Jacob met his cousin Rachel by the well where the shepherds watered their sheep. As there was a large stone on the well's mouth, they used to wait until they all gather and roll the stone away. When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of his uncle, he went near and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his uncle (Gen 29: 3, 10).
It is the same famous well of Jacob which the Samaritan woman referred to in her talk with the Lord Christ (Jn 4: 12). Undoubtedly, our father Jacob's strength appeared in rolling the stone and watering the sheep. There also he kissed Rachel, lifted up his voice and wept and told her that he was her father's brother, Rebekah's son (Gen 29: 11)
The Scripture records main stones in Jacob's life. The first stone was that at his head, from which a ladder appeared reaching between earth and heaven, on top of which he poured oil and called that place Bethel, that is, God's house (Gen 28: 18). This stone reminds us of the cornerstone set when building any church.
The second stone is the large stone which Jacob rolled from the well's mouth, which marked the beginning of the attachment between Jacob and Rachel and her father Laban (Gen 29:10).
The third stone is that which Jacob set as a pillar for witness between him and Laban, so that none of them might pass it to the other side after separating from each other (Gen 31: 45- 52).
The fourth stone is an affirmation of the first one. After the Lord had appeared to him in Bethel, he set up a pillar and poured a drink offering on it, and called the name of that place Bethel (Gen 35: 14, 15). This reveals the attachment of Jacob to God's house on his way and back.
Her father's brother:
Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother (in the Arabic version) (Gen 29: 12), although Laban was his uncle (Gen 29:10). It was a custom to call the close relative "brother". Laban likewise used the same expression after receiving Jacob in his house, and after Jacob had kept his sheep, saying, "Because you are my relative (brother), should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?" (Gen 29: 15) The same happened between Abram and Lot the son of Haran his brother, in the incident of the captivity of Sodom, for it is said, "They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son", then, "When Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants …" (Gen 14: 12, 31; 14). In the same way the Gospel mentions the brothers of Christ, although they were the sons of His aunt the wife of Cleopas (see my book on "Comparative Theology")
• It was marriage based on love, as repeatedly stated: "Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance ... Jacob loved Rachel." "He also loved Rachel more than Leah." (Gen 29: 17, 18, 30) Because of that love he asked her father to take her as wife, and her father said, "It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man." (Gen 29: 19). Actually, marriage based on love is more stable and profound than mere fleshly lusts, for it involves understanding and harmony of thought and way of living. Therefore, the father priest, before proceeding with the marriage ceremony, makes sure of the agreement of both parties. On the other hand, practicing any pressure or compulsion on any of the parties to accomplish the marriage may form a main cause for invalidation of the marriage afterwards.
• Our father Jacob served Laban seven years to marry his daughter. Was that the dowry, which the girl receives nowadays, not her father? The Scripture mentions that Eliezer of Damascus offered Rebekah a dowry for engagement to Isaac the son of his master. That dowry was a golden nose ring weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold, jewelry of silver, jewelry of gold, and clothing, and also precious things to her brother and to her mother (Gen 24: 22, 30, 53). What then did Rachel and Leah receive for marrying Jacob? Nothing!
• Their father Laban received everything and was not generous to them. He only gave a maidservant to each of them: Zilpah to his daughter Leah, and Bilhah to his daughter Rachel (Gen 29: 24, 29). That is why afterwards when Jacob fled from Laban's house, his two wives joined him, because they had no emotions towards their father. They even said, "Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money." (Gen 31: 14, 15) What was that money which our father Jacob paid for them? He served him seven years for Rachel and when Laban deceived him and gave him Leah, he served another seven years for Leah although he had not asked to marry her (Gen 29: 18, 30). This means that he served him fourteen years for his two daughters with no pay, and six years for his flock (Gen 31: 41). Because of his love for Rachel Jacob served seven years, and they seemed only a few days to him (Gen 29: 20).
• The story gives us an idea about the engagement period.
Jacob engaged Rachel, but took her as wife only after seven years of service. Only then he said to Laban, "Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled." (Gen 29: 21) It was the longest engagement period, in addition to one more week (seven years), for Laban, after giving him Leah,said to him, "Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years." So Jacob fulfilled her week, and Laban gave him Rachel his daughter as wife also (Gen 29: 27, 28).
Giving the older and the younger daughters in marriage:
• In the story of our father Jacob there appears the custom of giving the older sister in marriage before the younger. Rachel was the younger, and she was more beautiful of form and appearance than her older sister Leah whose eyes were delicate (Gen 29: 17).
• Naturally who wants to marry will ask for the younger and prettier, but this was against the custom. Therefore, Laban said, "It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn." (Gen 29: 26) There was no solution for that problem but to use deceit, so Laban deceitfully gave Leah to Jacob as wife instead of Rachel.
Jacob did not ask for invalidation of the marriage although he discovered the deceit and faced Laban. Maybe he remembered how he had received the blessing from his father Isaac by deceit, so he was receiving the punishment, which came late.
The deceit came from the fact that a wife was usually veiled when given to her husband. He was not to see her face until he himself removed away the veil in his own tent. So did Jacob when he gave his daughter Leah to Jacob in the evening with weak lights. Therefore Jacob did not recognize her until in the morning, behold, it was Leah (Gen 29: 23).
The wrestling between the two wives:
Usually the other husband's wife represents a worry to a wife. That is why the New Testament made it a law that a man marries one wife only, due to the many problems caused by marrying two wives. As for Jacob's two wives, though sisters, they wrestled concerning the love of their husband and having children from him.
We read that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (Gen 29: 30), I wonder how was the feeling of Leah in the first week of her marriage knowing that her husband hated her and that she entered his life through deceit! What was her feeling, knowing that he only lived with her so that he might have her beautiful sister Rachel? What also was the feeling of Rachel in that first week knowing that it was her right to get married to Jacob her fiancée if her father had not done unjustly towards her and gave him to her sister?
What was the feeling of Jacob when forced to spend that week with Leah against his will after discovering the deceit at the morning of the first day? Was it a natural week between a married couple? I cannot guess. After that week (seven years) ended Jacob took Rachel as wife, gathering between the two sisters, a matter which Moses' law prohibited, "Nor shall you take a woman as a rival to her sister." (Lev 18: 18)
Here God interfered to make balance between the two wives. If Rachel had the love of the husband, let Leah have the children: "When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren." (Gen 29: 31)
Leah thought that begetting many children would attract her husband's love to her, so she said after bearing the first child, "Now therefore, my husband will love me." (Gen 29: 32)
Let us stop here and continue next week, God willing.