And Laban said unto Jacob (probably at the month's end), Because thou art—literally, is it not that. thou art (cf. Genesis 27:36; 2 Samuel 23:19)—my brother,—my kinsman (vide on Genesis 29:12)—shouldest thou therefore serve me for naught? (literally, and thou server me gratuitously) tell me, what shall thy wages be? A proof of Laban's generosity and justice (Kalisch); of his selfishness and greed (Keil); of his prudence and sagacity in opening up the way for a love-suit (Large).
And Laban had two daughters (the wife of Laban is not mentioned in the story): the name of the elder was Leah,—"Wearied" (Gesenius); "Dull," "Stupid" (Furst); "Pining," "Yearning" (Lange)—and the name of the younger was Rachel—"Ewe" (Gesenius).
Leah was tender eyed. Literally, the eyes of Leah were tender, i.e. weak, dun; ἀσθενεῖς (LXX.), lippi (Vulgate); cf. 1 Samuel 16:12. Leah's face was not ugly (Bohlen), only her eyes were not clear and lustrous, dark and sparkling, as in all probability Rachel's were (Knobel). But Rachel was beautiful and well favored. Literally, beautiful in form (i.e. in outline and make of body; cf. Genesis 39:6; also 1 Samuel 16:18—"a man of form," i.e. formosus, well made) and beautiful in appearance (i.e. of a lovely countenance). "If authentic history was not in the way, Leah, as the mother of Judah, and of the Davidic Messianic line, ought to have carried off the prize of beauty after Sarah and Rebakah (Lange).
And Jacob loved Rachel (it is more than probable that this was an illustration of what is known as "love at first sight" on the part of Rachel as well as Jacob); and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. Having no property, with which to buy his wife, according to Oriental custom (Kalisch), or to give the usual dowry for her to her father (Keil),—cf. Genesis 14:1-24 :53; Genesis 34:12; 1 Samuel 18:25,—Jacob's offer was at once accepted by his grasping uncle, though he was that uncle's "brother" (1 Samuel 18:15).
And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man. Orientals commonly prefer alliances within the circle of their own relatives. Burckhardt, Volney, Layard, and Lane testify that this is still the case among the Bedouins, the Druses, and other Eastern tribes. Abide with me—a formal ratification of the compact on the part of Laban.
And Jacob served—hard service (Genesis 31:40, Genesis 31:41), in keeping sheep (Hosea 12:12)—seven years for Rachel. The purity and intensity of Jacob's affection was declared not alone by the proposal of a seven years' term of servitude,—a long period of waiting for a man of fifty-seven, if not seventy-seven, years of age,—but also by the spirit in which he served his avaricious relative. Many as the days were that required to intervene before he obtained possession of his bride, they were rendered happy by the sweet society of Rachel. And they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. "Words breathing the purest tenderness, and expressing more emphatically than the flowery hyperboles of romantic phraseology the deep attachment of an affectionate heart" (Kalisch); words too which show the lofty appreciation Jacob had of the personal worth of his future bride.
And Jacob said unto Laban (who, though the term of servitude had expired, appeared to be in no haste to implement his part of the bargain), Give me my wife (i.e. my affianced wife, as in Deuteronomy 22:23, Deuteronomy 22:24; Matthew 1:20), for my days are fulfilled (i.e. my term of service is completed), that I may go in unto her—quo significant intactam adhuc esse virginem (Calvin); a proof that Jacob's love was pure and true.
And Laban (unable to evade or delay the fulfillment of his agreement with Jacob) gathered together all the men of the place (not the entire population, but the principal inhabitants), and made a feast—a "mishteh, or drinking (cf. Genesis 19:3), i.e. a wedding banquet (cf. bride-ale—bridal), which commonly lasted seven days ( 14:10; Tobit 11:18), though it appears to have varied according to the circumstances of the bridegroom.
And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him. The deception practiced on Jacob was rendered possible by the fact that the bride was usually conducted into the marriage chamber veiled; the veil being so long and close as to conceal not only the face, but much of the person (vide Genesis 14:1-24 :65). And he went in unto her. The conduct of Laban is perfectly intelligible as the outcome of his sordid avarice; but it is difficult to understand how Leah could acquiesce in a proposal so base as to wrong her sister by marrying one who neither sought nor loved her. She must herself have been attached to Jacob; and it is probable that Laban had explained to her his plan for bringing about a double wedding.
And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah—"the Dropping"? (Gesenius), "Myrrh-juice" (Furst)—his maid (according to Gesenius the word is closely connected with an unused root signifying to spread out, hence a maid-servant) for an handmaid. This was in accordance with Oriental custom (vide Genesis 14:1-24 :61). That Leah obtained only one damsel need not be ascribed to Laban's parsimonious character, but to his already-formed intention to bestow a second on Rachel.
And it came to pass, that in the morning, Behold, it was Leah. If Jacob's deception, even with the veiled bride, may still be difficult to understand, it is easy to perceive in Leah's substitution for Rachel a clear instance of Divine retribution for the imposition he had practiced on his father. So the Lord oftentimes rewards evil-doers according to their wickedness (cf. 2 Samuel 12:10-12). And he said to Laban (who, Calvin conjectures, had given Jacob a splendid entertainment the night before to make him say nothing about the fraud), What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? It says much for Jacob that he did not seek to repudiate the marriage. Perhaps he saw the hand of God in what had happened, and probably considered that though he had chosen Rachel, God had selected Leah as his wife. If so, it must be set to Jacob's credit that at the call of God, thus providentially addressed to him, he was prepared to sacrifice his best affections to the claims of religion and duty. It is not Jacob, but Laban, who proposes that he should also marry Rachel.
And Laban said, It must not be so done—the future expresses the thought that the custom has grown into a strong moral obligation (Kalisch)—in our country (Hebrew, place), to give the younger before the first-born. The same custom exists among the Indians, Egyptians (Lane), and other Oriental countries (Delitzsch).
Fulfill her week,—literally, make full the week of this one, i.e. of Leah, if Leah was given to Jacob on the first night of the festivities (Calmer, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Lange, Ainsworth); but id Leah was married at the close of the seven days, then it must refer to Rachel's week (Bush, Murphy)—and we (including Laban's wife and eldest son, as in Genesis 14:1-24 :50, 55) will give thee this also (i.e. Rachel) for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. Almost every motive that is mean, base, and despicable appears in this behavior of Laban's; if he attached little value to his daughters' affections, he had a keen appreciation of Jacob's qualities as a shepherd.
And Jacob aid so, and fulfilled her week. Literally, the week of this one, either of Leah or of Rachel, as above. Rosenmüller, assigning the first week (Genesis 29:27) to Leah, refers this to Rachel; but the expression can scarcely have two different meanings within the compass of two verses. And he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. The polygamy of Jacob, though contrary to the law of nature (Genesis 2:21-25), admits of some palliation, since Rachel was the choice of his affections The marriage of sisters was afterwards declared incestuous (Le Genesis 18:18).
And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah—"Bashful," "Modest" (Gesenius)—his handmaid to be her maid.
And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah (implying, however, that Leah had a place in his affections), and served with him yet seven other years. The seven years cunningly exacted for Leah was thus the second fraud practiced upon Jacob (Genesis 30:26; Genesis 31:41; Hosea 12:12).
Jacob and Laban, or the deceiver deceived.
I. JACOB'S CONTRACT WITH LABAN. The promised service—seven years of pastoral assistance.
2. The stipulated wages—Rachel in marriage as a wife. This part of the contract was—
II. LABAN'S DECEPTION OF JACOB.
1. The just request. "Give me my wife." "The laborer is worthy of his hire," and the servant is entitled to his wages.
2. The marriage festival. "Laban made a feast." Seemingly assenting to his nephew's request, the crafty uncle prepares a wedding banquet. Feasting and rejoicing are both becoming and allowable in connection with marriage celebrations.
3. The substituted bride. Either at the end of the first day or at the close of the festivities, "Laban took Leah and brought her," veiled and in silence, to the bridal chamber. For the wickedness of Laban in breaking his promise, defrauding his nephew, wronging his younger daughter, and practically prostituting his elder, excuse is, impossible; for Leah's acquiescence in her father's plot explanation, though not apology, may be found in her manifest love for Jacob, and perhaps in her belief that Laban had secured Jacob's consent to the arrangement. The man who could sell one daughter's affections and sacrifice another's would not stick at deceiving both, if he could.
4. The discovered fraud. "In the morning, behold, it was Leah." The day manifests what the night hides the sins of men; and the light of the great day will disclose what the darkness of time conceals.
5. The lame excuse. Interrogated by Jacob, Laban offers in extenuation of his heartless deception that popular custom demanded the marriage of an elder sister before a younger. So, public opinion, prevailing habit, universal practice, are often pled in apology for offences against the law of God. But the conventional maxims of society are of no weight when set against Divine commandments.
6. The righteous retribution. Though indefensible on the part of Laban, the substitution of Leah for Rachel was a deserved punishment of Jacob. Having wronged Esau his brother, he is in turn wronged by "a brother"—Laban. Having substituted the younger (himself) for the older (Esau), he is recompensed by having the older put into the place of the younger. As Isaac knew not when he blessed Jacob, so Jacob knows not when he marries Leah. As Jacob acted at the instigation of his mother, Leah yields to the suggestion of her father.
7. The amicable settlement. Jacob celebrates the week of festival for Leah, and then receives Rachel as a wife, engaging to serve another term of seven years for her who had lightened the labor of the previous seven. If Jacob's conduct evinced sincere attachment to Rachel and peaceful disposition towards Laban, it displayed doubtful regard for the law of God,
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
The power of true affection.
"And Jacob served seven years for Rachel," &c.
I. THE INWARD SPRING OF THE OUTWARD LIFE. Power of the heart over the will, over the circumstances, over flesh. Time measured by the motions of our thought. The world needs to be taught that the material rests on the immaterial.
II. THE SERVICE OF LOVE THE CONSECRATION AND CONSUMMATION OF HUMAN ENERGY. Christ the highest object of affection. The life of his servant compared with the life of selfish caprice.
III. THE GREAT EXAMPLE OF LOVE SUGGESTED. Jacob a type of Christ; Rachel, of his Church. He served for her. His love made obedience, even unto death, his delight.
IV. SPECIAL TRIAL HAS ITS SPECIAL REWARD. Jacob served doubly for Rachel; but his service was amply paid afterwards, although for a time the veil of disappointment hid the purpose of God. While Leah, as the mother of Judah, was the true ancestress of Messiah, still it was in Joseph, the son of Rachel, that Jacob's heart was satisfied, and that the history of the kingdom of God was most manifestly carried on and its glory set forth. As in the case of Sarah and Rebekah, so in that of Rachel, the birth of the representative seed is connected with special bestowments of grace.—R.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
Christ's love for the Church.
"And Jacob served seven years for Rachel." On the surface this is a step in Jacob's training, in the fulfillment of God's promise at Bethel. It shows a new feature in his character. We see not the man of cunning devices, but one full of pure, self-sacrificing love. Fourteen years of service willingly given to purchase, according to Eastern custom, his bride. But Jacob's love suggests the deeper and purer love of Christ for the Church. Rachel a type of the Bride; a shepherdess and "fairest among women" (So Genesis 1:7, Genesis 1:8); sharer of the sufferings of the Church (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18; Revelation 2:17). For the Church's sake (Ephesians 5:25) Christ "served" (Philippians 2:7); became a Shepherd (John 10:11); with his service and life-blood, "obedient unto death," he purchased her (Acts 20:28), to unite her to himself forever.
I. THE LORD "SERVED" BECAUSE HE LOVED HIS CHURCH. In condescending to unite himself with human nature; in bearing the infirmities of childhood and state of subjection; in bearing the contradiction of sinners and the wrath of God. And still in standing and knocking (Revelation 3:20); in bearing with half-hearted believers (2 Peter 3:9); in pleading with and for the wayward (1 John 2:1; 2 Corinthians 5:20); in seeking and following individual sheep. The love which led to this was free, not deserved or purchased. Rachel brought no dowry to Jacob. The Church has of its own no spiritual wealth (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23). The Bridegroom had to sanctify and cleanse it. By nature unholy, at variance with God's will; yet, knowing this, he loved it (cf. Romans 8:35). For love to Rachel Jacob gave the labor of fourteen years. For the Church Christ grudged nothing—gave himself. Sacrifice a mark of true love. How many will not sacrifice anything—will not leave a gain, a companion, an amusement—to "win Christ." In the garden his human nature shrank from the bitterness of the cup, but he persevered. Why?
II. THE LORD "SERVED" THAT HE MIGHT UNITE US TO HIMSELF. Marriage, the closest earthly tie, used as a type. No mere removal of condemnation satisfied that love, nor even our being made happy; he became such as we are, that we might become such as he is. The Church is his Bride (Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 21:9), sharer of his kingdom (Revelation 3:21; Revelation 20:4), of his blessedness and glory (John 17:22-24). And this belongs to its humblest and weakest member. A union in this life (So Genesis 2:16; John 15:4); peace in committing all cares to him, even our own steadfastness (John 10:28; Romans 8:35; Hebrews 13:6). A union after our departure more close (Philippians 1:23). Here we see dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). The conditions of mortal life hinder clear visions (Exodus 33:20), The law of sin in our members hinders perfect union. Then no impediment (Luke 23:43). Union perfected after the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:7). The body, which now limits conscious union, shall then minister to its completeness. Not till then shall we be perfectly like him in his human nature.
III. HE "SERVED" THAT WE MIGHT HAVE CONFIDENCE IN HIS LOVE. Jacob's love not shaken by time, or by the deceit practiced upon him, a type of Christ's. Often forgetful, often faithless, we might well think, How dare I trust to a love so often neglected? But his love is not wearied out (Isaiah 49:15). He has graven us with the nail-prints on his hands. His word is still, "Look unto me;" trust my love (Psalms 37:5).—M.