Jacob: A New Struggle

Genesis 29:1-30

God’s Providential Care

God had promised Jacob that He would be with him wherever he would go, and that He would bring him and his people back to the promised land. With that hopeful promise “Jacob went on his journey.” The text literally reads, “Jacob picked up his feet…” It is almost as if to say he had the strength now to go on his way. Interestingly, the next report is of Jacob arriving at his destination. There is no word about the nature of the rest of his journey once he left Bethel, which could have been as long as month by foot. We are only told that he arrived at a well, which he comes to find out is frequented by shepherds of Haran. While this is not something to be slotted into the category of the miraculous, it nevertheless shows us that God is faithful to see His people through their journeys. By His grace, God saw Jacob through to his destination at Haran. By implication his pilgrimage to Laban’s people was an easy road compared to the struggle he would endure under Laban’s care. Jacob might have believed if he could get to Laban and marry one of his daughters then all would be well. If that was the case, he would soon find out that there is no salvation except in the LORD. Even in the midst of the hardships he would face in his relationship with Laban and his daughters, Jacob would eventually see that God was providentially caring for him despite Laban’s deceit and oppressive manipulation.

Dangers of Desire

Jacob married two women. They were sisters. It was not all his fault. Laban, his father-in-law twice over, proved deceptive and manipulative in turning Jacob’s desire for Rachel into fourteen years of servitude, in addition to seeing that not only Rachel but Leah also was married. Rachel was younger than Leah but she had an advantage over her when it came to physical beauty. The passage reads, “Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.” Commentators differ on what exactly Moses meant by saying, “Leah’s eyes were weak…” Suffice it to say, she was not as attractive as Rachel. Rachel’s beauty was such that Jacob was head over heels for her. He offered to work for Laban for seven years in exchange for her hand in marriage. This was an exorbitant bride price. It implies Jacob was sent away from Isaac with the call to marry a woman from Laban’s people but he was not given the means by which to procure a bride. This is such a contrast to the manner in which Isaac’s father, Abraham, went about providing him with a wife from among their people in Haran (see Genesis 24). It demonstrates the ongoing consequences of Jacob’s sin in deceiving Isaac and stealing Esau’s blessing. Jacob was vulnerable before Laban because of his isolation and lack of wealth, but instead of dealing wisely with Laban his vulnerability was compounded by his oversized attraction to Rachel. His all out pursuit of her may seem romantic on the surface but it is arguably idolatrous. Laban took advantage of Jacob, no doubt, but for what purpose? Was he motivated purely by selfish gain or, at least in part, by his own misguided love for Leah? Was he worried she might never be married and therefore, especially in that time and culture, be left childless and vulnerable throughout her life?

Christ Our Groom

Spiritually speaking, Christ is the groom and the Church is His bride. Jacob’s price for Rachel was seven years of servitude to Laban, while Christ’s price for the Church is His own life on the cross. When Jacob woke in the morning he found not Rachel but Leah was his wife. Christ has never been surprised by the bride with whom He is united. He has known from the start the lack of beauty we possess on our own. We the Church did not beguile Jesus with our righteousness, nor our pure hearts. No, it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). That being said, Christ’s love does not leave us unattractive in our sin. Rather, by His grace and through our union with Him, He is making and will make us holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4), beautiful in righteousness (Revelation 19:6-8).

Discuss & Pray

1. Tell of a time when you experienced the Lord’s loving provision in seeing you through one “journey” only to bring you to the doorstep of another, perhaps even more, difficult hardship. How did God’s previous faithfulness give you hope to endure the new trial?

2. The world is still full of Labans, people who will take advantage of the vulnerable. Discuss some of the obvious examples of this in our world today. What can/should we as Christians and the Church do to reverse and prevent such injustices?

3. Let’s assume Laban’s wedding night switch of Leah for Rachel as Jacob’s bride was motivated in part by His fatherly concern for Leah. Does that motivation make Laban’s actions righteous? What are some other ways Laban could have pursued the same goal for Leah in a godly manner? What does this teach us about trying to control situations, even when we are motivated by “love”?

4. Jacob was not only vulnerable because of his refugee status and relative poverty, but he left himself all the more vulnerable by his love for Rachel. Discuss Jacob’s love for Rachel: was it commendably romantic though it made him unwise in his dealing with Laban, or was it idolatrous?

5. What can this passage teach us about our own pursuits of desire, whether seeking love, beauty, money, power, status, entertainment, etc.? How does Christ, by His indwelling Spirit and the teaching of His word, help us to rightly assess, prioritize, and control our desires?

6. What comfort and hope does it give us to know that we the Church are His bride and that He loves us despite the fact that our hearts are weak with sin? Not only that, He loves us unto the beauty of righteousness.