Genesis 29: Jacob is Deceived by Laban
Having given evidence of his deceptive nature, Jacob learns that what goes around comes around.
How would your family story look if God recorded it?
The domestic details of Jacob's life are of more concern to God that the rise and fall of kings in that period. Genesis 29 relates his arrival at Laban’s home, his servitude to Laban; the details of his marriages, and the first four sons God gives him.
vv. 1–8 - After an unusual experience with God, Jacob carries on his journey enjoying the ordinary experiences of God’s provision. After 500 miles of travel, he arrives at a well used by local shepherd to water their flocks. The well is covered by a rock for sanitation and security. So Jacob engages with the shepherds, and asks them if they know his uncle. At that very moment, the men are able to say ‘yes, we know him, and here comes his daughter, Rachel.’ Already we see divine providence at work. Like Christ, who knows what His sheep need in the heat of the day, we find in vv. 7–8 Jacob appears to rebuke the shepherds for not taking proper care of their flocks. The sheep need to be watered quickly and returned to their pastures, but their excuse is that they usually wait until all the shepherds are together. There may have been a good reason for this, such as protecting and conserving the well, or to ensure a fair sharing of the water.
vv. 9–14 - As Rachel arrives with her father’s flock, he ignores the custom and opens the well for Rachel. There is nothing romantic in Jacob’s kiss. He is overcome with emotion. God has led him to family, and they warmly embrace him and welcome him into their home.
vv. 15–20 - It would appear that in the first month, Jacob showed himself to be a useful man to have around. He has been helping the family, and Laban says to him, “what shall thy wages be?” This appears to be an innocent question with commendable intent. But it is far from it. Laban wants to keep Jacob around, and as long as he works for free Jacob could leave at any time. From vv. 15–30, the word “serve” is repeated seven times. Laban speaks of him as a brother, but is negotiating to make him a servant. Well, the negotiation is relatively straightforward. Jacob was sent to find a wife, and by now his heart has been smitten. He has fallen for Rachel. Laban, being no respecter of persons, is happy to negotiate terms that make his daughter to be property to be sold. Genesis 31:15 suggests what Laban agreed to here was not customary. As an aside, some interpret the comment on Leah that she had ‘weak eyes.’ But I think some have rightly argued that, while Leah had beautiful eyes, Rachel was overall, the one with beautiful form and features.
vv. 21–30 - Like a picture of Christ’s unending and loving service to gather the elect as His bride, the seven years pass quickly for Jacob, and it is time for him to be married to the love of his life. But Laban still does not want to lose Jacob. He is getting very wealthy. So he concocts a plan. I can’t see any of this working without the compliance of his daughters. So they must have agreed, perhaps reluctantly, to the plan. The wine is flowing, the sun has set, and according to the custom, the bride would be veiled. The next morning, Jacob awakens to discover that he has been married to Leah, not Rachel. Laban’s excuse could have been shared with Jacob seven years earlier. But the whole point is to see that God is giving Jacob a taste of his own medicine. For another seven years of servitude, Jacob can have Rachel. to which he agrees.
vv. 31–35 - the chapter closes with God’s sovereignty over the womb, providing four sons from Leah and none from his beloved Rachel.
Women ought to be people of industry. The idea that our daughters should dream of being princesses and be taught to expect royal treatment is a train wreck waiting to happen. Rachel, modeling some aspects of Proverbs 31, is out in the heat of the day with her father’s flocks. It is likely she had servants with her, but even that is to be commended. Girls, if you dream of marrying into wealth, sending your kids to private school, and sitting with your feet up most of the day, your dream conflicts with the will of God. Learn to be an asset to the family economy before marriage and afterwards.
When prayer is absent, God’s favor will come in the form of chastening. There is no mention of God in this chapter, and unlike Abraham’s servant who constantly prayed and worshiped God, we find Jacob doing none of that as he arrives in Haran. There are so many parallels between Genesis 24 and 29, but the contrast is the lack of spirituality. Christian, if you are prayerless, expect chastening from God.
God uses wicked men to show His love for His people. The world is filled with Labans. You might think you are smart. Jacob was smart. But, God will use wicked Labans to chasten you. Why? Because He loves you. “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction” (Prov. 3:11). When you find yourself deceived, do not just see the injustice of the one who deceived you, but remember there is a God who governs this world, and intends to use these deceivers in your life. You will not learn what you ought if you are just angry at Laban. Ask, why would God chasten me? To produce repentance and make me more holy, and to enter into the sufferings of Christ and love Him more for His substitutionary sacrifice for me.
God’s form of discipline is often that we simply reap what we have sown. Jacob, having been willing to deceive his own father, is paid in his own coin. David, who takes a woman belonging to another man, will find that God appoints Absalom to give David a taste of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of someone’s sin. Christian, never think lightly of any sin. It may seem like nothing, but when it turns on you it can be devastating.
The sin of another does not give you license to sin. Jacob had to two lawful options after he was deceived. a) be content with Leah. Or b) annul the marriage because it was not with his consent. Of course, if he rejected Leah, Laban may not agree to give him Rachel. He wants Rachel at any cost, including abandoning the monogamous example of his father. Whether you wake up disappointed with your spouse the day after you are married, or 20 years later, vows are vows. Do not take them lightly.
There is no such thing as a second-class citizen in the kingdom of God. The experience of neglect felt by Leah is one that none of the people of God can throw in the face of Christ. Like the parable of the workers in the vineyard, who are all paid a penny, so the grace, love, and forgiveness of Christ is without discrimination. Believer, do not doubt that His love for you is equal to His love for any of His people.
“See how the Lord keeps touch with His friends and foes, and pays them in their own coin—’Them that honor Me I will honor, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.’ A man’s life is often its own echo.” — Charles Spurgeon
Genesis 29: Jacob is Deceived by Laban