Jacob gets wives: Genesis 28-29

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“Do we have to hear more about Jacob? He’s a jerk.”

“Of course, Ginny. It’s the next story in the Bible. And please don’t call one of the Patriarchs a jerk.” Shirlee could tell it was going to be a long morning.

It had already been a rough start. First, her coffeemaker died, and sprayed hot water all over her kitchen. What a nice mess to walk into first thing, and still in socks! Back upstairs to change socks, then mop the floor.

Already behind schedule, her car wouldn’t start, and she needed a neighbor to give her a jump start. But was anyone home? Not until the fifth house she’d tried, splashing her way down the street in the pouring rain. At least she had her own jumper cables. And wet socks yet again.

Finally, still in need of her morning coffee, she’d stopped by a cafe in Kingsport on her way, and grabbed a quick cup to go, leaving the engine running while she dashed in. No cream. And burnt. At least nobody stole her car.

She sipped the scorched, heavy coffee anyway, the vile — but hot, thank God! — liquid helping take the chill off the drafty Sunday School room as the cold fall rain lashed the windows in warning of the cruel winter to come.

“You might like this story anyway, Ginny. Jacob gets hosed by his uncle!”

“Payback!” spurted Tom. Ginny brightened considerably.

“That’s right, Tom, payback. Let’s see how it goes, shall we?” Shirlee opened her large-print Bible to the end of Genesis 27.

Jacob and his mother Rebekah had just successfully schemed to steal Esau’s blessing from Isaac. Esau had sworn to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac died, and Rebekah had heard of this vow.

Rebekah warned Jacob, and told him he should flee, and stay with her brother Laban for a little while to let Esau cool off.

True to form, she lied to Isaac, saying she thought it best for Jacob to go get a wife from her brother’s family rather than marry another of those horrible Hittite women, like Esau had done. Isaac agreed, directing Jacob to go to marry one of Laban’s daughters. (Gen. 27:41-46, Gen. 28:1-5)

“Wouldn’t his mother’s brother’s daughter be his first cousin, Shirlee?”

“Yes, John, it would.”

“Don’t we have laws against that?”

“Incest!” jeered Tom. “Incest is best, put your-”

“TOM CERVEAUX! SILENCE!” Shirlee knew that little rhyme, and while it might be the way things were all too often done in Dunwich, it wasn’t appropriate for church.

“sister to-”

“QUIET!”

Tom giggled. “the-”

Shirlee strode toward Tom with one hand raised. “I’ll slap that smirk right off your face if you say one more word of that filth!”

Ginny jumped to her feet, inserting herself between Shirlee and her cousin. “Shirlee, stop! You know he can’t help it!” Turning to Tom, Ginny gently placed a finger over his mouth. “Shhhh, OK?”

Tom nodded. “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Shhhhhhhh.” Then, faintly, “Teshhhhhhhhhht.” Shirlee glared as Ginny coughed, thinly veiling an involuntary chuckle.

“As we discussed a couple of weeks ago,” Shirlee continued, heading back to her seat, “Humans were more physically pure then. Sin hadn’t corrupted our DNA. So in those very early days, marrying a near relative wouldn’t necessarily produce . . .” She glanced around the room, past Mark, Ginny, and John, and gazed upon the various Dullards.

“Ginny’s relatives?” laughed Mark.

“Hey!” yelled Ginny. “You take that back!”

“You know that’s what’s wrong with them, Ginny. Inbreeding. You just got lucky you didn’t turn out the same.”

“I’ll have you know my father was from Providence!”

“Guess that explains it, you’re not a miracle after all. Maybe more of an accident!”

Ginny turned beet red and tears welled up in her eyes. Shirlee turned red too, but looked more like she was about to make Mark cry.

“A lucky accident,” blurted John. “You were a lucky accident that blessed this town, Ginny,” he continued, squatting beside Ginny and squeezing her shoulder. “That’s what Mark meant, right, Mark?” The look in John’s eye told Mark that he meant business.

Mark hesitantly agreed. “Yeah, some accidents are good things. Just look at, you know, um . . . yeah.”

“Are we finished with this? Story time is ticking away while you three carry on your little melodrama here.” Shirlee tapped her toe impatiently. “Do you want to hear about Jacob getting his comeuppance or not?”

“Yes!” chirped Ginny, wiping the tears from her eyes. “Payback! Never know how it’s going to come about.” She glanced at Mark. “Or when.”

That doesn't look very comfortable.

Jacob began traveling toward Haran, where Laban lived. When the sun set, he decided to stop and sleep until the dark spell was over. Being ill prepared for travel and not having a proper bedroll, he chose rocks for his pillows.

Jacob dreamed about a ladder reaching from Earth all the way to Heaven, with angels going up and down on it. They didn’t appear to have much of a goal other than populating the ladder, but no doubt it was an impressive sight.

God was at the top of the ladder, and made promises to Jacob, that He would give Jacob and his descendants a great nation, and would stay with Jacob in all things.

When Jacob woke in the morning, he made the pillow-stone into a pillar and poured oil on it; then he promised that if God did what He’d promised, Jacob would come back and make a temple on the spot and pledge the tenth part of his harvest to God.

“Wait, that’s the whole deal with Jacob’s Ladder?” John looked surprised.

“Yes, don’t you think it rather impressive?”

“I don’t know, somehow I expected more. A prophecy, or an earthquake, or something better than . . .”

“A heavenly escalator?” Mark had recovered from his all-too-brief shamed silence.

“Yeah.”

“John,” Shirlee replied, “I’d be very impressed to see what Jacob saw, and to have God Himself make promises to me in person. Wouldn’t you?”

“I suppose.”

“When is the payback?” Ginny was looking antsy. “When you told he saw the ladder and angels and God talked to him, I thought God was going to give it to him for lying to his disabled father.”

“And stealing from his brother,” added John.

“Patience! Jacob is favored by God, remember? But the payback part comes very soon.” Shirlee turned back to the Bible.

Jacob cries all over Rachel, causing her to run tell her father about the odd relative in town. Painting by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 19th Century

Jacob continued traveling, and saw three flocks of sheep near a well, with men tending them. He asked the men where they were from.

The men were from Haran and Jacob’s further questioning revealed that they knew Laban, and that he was well The pointed out Laban’s daughter Rachel, who came with Laban’s flock of sheep.

Jacob, on seeing Rachel, he watered her sheep, then kissed her, and cried. Then he told her that he was Rebekah’s son. Rachel ran to tell her father. (Gen. 29:1-12)

John and Mark were snickering. “Tell her what? That some weirdo came up, kissed her, and started crying?” asked John.

“What a freak!” added Mark.

“Rachel was very beautiful, boys. I’m sure Jacob was just moved by her beauty.”

“Yes, I’m sure she was the most glamorous shepherdess around, Shirlee . . .”

When Laban heard that his sister’s son was nearby, he ran out to meet Jacob and hugged and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Jacob stayed with him for a whole month! But it seems he never told Laban that he was on the lam. (Gen. 29:13-15)

“On the lamb?” Ginny asked, puzzled.

“I thought he wanted to be on the shepherdess!” Mark never could resist a good straight line.

“Ginny, ‘on the lam’ without a ‘b’ means he was running away from something, in hiding. And Mark, stop that.”

“OK, OK, it was pretty baa-aaad.”

“Yeah, a sheep shot,” added John.

“Unless you two want to get sheared, zip it and let me finish the story,” chided Shirlee, doing her level best not to laugh at their silly puns.

During the time Jacob had stayed with Laban, he’d been working for him. So, after that first month, Laban asked what Jacob’s wages should be.

Jacob, in love with Rachel, said that he’d work for Laban for seven years in exchange for her hand in marriage. Laban agreed.

The seven years passed in what seemed a matter of days, and Jacob then asked for his wife, Rachel, that he might ‘go in unto her’.

“Does that mean what I think it means?”

“Yes, Ginny. He waited seven years to have relations with Rachel. That’s how much he loved her!”

“Good thing they had sheep,” Mark giggled.

Shirlee, having heard stories about where syphilis originated (and not knowing those stories weren’t true), replied, “You’d better not say what I think you’re going to say, boy . . .”

Mark, surprised, answered, “I just meant, you know, for the lanolin.”

“Lanolin?”

“To prevent chafing.”

John put his head down on his desk, shaking with silent laughter. Shirlee blushed as red as the cover of her Bible. Ginny looked confused.

“Shirlee, what chafing?”

“Ah, never you mind, Ginny.” Shirlee glared at the grinning Mark, “Never you mind.”

So, Laban got all the men together and had a feast. And he put a veil on his older daughter Leah, and sent her into the tent with Jacob. (Gen. 29:22-23)

“So Jacob worked 7 years for Rachel, and he got Leah instead?” Ginny was getting it.

“That’s right, Ginny! There’s the payback!”

“Not bad, I guess. At least he learned what it was like to get taken advantage of.”

Jacob hauls Leah out and asks Laban, "WTF, dude?" Hendrick Terbrugghen, 17th Century

The next morning, Jacob woke up and saw that he was with Leah, not Rachel! He was angry and demanded the wife he’d bargained for, Rachel.

Laban told him that in Haran, it was customary to marry the older daughter before the younger, and that if Jacob gave Leah her week (honeymoon week), he could also marry Rachel right away as long as he stayed and worked for Laban another seven years.

“Ouch! That’s a stiff sentence, another 7 years of servitude!” John was appalled. “What kind of a relative would do that to his own flesh and blood?”

“The Bible doesn’t indicate that Laban was particularly favored of God, John. In fact, later on, you’ll see that Laban also gets some payback!”

Shirlee turned back to her Bible. About to begin reading again, she was stopped by the clanging bell. “Oops. Well, all your tangents have gotten us so far behind that we will have to finish this story next week.”

John was visibly disappointed. “Darnit, I was all ready to hear about Laban getting his! What a dirtbag!”

“John, you can always read it yourself at home during the week.”

“Yeah, that’s an option. I’ll take it under advisement.”

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