that God does not support polygamy, we are just being told the facts. In fact God’s  word is clear- God’s plan for marriage is one man and one woman—the two shall be one…not three or four be one. We will also see that polygamy never works and causes all types of discord and jealousy .  

Now verses 30 and 31 give us an insight into the household of Jacob, Leah and Rachel. Verse 30 tells us Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah.  And verse 31 tells us  the Lord who sees all – saw that Leah was hated and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.  

Elvis Presley was once asked in an interview what made him happy. Elvis thought for a minute and gave an answer that I believe revealed a lonesome and in some ways sad man. Elvis said, “ I need someone to love, someone to love me and something to look forward to.”   

As  human beings, God created us with a desire to be loved and  to love. And we all want something to look forward to- the next vacation, the next trip, the next – whatever. For Elvis Presley it was concerts- where thousands of nameless people expressed their love and appreciation for him-though neither he nor his audience knew one another. For the space of that hour- Elvis felt loved.  And for the space of that hour some fans who loved a man they did not know and maybe obsessed about him felt somehow fulfilled. But when the concert was over- they were left empty.   

People who are not loved- but love someone else and their love is not returned can become desperate and obsessive.  We all can remember or know of someone who became desperate and obsessive- we see extremes of this obsession in the news where someone will kill that person they love and then commit suicide. John Hinkley shot President Regan to get actress Jodie Foster to notice him.  

Leah became desperate for Jacob to love her. She was miserable. She evidently cried out to the Lord to do something.


The Lord opened her womb and in quick succession Leah has four sons. Her names for her sons reflect the desperation she felt in her attempts to have her husband, Jacob love her. Reuben, her first born son, name literally means ‘ God has seen.’ Leah’s comment reveals her heart- ‘surely the Lord has heard me and looked upon my misery and now my husband will love me.   So we see the brief period of hope- hope that Jacob would now love her because she had given him the son that Rachel could not.  

But the very next verse, verse 33 tells us this did not solve her dilemma so pregnant for the second time, Leah remarks because the Lord has heard I am hated He has given me a son. 

I believe the unreturned love of Jacob causes Leah to become obsessed with having children. Beth Moore says the troubled child of desperation is obsession; but the healthy child of desperation is devotion.  But know for sure- desperation will bring about something in your life- what will it be?  Obsession or devotion.   

I believe based on personal experience and stories shared in the Word of God that our Lord has a special place in his heart for people in desperate situations.  

I am sure by now- you have experienced the difference between a situation that concerned you and a crisis that brought desperation. As a 31 year old man, desperate to become sober- I cried out to the Lord. A cry of desperation and He heard me-He rescued me and saved me.  

Can you not see the young man, we know as the prodigal son, desperate for food, for fellowship and for love coming to his senses?  What brought him back to his father- desperation.  

Do you see the woman who had – had it . She could not take it anymore. Her life was miserable, she had dealt with the issue of blood for 12 years. She had been to specialist after specialists for healing- her life was controlled by this disorder- and she was obsessed with healing. She was desperate and in her desperation she reached out to the Lord. At the same time a man called Jarius had come to Jesus- desperate for Him to come to his house for his 12 year old daughter was dying.  

Can you not see the long line of people outside the home of Simon Peter who have come to be healed—the Bible tells us in Mark 1:  “and at evening, when the sun went down, they brought all  that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils and all the city were gathered together at his door. And He healed many that were sick of various diseases, and cast out demons…”  All the desperate people drawn to the Lord. And He turned none away.  

I could go on an on with stories …but you get the point   Read Psalms 107 and you will see even in their disobedience that brought them into their desperate situations the Lord responded to their cries. “ Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He saves them out of their distress.”  

Let’s observe Leah’s journey from the desperation of being unloved to the obsession with having children as a way to make Jacob love her to finally a devotion to the Lord. Reuben, her first born causes Leah to say God has seen my desperation (misery, affliction) and now my husband will love me. Next came Simeon and  she remarked the Lord has heard I am not loved and gave  me another son. Then came Levi and she remarked surely my husband will become attached to me. On her fourth son, we see a change from obsession and attempts to find love in her husband Jacob turn to devotion to the Lord. This time I will praise the Lord and she named him Judah. And she stopped having children.  

Leah had found an outlet for her love in the Lord. She no longer had to obsess about whether Jacob loved her as much or more than Rachel. Her joy was the Lord and she was devoted to Him now and found what she had been searching for. The emptiness was filled and the desperation was gone.  

“ Now once I was downhearted, disappointment was my best friend. But then you came and it departed and has not shown his face again. Your love keeps lifting me higher, than I ‘ve ever been lifted before. So keep it up and quench my desire.”  ( Higher and Higher, Jackie Wilson).

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14