Genesis 29:1 Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples.
That is where his uncle Laban lived, and where Jacob hoped to stay until it was safe to return home (Genesis 27:43-44). Jacob stopped at a well and was delighted to meet Laban’s daughter Rachel. Uncle Laban was thrilled by Jacob’s arrival, and received him as part of the family.
Jacob quickly fell in love with Rachel, and offered to serve Laban seven years if he could marry her. 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 29:20). Seven years is a long time to be engaged, but they seemed like just a few days to Jacob, compared to the treasure of his bride.
This is one of the most romantic statements in the Bible, and reminds us that passionate love is a gift from God (James 1:17). It is wonderful to know that this kind of love is God’s idea, and reflects his love for us. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32), wrote Paul.
The most passionate love between husband and wife is only a faint reflection of how Christ feels about his church. Human passion fades over time, but we will delight in the love of Christ forever.
Genesis 29:21 Then Jacob said to Laban, Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.
Laban held a wedding feast and gave his daughter to Jacob. But when Jacob woke up in the morning, the woman lying next to him was not Rachel, but Rachel’s older sister Leah. Jacob was upset about this, but Laban replied, It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work (Genesis 29:26-27).
Jacob deceived his brother Esau, and Laban deceived his nephew Jacob. A man reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:7), wrote Paul. Jacob was not a model of righteousness, and his family was not any better. They had problems in the past, and would have problems in the future. But God had chosen them, and would not abandon them. God would remain faithful through all their sin and misbehavior. This should comfort us whenever our families are having problems, large or small.
Genesis 30:1 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, Give me children, or I’ll die!
Rachel’s sister, Leah, had given birth to four sons (Genesis 29:31-35), but Rachel was still childless. In her frustration she turned to Jacob and said, Give me children, or I’ll die! Not everyone wants to have children, but for some, the desire is nearly as strong as the will to live. God was gracious to Rachel, and she gave birth to Joseph.
Likewise, whenever the gospel is preached, there is potential for new birth. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth (James 1:18), wrote James. The preacher who goes to God and says, Give me children, or I’ll die, will likely receive what he asks for. Every preacher and every church should have the same desire as Rachel.
Genesis 30:25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland.
After many years of serving Laban, Jacob wanted to go home. By this time he had many children, and wanted to raise them in the Promised Land (Genesis 28:13). But Laban didn’t want to lose his family, so he persuaded Jacob to stay a little longer, in exchange for breeding rights. As a result, Jacob grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys (Genesis 29:43).
But as Jacob’s fortune increased, Laban’s fortune decreased, and this created tension in the family. Now it was time for Jacob to go, but instead of saying goodbye, he left without notice. When Laban found out about this, he was furious, and went with others in pursuit.
Then Laban said to Jacob, What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing (Genesis 31:26-38), he said.
This was my situation [Jacob replied]: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed (Genesis 31:40-42), he said.
Even though their relationship was deeply strained, they did what they could to part gracefully. Jacob killed some livestock, and they ate a family meal. Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home (Genesis 31:55).
Sometimes families turn on each other and inflict emotional pain that can last for years. One lady cried at her father’s funeral, and the pastor asked if they were close. We didn’t speak for the last seventeen years, she replied, and the last thing I said was, I hope you go to hell. We should always try to be friends with our family because they will always be a part of us. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18), wrote Paul.
Reflection and Review
How does romantic love remind us of Christ and the church?
Why are families difficult?
Does Jesus make families better or worse?