14Laban said, “You are my nephew, and you are like one of my own family.”
Jacob Marries Leah
After Jacob had been there for a month, 15Laban said to him, “You shouldn't have to work without pay, just because you are a relative of mine. What do you want me to give you?”
16-17Laban had two daughters. Leah was older than Rachel, but her eyes didn't sparkle, while Rachel was beautiful and had a good figure. 18Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he answered, “If you will let me marry Rachel, I'll work seven years for you.”
19Laban replied, “It's better for me to let you marry Rachel than for someone else to have her. So stay and work for me.” 20Jacob worked seven years for Laban, but the time seemed like only a few days, because he loved Rachel so much.
21Jacob said to Laban, “The time is up, and I want to marry Rachel now!” 22So Laban gave a big feast and invited all their neighbors. 23But that evening he brought Leah to Jacob, who married her and spent the night with her. 24Laban also gave Zilpah to Leah as her servant woman.
25The next morning Jacob found out that he had married Leah, and he asked Laban, “Why did you do this to me? Didn't I work to get Rachel? Why did you trick me?”
26Laban replied, “In our country the older daughter must get married first. 27After you spend this week with Leah, you may also marry Rachel. But you will have to work for me another seven years.”
28-30At the end of the week of celebration, Laban let Jacob marry Rachel, and he gave her his servant woman Bilhah. Jacob loved Rachel more than he did Leah, but he had to work another seven years for Laban.
Jacob was no doubt especially joyful that his journey of discovery included a potential bride as beautiful as Rachel. However, he is about to see that the family issues of deception and envy are not entirely in the past.
Negative family traits, embedded in character, are difficult to overcome. When they are compounded by parental influence and personal choices they are even more challenging. It seems that the same propensity to manipulate and manoeuvre that was in Jacob’s mother is also in her brother, Laban.
Jacob reaches an agreement with Laban to work for seven years to marry Rachel. His willingness to serve Laban seven years is motivated by his love and desire for Rachel. For Jacob the seven years “seemed like only a few days, because he loved Rachel so much” (v 20).
But Laban pulls a fast one on his nephew. Following the wedding feast when it comes time to consummate the marriage Laban slips Leah into the tent. When the light of morning comes Jacob discovers he is with Leah rather than Rachel. Jacob finds Laban and questions him about his trickery. When he asks, “Why have you deceived me? Laban’s response indicates something that he had not mentioned previously to Jacob, if he wants Rachel he must also marry her less attractive older sister, Leah (v 22-27).
Jacob has now experienced the other side of what a deceptive process feels like. His mother had manoeuvred to see her younger child placed ahead of the older one. Her brother now worked his schemes to see his older daughter cared for according to custom ahead of the younger.
Jacob is left with little choice but to agree to an additional seven years of labor for Laban in order to also marry Rachel. He is given Rachel as a bride after Leah’s bridal week. This passage ends with the somewhat ominous observation that Jacob’s love for Rachel was greater than for Leah (v 30). The stage is set for a great deal more family intrigue.
Lord of truth, you see through our human deceptiveness. May we be confident that you will over-rule the strategies of others, so that we will confidently pursue your truthful ways and experience your blessing, through Jesus our Lord, Amen.