Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 29

By Joseph Benson


Verse 2
Genesis 29:2. Behold a well in the field — Providence brought him to the very field where his uncle’s flocks were to be watered, and there he met with Rachel, who was to be his wife. The Divine Providence is to be acknowledged in all the little circumstances which concur to make a journey or other undertaking comfortable and successful. If, when we are at a loss, we meet with those seasonably that can direct us; if we meet with a disaster, and those are at hand that will help us; we must not impute it to chance, but to the providence of God. Our ways are ways of pleasantness, if we continually acknowledge God in them. A great stone was on the well’s mouth — This might be intended either to prevent the lambs of the flock from being drowned in it; or to secure the water, which was and still is scarce in that country; or to save the well from receiving damage from the heat of the sun, or the sand put into motion by the winds, which, probably, would soon have filled and stopped it up. This last we know is the reason why they cover their wells in Arabia, and several other parts of the East.

Verse 6
Genesis 29:6. Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep — According to the custom of those times, when simplicity and industry were in fashion among persons of great quality, and of both sexes. They who find fault with the Scriptures, and question the truth of such accounts, discover great ignorance of the state of former ages.

Verse 9
Genesis 29:9. For she kept them — Having, no doubt, servants under her who performed the meaner and more laborious offices, and whom it was her place to oversee. When Jacob understood that this was his kinswoman Rachel, (for he had probably heard of her name before,) knowing what his errand was into that country, we may suppose it occurred to his mind immediately, that this must be his wife. As one already smitten with an honest, comely face, (though it is likely sun-burnt, and she in the homely dress of a shepherdess,) he is wonderfully officious, and ready to serve her, (Genesis 29:10,) and addresses himself to her with tears of joy and kisses of love, Genesis 29:11. She runs with all haste to tell her father, for she will by no means entertain her kinsman’s address without her father’s knowledge and approbation, Genesis 29:12. These mutual respects at their first interview were good presages of their being a happy couple. Providence made that which seemed contingent and fortuitous to give a speedy satisfaction to Jacob’s mind, as soon as ever he came to the place he was bound for. Thus God guides his people with his eye, Psalms 32:8. Laban, though none of the best-humoured men, bid him welcome, was satisfied with the account he gave of himself, and the reason of his coming in such poor circumstances. While we avoid the extreme on the one hand of being foolishly credulous, we must take heed of falling into the other extreme of being uncharitably jealous and suspicious.

Verse 13
Genesis 29:13. He told Laban all these things — About his journey, and the cause of it, and what he saw in the way.

Verse 15
Genesis 29:15. Because thou art my brother — That is, kinsman; shouldst thou therefore serve me for naught? — Is that reasonable? If Jacob be so respectful as to give him his service, without demanding any consideration for it, yet Laban will not be so unjust as to take advantage either of his necessity or of his good-nature. Relations frequently look for more from each other than they ought, as if mere affinity were a sufficient reason for expecting to be served gratuitously. But the conduct of the nearest relations toward each other, as well as that of strangers, should be regulated by justice and equity. It appears by computation that Jacob was now seventy years old or upward, when he bound himself apprentice for a wife; probably Rachel was young and scarcely marriageable when Jacob came first, which might make him the more willing to stay for her till his seven years were expired.

Genesis 29:18-19. I will serve thee seven years for Rachel — It was not the custom of those countries for fathers to give a dowry with their daughters, but to receive a considerable present from those who married them; therefore Jacob, having no riches to give, as not being the inheritor of his father’s substance, offers his service for seven years instead thereof. It is better that I should give her to thee than to another — His answer is ambiguous and crafty. For he does not directly grant Jacob’s desire, but only insinuates his consent to it, in such terms as hid his design, which the event showed.

Verse 20
Genesis 29:20. They seemed to him but a few days — That is, the work or service of that time seemed but little in comparison of the worth of Rachel. An age of work will seem but a few days to those that love God, and long for Christ’s appearance.

Verse 22
Genesis 29:22. Laban gathered all the men of the place — His kindred and neighbours, according to custom, 14:10-11; John 2:1-2. Probably he collected a greater number, that the marriage might be more solemn and public, and that Jacob, being overawed by their presence and authority, might not attempt to disannul the marriage and reject Leah, which otherwise he might have done.

Verse 23
Genesis 29:23. He took Leah and brought her to him — This deceit he might the more easily practise, as it was customary in those times to bring the bride to her husband veiled, and without lights. This guile of Laban undoubtedly sorely grieved Jacob; and perhaps it happened as a punishment to him for the guile he had used in supplanting his brother.

Verse 24
Genesis 29:24. Laban gave unto Leah, Zilpah his maid — Sir John Chardin observes, in his MS. note on this verse, “that none but very poor people marry a daughter in the East, without giving her a female slave for a chamber-maid; there being no hired servants there as in Europe.” He says much the same in another note on Tobit 10:10. — Harmer, vol. 2. page 366.

Genesis 29:25-26. Behold it was Leah — Surely Jacob’s sin in pretending to be Esau, and cheating his own father, would now be brought to his remembrance, when his father-in-law thus cheated him; and he would be compelled to acknowledge that, how unrighteous soever Laban was, the Lord was righteous. It must not be done so in our country — It is probable there was no such custom in his country; but if there were, and he resolved to observe it, he should have told Jacob so when he undertook to serve him for his younger daughter.

Verse 27
Genesis 29:27. Fulfil her week — The seven days usually devoted to the feast and solemnity of marriage, 14:12-17; for it does not appear that it relates to the seven years Jacob afterward served. This Laban seems to have desired, that by a week’s cohabitation with Leah, his affections might be knit to her, and the marriage with her confirmed. We will give thee this also — Hereby he drew Jacob into the sin, and snare, and disquiet of multiplying wives. Jacob did not design it, but to have kept as true to Rachel as his father had done to Rebekah; he that had lived without a wife to the eighty-fourth year of his age, could then have been very well content with one: but Laban, to dispose of his two daughters without portions, and to get seven years’ service more out of Jacob, thus imposeth upon him, and draws him into such a strait, that he had some colourable reason for marrying them both.

Verse 31
Genesis 29:31. When the Lord saw that Leah was hated — That is, loved less than Rachel, in which sense it is required that we hate father and mother, in comparison with Christ, Luke 14:26, then the Lord granted her a child, which was a rebuke to Jacob for making so great a difference between those he was equally related to; a check to Rachel, who, perhaps, insulted over her sister upon that account; and a comfort to Leah, that she might not be overwhelmed with the contempt put upon her.

Verse 32
Genesis 29:32. She appears very ambitious of her husband’s love; she reckoned the went of it her affliction, not upbraiding him with it as his fault, nor reproaching him for it; but laying it to heart as her grief, which she had reason to bear, because she was consenting to the fraud by which she became his wife. She called her firstborn Reuben, see a son, with this pleasant thought, Now will my husband love me. And her third son Levi, joined, with this expectation, Now will my husband be joined unto me. The Lord hath heard (that is, taken notice of it) that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son. Her fourth she called Judah, praise, saying, Now will I praise the Lord. And this was he of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. Whatever is the matter of our rejoicing, ought to be the matter of our thanksgiving. And all our praises must centre in Christ, both as the matter of them, and as the Mediator of them. He descended from him whose name was Praise, for he is our praise. Is Christ formed in my heart? Now will I praise the Lord.