Good morning, and congratulations on making it ten days into this Daily Bible discipline! Today’s reading continues the story of juvenile Jacob, in flight from his brother Esau after tricking him out of both birthright and firstborn-blessing. Now in Genesis 29 and 30 we see Jacob get married and have children, then grow in prosperity at the expense of his uncle Laban.
At the beginning of chapter 29, Jacob’s meeting with Rachel at the well emphasizes his youthful strength in rolling away a stone too big for other individuals, Rachel’s shepherding of the sheep, and Jacob’s enthusiasm on having found his extended family. (He waters her sheep, an inversion of Rebekah watering the camels of Abraham’s servant in the prior generation.) Having been essentially expelled from one home, Jacob gets a chance to start over in another without the baggage of his past misbehavior. In this, Jacob’s story is that of most teenagers and young adults, striking out to make the most of their grown lives.
Soon we see a cosmic table-turning, as the trickster Jacob is duped by his uncle Laban. After Jacob has worked seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage, Laban substitutes his older daughter Leah on the wedding night. (Thus Jacob is on the receiving end of the same sort of substitution by which he tricked his father Isaac and stole Esau’s blessing.) The next day Jacob confronts Laban, but abides by the consequences of the deceit—what’s done is done. He agrees to work another seven years, marrying both Leah and Rachel. The two women jealously vie for his affections, using their own fertility and that of their maids to one-up each other in giving birth to baby boys. This division into Team Leah and Team Rachel arises from patriarchal pressures, and is in keeping with this extended story of sibling rivalries. (Note that God is credited with causing or preventing pregnancy, a misapplication of divine cause to biological circumstance that still persists today.) Each son’s name emerges from what his mother says on his birth and later becomes the title for one of the tribes of Israel.
Jacob’s abundant flocks and herds mirror the growing family at home. Jacob bargains with uncle Laban to start tracking his own sheep and goats, according to the markings on their coats. Though Laban hides many of the animals that should go to Jacob, the latter’s herdsman skills (and gestational trickery) win out eventually. Jacob’s abundance of children, animals and wealth appear to be signs of divine favor, yet also feed the tension with Laban that will come to a head very soon. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Tomorrow’s passage is Genesis 31-33. Thanks for reading!