Genesis 29


Jacob proceeds on his journey, 1.

Comes to a well where the flocks of his uncle Laban, as well

as those of several others, were usually watered, 2, 3.

Inquires from the shepherds concerning Laban and his family, 4-6.

While they are conversing about watering the sheep, 7, 8,

Rachel arrives, 9.

He assists her to water her flock, 10;

makes himself known unto her, 11, 12.

She hastens home and communicates the tidings of Jacob's arrival

to her father, 12.

Laban hastens to the well, embraces Jacob, and brings him home, 13.

After a month's stay, Laban proposes to give Jacob wages, 14, 15.

Leah and Rachel described, 16, 17.

Jacob proposes to serve seven years for Rachel, 18.

Laban consents, 19.

When the seven years were fulfilled, Jacob demands his wife, 20, 21.

Laban makes a marriage feast, 22;

and in the evening substitutes Leah for Rachel, to whom he gives

Zilpah for handmaid, 23, 24.

Jacob discovers the fraud, and upbraids Laban, 25.

He excuses himself, 26;

and promises to give him Rachel for another seven years of service,


After abiding a week with Leah, he receives Rachel for wife, to

whom Laban gives Bilhah for handmaid, 28, 29.

Jacob loves Rachel more than Leah, and serves seven years for her,


Leah being despised, the Lord makes her fruitful, while Rachel

continues barren, 31.

Leah bears Reuben, 32,

and Simeon, 33,

and Levi, 34,

and Judah; after which she leaves off bearing, 35.


Verse 1. Then Jacob went on his journey] The original is very

remarkable: And Jacob lifted up his feet, and he travelled unto

the land of the children of the east. There is a certain

cheerfulness marked in the original which comports well with the

state of mind into which he had been brought by the vision of the

ladder and the promises of God. He now saw that having God for

his protector he had nothing to fear, and therefore he went on his

way rejoicing.

People of the east.] The inhabitants of Mesopotamia and the

whole country beyond the Euphrates are called kedem, or

easterns, in the sacred writings.

Verse 2. Three flocks of sheep] tson, small cattle, such as

sheep, goats, &c.; See Clarke on Ge 12:16. Sheep, in a

healthy state, seldom drink in cold and comparatively cold countries: but

it was probably different in hot climates. The three flocks, if

flocks and not shepherds be meant, which were lying now at the

well, did not belong to Laban, but to three other chiefs; for

Laban's flock was yet to come, under the care of Rachel, Ge 29:6.

Verse 3. All the flocks] Instead of hadarim, flocks,

the Samaritan reads [Samaritan] haroim, shepherds; for which

reading Houbigant strongly contends, as well in this verse as in

Ge 29:8. It certainly cannot be said that

all the flocks rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and

watered the sheep: and yet so it appears to read if we prefer the

common Hebrew text to the Samaritan. It is probable that the same

reading was originally that of the second verse also.

And put the stone again upon the well's mouth] It is very

likely that the stone was a large one, which was necessary to

prevent ill-minded individuals from either disturbing the water,

or filling up the well; hence a great stone was provided, which

required the joint exertions of several shepherds to remove it;

and hence those who arrived first waited till all the others were

come up, that they might water their respective flocks in concert.

Verse 4. My brethren, whence be ye?] The language of Laban and

his family was Chaldee and not Hebrew; (see Ge 31:47;) but from

the names which Leah gave to her children we see that the two

languages had many words in common, and therefore Jacob and the

shepherds might understand each other with little difficulty. It

is possible also that Jacob might have learned the Chaldee or

Aramitish language from his mother, as this was his mother's


Verse 5. Laban the son of Nahor] Son is here put for grandson,

for Laban was the son of Bethuel the son of Nahor.

Verse 6. Is he well?] hashalom lo? Is there peace

to him? Peace among the Hebrews signified all kinds of

prosperity. Is he a prosperous man in his family and in his

property? And they said, He is well, shalom, he prospers.

Rachel-cometh with the sheep.] rachel (the ch

sounded strongly guttural) signifies a sheep or ewe; and she

probably had her name from her fondness for these animals.

Verse 7. It is yet high day] The day is but about half run;

neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered

together-it is surely not time yet to put them into the folds;

give them therefore water, and take them again to pasture.

Verse 8. We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together]

It is a rule that the stone shall not be removed till all the

shepherds and the flocks which have a right to this well be

gathered together; then, and not before, we may water the sheep.

See Clarke on Ge 29:3.

Verse 9. Rachel came with her father's sheep] So we find that

young women were not kept concealed in the house till the time

they were married, which is the common gloss put on almah, a

virgin, one concealed. Nor was it beneath the dignity of the

daughters of the most opulent chiefs to carry water from the well,

as in the case of Rebekah; or tend sheep, as in the case of

Rachel. The chief property in those times consisted in flocks:

and who so proper to take care of them as those who were

interested in their safety and increase? Honest labour, far from

being a discredit, is an honour both to high and low. The king

himself is served by the field; and without it, and the labour

necessary for its cultivation, all ranks must perish. Let every

son, let every daughter, learn that it is no discredit to be

employed, whenever it may be necessary, in the meanest offices, by

which the interests of the family may be honestly promoted.

Verse 10. Jacob went near, and rolled the stone] Probably the

flock of Laban was the last of those which had a right to the

well; that flock being now come, Jacob assisted the shepherds to

roll off the stone, (for it is not likely he did it by himself,)

and so assisted his cousin, to whom he was as yet unknown, to

water her flock.

Verse 11. Jacob kissed Rachel] A simple and pure method by

which the primitive inhabitants of the earth testified their

friendship to each other, first abused by hypocrites, who

pretended affection while their vile hearts meditated terror, (see

the case of Joab,) and afterwards disgraced by refiners on morals,

who, while they pretended to stumble at those innocent expressions

of affection and friendship, were capable of committing the

grossest acts of impurity.

And lifted up his voice] It may be, in thanksgiving to God for

the favour he had shown him, in conducting him thus far in peace

and safety.

And wept.] From a sense of the goodness of his heavenly

Father, and his own unworthiness of the success with which he had

been favoured. The same expressions of kindness and pure

affection are repeated on the part of Laban, Ge 29:13.

Verse 14. My bone and my flesh.] One of my nearest relatives.

Verse 15. Because thou art my brother, &c.] Though thou art my

nearest relative, yet I have no right to thy services without

giving thee an adequate recompense. Jacob had passed a whole

month in the family of Laban, in which he had undoubtedly rendered

himself of considerable service. As Laban, who was of a very

saving if not covetous disposition, saw that he was to be of great

use to him in his secular concerns, he wished to secure his

services, and therefore asks him what wages he wished to have.

Verse 17. Leah was tender-eyed] raccoth, soft,

delicate, lovely. I believe the word means just the reverse of

the signification generally given to it. The design of the

inspired writer is to compare both the sisters together, that the

balance may appear to be greatly in favour of Rachel. The chief

recommendation of Leah was her soft and beautiful eyes; but Rachel

was yephath toar, beautiful in her shape, person,

mien, and gait, and yephath mareh, beautiful in her

countenance. The words plainly signify a fine shape and fine

features, all that can be considered as essential to personal

beauty. Therefore Jacob loved her, and was willing to become a

bond servant for seven years, that he might get her to wife; for

in his destitute state he could produce no dowry, and it was the

custom of those times for the father to receive a portion for his

daughter, and not to give one with her. One of the Hindoo

lawgivers says, "A person may become a slave on account of love,

or to obtain a wife." The bad system of education by which women

are spoiled and rendered in general good for nothing, makes it

necessary for the husband to get a dowry with his wife to enable

him to maintain her; whereas in former times they were well

educated and extremely useful, hence he who got a wife almost

invariably got a prize, or as Solomon says, got a good thing.

Verse 20. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel.] In ancient

times it appears to have been a custom among all nations that men

should give dowries for their wives; and in many countries this

custom still prevails. When Shechem asked Dinah for wife, he

said, Ask me never so much-dowry and gift, and I will give

according as ye shall say unto me. When Eliezer went to get

Rebekah for Isaac, he took a profusion of riches with him, in

silver, gold, jewels, and raiment, with other costly things,

which, when the contract was made, he gave to Rebekah, her mother,

and her brothers. David, in order to be Saul's son-in-law, must,

instead of a dowry, kill Goliath; and when this was done, he was

not permitted to espouse Michal till he had killed one hundred

Philistines. The Prophet Hosea bought his wife for fifteen pieces

of silver, and a homer and a half of barley. The same custom

prevailed among the ancient Greeks, Indians, and Germans. The

Romans also had a sort of marriage entitled per coemptionem, "by

purchase." The Tartars and Turks still buy their wives; but among

the latter they are bought as a sort of slaves.

Herodotus mentions a very singular custom among the

Babylonians, which may serve to throw light on Laban's conduct

towards Jacob. "In every district they annually assemble all the

marriageable virgins on a certain day; and when the men are come

together and stand round the place, the crier rising up sells one

after another, always bringing forward the most beautiful first;

and having sold her for a great sum of gold, he puts up her who is

esteemed second in beauty. On this occasion the richest of the

Babylonians used to contend for the fairest wife, and to outbid

one another. But the vulgar are content to take the ugly and lame

with money; for when all the beautiful virgins are sold, the crier

orders the most deformed to stand up; and after he has openly

demanded who will marry her with a small sum, she is at length

given to the man that is contented to marry her with the least.

And in this manner the money arising from the sale of the handsome

served for a portion to those whose look was disagreeable, or who

had any bodily imperfection. A father was not permitted to

indulge his own fancy in the choice of a husband for his daughter;

neither might the purchaser carry off the woman which he had

bought without giving sufficient security that he would live with

her as his own wife. Those also who received a sum of money with

such as could bring no price in this market, were obliged also to

give sufficient security that they would live with them, and if

they did not they were obliged to refund the money." Thus Laban

made use of the beauty of Rachel to dispose of his daughter Leah,

in the spirit of the Babylonian custom, though not in the letter.

And they seemed unto him but a few days] If Jacob had been

obliged to wait seven years before he married Rachel, could it

possibly be said that they could appear to him as a few days?

Though the letter of the text seems to say the contrary, yet there

are eminent men who strongly contend that he received Rachel soon

after the month was finished, (see Ge 29:14,) and then served

seven years for her, which might really appear but a few days to

him, because of his increasing love to her; but others think this

quite incompatible with all the circumstances marked down in the

text, and on the supposition that Jacob was not now seventy-seven

years of age, as most chronologers make him, but only fifty-seven,

(See Clarke on Ge 31:55,) there will be time sufficient to allow for

all the transactions which are recorded in his history, during his

stay with Laban. As to the incredibility of a passionate lover,

as some have termed him, waiting patiently for seven years before

he could possess the object of his wishes, and those seven years

appearing to him as only a few days, it may be satisfactorily

accounted for, they think, two ways: 1. He had the continual

company of his elect spouse, and this certainly would take away

all tedium in the case. 2. Love affairs were not carried to such

a pitch of insanity among the patriarchs as they have been in

modern times; they were much more sober and sedate, and scarcely

ever married before they were forty years of age, and then more

for conveniency, and the desire of having an offspring, than for

any other purpose. At the very lowest computation Jacob was now

fifty-seven, and consequently must have passed those days in which

passion runs away with reason. Still, however, the obvious

construction of the text shows that he got Rachel the week after

he had married Leah.

Verse 21. My days are fulfilled] My seven years are now

completed, let me have my wife, for whom I have given this service

as a dowry.

Verse 22. Laban-made a feast.] mishteh signifies a feast

of drinking. As marriage was a very solemn contract, there is

much reason to believe that sacrifices were offered on the

occasion, and libations poured out; and we know that on festival

occasions a cup of wine was offered to every guest; and as this

was drunk with particular ceremonies, the feast might derive its

name from this circumstance, which was the most prominent and

observable on such occasions.

Verse 23. In the evening-he took Leah his daughter] As the

bride was always veiled, and the bride chamber generally dark, or

nearly so, and as Leah was brought to Jacob in the evening, the

imposition here practised might easily pass undetected by Jacob,

till the ensuing day discovered the fraud.

Verse 24. And Laban gave-Zilpah his maid] Slaves given in this

way to a daughter on her marriage, were the peculiar property of

the daughter; and over them the husband had neither right nor


Verse 26. It must not be so done in our country] It was an early

custom to give daughters in marriage according to their seniority;

and it is worthy of remark that the oldest people now existing,

next to the Jews, I mean the Hindoos, have this not merely as a

custom, but as a positive law; and they deem it criminal to give

a younger daughter in marriage while an elder daughter remains

unmarried. Among them it is a high offence, equal to adultery,

"for a man to marry while his elder brother remains unmarried, or

for a man to give his daughter to such a person, or to give his

youngest daughter in marriage while the eldest sister remains

unmarried."-Code of Gentoo Laws, chap. xv., sec. 1, p. 204. This

was a custom at Mesopotamia; but Laban took care to conceal it

from Jacob till after he had given him Leah. The words of Laban

are literally what a Hindoo would say on such a subject.

Verse 27. Fulfil her week] The marriage feast, it appears,

lasted seven days; it would not therefore have been proper to

break off the solemnities to which all the men of the place had

been invited, Ge 29:22, and probably Laban wished to keep his

fraud from the public eye; therefore he informs Jacob that if he

will fulfil the marriage week for Leah, he will give him Rachel at

the end of it, on condition of his serving seven other years. To

this the necessity of the case caused Jacob to agree; and thus

Laban had fourteen years' service instead of seven: for it is not

likely that Jacob would have served even seven days for Leah, as

his affection was wholly set on Rachel, the wife of his own

choice. By this stratagem Laban gained a settlement for both his

daughters. What a man soweth, that shall he reap. Jacob had

before practised deceit, and is now deceived; and Laban, the

instrument of it, was afterwards deceived himself.

Verse 28. And Jacob did so-and he gave him Rachel] It is

perfectly plain that Jacob did not serve seven years more before

he got Rachel to wife; but having spent a week with Leah, and in

keeping the marriage feast, he then got Rachel, and served

afterwards seven years for her. Connections of this kind are now

called incestuous; but it appears they were allowable in those

ancient times. In taking both sisters, it does not appear that

any blame attached to Jacob, though in consequence of it he was

vexed by their jealousies. It was probably because of this that

the law was made, Thou shalt not take a wife to her sister, to vex

her, besides the other in her life-time. After this, all such

marriages were strictly forbidden.

Verse 31. The Lord saw that Leah was hated] From this and the

preceding verse we get the genuine meaning of the word sane,

to hate, in certain disputed places in the Scriptures. The word

simply signifies a less degree of love; so it is said, Ge 29:30:

"Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah," i.e., he loved Leah less than

Rachel; and this is called hating in Ge 29:31:

When the Lord saw that Leah was hated-that she had less

affection shown to her than was her due, as one of the legitimate

wives of Jacob, he opened her womb-he blessed her with children.

Now the frequent intercourse of Jacob with Leah (see the following

verses) sufficiently proves that he did not hate her in the sense

in which this term is used among us; but he felt and showed less

affection for her than for her sister. So Jacob have I loved,

but Esau have I hated, simply means, I have shown a greater degree

of affection for Jacob and his posterity than I have done for Esau

and his descendants, by giving the former a better earthly portion

than I have given to the latter, and by choosing the family of

Jacob to be the progenitors of the Messiah. But not one word of

all this relates to the eternal states of either of the two

nations. Those who endeavour to support certain peculiarities of

their creed by such scriptures as these, do greatly err, not

knowing the Scripture, and not properly considering either the

sovereignty or the mercy of God.

Verse 32. She called his name Reuben] reuben,

literally, see ye or behold a son; for Jehovah hath looked upon,

raah, beheld, my affliction; behold then the consequence, I

have got a son!

Verse 33. She called his name Simeon.] shimon, hearing;

i.e., God had blessed her with another son, because he had heard

that she was hated-loved less than Rachel was.

Verse 34. Therefore was his name called Levi.] levi,

joined; because she supposed that, in consequence of all these

children, Jacob would become joined to her in as strong affection,

at least, as he was to Rachel. From Levi sprang the tribe of

Levites, who instead of the first-born, were joined unto the

priests in the service of the sanctuary. See Nu 18:2,4.

Verse 35. She called his name Judah] yehudah, a

confessor; one who acknowledges God, and acknowledges that all

good comes from his hands, and gives him the praise due to his

grace and mercy. From this patriarch the Jews have their name,

and could it be now rightly applied to them, it would intimate

that they were a people that confess God, acknowledge his bounty,

and praise him for his grace.

Left bearing.] That is, for a time; for she had several

children afterwards. Literally translated, the original

taamod milledeth-she stood still from bearing, certainly does not

convey the same meaning as that in our translation; the one

appearing to signify that she ceased entirely from having

children; the other, that she only desisted for a time, which was

probably occasioned by a temporary suspension of Jacob's company,

who appears to have deserted the tent of Leah through the jealous

management of Rachel.

The intelligent and pious care of the original inhabitants of

the world to call their children by those names which were

descriptive of some remarkable event in providence, circumstance

of their birth, or domestic occurrence, is worthy, not only of

respect, but of imitation. As the name itself continually

called to the mind, both of the parents and the child, the

circumstance from which it originated, it could not fail to be a

lasting blessing to both. How widely different is our custom!

Unthinking and ungodly, we impose names upon our offspring as we

do upon our cattle; and often the dog, the horse, the monkey, and

the parrot, share in common with our children the names which are

called Christian! Some of our Christian names, so called, are

absurd, others are ridiculous, and a third class impious; these

last being taken from the demon gods and goddesses of heathenism.

May we hope that the rational and pious custom recommended in the

Scriptures shall ever be restored, even among those who profess to

believe in, fear, and love God!

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