When a man loves a woman can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else. He’d trade the world for a good thing he’s found. If she is bad, he can’t see it. She can do no wrong. Turn his back on his best friend if he puts her down. When a man loves a woman spend his very last dime trying to hold on to what he needs. He’d give up all his comforts and sleep out in the rain if she said that’s the way it ought to be.
When a man loves a woman….
Then Jacob Went on His Journey
Genesis 29:1-30 is all about a man. And the question to ask is, who is this man? It all begins with the first verse. “Then Jacob went on his journey.” The first words of these thirty verses are simply meant to put our attention on a man named Jacob. Watch him; watch him carefully and ask, what is he doing? The answer begins here. He is on a journey.
Jacob is on a journey, a rather long five-hundred-mile journey. And he is on this journey for two reasons. The first reason is his mom. His mom has sent him on this journey for his own good. It is for his safety. His older brother Esau has planned to kill him and sleeps well every night under the comfort of this plan. But the second reason that Jacob is on this journey is his dad. His dad has sent him on this journey for his own good. It is to find a wife.
What does Jacob think of this journey? In other words, and this is important to the whole text, what is Jacob’s view of this journey? Many English translations begin verse one with the word “so” or “then” meaning that the previous verses matter to this journey. So, what is Jacob’s view of this journey? Listen to Genesis 28:20-21. “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go (that is the journey), and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.” Jacob’s view of this journey is home. He is looking forward to going back home. But what is holding Jacob’s view? Again, this is important to whole the text. It is there in Genesis 28:20-21. If God will be with me and if God will keep me in this way that I go (that is the journey). Holding Jacob’s view in this journey is the presence of God and the care of God. Holding Jacob’s view in this journey is the Word of God (cf. 28:15). This is how Jacob knew that God promised to be with him and promised to guard and keep and care for him. So, what does Jacob then do?
The sense of this first verse is that Jacob continued on his journey. Remember, in the previous verses Jacob stopped in his journey to sleep for the night. But there is more here than just continuing on this journey. A literal translation of the Hebrew text reads, “Then Jacob picked up his feet.” This is what follows the previous verses! Jacob is refreshed for this journey. Jacob is renewed for this journey and all because of what is holding his view. Then Jacob picks up his feet.
Behold, Three Flocks of Sheep
And when Jacob picks up his feet, get ready for it, he gets to where he was going. He comes to the land of the people of the east. It is Haran. And when Jacob gets to where he was going…behold! Genesis 29:2 has in it that word of surprise, that word that is meant to grab our attention so that we may pay attention – behold. Jacob saw a well. And when he saw a well, he saw three flocks of sheep lying beside the well. And when he saw the well, the three flocks of sheep lying beside the well, he also saw shepherds…all lying around! Why? What is important about this well and the three flocks of sheep and the shepherds?
Out of this well the flocks were watered and there was a large stone covering the mouth of it (29:2). So, why is everyone lying around? Listen closely to verse three. “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.” These shepherds are waiting for all the flocks to gather at the well. There are three flocks gathered so far which means these men are waiting for at least a fourth flock. And these shepherds, maybe three, are waiting not just for all the flocks, but for the fourth shepherd. It takes four shepherds to move that large stone.
Behold, a Fourth Flock of Sheep
Jacob then asks these men three questions. Where do you come from? Do you know Laban? And is he well? Their answer: Haran. Yes. Yes. That was it! I want us though to pay close attention to verse six. The shepherds then say, “and see, Rachel.” The word see is the same Hebrew word for behold. And what is the point of the word behold? It is meant to grab our attention so that we may pay attention. Here it is meant to grab Jacob’s attention so that he pays attention…to Rachel. She is keeping the fourth flock of sheep. But Jacob keeps talking. He tells them to behold! “You behold! Do not tell me to behold! It is still high day, get up, water these sheep and get going! Quit lying around!” Why does Rachel, at first, not grab Jacob’s attention? Listen to verse eight. “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.” Who moves the stone? The shepherds, all the shepherds. And who are these three shepherds, these three men waiting for in order to move the stone? The fourth shepherd with the fourth flock. And why does Jacob not pay attention to Rachel at first? In verse nine Rachel is called a shepherdess. She is the fourth shepherd! These three men are waiting for her so to move that large stone. What does that say about Rachel? What does this say about Jacob? He was not expecting the fourth shepherd to be a woman!
Behold, Now Jacob Sees Rachel
And behold, now Jacob sees Rachel. And when he sees Rachel, he also sees the sheep. And he finally puts it all together. Rachel is the fourth shepherd. Rachel is here to move that stone. These three men were waiting for her so that the stone could be moved. What then does Jacob do? He moves the stone…all by himself (29:10)! He then waters the sheep, just Rachel’s sheep. And when he is done, he gives Rachel the kiss of a lifetime. This is the only place in biblical narrative where we read of a man kissing a woman who is not his wife or mother. By the way, Jacob’s dad met Jacob’s mom at a watering hole too. What must Jacob be thinking? Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a terrible feeling, everything’s going my way.
Behold, Jacob Sees Laban
Genesis 29:1-30 is all about a man. And the question to ask is, who is this man? Look carefully at Genesis 29:10, when Jacob finally sees Rachel. “Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.”
Genesis 29:1-30 is all about Laban. He is mentioned by name sixteen times, more than any other person. Important though are his daughters. There is Rachel, she is his youngest daughter, beautiful both in form and in appearance and apparently really strong. And there is Leah, the oldest daughter. Her eyes are weak (soft). It may be that this just means that she is the least attractive of the two sisters (29:16-17). And the text does have a lot do with Jacob. It is about his journey. But there is Laban his mother’s brother. And the big question is, what does Laban have to do with Jacob and his journey?
After Jacob kissed Rachel, he wept really loud. After Jacob wept really loud, he then told her who he was. Rachel then ran. She ran to tell her dad. And what did Laban do? He ran. He ran to meet Jacob and embrace Jacob and to bring him to his house. Now this is rather interesting; Jacob then told “Laban all these things” (29:13). What things? Perhaps all about his journey. But what I really want us to notice is verse fourteen. “And he stayed with him for a month.”
Jacob is here to find a wife. The last man that came to Laban looking for a wife came with stuff. He came with gold rings and gold bracelets and camels! It all caught Laban’s eye (24:29-32). This man, too, Laban brought to his house. Jacob comes empty handed. No gold rings, no gold bracelets, no camels and not even a pillow! After a month, we find out that Jacob has been working for Laban. Laban then asks, “Should you serve me for nothing? What should your wages be?” (29:15). Notice verse eighteen. “Jacob loved Rachel.” And when a man loves a woman he says, “I will serve you for seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban agrees and agrees to give “her to you.” And notice, Laban does not specify when he would give “her to you.” But the big point is that a month of service has turned into seven years of service, feeling like just a few days to Jacob (29:20).
Behold, Jacob Sees Leah
At the end of seven years, Jacob demands without any more waiting, “Give me my wife!” So, Laban plans a wedding and invites guests to a week-long celebration. The wedding day arrives and there is Laban walking his daughter down the aisle. She is veiled from head to toe. The voice may not sound like Rachel, but Jacob is so excited. The two exchange vows and then go home as husband and wife. The next morning comes and “behold, it was Leah!” (29:25). Laban had given Jacob his daughter, but it was Leah.
Why Then Have You Deceived Me?
Jacob then asks his father-in-law, “Why then have you deceived me?” It is an interesting question from a man who deceived his brother and his father. It is an interesting question from a man who in deceiving his father pretended to be the older son, veiled in his clothing and hairy like him too. Here Jacob has been deceived with the older daughter. Laban’s response is simple. “In our culture we do not give the younger daughter to be married before the older daughter” (29:26). Now listen to his proposal, “Complete the week. Finish the wedding celebration. Then you may take Rachel as your wife, but at a price. Serve me for her another seven years” (29:27). The big point is that a month turned into seven years and an additional week and then another seven years. This is now Jacob’s journey.
And Jacob loved Rachel and served 14 years, one month and a week to be her husband. He was Leah’s husband too, but loved Rachel more. Jacob now knows what it feels like to be deceived. The schemer got schemed. But is that the point?
No. We were to keep our eye on Jacob, Jacob who picked up his feet so revived and refreshed. And so bold. He picked up that stone all by himself. At the end he is quiet. What happened? Laban happened. It was said that Jacob needed some trimming, some compassion, to experience some pain, some humility, some growth in faith. Jacob needed to stop trusting himself. It would take 14 years, one month and a week. It would take a Laban. But what was still to hold his view? I am with you. I will keep you. I will never leave you.
There are times when a Laban is needed as an instrument used of God for our good. What do we do when we are given Laban’s? “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). This will hold your view.