Things start getting a bit soap opera-y in this chapter and the next. Jacob has set out toward the land of his Uncle Laban and runs across a group of shepherds who happen to be from the Haran (where his uncle lives). While he was talking to them, Laban’s daughter, Rachel, came along with her father’s sheep (cue “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright, kids ask your parents). Jacob proves his manliness by moving the stone from the well, and then kisses Rachel followed by him weeping aloud. He introduces himself which I think he should have done before the kissing and weeping, and she runs to tell her father.
Reading this section tells me again that this is a poem. There’s a lot of repetition, like the use of “his mother’s brother’s…” rather than just saying Laban. This is either poetry or the writers were getting paid by the word.
Jacob works for Laban for seven years so that when his time is up he can marry Rachel, who is Laban’s younger daughter. Leah is the older of the two (this will come up very shortly). Fast forward seven years and Jacob asks for his wife so that he may “go in to her”. So Laban throws a feast and in the evening sends Leah into Jacob’s room and he has relations with her. Also, the writer found it important at this point to give the reader a parenthetical that Laban gave Leah a maid, Zilpah. Jacob awoke the next morning to find not Rachel in his bed and went to confront Laban.
It is explained that in this land the younger daughter is not given away before the elder one. So he is made the offer that all he has to do is complete the week with Leah and he gets Rachel…after he works another seven years. So fast forward another seven years and Jacob finally gets to marry Rachel. Another parenthetical about Rachel’s maid, Bilhah). He has relations with her and loved her more than Leah. He then served Laban another seven years.
Let me work this out here, Jacob wanted to marry Rachel and served her father for seven years, and at no time in that seven years did it ever come up in conversation that the older daughter has to be married before the younger daughter? This seems unlikely. Then, on top of that, after dad pulled the old switcheroo, Jacob had to wait an addition seven years to marry Rachel? Fourteen years from meeting to marriage, plus an additional wife thrown in there. But wait, there’s more.
Because God took pity on Leah because Jacob loved Rachel more, he allowed her to bear children while Rachel could not. So Leah four sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Then she was done.
OK, things are about to go a bit Young And The Restless over here, so try to keep up, won’t you? Rachel is mad that she can’t have children, so she gives him her maid, Bilhah, to have sex with so that Rachel can have children, and so she did. She bore Jacob Dan and Naphtali. And everyone was happy…or not.
Leah would not stand for Rachel’s maid having kids with Jacob, so she gave him her maid, Zilpah. She bore him Gad and Asher. And this made Leah happy and they lived happily ever after…or not.
Rachel wanted some of Reuben’s (Leah’s firstborn son) mandrakes, but Leah was having none of it. So Rachel offers the services of Jacob for some mandrakes. So Leah and Jacob do it again and she bears Isaachar and then one more time to produce Zebulun. Finally, they do it one final time and she bears a daughter named Dinah. Finally, after all of this, the barrenness, the maids, the wives, Rachel can finally conceive and she gives Jacob a son, Joseph.
Jacob asks Laban to allow him to take his wives and children and move back home. Laban replies saying that God blessed him because of Jacob. Jacob offers to tend Laban’s sheep and goats and remove all of the speckled, striped, and black lambs as his wages, but Laban goes through the flock himself and pulls them out and puts them in the charge of his sons instead. So Jacob tends the flock and makes striped sticks out of poplar and places them in view of the stronger mating goats and sheep and they give birth to striped, speckled, and spotted offspring.
Is the Bible truly the inspired word of God? Then he would know, to quote a GEICO commercial, “That’s not how this works, that not how any of this works.” Surely the creator of the universe would know that showing a striped stick to a goat will not result in striped offspring. I can tell that science is not the strong suit here. Anyway, Jacob grows rich with flocks, herds, and slaves.