Genesis 29-31
(Jacob Takes a Wife+)
January 9th


Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”

- Genesis 31:3 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

In the two previous days' readings we learned about the early life of Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. Jacob took his older brother's inheritance in return for a bowl of stew and deceived his own father to receive the special blessing intended for his brother Esau. Jacob then chose to run away to the homeland of his mother's family in order to escape from Esau, but encountered God along the way.

Today's chapters continue the description of Jacob’s odyssey, during which he finds a wife, but ends up sacrificing more than he expected. Jacob meets his mother's brother, Laban, who promised that Jacob could marry his daughter, Rachel, after he completes seven years of work. From Jacob's perspective, the years went by quickly:

    So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, yet they seemed to him like a few days because of his love for her.

    - Genesis 29:20 (NAB)

Then, the story takes a twist when the deceiver is beaten at his own game. Laban substituted his older daughter, Leah, on the wedding day, which was a great disappointment and surprise for Jacob. Afterwards, Laban says that Jacob can have Rachel also, if he works another seven years.

Jacob agreed, took both wives and conceived many children through them and their maidservants (for Rachel was impatient for her first child and Leah was anxious about not being able to conceive additional ones). So far, Jacob was responsible for eleven sons and one daughter. The oldest, born to Leah, was Reuben. Rachel eventually gave birth to her first son, Joseph.

Jacob had the last laugh over Laban as he successfully executed a crafty strategy in animal husbandry to increase his share of the flock at the expense of Laban and his sons. The tipping point occurred when Laban's sons caught onto the scheme and God told Jacob to go home:

    Jacob learned that Laban's sons were talking behind his back: "Jacob has used our father's wealth to make himself rich at our father's expense." At the same time, Jacob noticed that Laban had changed toward him. He wasn't treating him the same.

    That's when God said to Jacob, "Go back home where you were born. I'll go with you."

    - Genesis 31:1-3 (MSG)


Jacob obeyed God's instructions and left Laban's land unannounced with his wives, children, flocks, and all his possessions. Laban caught up with them, but the two men reconciled, shared a sacrifice and meal, and then separated in peace. Jacob returned with his family to his father’s homeland and Laban returned to his land.


Reflection and Application

Jacob demonstrated a high level of maturity and integrity in the early chapters of this section. Even though he had been cheated he stuck with his agreement to work another seven years for Laban – and then worked four more to increase his flock. Jacob understood that honoring our commitments to each other is a way of honoring God.

While Jacob exemplified the virtue of patience, Rachel struggled with jealousy and restlessness, leading her to make the same mistake as Jacob’s grandmother, Sarah, by inviting Jacob to sleep with her maidservant. The idea of four wives would not be considered kosher in our era, and was outlawed when God handed the Ten Commandments to Moses, a descendant of Jacob. But in Jacob’s day this practice was accepted. Therefore he had many offspring and was on his way to fulfilling the promise of God regarding the volume of his descendants.

The children of Jacob would be the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. The land promised to Abraham would be divided up among those tribes, as we shall read later in the Old Testament. The names of these apportioned lands would be used for many generations, including up to the time of Jesus walking on Earth. For example, the Gospel author Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah who had foreseen that the Messiah would inhabit the territories named after two of Leah's children:

    Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

    “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
       on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
    the people who sat in darkness
       have seen a great light,
    and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
       light has dawned.”

    From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

    - Matthew 4:12-17 (NRSV)

God’s plans cannot be blocked by any man. He had promised Jacob that he would inherit land and have many descendants. There was no action by Laban or other men that would permanently derail these plans. Jacob had faith. He didn't give up. God has plans for us also. Let us have faith to not give up.

"Don't Give Up", Calling Glory


Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions

    1. In what situations have you been tempted to break your obligation because of an action by another party?
    2. What attributes have you inherited from your family?
    3. What is the legacy that you want to see carried forward by the young people in your circle of influence (siblings, children, nieces or nephews or others)?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help us to fulfill obligations that we have made, even when the other party has not been totally honest.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Laborers working for minimal pay who are not treated well.

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Genesis 32-35 (He Wrestles with God)

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