And Jacob served seven years for Rachel - In ancient times it appears to have been a custom among all nations that men should give dowries for their wives; and in many countries this custom still prevails. When Shechem asked Dinah for wife, he said, Ask me never so much - dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me. When Eliezer went to get Rebekah for Isaac, he took a profusion of riches with him, in silver, gold, jewels, and raiment, with other costly things, which, when the contract was made, he gave to Rebekah, her mother, and her brothers. David, in order to be Saul's son-in-law, must, instead of a dowry, kill Goliath; and when this was done, he was not permitted to espouse Michal till he had killed one hundred Philistines. The Prophet Hosea bought his wife for fifteen pieces of silver, and a homer and a half of barley. The same custom prevailed among the ancient Greeks, Indians, and Germans. The Romans also had a sort of marriage entitled per coemptionem, "by purchase." The Tartars and Turks still buy their wives; but among the latter they are bought as a sort of slaves.
Herodotus mentions a very singular custom among the Babylonians, which may serve to throw light on Laban's conduct towards Jacob. "In every district they annually assemble all the marriageable virgins on a certain day; and when the men are come together and stand round the place, the crier rising up sells one after another, always bringing forward the most beautiful first; and having sold her for a great sum of gold, he puts up her who is esteemed second in beauty. On this occasion the richest of the Babylonians used to contend for the fairest wife, and to outbid one another. But the vulgar are content to take the ugly and lame with money; for when all the beautiful virgins are sold, the crier orders the most deformed to stand up; and after he has openly demanded who will marry her with a small sum, she is at length given to the man that is contented to marry her with the least. And in this manner the money arising from the sale of the handsome served for a portion to those whose look was disagreeable, or who had any bodily imperfection. A father was not permitted to indulge his own fancy in the choice of a husband for his daughter; neither might the purchaser carry off the woman which he had bought without giving sufficient security that he would live with her as his own wife. Those also who received a sum of money with such as could bring no price in this market, were obliged also to give sufficient security that they would live with them, and if they did not they were obliged to refund the money." Thus Laban made use of the beauty of Rachel to dispose of his daughter Leah, in the spirit of the Babylonian custom, though not in the letter.
And they seemed unto him but a few days - If Jacob had been obliged to wait seven years before he married Rachel, could it possibly be said that they could appear to him as a few days? Though the letter of the text seems to say the contrary, yet there are eminent men who strongly contend that he received Rachel soon after the month was finished, (see Genesis 29:14;), and then served seven years for her, which might really appear but a few days to him, because of his increasing love to her; but others think this quite incompatible with all the circumstances marked down in the text, and on the supposition that Jacob was not now seventy-seven years of age, as most chronologers make him, but only fifty-seven, (see on Genesis 31 (note))., there will be time sufficient to allow for all the transactions which are recorded in his history, during his stay with Laban. As to the incredibility of a passionate lover, as some have termed him, waiting patiently for seven years before he could possess the object of his wishes, and those seven years appearing to him as only a few days, it may be satisfactorily accounted for, they think, two ways: He had the continual company of his elect spouse, and this certainly would take away all tedium in the case.
Love affairs were not carried to such a pitch of insanity among the patriarchs as they have been in modern times; they were much more sober and sedate, and scarcely ever married before they were forty years of age, and then more for convenience, and the desire of having an offspring, than for any other purpose.
At the very lowest computation Jacob was now fifty-seven, and consequently must have passed those days in which passion runs away with reason. Still, however, the obvious construction of the text shows that he got Rachel the week after he had married Leah.