Deceiving the Deceiver — Genesis Chapter 29
This blog post will cover the devotionals #131-134 for Genesis Chapter 29.
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 Genesis 29:1-19
After his dream, Jacob continued on his journey to find his uncle. He saw three flocks of sheep lying near a well, which was covered by a massive stone (while not in use for the animals). Jacob asked the men where they were from, and they said, ‘Haran’. Then he asked if they knew his uncle Laban (the son of Nahor), and if he was well. They did know him and said he was well—and revealed one better. His daughter, Rachel, was approaching with his sheep. Jacob said, “Look, it is still high noon, nor is it time for the cattle to be gathered up: you water the sheep and go feed them.” Isn’t it interesting that Jacob shows up and already tries to take action to remedy the situation? They told him that they couldn’t water and feed the sheep until the flocks are gathered and the stone is rolled away from the well. When Rachel approached with her father’s sheep, Jacob saw her and rolled the stone away from the well, then watered Laban’s flock. There was a stereotype that was assumed for women that came to the well at the hottest part of the day. It was usually that women who came during the cool part of the day didn’t want to be with these women, causing them to come alone when nobody was there. This likely wasn't the reason, though. I believe it was a divine appointment. It also didn’t seem acceptable that a young woman should have to work so hard in the heat of the day (to draw and carry water, or even water animals)—so I imagine Jacob didn’t want to let her do that herself (or wait for someone else to). However, I also wonder if this was an opportunity for him to approach (and give a good impression to) his potential future wife. Consider the parallel between Jacob’s mother and Rachel. They came from the same family and were first seen at a well, where the men had arrived in search of a wife. Perhaps it was even the same well! It makes me wonder if this was a sign for Jacob. He was ecstatic that he’d arrived and found her. He kissed her and cried, telling her he was her family—specifically, her second cousin. Just like Rebekah had run to Laban and Bethuel to share the news, Rachel did likewise. Just like Laban ran out to greet Eleazar and welcome him home, he ran out to greet Jacob and bring him in too. They spoke about what’d happened, and Jacob stayed for a month. Then Laban refused to let his nephew work for free and asked what he’d accept as payment. Jacob told him he’d work for seven years in order to marry Rachel. He loved her very much. Laban said he’d prefer to give her to Jacob than to anyone else and agreed to the proposal. Several times, Laban appeared to show integrity with his dealings with Jacob—which naturally would’ve led to trust. In devotional #132, we’ll see if Laban maintained that integrity (or if he ever had any at all).
 Genesis 29:20-25
Jacob offered to work for a period of years because it was customary to do so if the groom didn’t have money or any valuable possessions to give to the bride’s father (the amount was according to the level of wealth the groom had). This tradition was intended as a safeguard for the welfare of the daughter. If he wasn’t established or stable, how could they be sure he’d do all that was necessary to care for their daughter? If he wasn’t, he was given a chance to prove that he was still worthy by his willingness to work for the bride’s father. The length of time to be worked was based on the value of the dowry required for her. The time spent in working for the father would prove the true depth of his love for the daughter, and whatever dowry the father had received, he’d generally give the daughter at their wedding. Jacob worked faithfully for seven years in order to marry Rachel. It felt like only a few days because she was worth it. He finished his time and told Laban he was ready to be paid. It was time for him to marry Rachel. Laban made a feast and brought his daughter to Jacob in the evening—and they consummated the marriage. Jacob hadn’t seen her face in the light to know that it wasn’t his beloved Rachel (but instead, her older sister, Leah), and when they woke up the next morning, he realized he’d been deceived in his ‘blindness’, just as he’d deceived his own father in his actual blindness. What Laban did, in giving Leah (whom Jacob didn’t love), was the exact opposite of the purpose of Jacob’s faithful work for him. Laban created a marriage that wasn’t based on thorough acquaintance, love, and happiness. Laban didn’t think through the negative consequences of his deception that would fall upon both his daughters and Jacob. Laban not only created a great deal of unhappiness in Jacob’s home, but also kept the dowry that rightfully belonged to Jacob and his new wife. The only effects he considered were the positive consequences he’d benefit himself. He could marry off both his daughters— which would get him extra service from Jacob. He took advantage of his own daughters in order to take advantage of Jacob. Because Leah agreed to take part in the deception, Jacob believed that he couldn’t love her. I wonder if it occurred to Jacob that Esau and/or Isaac may have felt similarly to that when he took part in Rebekah’s scheme. In devotional #133, we’ll see if Jacob chose to maintain his marriage to Leah or not.
 Genesis 29:25-30
It looks as though Jacob may have married Rachel before serving the second set of seven years, but that'd depend on the definition of the phrase, ‘fulfill her week’. In the Bible, we have the principle of ‘a day for a year’, meaning that each ‘day’ mentioned in Scriptures really represents a year. If this is what was meant by the phrase, then it'd appear that Laban was saying Jacob needed to fulfill Rachel’s week (seven symbolic days, or seven literal years) again to marry her as well. However, I don’t believe this is what’s being discussed in Genesis 29:27, 28. The Jewish custom was to celebrate the wedding for a full week—so Laban required Jacob to complete it (especially for the sake of Leah and her family), before he could be given Rachel. Many believe that Jacob had to work another seven years before he could have Rachel, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. He only had to finish the marriage celebration for Leah, and then promise to work another seven years for the right to marry Rachel right away. Jacob’s integrity was maintained (even though Laban's wasn’t), and Laban knew he could trust that Jacob would follow through on his promise. He could've reasonably demanded that Laban give him Rachel without committing to work for him anymore, as they’d made an agreement for her to begin with. He probably could’ve tried to get his marriage to Leah annulled as well, but that may have more greatly affected his chances to marry the woman he truly loved—Rachel—as well as bringing disgrace upon the entire family. Laban was counting on the fact that Jacob would give in because he knew how much he loved Rachel. He likely understood Jacob’s character by then and was confident he could get away with it. So why did Jacob allow the deception against him to slide? He likely would’ve left if he hadn’t been afraid of encountering Esau. He kept his promises—finishing the marriage week for Leah—and then married Rachel, before serving the next seven years for her again. Laban gave a pathetic excuse to defend his wrong actions towards Jacob, but he felt justified in doing it, because he knew that it was ‘right’, according to tradition, that the eldest daughter should marry first. He also knew he could gain something he wanted for himself (another seven years of free labor). Isaac didn’t have a great excuse for wanting to give the birthright to Esau, but he too, wanted to give it to the eldest child—and justified it based on tradition (and personal preferences / motives). Jacob justified his wrong actions against Isaac, Esau, and even God, because he knew that he was the ‘rightful’ owner of the birthright. The deceiver became the deceived. Jacob had deceived his brother out of what he wanted, and now he was deceived out of what he wanted. This is the natural course that flows from the decisions we make. Jacob didn’t just have single-fold consequences that naturally arose from his deception. He was separated from his family, feared for his life, experienced terrible self-condemnation, felt like an outcast, and was then deceived himself. His mother (who initiated the scheme) also experienced a few similar consequences. We’ll see the same type of consequences (in devotionals #139 and #142), for Laban and Leah for the deception they practiced against Jacob. They'd also be separated, and she’d feel less loved (and like an outcast herself) than the preferred sister.
 Genesis 29:31-35
Leah wasn’t loved like Rachel, so God blessed her by allowing her to conceive. She bore a son, which she believed would win her husband’s heart to her—especially because Rachel wasn’t able to provide him with sons. Thus, she named him Reuben (meaning, ‘see ye a son’). She bore another son, naming him Simeon (‘hearing’)—because she believed that God heard her prayer (about Jacob ‘hating’ her) and provided a second son. She had a third son, which she named Levi (‘attached’ or ‘to twine’), because she believed after giving a third son, he'd unite with her. Her fourth son was named Judah (‘celebrated’) because she was praising God. Just like Jacob had practiced deception against his brother and father, Leah practiced deception against her sister and her husband. However, despite both Jacob’s and Leah’s deceptive sins, they were still both blessed by God. Surprisingly enough, though we might have expected that Rachel would’ve born the son whose line eventually led to Jesus, it was Leah. We’ll see how Jacob’s own sons will also deceive him, in devotional #156, and how it’ll have to do with his own favorite son (Joseph) whom he doted on (just like Isaac preferred Esau over Jacob and wanted to give his wealth to him).