Jacob has left his home in fear of his brother, whose blessings were given to Jacob. He goes to Haran where Rebekah’s brother, Laban, lives and Jacob stays with him. On the way he has a dream in which God appears and confirms to Jacob the promises that He gave to Abraham and Isaac.
Jacob sees Rachel before he sees Laban, and falls in love with her right then and there. Laban welcomes him into his home, and after a month Laban offers to pay Jacob. Jacob names his wages: he will work 7 years and then Rachel is to be his wife.
Now we start to see how the one called the “Supplanter”, who manipulated his brother into giving up his birthright, now meets his match. Well, almost his match.
After 7 years Jacob is all set to marry Rachel, but Laban throws Leah into the tent and by the time Jacob realizes who he has been celebrating the honeymoon with (I gotta think- how drunk was he to not notice the difference?) it is too late. Laban has pulled a fast one on Jacob, who now is forced to work another 7 years for Rachel (at least he gets to marry her first, after he spends the mandatory 1 week with Leah.)
Now that he is married and the years of labor for Rachel are in full swing, Leah starts to drop male rug-rats like there’s no tomorrow, whereas Rachel is barren. Then Rachel orders Jacob to give her children through her handmaiden, to which Leah counters with the same demand, and eventually Rachel gives birth to Joseph, and we have the birth of 11 of the 12 tribes of Israel, and are told the reason for each of their names.
Meanwhile, back at the sheep troth, Jacob asked for speckled and dark sheep and goats (the less valuable) as payment for tending Laban’s flocks, and by using streaked rods when the animals drink and mate, he manages to get the strongest kids and lambs to be in his flocks, whereas Laban’s flocks are weaker. Jacob hears Laban’s sons becoming hostile and decides it’s time to go back home, so he takes his family and flocks and beats a fast retreat to Canaan when Laban is not anywhere around. Laban goes after him and catches up, but God warns Laban in a dream not to do anything bad to Jacob.
Laban is also upset because, unknown to Jacob, Rachel has taken the family gods which are the inheritance of the firstborn and gave Laban authority over the other members of the family. Laban never found the gods because Rachel said she was in her time of Niddah (menstruating) so that Laban would not come near her to search under the saddle she was sitting on, where the gods were hidden.
Finally, Laban and Jacob make a pact that neither will cross over a standing stone to do the other harm, and Laban goes back to his home.
Well, well, well…what goes around comes around, doesn’t it?
Jacob finagles the blessings and rights of the firstborn from his brother, then is tricked into marrying Leah, consequently forcing Jacob to work an additional 7 years to marry Rachel (who was first promised to him.) Then Jacob manipulates the flocks so that he has the healthiest and Laban has the dreck (Yiddish for trash.) Then, when Jacob sneaks away, Rachel steals the family gods, which are part of the birthright of the firstborn.
‘Round and ’round, up and down- Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!
I find it interesting that here we have the Patriarchs! The fathers of Judaism, the ones that are righteous before God, who God, Himself, talked to. More than once, even! And yet, they are deceptive, they are self-centered (telling your wife to allow herself to be taken into a harem to protect your own skin) and they end up marrying the same type of person: Rebekah told Jacob to fool Isaac and Rachel stole from her father.
I read in my Chumash that the Midrash explains why Rachel stole the family gods: it was so that her father wouldn’t worship them. C’mon, really? That is what I call giving something that isn’t holy a holy “spin.” Those gods represented power and authority in that culture: the other family members would go to the oldest, who was the keeper of these gods, and pay him to pray to the gods so that their crops would be plentiful and their herds reproduce well. I don’t believe for a second that Rachel had anything else in mind other than to take what she felt was hers. I base this on Genesis 31:14, where both Rachel and Leah state that they no longer have any inheritance in their fathers house. They accuse Laban of having sold them and used up what there was of the purchase price. In other words, Laban has nothing left to give them as an inheritance. I think it is pretty clear that Rachel stole the gods to recoup what she felt was owed to her.
This is what is so wonderful about the bible- we see the people in it for who and what they really are: human beings. There is no “sugar-coating” their actions or their intentions. And why I think this is so wonderful is that it shows us that we don’t have to be super holy to be loved by God; we don’t have to be sinless to be saved; and God will help us even when we aren’t doing everything on the “up and up” so long as we are trying to do what He wants from us.
The bible stories are so interesting, so full of romance, deceit, murder, retribution, and (best of all) a happy ending for the good guys. I am not at all surprised that thousands of years after these events happened, we are still fascinated reading about them (well, I am) and the message they have is never old or out of date.
Maybe that’s because the bible is about more than just God and salvation- it is about us. About people, about society, and about what the world is like. And, of course, about what the end will be and how to finish on the winning side.
If you aren’t reading the bible every day, please do so. If you know someone who doesn’t read it at all, share these stories but don’t tell that person where they are from until he or she asks. I really want to do something to help people read the bible because they need to know what God is saying, not only what some Pastor, Rabbi or Priest is telling them they learned in Theology class.
The world is witnessing the fulfillment of God’s promise of judgement on the nations, and seeing the regathering of Israel. It is not coming soon, it is happening now! We who know the Lord and know what is to happen are obligated to tell those who are ignorant and obstinate.
Tell someone else about this blog- I don’t mean to sound uppity or self-important but I am trying to write in here that which will always give glory and honor to God, and I want to help people realize the truth about what God says so they can compare it to what they are being told. We need to understand what being “holy” really means, and not what the church or synagogue makes it seem like.
To be holy means to be separated, that’s all- and when we are separated from the world, which is a cursed and sinful place, although we may still be sinful in our hearts we can control ourselves to be less sinful.
I was a sinner before I knew the Lord, and now that I know the Lord I am still a sinner! BUT- I am a saved sinner because I have done T’shuvah, I have turned from my desire to sin and now have a desire to sin less. I understand I can never be sinless, but I know that I can always sin less.
Read the “manual” and get to know the people in it, who and what they are, and be empowered by their weaknesses which they overcame with God’s help. As Shaul (Paul) says in 2 Corinthians, 12:9:
And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.
Let the weaknesses of the Patriarchs encourage you so that you, too, can be a Patriarch (or a Matriarch) of your own future.