JACOB BUILDS HIS FAMILY
Key Verse: 29:35a
“She conceived again and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ So she named him Judah.”
The Bible account of Jacob building his family in Paddan Aram is frankly a very sordid story. It begins with Jacob following the highest moral standard by saving his virginity till the night of his marriage. Then from that night on Jacob allows himself to go from being the husband of one wife to the husband of four wives. It is a messy story, a painful story. The Bible teaches clearly God established Jacob’s family. He grew to become a great nation out of which the Savior of the world would come, God’s Son Jesus Christ. At the same time we find God’s biblical principle, “we reap what we sow” was not re-adjusted for Jacob and those in his household. Those that lived by faith in God were blessed. While those that lived by jealousy and refused to repent never found happiness or contentment.
Part I. Jacob Marries Laban’s daughters.
Look at verse 1: “Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples.” Jacob’s journey from Beersheba to Haran was a 400 mile trip. In regards to distance it would be comparable to walking from Washington DC to Boston, Massachusetts. If he walked 15 miles a day the trip would have taken him about one month. Once I made a two day bike trip by myself in the state of Maine. Loneliness is what I remember the most about that trip. I’m sure the loneliness was Jacob’s constant companion on that journey. Everyday he traveled, his father’s direction to find a wife among his uncle’s daughter, became a very serious and central issue as he neared Paddan Aram.
In verse 2 he finally arrives. “There he saw a well in the field”. This reminds us of the well Abraham’s chief servant found Rebekah at when he went on the mission to find a wife for Isaac. Quickly we notice Jacob was not afraid to ask people questions. Jacob’s boldness to ask about his uncle enabled him immediately be shown his future wife Rachel. Like most single men who see a woman that catches their attention, Jacob wanted to do something to impress Rachel. Look at verses 9-12. Notice it says: “When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of Laban, his mother’s brother, and Laban’s sheep,” This sight must have caused Jacob to remember his father’s words in Genesis 28: “Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.” Jacob was a lonely, lonely man. At the same time he was a man of obedience. He would only marry whom his father told him to marry. Now he finally sees a beautiful woman who qualified as a marriage candidate. Jacob seized the moment to both impress Rachel and her father. Single handedly he removes the large rock from the mouth of the well. Then he takes the initiative to water his uncle’s sheep. When this was done he sealed this very important first impression by kissing Rachel and weeping aloud. Many people have shared their speculations why Jacob wept. As for me I see this was an emotion filled moment. For the first time in more than a month he saw a friendly face, a relative who would welcome him. He was overwhelmed with joy and relief. Rachel ran and told her father about Jacob. He hurried out to greet Jacob with a welcoming embrace, kiss and brought him back to his own home.
Jacob bided his time before asking Laban if he could marry his daughter. In fact single people can learn a few important priorities when it comes to priorities of life and marriage. First Jacob placed honor before marriage. Jacob sought the honor of birthright and his father’s blessing before marrying. These days we can compare this to finding God’s salvation for our souls. All people should seek salvation first. None of us are promised a tomorrow. Today we must be right with God. Today we must be ready to meet our Savior and Judge the Lord Jesus Christ.
Secondly Jacob placed the priority of marriage before the priority of acquiring wealth. Laban said to Jacob in verse 15: “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? In that first month Jacob made himself very useful to Laban. He didn’t sleep late nor just hang around doing nothing. Jacob’s work ethic impressed Laban enough for him to give Jacob the opportunity to name his wage. Many young men would have seen this as an opportunity to make a large salary. Jacob saw it as his opportunity to ask for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Look at verse 18: “Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” Jacob kept his side of this employment/marriage deal. Look at verse 20: “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.”
Many important questions about marriage and relationships with men and women can be answered here. First, not only did Jacob place his marriage before wealth, we see he did not have any physical relationship with Rachel before they were married. When I was first seeking God’s will about sex before marriage no preacher clearly answered the question. Movies taught me it was ok. My friends said it was ok. But I was looking to see what the Bible would say. Yet I could not find one preacher who would touch the subject. Today this preacher will touch the subject. We see Jacob did not lay with Rachel before marriage. The God of the Bible does not want his people to have sex before marriage even if they are engaged. This is God’s clear answer to this question. Secondly, we see Jacob was willing to wait seven years. His brother Esau had no self-control to wait for anything. When he was hungry he ate. When he wanted sex he went out and found it. When he saw a woman that he wanted to marry he married. But Jacob was a man who would wait on God’s right time and for God’s right person. Paul writes in Titus 2:6. “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled”. Jacob was a man of great self-control. He loved Rachel. She was a fine beautiful woman but he practiced self-control. He said; “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter.” Martin Luther wrote the cross for young men is celibacy. We see Jacob carried that cross even while being engaged for seven years to a very beautiful woman. From Jacob, Rachel and Leah we should learn self-control. Sure we really want a relationship. This is normal. Not withstanding we must deny ourselves and wait for God’s right time. When we wait for God’s right time he will give us the best person to marry. The one who will help us do his will and inherit his eternal kingdom. 10,000 years from now this is all that will matter.
Once Jacob’s seven year employment for marriage deal was finished, Jacob didn’t wait for Laban to turn over his daughter for marriage. Look at verse 21: “Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.” Jacob was not being presumptuous. He was right both in God’s sight and man’s sight. Jacob knew Laban would never keep his side of the deal unless he frankly and very clearly brought the matter to Laban’s attention. Here again single people who want to get married should learn from Jacob. Some people call it a biological clock. Other people call it God’s time. Either way a specific time in our life will be given us to marry. At these times we must boldly take hold of God’s opportunity to marry.
Verse 22 reads: “Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast.” Finally the day Jacob work for had come, his wedding day with Rachel. Every day all day long Jacob sang about his love for Rachel. His love for Rachel was so strong that seven years to him seemed like only a few days. Apparently during the feast the bride is covered with a veil. In fact reading this text one gets the idea the bride’s face was never uncovered at the feast. Moreover, she never spoke. Laban used this custom to commit a great deception. He switched Rachel with Leah. Laban was the king of deception. You would think it would be impossible to deceive a deceptive person like Jacob. Laban however deceived Jacob. Look at verse 25: “When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” Here we see there is truth in that saying: “What goes around comes around.” Jacob deceived his father and brother to get the blessing. Now he is employed by a man who is a much worse deceiver than he is. Some people think they can deceive people, bully people and step on people to get whatever they want. They neglect to take into account there is a just God. The God of the universe has made moral laws just as uncompromising as his physical laws we call Newtonian laws. The law of gravity what goes up must come down. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. One of God’s moral laws is revealed for us in Gal atians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Jacob sowed selfishness and deception with his relationship with his brother. Now he is reaping employment with the most selfish and deceptive of employers. Someone may say: “Well if Jacob didn’t deceive his brother or was not selfish to him he would never have received God’s will for his life. My answer to that is: “Go study the life of Joseph. Then tell me were he broke God’s moral laws to carry out his great plan for his life”. Jacob said: “I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” Yes, we must learn God’s moral law: we will reap what we sow.
Laban rationalized his deception by saying; “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.” We need not ask the question why Laban didn’t tell Jacob this before the marriage. What we see, God placed Laban in Jacob’s life as a mirror so he could see his own sins and repent. When we see the sin of others we should use it like a mirror to see if the same sin exists in our life. If it does, Jesus Christ teaches we should remove the sin from our own life before we try to remove it from the other person’s life.
Laban rewrote Jacob’s marriage contract in verse 27: “Finish this daughter’s bridal week: then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” Shep. Steve brought up a good point regarding what Jacob should have done. He said Jacob should have settled for Leah even though he didn’t love her. He said sin is sin and we shouldn’t try to justify it. I believe he is correct. We can say God used Jacob despite himself.
Part II. Jacob’s Children
In our look how God helped Jacob establish his children, first we learn a man can only love one woman. Look at verse 30: “Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.” The Bible teaches a man will leave his father and mother and be untied to his wife. It does not say he will be united to his wives. God created man to be able to love only one wife. Unfortunately for Leah she had to learn this the hard way. At the same time God is fair. God could see Leah was not loved. Because he saw Leah was not loved he gave her four sons one after another while Rachel was not able to bear even one. There is a saying God holds the key to the womb. God unlocked Leah's womb and kept Rachel’s’ womb locked up. Each child Leah had we find caused her heart to slowly turn from Jacob for love and instead turn to God for love. Leah’s first son was Reuben. The name means: “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” Verse 33 reads: “She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” In these names we see the misery Leah is going through because she is not loved by her husband. At the same time we see she is slowly overcoming her misery by her faith that believes the Lord sees and hears her. Next God gives her a third son. Leah names him Levi which means: “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.” At this point some might be tempted to get into Jacob bashing. Actually Jacob was a very faithful man. Jacob loved Rachael his whole life to the day she died. Eventually Leah came to realize this. The name she gave her fourth son reveals this. Verse 35 reads: “She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ So she named him Judah.” We see Leah finally found her emotional completeness. Not because she received love from Jacob. She finally allowed God to fill that part of her heart only the perfect love of God could fill. With this love of God in her heart she praised God. She marked this glorious spiritual milestone in her life by giving her son a name that gave God all the praise. Let us look again at the wonderful journey of faith Leah traveled from the time of her first son Reuben to her fourth son Judah. She began her marriage living everyday as the most unloved, miserable woman on earth. There was no man, no woman, no counselor, not even mother or father to comfort or help her. Only the living God was available to see her misery. Only he listened to her cries for help. God comforted her. He opened her womb and gave her the joy of being fruitful. Again and again, everyday God was there for her. Finally she learned: “I can live happy without Jacob’s love because I have God’s love and help.” While other people lived in envy and jealousy, Leah praised God. It is no coincidence, of Jacob’s 12 sons God chose Judah to bring Jesus Christ into this world. Through Jesus Christ God offers to all of us his perfect, completely satisfying and eternal love. Are we unloved like Leah? Are we broken hearted and miserable? God has given us Jesus Christ to comfort us, to complete us, to forgive us and help us overcome every fear and anxiety. Let us accept Jesus Christ by faith today. Instead of focusing on our misery let us focus our thoughts on Jesus Christ. Let us give praise to God by faith for the complete love and victory he has given us by faith in Jesus Christ.
Verses 30, 31 read: “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Here we see two very strong and very negative emotions exposed. Rachel was jealous of her sister’s fruitfulness. She blamed it all on Jacob. Jacob became angry with the wife he loved. In his anger he exposed the true reason why Rachel was not able to have children. It was God who was keeping her from having children. Faced with this truth what should Rachel do? First she should repent of her jealousy towards her sister. Second she should pray to God to give her children. Is this what she does? Not at all. Instead she renews her attack on her sister by giving her maid servant Bilhad as a wife to Jacob. Bilhah now as Jacob’s third wife bears him two children. Rachel proudly steps forward and gives the first son the name Dan. Naphtali is the name she chose for the second son. Notice in verse 8 why she called him Naphtali: “I have had a great struggle with my sister and have won.” This exactly explains why Rachel never matured as a spiritual and holy woman of God. She refused to repent of her struggling with her sister. Most people struggle with people. Sin causes us to struggle with others. Cain never repented of it and eventually killed his righteous brother Abel. Leah on the other hand went to God to overcome her no love problem. As a result she became the holy matriarch of God’s priestly people. Certainly God would have helped Rachel become a holy matriarch if she would have repented. Instead we find she never became a woman of faith. As the years went by she grew uglier because of her struggle with her sister. Leah by contrast grew more beautiful because of her holy faith in God. Like Rachel we too have sin in our life which can cause us not to be blessed by God. We shouldn’t dismiss our sin as something we can just continue to accept and live with. God wants us to repent and turn from it. When we do he can make us into spiritually beautiful and influential people of God.
Look at verse 9. God blessed Zilpah to give Jacob two children also. The names Leah gave them showed her gratefulness to God. Gad means good fortune. Asher the second son mean’s “How Happy I am.” Jacob now has eight sons. In God’s plan this is not enough. He still needs four more. There is one small problem. It seems Rachel has told Jacob not to lie with any of the other three wives. Jacob is exhausted and doesn’t care. Then one day Reuben found a very rare fertility plants called mandrake. Rachel heard about it and asked Leah for her son’s mandrakes. Leah saw an opportunity to be able to sleep again with Jacob. Look at verse15. Leah now became all business as she waited for Jacob to come in from the field. Normally a wife would say: Honey, how was your day at work? Leah however was not a normal wife. She had become Jacob’s “take her for granted wife”. In the past this made her feel miserable. God however helped her overcome Jacob’s rudeness. In a word we can say God helped Leah become a “survivor”. God gave Leah an armor plated personality. Nothing Rachel or Jacob could say or do could hurt her. Like a decisive, no nonsense business woman Leah waits for Jacob. When she finally sees him come in from the field she intercepts him before anyone else can catch his attention. Look at verse: 16: “So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. ‘You must sleep with me; I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes. So he slept with her that night’”.
Leah’s cold boldness in this matter may bother some people. Verse 18 shows God was not at all bothered by it. In fact we learn what she did was an extension of her prayer to God for more children. Look at verse 17: “God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son.”
Leah’s life of child bearing is still not over. She continues to pray to God to have children. God gives her another opportunity. This time when she has her sixth son she names him Zebulun because she believed at least her husband would honor her for giving him six sons. She was right he would honor her. Jacob honored her by burying her body in the same cave Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah and he would be buried in.
The account of Jacob’s children in chapter 30 ends by God’s word telling us God remembered Rachel. He listened to her and opened her womb. For a brief moment it seemed Rachel was becoming a spiritual woman of prayer. Her prayer moved God to open her womb. She gave her son the name Joseph. God would have great plans for Joseph. In fact through Joseph God would save Jacob’s entire household. Joseph was a great and precious gift God gave to Rachel. She should have thanked God for him. She should have made a commitment to repent of her jealousy. Instead in her testimony we find she still wanted to carry on the human struggle with her sister. Verse 24 reads: “She named him Joseph, and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.” The Lord would answer her greedy prayer. She would be blessed with one more son, which would cause her death.
For some reason which God only knows it is recorded Jacob only had one daughter. Her name was Dinah. You guessed it her mother was Leah. In the eyes of the world Leah does not stand out front in a way all people can see her. What is important we see God clearly saw her. God heard her. He blessed her and honored her. In the end this is all Leah cared about. In the end it is all we should care about. It doesn’t matter if men and women do not appreciate us, like or love us. All that matters is Jesus Christ loves us. We know he does because he died for our sins. He lives to intercede for us right now at God’s right hand side. When he comes he will gladly share his eternal inheritance with all who place their faith and hope in him. Let us all be thankful people. Let praise and thank God for all he has given us through faith in Christ Jesus.