29 Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. 2 There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. 3 When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well.
4 Jacob asked the shepherds, “My brothers, where are you from?”
“We’re from Harran,” they replied.
5 He said to them, “Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?”
“Yes, we know him,” they answered.
6 Then Jacob asked them, “Is he well?”
“Yes, he is,” they said, “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.”
7 “Look,” he said, “the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.”
8 “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.”
9 While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd. 10 When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. 12 He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father.
13 As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. 14 Then Laban said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.”
After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”
16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.
(Genesis 29:1-20 NIV)
As we finished Chapter 28 during our last time together, we saw Jacob leaving on a long journey to find a wife from his mother’s brother’s family. On the first night of his journey, Jacob had an encounter with God. The Lord unconditionally promised to be with Jacob throughout his life, to watch over him and bless him. Jacob’s response was conditional – “if…”, followed by a litany of requests, “… then” would Jacob make the Lord his God.
As we begin Chapter 29, we see many similarities between this story and the story of Abraham’s servant seeking a wife for Isaac in Chapter 24. Just as there are many similarities, there are also many differences, the primary difference being the faith element strongly exhibited in Abraham’s servant and completely missing in Jacob.
As Jacob gets near what he thinks to be the area where his uncle lives, he checks in with some local shepherds hanging out with three flocks of sheep at a well. When Jacob finds out he is in the right place, and that his uncle’s daughter is approaching the well at that very moment, Jacob’s old ways kick in.
Hoping to have a private meeting with Rachel, Jacob tries to chase off the other shepherds by essentially telling them to quit sitting around and get back to work. Not able to chase off the other shepherds before Rachel arrives, Jacob then shows off by singlehandedly moving the large rock in front of the entrance to the well.
Jacob, in his selfish, impetuous nature, then kisses Rachel and openly cries tears of joy. He then tells Rachel who he is. Rachel ran to tell her father Laban. Laban then hurried back to greet Jacob and invited him to stay with the family.
Unlike Abraham’ servant who came, stayed overnight, then insisted on leaving the next day, Jacob moved in and didn’t leave. After a month, Laban had a sit-down talk with Jacob. If Jacob was going to stick around, then there needed to be an agreement on expectations, wages, and other arrangements.
If I were Laban, I would be scratching my head at this point… something was going on, and Laban could not get to the bottom of it. Abraham’s servant arrived with camels and a host of servants, bearing provisions, gifts, and greetings from afar, and a clear mandate to get back home as soon as possible. Jacob, on the other hand, arrived on foot, alone, empty-handed, and was sticking around with no intention of leaving anytime soon.
What were Jacob’s intentions? Was he here to find a wife, as he said? Or was there something else going on? Was Jacob running away from something? Was Jacob broke and seeking a fortune? So many unanswered questions.
Finally, Jacob shared his intentions – it was love at first sight with Rachel, and he was willing to work for Laban seven years in return for her hand in marriage.
Was there no justice in all of Jacob’s deceitful past? Was he getting away with his past dirty deeds? We’ll find out what happens next time.
As I read this story, I am reminded of Solomon’s wise advice:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)
Abraham’s servant trusted in the Lord with all his heart.
Jacob leaned on his own understanding.
Let’s see how this story plays out in our next times together.