Isaac among the *Philistines
v1 Now there was a *famine in the country. It was like the previous *famine when Abraham did not have enough food. And Isaac went to the town of Gerar. He went to Abimelech who was the king of the *Philistines.
v2 And the *Lord appeared to Isaac. He said to him, ‘Do not go down to Egypt. Live in the country that I will show you. v3 Stay in this land and I will be with you. I will bring many good things to you. I will give all these lands to you and to your *descendants. I will keep the firm promise that I made to Abraham your father. v4 I will make you have very many *descendants. They shall be as many as the stars that are in the sky. And I will give all this land to your *descendants. All the families that are on the earth shall receive good things because of you. v5 I give you these things because Abraham obeyed me. He obeyed all that I said. He obeyed my demands and my *commands and my laws.’
(For the previous *famine, see Genesis 12:10.)
Gerar was a town that was west of Beer-sheba. It was near to the coast. The inhabitants were *Philistines.
‘Abimelech’ means ‘my father is king’. Every *Philistine king was called ‘Abimelech’. It was not the name of one king. Abraham had met Abimelech. (See Genesis 20:2-18.) But Abraham probably met the father of the Abimelech that Isaac met.
‘Do not go down to Egypt.’ Egypt was a good place to live when there was a *famine. The river Nile provided water for Egypt. Therefore, crops grew in Egypt even when there was no rain. And so there was food in Egypt even when there was a *famine in other countries. To go to Egypt would be a wise thing. Abraham went to Egypt when there was a *famine. But God told Isaac not to go to Egypt. God said that he would provide for Isaac. Sometimes we have to make decisions like this. We know what is a wise thing to do. And perhaps God will let us do that. Or perhaps God will tell us to do something different. We must be ready to hear what God says to us.
God repeated to Isaac the promises that he had made to Abraham. (See Genesis 12:2-3; 15:18-21; 17:1-8; 22:15-18.)
v6 So Isaac lived in Gerar. v7 The men in Gerar asked Isaac about his wife Rebekah. He said to them, ‘She is my sister.’ He was afraid to say, ‘She is my wife.’ He thought, ‘If I say that, the men in Gerar will take her. They will take her because she is very beautiful. And they will kill me.’ v8 Now Abimelech was the king of the *Philistines.
When Isaac had been in Gerar for a long time, Abimelech looked out of a window. He saw Isaac. Isaac touched Rebekah as a man touches his wife. v9 So Abimelech called Isaac. He said to Isaac, ‘I see that she is your wife. Why did you say, “She is my sister”?’ Isaac said to him, ‘I thought that someone might kill me because of her.’ v10 Abimelech said, ‘You have done an evil thing to us. Somebody might have had sex with your wife. You would have made us guilty.’ v11 So Abimelech warned all the people. He said, ‘Whoever touches this man or his wife shall be put to death.’
During the previous *famine, Abraham went to Egypt. And he said that his wife Sarah was his sister. (See Genesis 12:10-13. At that time, Abraham was called Abram. And Sarah was called Sarai.) And on another occasion, Abraham went to Gerar. Again, he said that his wife Sarah was his sister. (See Genesis 20:2.) On both occasions, this caused trouble. For the reasons why Abraham said this, see the comment on Genesis 12:11-13.
During this *famine Isaac went to Gerar. He did the same thing that Abraham had done. He said that his wife Rebekah was his sister. What Abraham said was not completely wrong. (See the comment on Genesis 12:11-13.) But when Isaac called Rebekah his sister, that was a lie.
Abimelech insisted on right moral standards. Probably he knew what had happened when Abraham visited Gerar. Probably his father had told him about his dream. (See Genesis 20:3. For ‘his father’ see the comment on verse 1.) So Isaac had no need to lie about his wife. He was not in danger.
v12 And Isaac sowed seeds in that country. In the same year, he gathered the crops. They were 100 times more than he sowed. The *Lord brought many good things to Isaac v13 and he became rich. He gained more property and he became very wealthy. v14 He had many sheep and cows and servants. Therefore the *Philistines were angry with Isaac because he had so much. v15 The *Philistines ruined all Isaac’s wells. The servants of Abraham, who was Isaac’s father, had made those wells. The *Philistines filled the wells with earth. v16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘You are much more powerful than we are. Go away from us.’
A harvest that was 100 times was a very good harvest. The *famine was over. And Isaac’s animals increased greatly. But the *Philistines did not gain so much. God brought good things to Isaac but he did not bring good things to the *Philistines.
Wells were very important. The animals needed to drink water. Apart from the wells, there was little water in the country. Therefore, to fill wells with earth was like an act of war. Things like this happen nowadays. God may give good success to people who know him. Then other people may attack those people because they are successful.
Abimelech would not attack Isaac. But he could not prevent his people from attacking Isaac. So he advised Isaac to go away.
v17 So Isaac left there. He put his tents in the valley of Gerar and he lived there. v18 And Isaac repaired the wells that people had made in the days of Abraham his father. The *Philistines had ruined them after Abraham’s death. Isaac called the wells by the same names that his father Abraham had given to them. v19 But when Isaac’s servants made a hole in the valley, they found water. It was a new well. v20 Then the men who kept cows in Gerar were angry. They quarrelled with the men who kept Isaac’s cows. They said, ‘The water is ours.’ So Isaac called the well Esek, because they quarrelled with him. v21 Then Isaac’s servants made another well and the men of Gerar quarrelled about that well also. So Isaac called it Sitnah. v22 And Isaac moved from there and he made another well. Nobody quarrelled about that well and so Isaac called it Rehoboth. He said, ‘Now the *Lord has made enough room for us. Now we shall gain wealth in this country.’
Isaac did not fight against the *Philistines. He did not try to defend the wells that the *Philistines had ruined. Instead, he went away, as Abimelech had said. But he did not go far.
Isaac repaired other wells, which the *Philistines had ruined on a previous occasion. Abraham had shown to Isaac where these wells were. That was important information. So Isaac was able to find them. He called them by their old names in order to prove that they had belonged to Abraham. Therefore, they were Isaac’s property.
The *Philistines still quarrelled with Isaac’s men because there was not enough space. But when Isaac moved far enough away they stopped quarrelling.
‘Esek’ means ‘difficulty’. ‘Sitnah’ means ‘quarrel’. ‘Rehoboth’ means ‘room’.
God appears to Isaac
v23 From there Isaac went to Beer-sheba. v24 During that night the *Lord appeared to him. The *Lord said, ‘I am the God of Abraham your father. Do not be afraid. I am with you. I will bring many good things to you. I will give you many *descendants because you are the son of my servant Abraham.’ v25 So Isaac built an *altar there and he prayed to the *Lord. He put his tent there. And Isaac’s servants made a well there.
God repeated the promises that he had already given to Isaac. (See verses 3-4 and the comment.)
Isaac’s agreement with Abimelech
v26 Then Abimelech went from Gerar to visit Isaac. He took with him Ahuzzath, who advised him. And he took with him Phicol, who *commanded his army. v27 Isaac said to them, ‘I do not know why you have come to me. You hate me and you have sent me away from you.’ v28 They said, ‘We realise that the *Lord is with you. So we propose that we should make firm promises to each other. Let us make an agreement with you. v29 Promise that you will not do evil things to us. We have not done any evil thing to you. We have done only good things to you and we have sent you away in peace. The *Lord has now brought many good things to you.’
v30 So Isaac made a big meal for Abimelech and Ahuzzath and Phicol. They ate and they drank together. v31 On the next morning they got up early. They made a firm agreement with each other. And Isaac saw them set out. They went away him in peace.
Abimelech was the king of the *Philistines. (See verse 1 and the comment.) Abimelech realised that Isaac had become powerful. Isaac had many servants. So Abimelech did not want Isaac to be an enemy. Therefore, Abimelech wanted to make an agreement with Isaac. And probably he thought, ‘I sent Isaac away. I did not punish the men who ruined his wells. Perhaps he will come and he will attack me.’
Isaac did not want to be friendly with the *Philistines. But also, he did not intend to fight against them. So he was willing to make an agreement with them. They agreed to live in peace with each other.
v32 On that same day, Isaac’s servants came to him. They told him that they had made a well. They said to him, ‘We have found water.’ v33 Isaac called the well Shibah. Later, people built a town there. This town is still called Beer-sheba today.
v34 When Esau was 40 years of age, he married Judith. She was the daughter of Beeri, who was a *Hittite. Esau also married Basemath. She was the daughter of Elon, who was also a *Hittite. v35 These two women made Isaac and Rebekah very unhappy.
Abraham had called this well ‘Beer-sheba’. (See Genesis 21:31.) That means ‘the well of 7’. The number 7 was a sign of an agreement. (See the comment on Genesis 21:27-30.) Isaac calls it ‘Shibah’, which means ‘agreement’. ‘Shibah’ is almost the same word as ‘sheba’. Isaac might have said, ‘Abraham called this well “the well of 7”. I call it “the well of the agreement” because I have made an agreement with Abimelech. But my name for the well is the same as Abraham’s name for it.’
Esau married foreign women. Genesis does not tell us that marrying foreign women was always wrong. But sometimes it caused trouble and it made people unhappy. And in later times, God told Jacob’s *descendants not to marry foreign women. (See the comment on Genesis 38:2.)
Jacob cheats his father
v1 Isaac was very old. His eyes had become so weak that he could not see. Then he called Esau, who was his older son. Isaac said to Esau, ‘My son!’ And Esau answered, ‘I am here.’ v2 Isaac said, ‘You see that I am old. I do not know how soon I will die. v3 Take your bow and your arrows. Go out and hunt. Kill a wild animal for me. v4 Prepare for me a tasty meal, such as I love. Bring it to me so that I may eat. So I may bless you before I die.’ v5 And Rebekah listened when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. Then Esau went out to kill an animal.
In ancient times, before a father died, he gave *blessings to his sons. The *blessing to his oldest son was the most important one. It showed clearly that he had the right of the oldest son. So Isaac intended to give his *blessing to Esau.
But God had said that the older son would serve the younger one. (See Genesis 25:23.) And Esau had made a firm promise to give his right of the oldest son to Jacob. (See Genesis 25:33.) But Isaac did not agree with that. He still intended to give his *blessing to Esau.
Isaac lived for more than 20 years after this time. Jacob stayed in Paddan-aram for 20 years. (See Genesis 31:41.) And Isaac did not die until Jacob had returned. (See Genesis 35:29.)
v6 When Esau had gone out, Rebekah spoke to her son Jacob. She said to Jacob, ‘I listened when your father spoke to your brother Esau. v7 He said, “Fetch meat for me. Prepare a tasty meal so that I may eat it. Then I will bless you in front of the *Lord before I die.” v8 So listen to me, my son. Do what I tell you to do. v9 Go to the animals and choose two good young goats. Bring them to me so that I may cook them. I will prepare a tasty meal for your father, such as he loves. v10 You shall take it to your father so that he may eat. So he will bless you before he dies.’
v11 But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, ‘My brother Esau is a hairy man and I am a smooth man. v12 Perhaps my father will feel me. Then he will think that I am cheating him. Then he will not bless me. Instead, he will bring evil things on me.’ v13 His mother said to him, ‘If evil things come, let them come to me. Do what I tell you to do. Go and fetch the two young goats.’ v14 So Jacob went. He chose two young goats and he brought them to his mother. And his mother prepared a tasty meal, such as his father loved.
This family was in two halves. Isaac loved Esau and Rebekah loved Jacob. (See Genesis 25:28.) Rebekah wanted Jacob to have Isaac’s *blessing. So she cheated and she told Jacob to lie to Isaac. These things were wrong, but God used them. God had chosen Jacob instead of Esau. So God made Rebekah and Jacob succeed.
v15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes that belonged to Esau, her older son. These clothes were there in the house. She put the clothes on Jacob, her younger son. v16 She took the skins of the young goats. She put the skins on Jacob’s hands. She also put them on the smooth part of his neck. v17 And she took the tasty food that she had prepared. She also took bread that she had prepared. She gave this food to her son, Jacob.
Rebekah had many times watched Esau go to Isaac. Isaac was blind. (See verse 1.) And Isaac wanted to be certain who came to him. So he used to feel Esau’s clothes. He used to feel the backs of Esau’s hands. And he used to feel Esau’s neck. Esau’s hands and neck were hairy like a goat’s skin. (See Genesis 25:25 and the comment.) So Isaac recognised Esau. And so, Rebekah knew what she should do. She could make Isaac think that Jacob was Esau.
v18 So Jacob went to his father. He said, ‘My father!’ And Isaac said, ‘I am here. Who are you, my son?’ v19 Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau, your oldest son. I have done what you told me to do. Now get up and eat some of my meat. And when you have eaten it, bless me.’ v20 But Isaac said to his son, ‘How did you find the meat so quickly, my son?’ Jacob answered, ‘The *Lord your God made me succeed quickly.’ v21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come close to me so that I may feel you, my son. So I will know whether you are truly my son Esau.’ v22 So Jacob went close to Isaac his father and Isaac felt him. Isaac said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are Esau’s hands.’ v23 And Isaac did not recognise Jacob, because his hands were hairy. His hands were his brother Esau’s hands. So Isaac blessed Jacob.
v24 Isaac said, ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ Jacob answered, ‘I am.’ v25 Then Isaac said, ‘Bring the meat to me. I will eat some of the meat that my son killed. After that I will bless you.’ So Jacob brought the meat to Isaac and he ate. Jacob brought wine to him and he drank.
Isaac expected Esau to come to him. But he did not expect Esau to come so soon. To hunt a wild animal takes a long time.
Isaac himself had lied. He lied when he called Rebekah his sister. (See Genesis 26:7.) And in these verses, Jacob lies several times to Isaac.
Because Isaac was so old, he could not hear clearly. He thought that the voice was Jacob’s voice. But he was not certain. However, he felt the goat’s skin on Jacob’s hands. So he was certain that the hands were hairy. Therefore, he believed that it was Esau.
When Jacob came close to Isaac, Isaac smelled his clothes. (See verse 27.) They were Esau’s clothes, which Jacob was wearing. (See verse 15.) So Isaac was certain that it was Esau.
Isaac blesses his sons
v26 Then his father Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come close to me and kiss me, my son.’ v27 So Jacob came close to him and he kissed him. Isaac smelled the smell of his clothes. He blessed him and he said,
‘The smell of my son is like the smell of a field
that the *Lord has made rich.
v28 Let God give you the dew that comes from the sky.
Let God give you the good things that the earth produces.
Let God give you plenty of grain and wine.
v29 Let many people serve you
and let nations bend themselves down in front of you.
Be a ruler over your brothers
and let your mother’s sons bend themselves down to you.
Let evil things come to everyone who wishes evil things for you.
Let good things come to everyone who wishes good things for you.’
Dew is water that appears on the ground. It comes out of the air, especially in the morning. The country where Isaac lived, *Canaan, had very little rain for a part of each year. So at that time, dew was very important.
‘Let nations bend themselves down in front of you.’ This shows that you are their master. It shows that they give honour to you. And it shows that they are not your enemies.
‘Be a ruler over your brothers.’ This clearly gave the right of the oldest son. Isaac believed that he gave this right to Esau. Actually, he gave it to Jacob. Genesis does not tell us that Jacob had any other brother except Esau. So perhaps ‘your brothers’ means ‘your brother and your other relatives’.
v30 So Isaac blessed Jacob. As soon as Jacob had left his father Isaac, Esau his brother returned from his hunt. v31 He also prepared a tasty meal and he brought it to his father. And Esau said to his father, ‘Please get up, my father. Eat some of your son’s meat, so that you may bless me.’ v32 His father Isaac said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Esau answered, ‘I am your oldest son, Esau.’ v33 Then Isaac trembled strongly. He said, ‘Who killed an animal and brought it to me? I ate it before you came. And I have blessed him. Nobody shall change that.’
‘I have blessed him. Nobody shall change that.’ When a father gave his *blessing to his son, that *blessing was true. God showed to the father what he should say. Therefore, the father could not change it.
v34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried with a loud and bitter cry. He said to his father, ‘Bless me! Bless me also, my father!’ v35 But Isaac said, ‘Your brother came and he cheated. Therefore I blessed him instead of you.’ v36 Esau said, ‘It is right that he is called Jacob. He has cheated me twice. He stole the right of the oldest son from me and now he has stolen my *blessing.’
Then Esau said to Isaac, ‘Can you bless me too?’ v37 Isaac answered Esau, ‘I have made him a ruler over you. I have given all his brothers to him to be his servants. I have given him plenty of grain and wine. So what can I do for you, my son?’ v38 Esau said to his father, ‘Can you give me just one *blessing, my father? Bless me! Bless me also, my father!’ And Esau wept loudly. v39 Then Isaac his father said to him,
‘You shall live far from the plenty that the earth produces.
You shall live far from the dew that comes from the sky.
v40 You shall use your sword in order to live.
You shall serve your brother.
But you shall escape from him
and after that you shall not serve him.’
‘Jacob’ means ‘one who cheats’. (See the comment on Genesis 25:26.)
(For the meaning of ‘dew’, see the comment on verse 28.)
When Jacob came to Isaac, Isaac thought that he was Esau. (See verse 27.) He did not know which of his sons he was blessing. But he did know things that happened very many years later. He knew because God told him. He said to Esau, ‘You shall escape from him.’ This happened when Jehoram was the king of Judah. (See 2 Kings 8:22. Esau’s *descendants are called ‘Edom’. See Genesis 25:30 and the comment.)
Esau hates Jacob
v41 Esau hated Jacob because his father had blessed Jacob. And Esau said to himself, ‘Soon it will be the time to weep for my father’s death. Then I will kill my brother Jacob.’
v42 But someone told to Rebekah the words that Esau, her older son, had said. So she called Jacob, her younger son. She said to him, ‘Your brother Esau intends to kill you. v43 So listen to me, my son. Do what I tell you to do. Run to Haran, where Laban my brother lives. v44 Stay with Laban for a short time. Stay there while your brother is angry. v45 Stay until your brother’s anger stops. Stay until he forgets what you have done to him. Then I will send a message to you. I will tell you to return from there. It is not right that I should lose both my sons in one day.’
v46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I am very unhappy because of the *Hittite women whom Esau has married. Perhaps Jacob will marry a *Hittite woman like these. Perhaps he will marry a woman of this country. If he does that, I will not want to live.’
Esau expected that Isaac would die very soon. So he decided to wait until after Isaac’s funeral. Then he would kill Jacob. But Isaac lived for many more years. (See the end of the comment on verse 4.)
Rebekah was wrong when she said ‘a short time’. Jacob stayed with Laban for 20 years. And after that time, Jacob still did not know whether Esau would accept him.
There were two reasons why Jacob went to Haran.
· If Jacob did not go, Esau would kill him. That was the reason that was important to Rebekah.
· At Haran, Jacob could find a suitable wife. That was the reason that Rebekah told to Isaac.
And the second reason was important in God’s plan.
Jacob sets out on his journey
v1 Then Isaac called Jacob and he blessed him. He *commanded him, ‘Do not marry a *Canaanite woman. v2 Go to the district that is called Paddan-aram. Go to Bethuel’s house. He is your mother’s father. Find a wife there. Marry a daughter of Laban. He is your mother’s brother. v3 Let God, who can do anything, give success to you. Let him give to you a large family. So your *descendants shall be many nations. v4 Let God bring many good things to you and to your *descendants. Let him bring to you the good things that he promised to Abraham. So you shall possess the land where you have lived. That is the land that God gave to Abraham.’
v5 Then Isaac sent Jacob away. And Jacob went to the district that is called Paddan-aram. He went to Laban, who was the son of Bethuel the man from Aram. Laban was the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau.
Isaac blessed his son Jacob again although Jacob had cheated his father Isaac. Isaac realised what God wanted. God intended that Jacob should receive Isaac’s *blessing. Isaac realised this and so he blessed Jacob again.
‘Do not marry a *Canaanite woman.’ This is like what Abraham said. Abraham did not want his son Isaac to marry a foreign woman. (See Genesis 24:3-4. See also the comment on Genesis 38:2.)
Paddan-aram was the same as west Mesopotamia. (See the comment on Genesis 24:4.) For Bethuel and Laban see Genesis 24:24, 29.
v6 So Isaac blessed Jacob. He sent Jacob away to Paddan-aram in order to take a wife from there. And Esau saw this. When Isaac blessed Jacob, he *commanded him. He said, ‘Do not marry a *Canaanite woman.’ v7 Jacob obeyed his father and his mother. He went to Paddan-aram. And Esau saw all these things.
v8 Then Esau realised that the *Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father. v9 So Esau went to Ishmael and he took a wife from Ishmael’s family. He married Mahalath, who was the daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael. She was the sister of Nebaioth. He took Mahalath in addition to the wives that he already had.
Esau had married foreign women. And he did not realise that this caused great trouble to his parents. (See Genesis 26:35 and 27:46.) But Esau heard what Isaac said to Jacob. (See verse 6.) So he married another wife who was a relative. This probably did not improve the situation.
v10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and he travelled toward Haran. v11 He travelled until the sun set. Then he stopped for the night at the place where he was. He found a stone and he put it as a pillow. He lay down there and he slept. The stone was under his head.
v12 And he dreamed that he saw a staircase. It stood on the earth and its top reached to heaven. And he saw God’s *angels. Some of them climbed up the staircase and some of them came down the staircase.
v13 And he saw the *Lord, who stood above the staircase. The *Lord said, ‘I am the *Lord. I am the God of Abraham your grandfather. I am the God of Isaac your father. I will give the land where you are lying to you and to your *descendants. v14 I will make your *descendants as the dust that is on the earth. Your *descendants shall spread far to the west and to the east. They shall spread far to the north and to the south. All the families that are on the earth shall receive good things because of you. v15 Be sure that I am with you. I will keep you wherever you go. And I will bring you back to this country. I will not leave you until I have done these things. I will do all the things that I spoke to you about.’
Jacob was in a place where there were many stones. There was nothing else that he could use as a pillow. He probably chose a flat stone. And probably he folded some clothing and he put that on the stone. If he did that, it would be less hard.
Many Bibles call the staircase a ‘ladder’. But *angels went up and other *angels came down. They could not do that at the same time on a ladder. We do not know exactly what the *Hebrew word means.
God gave the dream about the staircase to Jacob. God showed to Jacob that there is communication between earth and heaven. Therefore Jacob said, ‘This is the gate that leads to heaven.’ (See verse 17.)
‘As the dust that is on the earth.’ God made the same promise to Abraham and he explained it. He said, ‘Nobody can count the dust on the earth and nobody will be able to count your *descendants.’ (See Genesis 13:16.) And the end of this verse is like God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3.
v16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep. He said, ‘Now I know that the *Lord is in this place. I did not know it before.’ v17 And he was afraid. He said,
‘This is a place that one must greatly respect!
This is certainly God’s house!
And this is the gate that leads to heaven!’
v18 So Jacob got up early in the morning. He took the stone that he had put under his head. He put it so that it stood up. And he poured oil on the top of it. v19 He called that place Bethel. Before that time, the town that was near to that place was called Luz.
Jacob said, ‘I did not know it before.’ Until this time, he did not know that God was with him. He knew that God was the God of his father, Isaac. But Jacob himself did not know God until God came to him in a dream. But after this time, he knew God. He knew that God was with him. And he knew that he belonged to God.
‘Bethel’ means ‘God’s house’.
v20 Then Jacob made a firm promise. He said, ‘Perhaps God will be with me. Perhaps he will keep me in this way where I go. Perhaps he will give bread to me, so that I may eat. Perhaps he will give clothing to me, so that I may wear it. v21 Perhaps I shall return to my father’s house in peace. If the *Lord does these things for me, then the *Lord shall be my God. v22 And this stone, which I have put here, shall be God’s house. And I will give to God a part of everything that he shall give to me. I will give to him one thing out of every 10 things.’
Jacob had met God. He immediately made a change in the way that he lived. He started to give a part of his wealth to God. But his character did not change immediately.
Jacob decided to give to God one thing out of every 10 things. This probably means that he would do that regularly. He would not do it only on one occasion.
Many people nowadays give a part of their wealth regularly to God. Some of them always give one part in 10 parts of their wealth. They call this part a ‘tithe’. Perhaps they give their tithe to the church. Or perhaps they give a part of the tithe to the church. And they give the rest to other people who work for God. We do not know how Jacob gave his tithe to God.
Jacob meets Rachel
v1 Then Jacob continued his journey. He came to the land where the people in the east lived. v2 As he looked, he saw a well in the field. And he saw three groups of sheep that lay near to the well. People used to take water out of that well to give it to the sheep. A large stone lay on the top of the well so as to close it. v3 When all the sheep gathered there, people used to roll the stone away from the top of the well. And they would give water to the sheep. Then they used to put the stone back on the top of the well.
v4 Jacob said to the people, ‘My brothers, where is your home?’ They said, ‘We have come from Haran.’ v5 Jacob said to them, ‘Do you know Laban, who is Nahor’s son?’ They said, ‘We know him.’ v6 Jacob said to them, ‘Is he well?’ They said, ‘He is well. And look! Rachel, who is his daughter, comes with the sheep!’ v7 Jacob said, ‘The day is not yet over. It is not yet the time when the animals will gather together. Give water to the sheep. Then take them to eat grass.’ v8 But they said, ‘We cannot do that. We must wait until all the sheep gather together. Then people will roll the stone away from the top of the well. Then we will give water to the sheep.’
‘The people in the east’ were those who lived near to the rivers Euphrates and Tigris. That land is nowadays Syria and Iraq. Jacob had actually gone more to the north than to the east.
When Jacob said ‘Nahor’s son’ he meant Nahor’s grandson.
We can be certain that God caused Jacob and Rachel to meet. Abraham’s servant and Rebekah met in a similar way. (See Genesis 24:15.)
Perhaps people had agreed that they would give water to the sheep at the same time. And not all the sheep had arrived.
v9 While Jacob still spoke with them, Rachel arrived. She was looking after her father’s sheep and she brought them to the well. v10 Jacob saw Rachel, who was his uncle Laban’s daughter. He saw Laban’s sheep. So Jacob went to the stone that was on the top of the well. He rolled the stone away from the well. Then he gave water to his uncle Laban’s sheep.
v11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and he wept aloud. v12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative. He told her that he was Rebekah’s son. And she ran to her father and she told him these things.
v13 So Laban heard that Jacob, who was his sister’s son, had come. Laban ran to meet Jacob. He greeted him and he kissed him. Then he brought him to his house. Jacob told to Laban all the things that he had already told to Rachel. v14 And Laban said to him, ‘Certainly you are a member of my family!’ And Jacob stayed with Laban for a month.
Until Jacob left home, he used to do what his mother told him to do. (For example, see Genesis 27:13-14.) But from this time, he himself decided what he would do. He did not wait to see what the local people did. He opened the well himself. He wanted to show to Rachel that he was strong. And he wanted to show to her that he could make strong decisions.
Rachel’s aunt Rebekah had gone to *Canaan to marry Isaac. (See Genesis 24:50-51, 61.) We can be sure that Rachel’s father Laban had told her that.
This does not mean that Jacob stayed for only a month. He began by staying for a month. After that, he agreed that he would stay for another 7 years. (See verse 20.) And in the end, he stayed for 20 years.
v15 At the end of the month, Laban spoke to Jacob. He said, ‘You are my relative. But that is not a reason that you should serve me without wages. Tell me, what shall your wages be?’ v16 Now Laban had two daughters. The older daughter was called Leah and the younger daughter was called Rachel. v17 Leah’s eyes were gentle but Rachel was beautiful and lovely. v18 Jacob loved Rachel. So he said to Laban, ‘I will serve you for 7 years. My wages shall be your younger daughter Rachel.’ v19 Laban said, ‘It is good that I should give her to you as your wife. That is better than that I should give her to any other man. Stay with me.’ v20 So Jacob served Laban for 7 years in order to earn Rachel. The 7 years seemed to Jacob to be only a few days. That was the effect of his love for her.
Genesis does not tell us that Jacob served Laban during the first month. But we can guess that Jacob looked after Laban’s animals. And that is why Laban said, ‘You should not serve me without wages.’
Many Bibles say, ‘Leah’s eyes were weak.’ But the *Hebrew word probably means ‘gentle’ or ‘lovely’. It probably does not mean ‘weak’. Rachel was younger and she was beautiful. Leah was older and she was not beautiful. But her eyes were lovely.
Laban said ‘her’. He did not say ‘Rachel’. Perhaps he had already decided that he would give Leah to Jacob instead of Rachel. (See verse 23.)
v21 After 7 years, Jacob spoke to Laban. He said, ‘Give me my wife so that I may have sex with her. I have served you for the time that I promised.’ v22 So Laban prepared a big meal. He gathered together to the meal all the men who lived in the place.
v23 But in the evening Laban took his daughter Leah and he brought her to Jacob. So Jacob had sex with her. v24 And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid. v25 When it was morning, Jacob saw that his wife was Leah. And Jacob said to Laban, ‘You should not have done this to me. I served you in order to earn Rachel. And now you have cheated me.’
Jacob thought that his wife was Rachel. He did not recognise Leah. There could be several reasons for this.
· Leah covered her head with a cloth when she came to Jacob. That was the custom. (See Genesis 24:64-65 and the comment.)
· It was dark while Leah lay with Jacob.
· Jacob had drunk much wine during the big meal.
Jacob and Rebekah had cheated Jacob’s father, Isaac. (See Genesis 27:19.) Leah and Laban cheated Jacob in a similar way. The next 6 lines show how the two events were similar.
· When Jacob cheated Isaac,
he pretended to be his older brother.
His mother Rebekah made the plan for this.
· When Leah cheated Jacob,
she pretended to be her younger sister.
Her father Laban made the plan for this.
v26 Laban said, ‘In our country we do not give the younger daughter until we have given the older daughter. v27 This daughter’s wedding will last for one week. That is the custom. After that, we will give you our other daughter also. She shall be your wages if you will serve me for another 7 years.’
v28 Jacob waited for a week until the wedding finished. At the end of the week, Laban gave his daughter Rachel to Jacob as his wife. v29 And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her maid. v30 So Jacob had sex with Rachel also. He loved Rachel more than he loved Leah. And he served Laban for another 7 years.
Perhaps this was true. Perhaps Laban had a good reason to give Leah first, before he gave Rachel. But Laban ought to have explained that to Jacob. He ought to have told that to Jacob 7 years earlier. So for 7 years he had been cheating Jacob. Jacob was working so as to earn Rachel as his wife. But Laban intended to give Leah to him.
Jacob’s first 4 sons
v31 Then the *Lord saw that Jacob did not love Leah. So he made Leah able to produce children. But Rachel had no child.
v32 And Leah became *pregnant and a son was born to her. She called him Reuben. She said, ‘The *Lord has seen my trouble. Now my husband will love me.’
v33 She became *pregnant again and another son was born to her. And she said, ‘The *Lord has heard that my husband does not love me. Therefore he has given me this son also.’ So she called him Simeon.
v34 Again she became *pregnant and a son was born to her. She said, ‘Now this time my husband will join with me, because I have given him 3 sons.’ Therefore, he was called Levi.
v35 And she became *pregnant again and another son was born to her. And she said, ‘This time I will praise the *Lord.’ Therefore, she called him Judah. After that, she had no more children for a time.
Some people are very sad because of trouble in their family. Perhaps their relatives do not love them. God helped Leah because he loved her. He helped her when Jacob did not love her. God can help us too, if we ask him.
‘Reuben’ means ‘see a son’.
‘Simeon’ means ‘one who hears’.
‘Levi’ sounds like ‘joined’.
‘Judah’ sounds like ‘praise God’.
Jacob has 6 more sons
v1 Rachel saw that she produced no children for Jacob. And she was angry with her sister because her sister was successful. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children! If you do not give me children, I shall die!’ v2 Jacob was angry with Rachel. He said, ‘I do not have God’s power! I did not prevent you from producing children. God did that.’ v3 Then Rachel said, ‘Here is my maid Bilhah. Have sex with her. She shall produce a child on my knees. So I may have children by her help.’ v4 So Rachel gave her maid Bilhah to Jacob as a wife. And Jacob had sex with Bilhah. v5 So Bilhah became *pregnant and a son was born to her for Jacob. v6 Then Rachel said, ‘God has given his judgement for me. He has heard my voice and he has given me a son’. Therefore, she called him Dan.
v7 Rachel’s maid Bilhah became *pregnant again and a second son was born to her for Jacob. v8 Then Rachel said, ‘I have struggled fiercely against my sister and I have overcome.’ So she called him Naphtali.
v9 Leah saw that she produced no more children. So she gave her maid Zilpah to Jacob as a wife. v10 And Leah’s maid Zilpah produced a son for Jacob. v11 Leah said, ‘Fortunately!’ So she called him Gad. v12 And Leah’s maid Zilpah produced a second son for Jacob. v13 Leah said, ‘I am happy because all the women will call me happy.’ So she called him Asher.
God intended that Rachel should have children at a later time. But the time was not yet right. And Rachel did not know that she could trust God. Many years before this time, Sarai was in the same situation. (See Genesis 16:1-2. Sarai was later called Sarah. Her husband Abram was later called Abraham.)
‘She shall produce a child on my knees.’ This was an ancient custom. When Bilhah’s child was born, Bilhah and Rachel were together. And the child was born on Rachel’s knees. Then Rachel took the child and the child became hers.
‘Dan’ means ‘he gave his judgement’.
‘Naphtali’ means ‘struggle’.
‘Gad’ means ‘fortunately’.
‘Asher’ means ‘happy’.
v14 At the time when people harvest wheat, Reuben went out into the field. He found *mandrake plants that had fruit. He picked the mandrake fruits and he brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’ v15 But Leah said to Rachel, ‘You have already taken my husband. Now you want to take my son’s *mandrakes too!’ Rachel said, ‘If you give your son’s mandrakes to me I will let him lie with you tonight.’ v16 In the evening, Jacob came in from the field. Leah went out and she met him. She said, ‘You must come in to me. I have hired you with my son’s *mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night and he had sex with her.
A mandrake is a yellow fruit. Women who had no children would eat the mandrakes. They believed that they were then more likely to become *pregnant. Rachel probably believed that. She wanted to eat the mandrakes. She thought that in that way she would produce a child.
v17 And God listened to Leah’s prayer. She became *pregnant and a fifth son was born to her for Jacob. v18 Leah said, ‘God has given me my reward because I gave my maid to my husband.’ So she called him Issachar.
v19 And Leah became *pregnant again and a sixth son was born to her for Jacob. v20 Then Leah said, ‘God has given me a valuable gift. Now my husband will give honour to me, because I have given him 6 sons.’ So she called him Zebulun. v21 Afterwards she produced a daughter and she called her Dinah.
v22 Then God was kind to Rachel and he heard her prayer. He made her able to produce children. v23 A son was born to her. She said, ‘God has taken away my shame from me.’ v24 And she called him Joseph. She said, ‘Let the *Lord add another son to me!’
‘Issachar’ sounds like ‘reward’.
‘Zebulun’ means ‘honour’.
Jacob had other daughters too. (See Genesis 46:7.) But Genesis does not tell us the names of the other daughters. Genesis mentions Dinah for a special reason. A *Canaanite who was called Shechem seized Dinah. And Genesis tells us about that. (See Genesis 34:1-2.)
God made Rachel able to have children. The *mandrakes did not do it. (See verse 14 and the comment.)
‘Joseph’ means ‘let him add’.
Jacob becomes wealthy
v25 After Joseph was born to Rachel, Jacob spoke to Laban. He said, ‘Send me away. Let me go to my own home and to my own country. v26 Give to me my wives and my children. I have served you in order to earn them. Now let me go. You know how well I have served you.’
Jacob had been with Laban for 14 years. Rebekah, Jacob’s mother, had promised to tell him when he could return home safely. (See Genesis 27:45.) She had not yet done so. So perhaps it was too soon for Jacob to return. Actually, Jacob stayed with Laban 6 more years after this time.
v27 But Laban said to him, ‘Please listen to me. I have become wealthy because of you. And the *Lord has blessed me. v28 Tell me what wages you want, so that you may stay with me. I will give to you whatever you ask.’
v29 Jacob said to him, ‘I have served you well. You yourself know that. You know that your animals have increased with me. v30 You had few animals before I came to you. Since I came, they have greatly increased. And the *Lord has brought good things to you wherever I went. But now it is the time when I should provide for my own family.’
Laban saw that God made Jacob successful. Before this time, God made Isaac successful. (See Genesis 26:12-13.) And after this time, God made Jacob’s son Joseph successful. (See Genesis 39:3.)
Jacob had been looking after Laban’s animals. Laban wanted Jacob to continue to do this. Laban’s reason was a selfish one. When Jacob looked after the animals, they increased. And so, Laban became richer.
Jacob meant, ‘You ought to be grateful for what I have done for you. But now I will work for myself and for my family.’ Jacob wanted to return to the country that is called *Canaan. (See verse 25.)
v31 Laban said, ‘What shall I give to you?’
Jacob said, ‘You shall not give anything to me. If you will do one thing for me, I will again look after your sheep. v32 Let me look at all your sheep today. Let me take from them every spotty sheep. Let me take every young sheep that is black. Let me look at the goats and let me take the spotty ones. That shall be my wages. v33 So you will know that I am honest. When you check my wages with me, you will know that I am honest. You may look at the animals that are with me. You may look for a goat that is not stripey or spotty. You may look for a young sheep that is not black. You will not find any animals that are like that. Otherwise you will know that I have stolen them.’
v34 Laban said, ‘That is good! Let it be as you have said.’
Jacob changed his plan. He would not yet go to *Canaan, but he would stay longer with Laban. He had made Laban rich. And he realised that he could make himself rich instead. He would cheat Laban.
There was a reason why Jacob changed his plan. Jacob told his wives, 6 years after this time, why he changed his plan. God’s *angel spoke to Jacob in a dream and he told him what to do. (See Genesis 31:10-12.)
In that region, most sheep were white and most goats were black. Spotty sheep and black sheep were unusual. And spotty goats were unusual.
v35 On the same day Laban removed some of his goats. He removed the ones that were stripey or spotty. He removed the ones that were partly white. He also removed every young sheep that was black. He told his sons to look after these animals. v36 Then Laban and his sons went away. They took these animals. They went away from Jacob a distance that a man can go in 3 days. Jacob remained and he fed the rest of Laban’s sheep.
Laban tried to cheat Jacob. He agreed to Jacob’s plan. (See verse 34.) Jacob would take as his wages all the sheep that were not white. And he would take all the goats that were not black. But Laban left only white sheep with Jacob. And he left only black goats. He removed the other goats. Laban’s sons looked after those at a long distance away from Jacob. Laban thought that white sheep would produce only white young sheep. And he thought that black goats would produce only black young goats. Therefore, Jacob would not have any animals as his wages.
v37 Then Jacob took fresh sticks from bushes. He removed part of the outsides of the sticks so that one could see the white insides. v38 He put these sticks at the place where the animals came to drink. And they mated when they came to drink. v39 Therefore the animals mated at the place where they could see the sticks. And the young animals that were born were stripey or spotty.
v40 Jacob separated the male animals. He brought the female animals to the male animals that were stripey or black. So he collected animals for himself and he did not put them with Laban’s animals.
v41 Whenever the stronger animals mated, Jacob put the sticks in front of the animals. So they mated where they could see the sticks. v42 But he did not put the sticks in front of the weaker animals. Then the weaker animals belonged to Laban and the stronger animals belonged to Jacob.
v43 So Jacob became very rich. He had sheep, goats, maids, servants, camels and *donkeys.
The sticks did not affect the colour of the young animals. Perhaps Jacob thought that the sticks did have that effect. Or perhaps Jacob pretended to Laban that they had that effect.
Some stripey male animals were born after Laban took away the other animals. So Jacob made these stripey male animals mate with the stronger female animals. And he let the male animals that were not stripey mate with the weaker female animals. Therefore, the young animals that were stripey were stronger. And the young animals that were not stripey were weaker. Laban did not know how Jacob did this. He thought that the sticks had an effect. He thought that the sticks caused the young animals to be strong and stripey.