How Jacob got rich (Gen 30:25-30:43)

“When Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country.  Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go.  You know very well the service I have given you.’  But Laban said to him, ‘If you will allow me to say so, I have learned by divination that Yahweh has blessed me because of you.  Name your wages, and I will give it.’  Jacob said to him, ‘You yourself know how I have served you, and how your cattle have fared with me.  You had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly.  Yahweh has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?’  He said, ‘What shall I give you?’ Jacob said, ‘You shall not give me anything.  If you will do this for me, I will again feed your flock and keep it.  Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats.  Such shall be my wages.  So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my wages with you.  Everyone that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, shall be counted stolen.’  Laban said, ‘Good!  Let it be as you have said.’  But that day Laban removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, everyone that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in the charge of his sons.  He set a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, while  Jacob was pasturing the rest of Laban’s flock.”

Jacob wanted to leave Laban after Joseph was born.  Laban said that he would give him his due wages.  Jacob responded that he had made Laban rich because Yahweh had blessed them with abundance.  Jacob wanted to take every speckled sheep, black lamb, and goats, so Laban said fine.  However, Laban took all these animals from his flock and gave them to his sons.  There always seems to be problems with Laban and Jacob.  They do not trust each other.

“Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the rods.  He set the rods that he had peeled in front of the flocks in the runnels, that is, the watering places where the flocks came to drink.  Since they bred when they came to drink,  the flocks bred in front of the rods, and so the flocks produced young that were striped, speckled, and spotted.  Jacob separated the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the striped and completely black animals in the flock of Laban.  He put his own droves apart, and did not put them with Laban’s flock.  Whenever the stronger animals of the flock were breeding, Jacob laid the rods in the troughs before the eyes of the flock, so that they might breed among the rods, but for the feebler animals of the flock he did not lay them there.  So the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.  Thus the man grew exceedingly rich, and had large flocks, male and female slaves, and camels and donkeys.”

Jacob put some peeled fresh rods of popular, almond, and plane by the watering hole where the flocks came to drink. The flocks bred in front of the rods and produced young animals that were ‘striped, speckled, and spotted.’  In this complicated passage, the ancient belief was that animals would produce the color of what they were looking at when they were breeding.  He then separated them out from Laban’s flock and made sure that the strong animals had the rods in front of them when they were breeding.  This is how Jacob got rich with large flocks, slaves, camels, and donkeys.  He and Laban were always at odds with each other since he had so many wives and children to take care of.

The children of Jacob (Gen 29:31-30:24)

“When Yahweh saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb.  But Rachel was barren.  Leah conceived and bore a son.  She named him Reuben.  For she said, ‘Yahweh has looked upon my affliction.  Surely now my husband will love me.’  She conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘Because Yahweh has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.’ She named him Simeon.  Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, ‘Now this time my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons.’  Therefore he was named Levi.  She conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘This time I will praise Yahweh.’ Therefore she named him Judah. Then she ceased bearing.”

Although Jacob loved Rachel, she was barren.  However, Leah bore 4 sons named Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.  Each time Leah praised Yahweh and hoped that her husband Jacob would love her.  You would think that these 4 sons would be important, but only the later two, Levi and Judah, take on an important significance.  Nevertheless, Leah is responsible for a third of the 12 families of Israel.

“When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister.  She said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die!’  Jacob became very anger with Rachel.  He said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’  Then she said, ‘Here is my maid Bilhah. Go in to her, that she may bear upon my knees, and that I too may have children through her.’  So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife.  Jacob went in to her.  Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son.  Then Rachel said, ‘God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.’ Therefore she named him Dan.  Rachel’s maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son.  Then Rachel said, ‘With mighty wrestling I have wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed.’  So she named him Naphtali.”

Rachel envied her sister Leah for all the children that she had.  She went to Jacob and said to give her children, or she was going to die.  Jacob got angry and said it was God’s will not his to have or not have children.  Rachel gave her maid Bilhah to Jacob to have children, and Jacob had sex with her.  Bilhah had two sons named Dan and Naphtah.  Jacob now has had sex with three women, and has 6 sons.

“When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife.  Then Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son.  Leah said, ‘Good fortune!   So she named him Gad. Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son.  Leah said, ‘Happy am I! For the women will call me happy.’ So she called his name Asher.

Then Leah asked her maid Zilpah to sleep with Jacob and she had two sons with him, Gad and Asher. This makes the fourth woman for Jacob with 8 sons.

“In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah.  Then Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’  But she said to her, ‘Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?’ Rachel said, ‘Then he may lie with you tonight for your son’s mandrakes.’  When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him, and said, ‘You must come in to me.  I have paid for you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night.  God heeded Leah and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.  Leah said, ‘God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband.’  So she named him Issachar.  Leah conceived again and she bore Jacob a sixth son.  Then Leah said, ‘God has endowed me with a good dowry.  Now my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons.’ So she named him Zebulun.  Afterwards she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah.

One day Reuben brought mandrakes, some sort of aphrodisiac, to his mother Leah, but Rachel wanted some.  So Leah gave her the mandrakes in exchange for sleeping with Jacob that night.  Thus Leah bore a fifth and sixth son, Issachar and Zebulun, as well as a daughter, Dinah. Leah then has 6 sons, one daughter, and 2 sons by her maid, ¾ of the children of Jacob.

 “Then God remembered Rachel, and God heeded her and opened her womb.  She conceived and bore a son, and said, ‘God has taken away my reproach.’ She named him Joseph, saying, ‘May Yahweh add to me another son!’”

Then God remembered Rachel and ‘opened her womb’ and she conceived a son called Joseph.  Of course, he will become the most famous of the sons of Jacob.  Now we have 11 sons, one more to come.

The two marriages of Jacob (Gen 29:15-Gen 29:30)

“Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?’   Now Laban had two daughters.  The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.  Leah’s eyes were lovely and Rachel was graceful and beautiful.  Jacob loved Rachel.  So he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’  Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man.  Stay with me.’  So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.”

Laban decided to pay Jacob because he was a ‘kinsman.’  Laban had two daughters, Leah, the oldest, and Rachel, the youngest.  Jacob loved Rachel and he said that he would serve Laban for seven years in order to marry her.  This seems like a real love story when years seem like days. Jacob did this so that he could marry his first cousin.

“Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.  So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast.   But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob.  He went in to her.  Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.   When morning came, it was Leah!  Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel?  Why then have you deceived me?’  Laban said, ‘This is not done in our country, to give the younger before the first-born.  Complete this marriage week, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.’  Jacob did so, and completed her nuptial week.  Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.  Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her maid.  So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah.  He served Laban for another seven years.”

On the wedding night, Laban brought the veiled Leah, not Rachel, to Jacob.  ‘He went in to her,’ a euphemism for intercourse.  He also gave her a maid called Zilpah. This time it is Jacob who is deceived.  Laban explained that the older daughter must be married before the younger daughter.  Nevertheless they completed the week of marriage festivities.  However, he said if you work another seven years I will give you Rachel, the younger one with a maid named Bilhah.  It turns out to be a two for one deal as Jacob marries two sisters at the same time.

Jacob arrives at Haran (Gen 29:1-29:14)

 “Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east.  As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and three flocks of sheep lying beside it.  For out of that well the flocks were watered.  The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place upon the mouth of the well.”

This Yahweh tradition continues as Jacob traveled further until he came upon ‘the people of the east’ at a well that had a stone on top of it with three flocks of sheep around it.  This phrase ‘people of the east’ refers to Arameans, somewhere in Syria.  The shepherds would roll the stone off the top of the well to water the sheep.  Then put it back when they were done.

“Jacob said to them, ‘My brothers, where do you come from?’ They said, ‘We are from Haran.’  He said to them, ‘Do you know Laban son of Nahor?’ They said, ‘We do.’  He said to them, ‘Is it well with him?’  ‘Yes,’ they replied.  ‘Here is his daughter Rachel coming with the sheep.’  He said, ‘Look, it is still broad daylight.  It is not time for the animals to be gathered together.  Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.’  But they said, ‘We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well.  Then we water the sheep.’  While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep.  She kept them.  Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban.  Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud.  Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son.  So she ran and told her father.  When Laban heard the news about his sister’s son Jacob, he ran to meet him.  He embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house.  Jacob told Laban all these things, and Laban said to him, ‘Surely you are my bone and my flesh!’  He stayed with him a month.”

Jacob asked them where they were from and they responded, Haran.  Then he asked if they knew Laban, the son of Nahor.  They answered that they did and said that his daughter Rachel was coming with the sheep, because Rachel was in charge of her father’s sheep.  The stone could not be rolled off until all the sheep were gathered there. Jacob then rolled the stone off the well, kissed Rachel, and wept.  He explained to Rachel that he was related to her father since he was Rebekah’s son, the brother of her father.  They ran to tell Laban, but he came running out to greet them, embraced them, and brought them to his house.  Laban said, ‘Surely you are my bone and my flesh,’ and Jacob stayed a month.

Jacob’s dream (Gen 28:10-28:22)

“Jacob left Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.  He came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.  He dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven.  The angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  Yahweh stood beside him and said, ‘I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.  The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.  Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south.  All the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land.  For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’”

On his way to Haran, Jacob spent one night sleeping on a stone, where he had a dream about a ladder that reached to heaven, with angels going up and down on this ladder.  This Yahweh story is often referred to as Jacob’s ladder.  Once again, Yahweh appeared to tell Jacob, that he is the God of Abraham and Isaac and will give him all this land with many offspring.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely Yahweh is in this place.  I did not know it.’  He was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’  So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.  He called the name of that place Bethel.  But the name of the city formerly was called Luz.  Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I can come again to my father’s house in peace, then Yahweh shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house.  Of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.’”

When Jacob woke up, he was afraid because he felt that Yahweh was in this place.  So he took the stone he had slept on and built a pillar, pouring oil on it and called this a holy place, God’s house, Bethel, a stairway or ramp.  Abraham also had been in Bethel in chapter 12, one of the first places he stopped at.  In fact Abram built an altar there also.  Luz and Bethel may have been the same place or at least near each other.  This idea of a sacred place with stones and oil was common among the Canaanites and other Middle Eastern inhabitants.  This is somewhat like a conversion experience for Jacob as he feels that God will be with him wherever he goes. This is the first instance of tithing, giving one-tenth to God.  Obviously, this idea of tithing, like the story itself, represents the biblical author’s beliefs.

 

Esau’s other marriage (Gen 28:6-28:9)

“Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he charged him, ‘You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women.’  Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram.  So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father,  Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath the daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael, sister of Nebaioth to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.”

Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to find a wife that was not a Canaanite.  Esau then took Mahalath as his wife, in addition to his other two wives. She was Abraham’s half brother Ishmael’s daughter, his first cousin, and the sister of Nebaioth of Edom. Thus he was trying to keep his marriage within the family, only it is with Ishmael’s family.

Isaac sends Jacob to Laban (Gen 27:46-28:5)

“Then Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I am weary of my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women such as these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?’  Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, ‘You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women.  Go at once to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father.  Take as a wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.  May El Shaddai, the Almighty one, bless you and make you fruitful and numerous, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give to you the blessing of Abraham, and to you and your offspring with you, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land that God gave to Abraham.’  Thus Isaac sent Jacob away.  He went to Paddan-aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.”

Rebekah did not like the Hittite women and did not want Jacob to marry any of them.  Isaac also said not to marry any Canaanite women.  Isaac decided to send Jacob to Rebekah’s brother in order to marry one of his daughters, one of his first cousins.  Once again Isaac gave him the blessing of Abraham as Jacob went to Haran to visit Laban.  Now this story contradicts the Yahweh story ahead of it.   There Rebekah sent Jacob away without the advice of Isaac, but here it is a joint action and in fact it is mostly Isaac who favors him leaving.  Paddan-aram is the same as Haran.   Notice Isaac thinks it better to marry your first cousin than any of the local women.  This has God El Shaddai, the almighty one, bless him rather than Yahweh.