Genesis 29:17
Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.
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(17) Leah was tender eyed.—Leah, whose name signifies languor, weariness, had dull bleared eyes. Probably she suffered, as so many do in that hot sandy region, from some form of ophthalmia. Rachel (Heb., the ewe) was, on the contrary, “beautiful and well favoured” (Heb., beautiful in form and beautiful in look). Leah’s bleared eyes would be regarded in the East as a great defect, just as bright eyes were much admired. (See 1Samuel 16:12, where David is described as fair of eyes.) Yet it was not Rachel, with her fair face and well-proportioned figure, and her husband’s lasting love, that was the mother of the progenitor of the Messiah, but the weary-eyed Leah.

29:15-30 During the month that Jacob spent as a guest, he was not idle. Wherever we are, it is good to employ ourselves in some useful business. Laban was desirous that Jacob should continue with him. Inferior relations must not be imposed upon; it is our duty to reward them. Jacob made known to Laban the affection he had for his daughter Rachel. And having no wordly goods with which to endow her, he promises seven years' service Love makes long and hard services short and easy; hence we read of the labour of love, Heb 6:10. If we know how to value the happiness of heaven, the sufferings of this present time will be as nothing to us. An age of work will be but as a few days to those that love God, and long for Christ's appearing. Jacob, who had imposed upon his father, is imposed upon by Laban, his father-in-law, by a like deception. Herein, how unrighteous soever Laban was, the Lord was righteous: see Jud 1:7. Even the righteous, if they take a false step, are sometimes thus recompensed in the earth. And many who are not, like Jacob, in their marriage, disappointed in person, soon find themselves, as much to their grief, disappointed in the character. The choice of that relation ought to be made with good advice and thought on both sides. There is reason to believe that Laban's excuse was not true. His way of settling the matter made bad worse. Jacob was drawn into the disquiet of multiplying wives. He could not refuse Rachel, for he had espoused her; still less could he refuse Leah. As yet there was no express command against marrying more than one wife. It was in the patriarchs a sin of ignorance; but it will not justify the like practice now, when God's will is plainly made known by the Divine law, Le 18:18, and more fully since, by our Saviour, that one man and woman only must be joined together, 1Co 7:2.Jacob serves seven years for Rachel. "What shall thy wages be?" An active, industrious man like Jacob was of great value to Laban. "Two daughters." Daughters in those countries and times were also objects of value, for which their parents were accustomed to receive considerable presents Genesis 24:53. Jacob at present, however, is merely worth his labor. He has apparently nothing else to offer. As he loves Rachel, he offers to serve seven years for her, and is accepted. Isaac loved Rebekah after she was sought and won as a bride for him. Jacob loves Rachel before he makes a proposal of marriage. His attachment is pure and constant, and hence the years of his service seem but days to him. The pleasure of her society both in the business and leisure of life makes the hours pass unnoticed. It is obvious that in those early days the contact of the sexes before marriage was more unrestrained than it afterward became.17. Leah tender-eyed—that is, soft blue eyes—thought a blemish.

Rachel beautiful and well-favored—that is, comely and handsome in form. The latter was Jacob's choice.

So called either upon this occasion of the meeting of divers kings here; or because king Melchizedek either had his habitation, or was much delighted with it, and conversant in it. See 2 Samuel 18:18.

Leah was tender eyed,.... Blear eyed, had a moisture in them, which made them red, and so she was not so agreeable to look at; though Onkelos renders the words,"the eyes of Leah were beautiful,''as if her beauty lay in her eyes, and nowhere else:

but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured; in all parts, in the form of her countenance, in her shape and stature, and in her complexion, her hair black, her flesh white and ruddy, as Ben Melech observes.

Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favored.
17. Leah’s eyes were tender] i.e. weak or soft, wanting in clearness and brilliancy. The eye was the chief feature of Oriental beauty. The versions rather exaggerate the sense. LXX ἀσθενεῖς = “weak,” Lat. lippis oculis, Aq. Sym. ἁπαλοί = “tender.”

beautiful and well favoured] Lit. “fair of form and fair of looks.” The Old English “favoured” has reference to personal appearance; cf. Genesis 41:2; Genesis 41:4.

Verse 17. - Leah was tender eyed. Literally, the eyes of Leah were tender, i.e. weak, dun; ἀσθενεῖς (LXX.), lippi (Vulgate); cf. 1 Samuel 16:12. Leah's face was not ugly (Bohlen), only her eyes were not clear and lustrous, dark and sparkling, as in all probability Rachel's were (Knobel). But Rachel was beautiful and well favored. Literally, beautiful in form (i.e. in outline and make of body; cf. Genesis 39:6; also 1 Samuel 16:18 - "a man of form," i.e. formosus, well made) and beautiful in appearance (i.e. of a lovely countenance). "If authentic history was not in the way, Leah, as the mother of Judah, and of the Davidic Messianic line, ought to have carried off the prize of beauty after Sarah and Rebakah (Lange). Genesis 29:17Jacob's Double Marriage. - After a full month ("a month of days," Genesis 41:4; Numbers 11:20, etc.), during which time Laban had discovered that he was a good and useful shepherd, he said to him, "Shouldst thou, because thou art my relative, serve me for nothing? fix me thy wages." Laban's selfishness comes out here under the appearance of justice and kindness. To preclude all claim on the part of his sister's son to gratitude or affection in return for his services, he proposes to pay him like an ordinary servant. Jacob offered to serve him seven years for Rachel, the younger of his two daughters, whom he loved because of her beauty; i.e., just as many years as the week has days, that he might bind himself to a complete and sufficient number of years of service. For the elder daughter, Leah, had weak eyes, and consequently was not so good-looking; since bright eyes, with fire in them, are regarded as the height of beauty in Oriental women. Laban agreed. He would rather give his daughter to him than to a stranger.

(Note: This is the case still with the Bedouins, the Druses, and other Eastern tribes (Burckhardt, Voleny, Layard, and Lane).

Jacob's proposal may be explained, partly on the ground that he was not then in a condition to give the customary dowry, or the usual presents to relations, and partly also from the fact that his situation with regard to Esau compelled him to remain some time with Laban. The assent on the part of Laban cannot be accounted for from the custom of selling daughters to husbands, for it cannot be shown that the purchase of wives was a general custom at that time; but is to be explained solely on the ground of Laban's selfishness and avarice, which came out still more plainly afterwards. To Jacob, however, the seven years seemed but "a few days, because he loved Rachel." This is to be understood, as C. a Lapide observes, "not affective, but appretiative," i.e., in comparison with the reward to be obtained for his service.

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