Gen. 29:1-30 “Jacob vs. Laban: Why Then Have You Deceived Me?”

Posted on October 2, 2011. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bryan E. Walker

Read: Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east. As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well….

(Genesis 29:1-30 ESV)


Introduction: In today’s text we are going to follow the next episode in the life of Jacob and see him meet the love of his life, learn how to work, and receive a surprising payback for how he has lived his life. The main ideas here are 1) The Providence of God; 2) The prayerlessness of Jacob; 3) You reap what you sow; 4) God’s love for the unloved; 5) The Covenant is preserved by Jacob marrying the daughters of Laban and it is through this marriage that the 12 tribes of Israel get their start, thus answering the question for Israel in Moses’ day, Who are we and where did we come from?


Literary Analysis of Genesis 29:1-30


Moses’ formal outline using the toledoths

  1. a.      Prologue, 1:1-2:3
  2. b.      The Generations of the Heavens and the Earth 2:3-4:26
  3. c.       The Generations of Adam 5:1-6:8
  4. d.      The Generations of Noah 6:9-9:29
  5. e.      The Generations of the Sons of Noah 10:1-11:9
  6. f.        The Generations of Shem 11:10-26
  7. g.      The Generations of Terah 11:27-25:11
  8. h.      The Generations of Ishmael 25:12-18
  9. i.        The Generations of Isaac 25:19-35:29 ***
  10. j.        The Generations of Esau 36:1-37:1
  11. k.      The Generations of Jacob 37:2-50:26

This Chiastic structure, slightly modified by me, comes from Waltke, p.352, 385.

A-Births and genealogy 25:19-24

  B-Digression: Rebekah in Foreign Palace, Foreigners 26:1-33

    C-Jacob steals Esau’s blessing 26:34-28:9

      D-Jacob receives the blessing but is in exile 28:10-32:32

        1-Encounter with God at Bethel28:10-22

          2-Conflict with Laban in Haran29:1-30 (We are here)

            3-Birth of the 12 Tribes 29:31-30:24 (Moses’ main point!)

          2’-Jacob prospers but flees Laban 30:25-31:55

        1’-Encounters with God 32:1-32

    C’-Reconciliation with Esau 33:1-17

  B’-Digression: Dinah in Foreign Palace, Foreigners 33:18-34:31

A’-Births and Deaths 35:1-29


  1. Jacob Meets Rachel at the Well vss.1-14
    1. Jacob and the Shepherds, vss.1-8
    2. Jacob and Rachel, vss. 9-12
    3. Jacob and Laban, vss. 13-14
  2. The Deceiver Gets Deceived, vss. 15-30
    1. The Betrothal, vss. 15-20
    2. The Weddings, vss. 21-30

Structure/key words:

Question- What words or phrases separate or link this section with the previous section?

This section is marked off by “Then Jacob went on his Journey…” (29:1) just as the last section began with, “Jacob left Beershebaand went toward Haran,” (28:10). The phrase, “he looked, he saw…” in vs.2 links to the previous story using the same word translated “behold” in 28:12, 13, 15. Another word occurs repeatedly in the first 10 verses that links back to the previous section- stone (28:11,18, 22; 29:2, 3 (2x), 8, 10). In the dream section the stone symbolizes God’s presence but in this section the stone is used by Jacob to demonstrate his strength. The Hebrew word ‘bd, to work or serve, occurs frequently in the second half of this section (29:15, 18, 20, 25, 27, 30). This word looks back to the prophecy of the twins in Rebekah’s womb in 25:23 “the older shall serve the younger” and 27:29 “let peoples serve you” and 27:40 “and you shall serve your brother”.

Question- What are the time frames described in this section? Like the section dealing with his dream atBethel, this section begins with an event that covers just one day, the meeting of the shepherds, Rachel and Laban. The latter half of this section, however, covers a month and then 14 years.

Links to the past and future:

Question- does this event remind you of anything in a previous chapter which we have studied?

What are the similarities with chapter 24 and the journey of Abraham’s servant to find a wife for Isaac? 1) a journey toHaran. 2) Meeting the future wife at a well. 3) The Lord providentially brought about the meeting with the future wife. 4) Angels were to go ahead of the servant and Jacob sees the angels in his dream.

Differences: 1) The servant is sent on a mission by Abraham while Jacob is fleeing for his life. 2) The servant has a caravan and is giving out much wealth; Jacob is all by himself appears to be completely broke and must work for Laban. 3) The servant prays before meeting Rebekah and sets up a character test. Jacob doesn’t pray or give testimony of God, and focuses on his own strength and Rachel’s beauty. 4) The servant appears to be a man of faith while Jacob appears to be very sensual, despite his encounter with God atBethel. Jacob is as unaware of God’s presence and providence in providing a wife as he was atBethel while the servant was focused on the Lord’s leading.

The future: As Jacob enters servitude with Laban, but comes out wealthy, so too didIsrael become servants to the Egyptians yet leave with wealth. Waltke writes, (p.407), “All of this is a picture of the church being redeemed out of a world of sin and death by God’s intervention.”

Character development: Characters include the shepherds, Jacob, Rachel, Laban, Leah, Zilpah and Bilha. Who is Noticeably Absent? God. The shepherds’ inactivity is contrasted by Jacob’s strength in removing the stone at the well. Jacob serves Rachel to impress her and Laban treats Jacob as an employee/servant not as a relative. Jacob seems to be a romantic, smitten with love for Rachel and even weeping for joy. Laban is calculating and greedy (24:30). Jacob’s character develops as he works hard for Rachel and honors the agreement he made with the deceptive Laban.

The theme here is the sanctification of Jacob.

Irony/reciprocity: What is the obvious irony in this passage? Jacob had deceived his blind father, Isaac and now Jacob is deceived by his father-in-law, Laban, at night, with a veil, and much wine. One reaps what one sows (Gal.6:7 “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” ) Jacob is deceived over the issue of primogeniture- the rights of the first born, the very issue he struggled with against his brother, Esau.

  1. I.                   Jacob Meets Rachel at the Well, 29:1-14
    1. A.      Jacob and the Shepherds, vss. 1-8
      1. 1.         Then Jacob went on his journey- see 28:10 “Jacob leftBeersheba and went towardHaran.” 24:10 “Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed…and he arose and went toMesopotamia.”21:14 “And she (Hagar) departed and wandered in the wilderness ofBeersheba.” 12:4 “so Abram went as the LORD had told him…”
      2. 2.         Jacob continues on his journey- at this point he seems to be going to a destination but without a real purpose, wandering almost. Though he got a blessing from Isaac, he is alone and, as we find out later, quite broke.
      3. 3.         and came to the land of the people of the east- this covers the land not only due east ofPalestine, but NNE. The term “east” has theological overtones. Waltke says, “he is in a place of danger,” (p.400). See 3:24;4:16; 25:6.
      4. 4.         As he looked, he saw a well- hinneh– same as “behold” in 28:12. The “well” reminds us of ch.24 and the servant looking for a wife for Isaac. This word looks forward to the next pericope, 29:31 “the LORD saw that Leah was hated”.
      5. 5.         The stone– the stone was large and it took shepherds, pl., to roll it away from the mouth of the well.
      6. 6.         where do you come from?- Jacob seems not to know that he is close toHaran.
      7. 7.         We know himRachel his daughter is coming with the sheep.- God had providentially brought Jacob to the right place, at the right time. God is in control even if Jacob is relatively clueless and not particularly saintly. The perfect timing of Jacob’s arrival with that of Rachel points back to 24:15 and the arrival of Rebekah immediately after the servant prayed for her.
      8. 8.         The main idea of this part of the text is the providence of God vs. the prayerlessness of Jacob (as contrasted with ch.24). Even if you are running for all the wrong reasons and are pretty much lost, God knows where you are. If you don’t much care about what time it is, God has perfect timing. There was no direct indication that he was looking for a wife, but he finds one (although the passages about Esau’s wives and the fact that he is heading back toHaran both somewhat indicate a wife is in his future).
      9. 9.         Apply- even if you are running away from home, from God, or from danger, God knows your deepest needs and knows how to find you and bless you.
      10. 10.     Marriage is almost optional these days, a lot of people are single and choose to remain single. Many would love to get married but just have not met the right person yet. Jacob was the recipient of the covenant, affirmed by God in 28:10-22. In order for the covenant to be fulfilled, Jacob needed to get married. God providentially provided Rachel.
      11. 11.     Water the sheep and go- Jacob sees that Laban’s daughter, Rachel, his cousin, is coming with the sheep so he basically tells the shepherds to scram!
      12. B.      Jacob and Rachel, vss.9-12
        1. 1.         as soon as Jacob saw Rachel…Jacob came near and rolled the stone…and watered the flock- Jacob must have been a very powerful and strong man as he moves a large stone that normally required several of the shepherds to move together. Jacob willingly serves the shepherdess, Rachel, by watering Laban’s flock.
        2. 2.         Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept- he is clearly smitten with love at first sight! Notice that he kisses her and weeps before even telling her who he is in vs. 12. But understand that a kiss was a customary greeting for relatives, but still, she didn’t know that yet. Waltke writes (p.401) “Jacob does this probably our of emotional joy for having successfully completed his difficult journey. He finds himself unexpectedly at the right time in the tight place. However, unlike Abraham’s servant, he offers no praise, for he has made no petition. On the surface all seems well, but underneath lurks dark trouble.”
        3. 3.         she ran and told- see 24:28 for the identical reaction by Rebekah.
        4. C.      Jacob and Laban, vss. 13-14
          1. 1.         As soon as Laban heard…he ran to meet him- was Laban just genuinely happy that a long lost relative had come to visit? Or did Laban remember the last time, when Abraham’s servant arrived with a 10 camel caravan and lots of gold (24:29-30 clearly emphasize that Laban ran to meet the man after seeing the gold rings and bracelets he had given to his sister, Rebekah.)
          2. 2.         Imagine Laban’s surprise when he gets to the well and sees no camel caravan, just one poor, weary, man on foot.
          3. 3.         Jacob told Laban all these things- after taking Jacob back to the house Jacob does what most relatives will do and catch them up on all that has happened in the Abraham side of the family. One does wonder how much he included about his own fortunes?


  1. II.                The Deceiver Gets Deceived, 29:15-30
    1. A.      The Betrothal, vv.15-20
      1. 1.         should you serve me for nothing?- Apparently in the month that Jacob stayed with his uncle he worked and served. This is encouraging because it shows some growth and maturity on Jacob’s part. He was not taking advantage of Laban’s hospitality. Laban is now looking at his nephew as a hired man though and is offering him wages. This is explained by Waltke (p.404) “Literally this reads, ‘Are you surely a relative of mine that you should work for me for nothing!’ A negative answer is expected. Since a family member would work for nothing, Laban is degrading the blood relationship between himself and Jacob into an economic arrangement. What Laban should have done as a loving relative is to help Jacob get a start on building his own home, as Jacob asks of Laban in 30:25-34. Instead, Laban keeps Jacob as nothing more than a laborer under contract, as Jacob bitterly complains in 31:38-42.”
      2. 2.         serve- this is the key word in the story because it shows what Jacob, the one who would rule his brother, must now do- Work! For the next 20 years Jacob will be serving his uncle, not as a relative, but as a contract laborer working off the bride price for Laban’s two daughters. What does this say about Laban’s relationship with his own daughters?
      3. 3.         Here is the hard school of discipleship and holiness that is beginning for Jacob. No special privileges, no rich uncle helping him get started. Just “There are the goats and sheep. Get started.” Hard work underneath a dishonest, greedy man is the school for Jacob.
      4. 4.         Jacob’s schoolmaster here is not Laban as much as it is the LORD. Though God is nowhere mentioned in this part of Jacob’s story, we know from 28:10-22 that He is there, watching over, protecting, and guiding. It is the Lord’s providence for Jacob to enter into this hard life.
      5. 5.         Isaac had received all that Abraham had to give (25:5)- but apparently Isaac, though he gave him his blessing in the end, did not send Jacob out with anything.
      6. 6.         Application- how many times have we heard or seen the children of a successful generation grow up to squander the wealth or the spiritual heritage they have inherited. Folks, the Church is but one generation away from apostasy all the time. The country is but one generation away from losing freedom and liberty. That is why we must work hard to teach our children well and discipline them. At the end, Isaac made a strong, bold but tough decision- send Jacob out with a blessing, but send him out to work and make his own way. That is the only way he will learn. But we know, and now Jacob knows, that the Lord is with him, even if he doesn’t acknowledge Him all the time.
      7. 7.         the older was Leah…Leah’s eyes were weak- the name means “cow”. Weak eyes does not mean she was near sighted or blind, but that her eyes did not sparkle, she was dull in her eyes’ appearance.
      8. 8.         the younger was Rachel…beautiful in form and appearance- Jacob is obviously attracted to her physically right away; his focus seems to be on the sensual. No real character assessment of the two sisters is given. Rebekah was shown to have a servant’s heart. Rachel, as a shepherdess, must have been tough in what was primarily a man’s job. Perhaps she was a bit of a tomboy.
      9. 9.         Jacob loved Rachel- Rachel means ewe. See 24:67 Isaac loved her. Romantic love is great and God intended it. But there needs to be more than that as well. The spiritual, intellectual and practical aspects of friendship, marriage must be there.
      10. 10.     I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter- Jacob has nothing to offer but his labor.
      11. 11.     It is better that I giver HER to you to you than to any other- Waltke says that this answer is “shrewdly ambiguous. He does not explicitly agree to give Rachel to Jacob after seven years. The prayerless patriarch is not discerning enough either to see through his uncle’s character or to detect the ambiguity of ‘her’.” (p.405).
      12. 12.     seven years…they seemed to him but a few days- again the emphasis here is how smitten Jacob is with Rachel, the 7 years flew by. A seven year engagement seems long to us though.
      13. 13.     This is used by Moses to set us up for the surprise on the morning after the wedding!
  1. B.      The Weddings, vv. 21-30
    1. 1.         Give me my wife- Jacob comes to Laban, perhaps because Laban was reluctant to fulfill his end of the bargain, or perhaps because Jacob was eager to finally get married.
    2. 2.         So Laban…made a feast- misteh The Hebrew indicates a drinking feast. A lot of wine would have been served and perhaps he intentionally gets Jacob a little bit drunk so that he won’t notice the substitution of Leah for Rachel. Waltke, p.405, “By befuddling Jacob with wine (cf.19:32-35 Lot and his daughters) and using the blindness of the bridal veil and the darkness of night, Laban pulls off hs deception, just as his sister had deceived Isaac with hairly skin, the smell of clothing, and the tasty stew.”
    3. 3.         Notice how primogeniture and sibling rivalry enter into the story again, through these sisters. This will play a role in the rest of Jacob’s family story.
    4. 4.         And in the morning, Behold! It was Leah- surprise!
    5. 5.         Why then have you deceived me? Can you hear the voice of Esau and Isaac in this complaint?
    6. 6.         serving me another seven years- A deal is struck to finish out the week long wedding festival with Leah, then they do Another wedding, and Jacob agrees to work Another 7 years.
    7. 7.         Zilpah and Bilhah- Zilpah means “small nose” and Bilhah means “carefree” the girls handmaidens were given as part of the deal, and they would become Jacob’s wives as well.
    8. 8.         And he loved Rachel more than Leah- one of the problems with polygamy is that it does seem like it would be difficult to love every wife equally. Notice that it would be Leah, however, the unloved wife, who would be the mother to Levi and Judah, the priestly tribe and the Royal tribe. Leah would be the line through which Jesus would be born.
    9. 9.         God has a plan for the unloved sisters! Life can be hard for the unloved sisters. But God is in control and can still bring about blessings and meaning for that woman who is unloved.
    10. 10.     Apologetics note- In Lev.18:18 “And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister…while her sister is still alive.” This proves the antiquity of the account of Jacob in that Moses records it as things were, then, in his day, writes down a law that would forbid what the patriarch did.

Conclusion: The main ideas here are 1) The Providence of God; 2) The prayerlessness of Jacob; 3) You reap what you sow; 4) God’s love for the unloved; 5) The Covenant is preserved by Jacob marrying the daughters of Laban and it is through this marriage that the 12 tribes of Israel get their start, thus answering the question for Israel in Moses’ day, Who are we and where did we come from?



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