Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east.
Verse 1. - Then Jacob went on his journey (literally, lifted up his feet - a graphic description of traveling. Inspired by new hopes, and conscious of loftier aims than when he fled from Beersheba, the lonely furtive departed from Bethel), and came into the land of the people of the east - literally, the land of the sons of the east, i.e. Mesopotamia, about 450 miles distant from Beersheba.
And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well's mouth.
Verse 2. - And he looked (either to discover where he was, or in search of water), and behold a well in the field, - not the well at which Eliezer's caravan halted, which was a well for the village maidens, situated in front of the town, and approached by steps (vide Genesis 14.), but a well in the open field for the use of flocks, and covered at the time of Jacob's arrival with a huge stone - and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it. A frequent Oriental scene (cf. Genesis 14:11; Exodus 2:16). "Who that has traveled much in this country has not often arrived at a well in the heat of the day which was surrounded with numerous flocks of sheep waiting to be watered? I once saw such a scene in the burning plains of Northern Syria. Half-naked, fierce-looking men were drawing up water in leather buckets; flock after flock was brought up, watered, and sent away; and after all the men had ended their work, then several women and girls brought up their flocks, and drew water for them. Thus it was with Jethro's daughters; and thus, no doubt, it would have been with Rachel if Jacob had not rolled away the stone and watered her sheep" ('Land and Book,' p. 589). For out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well's mouth. "Most of the cisterns are covered with a large thick, flat stone, in the center of which a hole is cut, which forms the mouth of the cistern. This hole, in many instances, we found covered with a heavy stone, to the removal of which two or three men were requisite" (Robinson, 2. p. 180).
And thither were all the flocks gathered: and they rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well's mouth in his place.
Verse 3. - And thither were all the flecks gathered. "Fifteen minutes later we came to a large well in a valley among the swells, fitted up with troughs and reservoirs, with flocks waiting around" (Robinson, 3. p. 21). And they rolled the stone from the well's mouth, find watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well's mouth in his place. From the middle of ver. 2 the words are parenthetical, the watering of the flocks not having taken place till Rachel had arrived (ver. 9) and Jacob had uncovered the well (ver. 10).
And Jacob said unto them, My brethren, whence be ye? And they said, Of Haran are we.
Verse 4. - And Jacob said unto them (the shepherds of the three flocks), My brethren (a friendly salutation from one who was himself a shepherd), whence be ye? Anticipating that their reply would reveal his whereabouts. And they said, Of Haran are we. This could scarcely fail to remind Jacob of God's premise to guide him in his journey.
And he said unto them, Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We know him.
Verse 5. - And he said unto them (with the view of discovering his kinsmen), Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? - i.e. the grandson, Laban's father having been Bethuel, who, however, here, as in Genesis 14, retires into the background. And they said, We know him. The language of the shepherds being Chaldaean (vide Genesis 31:47), Jacob, who spoke Hebrew, was able to converse with them either because he had learnt Chaldee from his mother (Clericus), or, as is more probable, because the dialects were not then greatly dissimilar (Gosman in Lange).
And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep.
Verse 6. - And he said unto them, Is he well? Literally, is there peace to him? meaning not simply bodily health, but all manner of felicity; ὑγιαίνει (LXX.); sanusne est? (Vulgate). Cf. the Christian salutation, tax vobiscum And they said, He is well (literally, peace): and, behold, Rachel - "Ewe" (Gesenius) - his daughter cometh with the sheep.
And he said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them.
Verse 7. - And he said, Lo, it is yet high day (literally, the day is yet great, i.e. much of it still remains), neither is it time that the cattle should he gathered together (i.e. to shut them up for the night): water ye the sheep, and go and feed them - being desirous to get the shepherds away from the well that he might meet Rachel alone (Keil, Lange, Murphy), though perhaps his words with as much correctness may be traced to that prudent and industrious habit of mind which afterwards shone forth so conspicuously in himself, and which instinctively caused him to frown upon laziness and inactivity (Starke, Kalisch, Bush).
And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well's mouth; then we water the sheep.
Verse 8. - And they said, We cannot, - not because of any physical difficulty (Kalisch), since three men could easily have accomplished what Jacob by himself did, but because they had agreed not to do so (Rosenmüller, Murphy), but to wait - until all the flocks be gathered together (when the watering was done at once, instead of at so many different times), and till they roll the stone from the well's mouth; - more correctly rendered, and (sc. then, i.e. when the flocks are assembled) they (i.e. the shepherds) roll away the stone - then (or, and) we water the sheep. The object of watering the flocks collectively may have been, as above stated, for convenience, or to prevent the well from being opened too frequently, in which case dust might rapidly accumulate within it (Kalisch), or perhaps to secure an equal distribution of the water (Murphy).
And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep: for she kept them.
Verse 9. - And while he yet spake with them (literally, he yet speaking with them), Rachel came with her father's sheep: for she kept them - or, she was a shepherdess, the part. רֹעָה being used as a substantive (Gesenius, 'Lex.,' sub. nom.).
And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother.
Verse 10. - And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, - "the term mother's brother is not unintentionally repeated three times in this verse to describe with the greatest possible stress that Jacob had met with his own relations, with "his bone and his flesh" (Kalisch) - and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother (Jacob from the first takes particular notice of Laban's flock, perhaps regarding them as a sign of Laban s wealth. If Laban s daughter had her attractions for the son of Isaac, so also had Laban s sheep), that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth (probably disregarding the shepherds' rule to wait for the gathering of all the flocks, unless, indeed, Rachel s was the last), and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. The threefold repetition of this phrase does not prove that Jacob acted in all this purely as a cousin (Lange). The phrase is the historian's, and Jacob had not yet informed Rachel of his name.
And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.
Verse 11. - And Jacob kissed Rachel, - in demonstration of his cousinly affection. If Jacob had not yet discovered who he was to the fair shepherdess, his behavior must have filled her with surprise, even allowing for the unaffected simplicity of the times; but the fact that she does not resent his conduct as an undue liberty perhaps suggests that he had first informed her of his relationship to the inmates of Laban s house (Calvin). On kissing vide Genesis 27:26 - and lifted up his voice, and wept - partly for joy in finding his relatives (cf. Genesis 43:30; Genesis 45:2, 14, 15); partly in grateful acknowledgment of God's kindness in conducting him to his mother s brother's house.
And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son: and she ran and told her father.
Verse 12. - And Jacob told (or, had told, ut supra) Rachel that he was her father's brother, - as Lot is called Abraham's brother, though in reality his nephew (Genesis 13:8; Genesis 14:14, 16) - and that he was Rebekah's son (this clause would explain the meaning of the term "brother in the former): and she ran and told her father. Like Rebekah, believing the stranger's words and running to report them, though, unlike Rebekah, first relating them to her father (cf. Genesis 14:28).
And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things.
Verse 13. - And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings (literally, heard the hearing, or thing heard, i.e. the report of the arrival) of Jacob his sister's son, - he acted very much as he did ninety-seven years before, when Abraham's servant came to woo his sister (Genesis 14:20, 30) - that (literally, and) he ran to meet him, and embraced him, - so afterwards Esau did Jacob (Genesis 33:4), and Jacob the two sons of Joseph (Genesis 48:10) - and kissed him, and brought him to his house - thus evincing the same kindness and hospitality that had characterized him on the previous occasion. And he (Jacob) told Laban all these things - what his mother bad instructed him to say to attest his kinship (Calvin); the things related in the immediate context (Keil); more likely the entire story of his life, and in particular of his exile from home, with its cause and object (Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Lange).
And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month.
Verse 14. - And Laban said unto him (giving utterance to the impression Jacob s recital had produced upon his mind), Surely thou art my bone and my flesh - i.e. my blood relation (cf. Judges 9:2; 2 Samuel 5:1). Laban meant that Jacob had satisfactorily proved himself Rebekah's son. And he abode with him the space of a month - literally, a month of days (cf. Genesis 41:1; Numbers 11:20), or a month as regards time, "the second substantive describing the general notion of which the first is a specification" (Kalisch).
And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?
Verse 15. - And Laban said unto Jacob (probably at the month's end), Because thou art - literally, is it not that. thou art (cf. Genesis 27:36; 2 Samuel 23:19) - my brother, - my kinsman (vide on ver. 12) - shouldest thou therefore serve me for naught? (literally, arid thou server me gratuitously) tell me, what shall thy wages be? A proof of Laban's generosity and justice (Kalisch); of his selfishness and greed (Keil); of his prudence and sagacity in opening up the way for a love-suit (Large).
And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.
Verse 16. - And Laban had two daughters (the wife of Laban is not mentioned in the story): the name of the elder was Leah, - "Wearied" (Gesenius); "Dull," "Stupid" (Furst); "Pining," "Yearning" (Lange) - and the name of the younger was Rachel - "Ewe" (Gesenius).
Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.
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).
And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.
Verse 18. - And Jacob loved Rachel (it is more than probable that this was an illustration of what is known as "love at first sight" on the part of Rachel as well as Jacob); and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter. Having no property, with which to buy his wife, according to Oriental custom (Kalisch), or to give the usual dowry for her to her father (Keil), - cf. Genesis 14:53; 34:12; 1 Samuel 18:25, - Jacob's offer was at once accepted by his grasping uncle, though he was that uncle's "brother" (ver. 15).
And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.
Verse 19. - And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man. Orientals commonly prefer alliances within the circle of their own relatives. Burckhardt, Volney, Layard, and Lane testify that this is still the case among the Bedouins, the Druses, and other Eastern tribes. Abide with me - a formal ratification of the compact on the part of Laban.
And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.
Verse 20. - And Jacob served - hard service (Genesis 31:40, 41), in keeping sheep (Hosea 12:12) - seven years for Rachel. The purity and intensity of Jacob's affection was declared not alone by the proposal of a seven years' term of servitude, - a long period of waiting for a man of fifty-seven, if not seventy-seven, years of age, - but also by the spirit in which he served his avaricious relative. Many as the days were that required to intervene before he obtained possession of his bride, they were rendered happy by the sweet society of Rachel. And they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. "Words breathing the purest tenderness, and expressing more emphatically than the flowery hyperboles of romantic phraseology the deep attachment of an affectionate heart" (Kalisch); words too which show the lofty appreciation Jacob had of the personal worth of his future bride.
And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.
Verse 21. - And Jacob said unto Laban (who, though the term of servitude had expired, appeared to be in no haste to implement his part of the bargain), Give me my wife (i.e. my affianced wife, as in Deuteronomy 22:23, 24; Matthew 1:20), for my days are fulfilled (i.e. my term of service is completed), that I may go in unto her - quo significant intactam adhuc esse virginem (Calvin); a proof that Jacob's love was pure and true.
And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.
Verse 22. - And Laban (unable to evade or delay the fulfillment of his agreement with Jacob) gathered together all the men of the place (not the entire population, but the principal inhabitants), and made a feast - a "mishteh, or drinking (cf. Genesis 19:3), i.e. a wedding banquet (cf. bride-ale - bridal), which commonly lasted seven days (Judges 14:10; Tobit 11:18), though it appears to have varied according to the circumstances of the bridegroom.
And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.
Verse 23. - And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him. The deception practiced on Jacob was rendered possible by the fact that the bride was usually conducted into the marriage chamber veiled; the veil being so long and close as to conceal not only the face, but much of the person (vide Genesis 14:65). And he went in unto her. The conduct of Laban is perfectly intelligible as the outcome of his sordid avarice; but it is difficult to understand how Leah could acquiesce in a proposal so base as to wrong her sister by marrying one who neither sought nor loved her. She must herself have been attached to Jacob; and it is probable that Laban had explained to her his plan for bringing about a double wedding.
And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid.
Verse 24. - And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah - "the Dropping"? (Gesenius), "Myrrh-juice" (Furst) - his maid (according to Gesenius the word is closely connected with an unused root signifying to spread out, hence a maid-servant) for an handmaid. This was in accordance with Oriental custom (vide Genesis 14:61). That Leah obtained only one damsel need not be ascribed to Laban's parsimonious character, but to his already-formed intention to bestow a second on Rachel.
And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?
Verse 25. - And it came to pass, that in the morning, Behold, it was Leah. If Jacob's deception, even with the veiled bride, may still be difficult to understand, it is easy to perceive in Leah's substitution for Rachel a clear instance of Divine retribution for the imposition he had practiced on his father. So the Lord oftentimes rewards evil-doers according to their wickedness (cf. 2 Samuel 12:10-12). And he said to Laban (who, Calvin conjectures, had given Jacob a splendid entertainment the night before to make him say nothing about the fraud), What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me? It says much for Jacob that he did not seek to repudiate the marriage. Perhaps he saw the hand of God in what had happened, and probably considered that though he had chosen Rachel, God had selected Leah as his wife. If so, it must be set to Jacob's credit that at the call of God, thus providentially addressed to him, he was prepared to sacrifice his best affections to the claims of religion and duty. It is not Jacob, but Laban, who proposes that he should also marry Rachel.
And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.
Verse 26. - And Laban said, It must not be so done - the future expresses the thought that the custom has grown into a strong moral obligation (Kalisch) - in our country (Hebrew, place), to give the younger before the first-born. The same custom exists among the Indians (Rosenmüller; cf. Roberts, 'Oriental Illustrations,' p. 34), Egyptians (Lane), and other Oriental countries (Delitzsch).
Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.
Verse 27. - Fulfill her week, - literally, make full the week of this otis, i.e. of Leah, if Leah was given to Jacob on the first night of the festivities (Calmer, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Lange, Ainsworth); but id Leah was married at the close of the seven days, then it must refer to Rachel s week (Bush, Murphy) - and we (including Laban's wife and eldest son, as in Genesis 24:50, 55) will give thee this also (i.e. Rachel) for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. Almost every motive that is mean, base, and despicable appears in this behavior of Laban's; if he attached little value to his daughters' affections, he had a keen appreciation of Jacob's qualities as a shepherd.
And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.
Verse 28. - And Jacob aid so, and fulfilled her week. Literally, the week of this one, either of Leah or of Rachel, as above. Rosenmüller, assigning the first week (ver. 27) to Leah, refers this to Rachel; but the expression can scarcely have two different meanings within the compass of two verses. And he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also. The polygamy of Jacob, though contrary to the law of nature (Genesis 2:21-25), admits of some palliation, since Rachel was the choice of his affections The marriage of sisters was afterwards declared incestuous (Leviticus 18:18).
And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid.
Verse 29. - And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah - "Bashful," "Modest" (Gesenius) - his handmaid to be her maid.
And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.
Verse 30. - And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah (implying, however, that Leah had a place in his affections), and served with him yet seven other years. The seven years cunningly exacted for Leah was thus the second fraud practiced upon Jacob (Genesis 30:26; Genesis 31:41; Hosea 12:12).
And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.
Verse 31. - And when the Lord saw - literally, and Jehovah saw. As Eve's son was obtained from Jehovah (Genesis 4:1), and Jehovah visited Sarah (Genesis 21:1), and was entreated for Rebekah (Genesis 25:21), so here he again interposes in connection with the onward development of the holy seed by giving children to Jacob s wives. The present section (vers. 31-35) is by Davidson, Kalisch, and others assigned to the Jehovist, by Tuch left undetermined, and by Colenso in several parts ascribed to the Elohist. Kalisch thinks the contents of this section must have found a place in the earlier of the two documents - that Leah was hated, - i.e. less loved (cf. Malachi 1:3) - he opened her womb (cf. 1 Samuel 1:5, 6; Psalm 127:3): but Rachel was barren - as Sarai (Genesis 11:30) and Rebekah (Genesis 25:21) had been. The fruitfulness of Leah and the sterility of Rachel were designed not so much to equalize the conditions of the sisters, the one having beauty and the other children (Lange), or to punish Jacob for his partiality (Keil), or to discourage the admiration of mere beauty (Kalisch), but to prove that "the origin of Israel was to be a work not of nature, but of grace" (Keil).
And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.
Verse 32. - And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben (literally, reuben, Behold a Son! an expression of joyful surprise at the Divine compassion): for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction. Though not directly contained in the term Reuben, the sense of these words is implied (Kalisch). As Leah's child was an intimation that she had been an object of Jehovah's compassion, so did she expect it to be a means of drawing towards herself Jacob s affection. Now therefore (literally, for now) my husband will love me. She was confident in the first flush of maternal joy that Jacob's heart would turn towards her; she believed that God had sent her child to effect this conversion of her husband's affections; and she regarded the birth of Reuben as a signal proof of the Divine pity.
And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.
Verse 33. - And she conceived again, and bare a son (probably the following year); and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated (the birth of Reuben had obviously not answered Leah's expectations in increasing Jacob's love), he hath therefore given me this son also (She faith and piety of Leah are as conspicuous as her affection for Jacob): and she called his name Simeon - i.e. Hearing, because God had heard that she was hated (ut supra).
And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.
Verse 34. - And she conceived again (say, in the third year of her marriage), and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, - לָוָה, to join, is the root from which comes לֵוִי. (Levi), her son's name - because I have borne him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi - Associated, or Joined.
And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.
Verse 35. - And she conceived again, and bare a son (possibly in the fourth year of marriage, and in Jacob's eighty-eighth year of age, he having been seventy-seven when he arrived in Haran, and eighty-four when he was united to Laban's daughters): and she said, Now will I praise the Lord. Well she might; for this was the ancestor of the promised seed (Murphy). There cannot be a doubt that her excellence of character as well as eminence of piety eventually wrought a change upon her husband (vide Genesis 31:4, 14; Genesis 49:31). Therefore she called his name Judah (i.e. Praise); and left bearing. Literally, stood still, i.e. ceased, from bearing. Not altogether (Genesis 30:16); only for a time, "that she might not be unduly lifted up by her good fortune, or attribute to the fruitfulness of her own womb what the faithfulness of Jehovah, the covenant God, had bestowed upon her" (Keil.).