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Exposition of Genesis: Volumes 1 and 2
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CHAPTER XXIX

5. Jacob’s Double Marriage (29:1-30)

In this chapter the major emphasis lies on God’s gracious providence: in the preceding chapter Yahweh had promised to manifest His grace to Jacob; here definite tokens of that grace are received. Jacob finds those of his mother’s family without difficulty; he meets with a pleasant reception; his years of work are rendered delightful; he secures a wife from the relationship of his mother; children come from this union. In the second place, of course, there are also indications of just retribution when the deceiver is also deceived.

Writers of our day are inclined to stress, particularly the romantic phases of the chapter. These phases are, incidentally, an added ornament; but to regard the whole narrative from this point of view makes the incidental paramount. It is not to be denied that the Scriptures also glorify true and honorable love but always without growing sentimental about it. Those who are without spiritual discernment may consider the matter of this chapter as being altogether off the spiritual plane and dropping to the level of the almost trivial. However, in the ordinary events of everyday life true faith finds its right sphere of activity, and the trivial things of one’s daily task become great and important if in them a man expresses his faith, as Jacob does. It is especially Luther’s exposition that knows how to set forth this important angle of the case.

On the matter of the critical analysis of the chapter we need say little. The majority of the critics seem to agree that v. 1 comes from E, v. 2-14 from J, v. 15-30 from E; perhaps v. 24, 29 from P. In this case J never bridged over the gap from Bethel to Haran, an absurdity, which Procksch in the interest of defending the critical analysis expressly defends. Aside from this it need only be remarked that criticism is entirely committed to the proposition that as soon as both sides of a case are presented this fact is a trace of dual authorship. J and E for all their commendable qualities never have quite risen to that fine level of discernment which sees two or more sides in a proposition. Then, too, though the so-called critical analysis of the chapter is admittedly difficult, nevertheless all critics cheerfully and almost positively make it and quite staunchly defend their findings.

1. And Jacob got under way and went to the land of the children of the East.

"He lifted up his feet," says the more colourful Hebrew expression for "got under way." Naturally the expression "land of the children of the East" is a bit vague, but the use of it in the Scriptures always seems to take the land west of the Euphrates into consideration. To try to extend the term to include Mesopotamia and so Haran is quite unwarranted. But this does not now point to different sources with different or conflicting viewpoints. The whole matter is as simple as daylight. Between Mesopotamia, Jacob’s goal, and Palestine lay "the land of the children of the East." Consequently, Jacob strikes out for it next in order to traverse it and so to arrive at Mesopotamia. The uneventful journey as such is passed by.

2, 3. And he looked about and, lo, there was a well in the open field, and, lo, three flocks of sheep were there lying beside it, for from this well men were wont to water the flocks, and the customary great stone lay on the mouth of the well; and thither all the flocks were wont to gather, and then they would roll away the stone from the mouth of the well and would water the sheep. Then they would replace the stone on the mouth of the well.

The unusual thing, marked as unusual by a double hinneh ("behold," or "lo"), was that Jacob encountered at once the very well where the sheep of his kinsfolk were regularly watered. In "the open field (sadheh) three flocks of sheep" would be quite conspicuous and stand out distinctly the one from the other. The Hebrew says they lay ’al ("above") rather than "beside" the well, for it regards the fact that the water always lies on a lower level. The imperfect yashqû marks the habitual thing in this instance, "men were wont to water" (K. S. 157; G. K. 107 e). The third person plural indicates the indefinite subject "men." The article ha’ébhen indicates the customary thing: "the customary great stone," which always covered the opening of these wells. Travellers like Robinson and Thomson testify to the prevalence of this type of well down to the present. Usually these wells do not contain "living water" but stored-up water. First the opening is covered by a large fiat stone with a smaller opening in the centre, which, in turn is covered by a smaller stone. The "large stone" prevented theft by individuals.

3. The converted perfects are brought into alignment with the yashqû of the preceding verse and are so made to express the rest of the habitual acts: flocks would gather, men would roll away the stone, and water sheep and replace the stone. In order not to conflict with v. 10 we do best to regard the waiting until all the flocks were assembled partly as a matter of necessity partly a matter of common consent. For if a girl like Rachel tends her father’s flock, like Jethro’s daughters near Mt. Sinai (Exod. 2:16) at a later date, then others of the shepherds may well have been young men, in fact, quite young men, who would require their united strength, or at least that of some two or three of the lads, to remove the stone. Now apparently, in order to be the first to water their flocks, shepherds would frequently come in rather early in the afternoon and there lie awaiting their turn, when they might yet have been out in pasture. It is this part of the procedure that somewhat perplexes Jacob (v. 7), that grazing time should thus be lost.

4-6. And Jacob said: My brethren, whence are ye? And they said: We are from Haran. And he said to them: Do ye know Laban, the son of Nahor? And they said: Yes. And he said to them: Is all well with him? And they said: He is well, and, see, Rachel, his daughter, is coming with the sheep.

The conversation that follows is the most natural and true to life imaginable. The shepherds are not a taciturn lot, but Jacob, being about seventy-seven, was much older than they, and so the younger men wait till they are spoken to. With good tact, Jacob addresses them "brethren" —the wider use of the word ’ach, as members of the same people; for Jacob’s ancestors came out of their midst. Apparently, too, both yet spoke the same language. The first thing for Jacob to determine is where he is. The well in the open field is not a town; but if Jacob learns where the shepherds come from, he will know which is the nearest town. Imagine the glad surprise of Jacob when they answer: "We are from Haran." Without betraying too much of his identity to total strangers Jacob can learn what he needs to know if they should happen to know Laban, whom he here calls, "the son of Nahor" rather then Bethuel’s son, naming the grandfather, as, no doubt, the more illustrious ancestor; cf. 2 Kings 9:20 with v. 14; also Ezra 5:1with Zech. 1:1 for similar cases. The "a" of the interrogative particle lengthened before Schwa.

6. Next Jacob must know whether after all these newsless years Laban, his mother’s brother, still fares well: hashalôm lô = "Is there peace to him?" "Peace" in connections such as these refers to a state of well-being in which nothing essential is lacking. This question meets with an affirmative response. Besides, even then the shepherds were anticipating the arrival of Laban’s daughter, Rachel. Perhaps the hinneh ("see") points to her as she becomes visible at some distance. Ba’ah, with the accent on the last syllable, is the feminine form of the durative participle—"is coming."

Though "Rachel" signifies "ewe" and "Leah" "wild cow," that fact in itself does not support the groundless contention that the early stages of the patriarchal religion included totemism. For nowhere do these or other names of wild beasts or tame appear as totems, nor are there indications anywhere of totemism in the legitimate religion of Israel.

7, 8. And he said: Lo, the day is far from spent; it is not yet time for gathering the cattle. Water the sheep and go and pasture them. But they said: We cannot, until all herds are gathered together. Then they roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and then we water the sheep.

At that time there were still hours left for pasturing. The efficient shepherd Jacob is pained to see good time wasted thus. That is not what he would have done. So he urges them to do the necessary watering and then again lead the flock out to pasture. Besides, it is very manifest that by this manoeuvre Jacob is trying to remove the onlookers from the scene against the time when Rachel arrives. "The day is big" is the Hebrew expression for our: "the day is far from spent."

8. Now it appears that they are agreed to wait till all are assembled before the stone is removed. Compare also our remarks on v. 3. In this instance the assembled shepherds are just as loath to miss the meeting between this stranger and Rachel as Jacob is anxious to remove them from the scene. We take the expression "we cannot" as involving moral inability (they have agreed to act in unison) as well as physical.

9, 10. While he was still speaking with them, Rachel arrived with her father’s flock; for she was a shepherdess. And it came to pass when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother, Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother, Laban, that Jacob drew near and rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the sheep of his mother’s brother, Laban.

’ôdhénû = "still he" (G. K. 100o), with the participle here goes to make up an adverbial clause of time. Here the form bá’ah (accent on the first syllable) is the perfect "she arrived." It may not have been customary in all lands also not among the Israelites to have girls tend flocks. Consequently, the explanation: "for she was a shepherdess" is necessary.

10. It is really a very characteristic trait observed by the author at this point that Jacob took separate note first of Rachel, then of Laban’s flock. Nor should the second observation surprise us in one who had been a shepherd all his days. Nor need we wonder at the threefold repetition of the phrase "of his mother’s brother, Laban." What else would a man like Jacob, loving his mother with particular affection, do under such circumstances than keep saying to himself: "This is the daughter of my mother’s brother, Laban, whom she has mentioned so often; these are his sheep"? But what of the fact that he rolls away singlehanded a stone which required the united efforts of the rest? That is to be explained partly by the fact that he was naturally very strong, then partly by a mixture of two facts: his joy at finding his kinsfolks and his joy at finding such a pretty cousin stirs him greatly and makes him strong. It may be that we here have a Biblical instance of love at first sight, although even that had more fitly find mention in connection with the next verse. But to talk only of that love and to make Jacob act like a young fellow who tries to impress his ladylove by feats of strength is just a bit shallow by way of interpretation. Life here, as usual, was rather a complex of various motives that surged strongly in Jacob’s heart. The text by its threefold repetition of the phrase "of his mother’s brother, Laban" shows on what his thoughts dwelt at the moment. It has remained for Gunkel and men of his type to ascribe to the narrative the attempt to make out Jacob to be a man of Herculean strength, a gigantic fellow—fabulous elements in the story. Such conclusions in reference to Jacob are, to say the least, most fantastic and farfetched. Wayyághel is Kal—G. K. 67p.

11, 12. And Jacob kissed Rachel and lifted up his voice and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman and that he was a son of Rebekah. And she ran and told her father.

The other shepherds now fade out of the picture. Whether they still were present when Jacob kissed Rachel is not told, though it seems quite likely. Such matters are so entirely secondary to the author’s putpose that they may well be ignored. Allowing for the fact that in those days, among a different people, a kiss of cousins was a proper greeting, there is little doubt that Rachel was taken quite unawares and may well have been astonished, for as yet she knew nothing of this strong shepherd’s identity. The more natural procedure would have been to explain first who he was, then to give the kiss of greeting. The reverse of the procedure indicates how his glad emotions, ran away with him. No man will determine how much of this emotion was plain joy at seeing a cousin and how much incipient love for pretty Rachel, and Jacob himself, perhaps, at the moment would have been least able to make an accurate analysis of what his heart actually felt at the occasion. We can hardly go wrong in claiming to detect a trace of love at first sight.

The strength of Jacob’s emotion is attested to by the fact that after having bestowed the kiss "he lifted up his voice and wept" —not a dishonorable or unmanly thing for the Oriental then or now, for he is a man inclined to make a greater display of his emotions. At the same time, what he does betrays, on the one hand, how keenly the loss of the association with the loved ones at home was missed by this quasi-fugitive, and, on the other hand, how deeply the new joy of the promise of attachment of his kinsfolk touched him. When the identity of Jacob is revealed to Rachel, she makes haste to impart the welcome news to her father, not like Rebekah to her mother. In fact, Rebekah’s mother is not even mentioned in these narratives and may already have been dead. ’Ach, "brother," here appears in the broader use as "kinsman," it could also be rendered "nephew."

13, 14. And it came to pass when Laban heard the report about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran out to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him repeatedly and brought him to his house. Then he reported to Laban all these matters. And Laban said to him: Thou certainly art of my own flesh and blood. And he lived with him a month’s time.

and 28. Otherwise Jacob would have been sailing under false colours.

14. Jacob’s report at least conveyed, first of all, to Laban full proof of Jacob’s identity: this man was truly his kinsman, a blood relative, or, as the Hebrew says: "my bone and my flesh," for which we have substituted the more common English expression "my own flesh and blood." A total stranger had, of course, to furnish unequivocal proof of his identity. Laban is so thoroughly convinced by Jacob’s account of himself that he prefaces his acknowledgment with a "certainly" (’akh). Nothing definite is agreed on for the present, except that Jacob should "live" (yeshebh) there. So "a month’s time" elapses. The Hebrew expression has been variously rendered. Chôdhesh yamîm, "a month of days," employs the term "days" in the common meaning of "time," consequently, the almost colloquial English expression "a month’s time" is very satisfactory. "The space of a month" (A.V.) is very good, also Luther: ein Monat lang. Attempted improvements are wrong, such as "a full month" or "about a month."

15-17. Then Laban said to Jacob: Shouldest thou serve me for nothing, just because thou art my kinsman? Tell me what shall be thy wages? Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah and the name of the younger Rachel; and Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was of beautiful form and beautiful looks.

By this time Laban has discerned that in Jacob he would have a very competent shepherd. No doubt, Jacob began to serve in this capacity at once. His faithfulness and his industry were immediately apparent. A measure of selfishness enters into Laban’s proposal without a doubt. But most likely it is a compound of honest and selfish motives. The good features in it are that he wishes to bind a relative to himself, especially as this relative is unusually competent. Besides, he wants to arrive at a definite understanding as soon as possible in order to obviate future misunderstandings. Furthermore, it behooves him as the elder to steer toward a definite agreement. Each of these good motives had an admixture of selfishness, for Laban was basically a selfish and a tricky man. No doubt, he was planning to gain this competent young man as a son-in-law. Laban must have anticipated the proposal that was actually made. Perhaps Laban had noticed that Jacob had fallen violently in love, and now Laban hoped that if he let Jacob set the terms, Jacob’s newborn love would incline to make a generous proposal.

The basic statement is correct in every way: Shouldest thou serve me for nothing, just because thou art my kinsman? The second is not generous. For though in a sense Jacob was for the moment impecunious, yet Laban had clearly discerned that he was prospective heir to a very great fortune. Even if Jacob failed to tender the customary móhar, or dowry, that lack was more than compensated for by his potential wealth. The formality of the case could well have been met by a nominal service of one year.

16. Here criticism makes a very positive assertion: v. 16 as it stands could not have been written thus by the same author who had written v. 6; and so the critics claim to have firm ground for assigning v. 16-30 to E. We claim—since here only an unproved and unprovable claim has been advanced—on the contrary: Without a doubt the author of v. 6 could have written v. 16 just as he did and be perfectly consistent; there is not the slightest difficulty in the way of this assumption.

17. "Leah" (meaning "wild cow"), though the elder, has "weak (rakh) eyes." This, according to the oriental standard, did not imply defective vision but merely the absence of that clear-cut brilliance and lustre that the Orientals love. "Tender" (A.V.) is in a sense even more correct than "weak." By contrast Rachel’s eyes are not specifically referred to but seem, indeed, to have been dark and lustrous. But a "beautiful form and beautiful looks" are attributed to her. Add to these her natural assets the dramatic meeting at the well and it becomes very clear why Leah did not even enter into consideration for Jacob. Yet by v. 16, 17 we are prepared fully to understand the later complications that arise.

18. And Jacob loved Rachel, and so he said: I will serve thee seven years for Rachel, thy younger daughter.

True love between man and woman is here approved by the Scriptures. In the month’s time spent with his relatives Jacob had come to know very definitely what his heart felt. Everything indicates that his was a very true and lasting devotion. A man deeply in love makes the terms that follow—seven year’s service—and certainly does not look primarily to his own advantage.

19, 20. And Laban said: .It is better that I should give her to thee than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me. And Jacob served for Rachel seven years and they seemed to him like just so many days for the love he had to her.

To this day Orientals and specially Syrians and Arabs much prefer to marry their daughters to those in their own relationship. Higher motives will have entered into the case on Laban’s part. Jacob’s worth of character and his true religiousness may have made a strong appeal to a man who had himself departed from this higher standard—a silent tribute often paid by the less godly to the more godly. The comparative with min —"good from" —is used here (G. K. 133 a). Laban’s ready assent leads us to think that he had anticipated some such proposal and found Jacob’s terms so very generous that he closed with them at once.

All they who attempt to reduce the transaction here described to the level of a purchase are injecting foreign elements into the text. At no time in Israel’s history were wives purchased. The customary móhar, or dowry-money, was regarded as proof of financial competence on the bridegroom’s part.

20. Without sentimentality or cheap emotionalism the author describes very beautifully and most effectively the strength of Jacob’s love. Years seemed like mere days "for the love he had to her." Yamîm ‘achadhîm is strictly "a few days." We have rendered it more colloquially, "just so many days." ’Ahabhathô, "his loving," is an infinitive used as a feminine noun with a suffix. Wayyihyû is masculine though it really has shanîm, a feminine noun, as its subject. But this strange anomaly grows out of the tendency almost always to begin sentences with the masculine (G. K. 145 p), especially in the plural.

21. And Jacob said to Laban: Give me my wife, for my time is up that I go in unto her.

Laban should have taken the initiative at the end of the seven years. Selfishness lets him wait. Jacob must remind him. For "go in unto" we should say "marry." We’abhô’ah is a final clause (G. K. 165 a). Jacob’s somewhat curt demand indicates that he has come to know his father-in-law’s character pretty well by this time.

22-24. And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. And it came to pass in the evening that he took Leah, his daughter, and brought her in to him and he went in unto her. Also Laban gave Zilpah his maid to Leah, his daughter, as her own maid.

Now the crafty and cunning dealings of Laban come to light. First of all, though, indeed, custom demands that "all the men of the place" be invited to the marriage banquet, yet that arrangement will serve Laban’s purpose well. When the prank played on Jacob becomes known to all, it will not be easy for Jacob to cast off Leah, and so Laban will have disposed advantageously of a daughter whom perhaps none would have desired. The expression "all the men of the place" may involve a natural hyperbole, unless Haran had still been but a tiny place, which is not very likely.

23. This was about one of the meanest pranks ever played on a man. It almost seems as though this boldly conceived plan could not have succeeded. But if one considers that Jacob had absolutely no reasons for suspicion; that his wife was brought in under the cover of darkness; that she was, no doubt, veiled (24:65); that two sisters, utterly unlike only as to facial appearance, may yet have had a pronounced physical resemblance otherwise as to size and stature; that the conversations of the bridal night may have been entirely whispered; that reticence on the bride’s part would hardly seem unnatural under the circumstances; that intimate association, commonly found in modern courtships before marriage, were unthought of in days of old; and that Jacob may well be thought of as under the spell of a strong infatuation, which may have led him to overlook what at other times might have aroused suspicion—we say, if one considers all these circumstances, it becomes clear that it may all have happened just as it is here told.

24. Here is a convenient place to insert the comment that Laban gave his daughter a handmaid to be specifically her own. We shall need to know this fact later. We combine the lah with the final shiphchah to make "as her own maid." It is true, Laban did not deal with his daughters as generously as Bethuel had dealt with Rebekah. For Rebekah according to 24:59 received a "nurse," but according to 24:61 there were "damsels" in the train. Laban’s greed and parsimoniousness comes to light more and more. "Zilpah" perhaps means "nearness," "intimacy."

Leah’s part in the plot requires explanation. She cannot be absolved from guilt even on the score that it behoved her according to the conceptions of those days to submit to parental authority. She knew that Jacob was to be deceived. Common decency and uprightness would have demanded that she apprise Jacob of the fact at the risk of severe parental displeasure. A moral issue was involved. Apparently, though, indeed, far less guilty than her father, Leah was guilty in so far as she was not entirely averse to the whole scheme. She may have loved Jacob secretly. She may have considered this her one chance to get a husband. She may have thought this an unsought, and therefore justifiable, opportunity to steal a march on her sister. Even absolving her from all improper motives, we cannot entirely condone her action on the ground of the need of absolute obedience to her father as the times demanded it.

25-27. And it came to pass in the morning that, lo, it was Leah. And he said to Laban: What is this that thou hast done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I worked for thee, and why didst thou trick me? And Laban said: Not is it customarily done so in our community, to give the younger before the elder. Finish the week with this one, and also the other shall be given to thee in return for the service which thou shalt do with me for yet another seven years.

After the bridal night comes the rude shock of the discovery that it is Leah. Jacob recognizes that the fault lies preponderantly at the father’s door. So Jacob at once takes his father-in-law to task. First he addresses to him the justly outraged question: "What is this that thou hast done?" This question implies that Laban has made a sport of all the finer and truer aspirations of men, has toyed with loyalty, truth and pure love. Next Jacob casts the terms of the original contract into Laban’s teeth and adds to them the question: "Why didst thou trick me?" Surely, Jacob had been remiss in nothing. He had served with the truest fidelity. He had taken advantage of his father-in-law in nothing. Yet Jacob’s words are comparatively few, his self-justification quite brief. For one who has been so grievously wronged he submits rather tamely after all, at least after the first outbreak. One cannot help but feel that the memory of the treachery he practised on his brother and his father was being refreshed strongly and sealed his lips from making further accusations. The justice of God’s retributions seems to have overwhelmed Jacob and made him very docile on this occasion. Now Jacob felt what it meant to have a piece of deceit practised on one in reference to things that are especially prized.

26. Everyone recognizes at a glance that if this really was the ironclad rule in this "community" (maqôm =literally, "place") that the elder be given in marriage before the younger, then the time for saying so would have been at the time the agreement was originally made. The imperfect ye’aseh here expresses customary action; therefore we rendered: "not is it customarily done so."

27. Observing his son-in-law’s unexpected meekness and realizing the difficult position into which he has put Jacob—Jacob would be the laughingstock in any case, and Leah doubly so if Jacob simply cast her off—Laban makes a new set of terms, which have regard exclusively to Laban’s advantage. He suggests seven years’ service for her for whom Jacob has just rendered the stipulated seven years. For downright, galling meanness these terms could hardly be surpassed. For despicability Laban takes the prize in the Old Testament. "The week" mentioned is the bridal week, which the Syrians still term the "king’s week," the time during which bridegroom and bride are respectively addressed as king and queen. What a tumult of disappointment and vexation for Jacob during this festive week! The brazen impudence which prompts Laban to add the terms for receiving Rachel as being "for the service (beth of price) which thou shalt do with me for yet another seven years," almost passes belief. We believe nittenah fits better into the connection if it be construed as Niphal perfect with waw conversive, rather than as a Kal imperfect, first person plural; for "we shall give" is quite out of place in a case where only Laban had done the giving.

Fully to understand the entire situation it becomes necessary to answer the question: "Were Jacob and Leah guilty of adultery, or would their union have to be classed as adulterous if Jacob had refused further to consort with her?" Luther was right when he said, No. Their union was not marriage at first, because there was no free consent between these two. It was not adultery, for Jacob consorted with one whom he certainly did not desire. Consequently, Jacob could on ethical grounds have rejected Leah and would still have been guiltless.

28-30. And Jacob did so and finished the week with this one, and then he gave to him Rachel, his daughter, for wife. And Laban gave to Rachel, his daughter, Bilhah, his handmaid, to be her handmaid. And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for him still another seven years.

Summarizing our previous contention, we believe that Jacob, smitten with a sense of guilt because of his own deception practised on father and brother and also having consideration for the sorry plight into which Leah would fall if he were to reject her, consented to "finish the week," that is pose as and actually be her husband. Then, not waiting till the second period of seven years’ service was terminated, Laban at once gave Rachel to Jacob. Very likely, Laban sensed that Jacob would be adamant in insisting on his right, at least on this one point, and so Laban conceded what could not be avoided.

29. Here, as in v. 9:24, appears to be the most convenient place for inserting this notice essential for the understanding of the next chapter. No matter where these notices about the maids are inserted, they are always bound to make the impression as being additional bits of information, which is exactly what they are and are intended to be. But that furnishes no ground for the critical contention that other sources are involved. As long as writing is done, supplementary bits of information have to be added at certain points by all authors, and yet this fact does not point to other sources. "Bilhah" may mean "terror" or, perhaps, "terror is God."

30. The marriage with Rachel is also consummated. Here the very natural fact is recorded that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. This by a very natural interpretation involves that a measure of love also grew up for Leah. Here, then, we have the strange case of a man who is a bigamist, primarily by accident, certainly not by choice. Still we must claim in the interest of the true conception of a truly monogamous marriage that Jacob would have done right only if he had refused Leah and married Rachel and so loved one wife only. His own earlier sin made him timid and prevented his carrying out this only correct solution of the difficulty. We are also here informed that Jacob was as good as his word: he had agreed to work "still another seven years" and so he lived up to his agreement. The second gam must be a copyist’s error. Perhaps the copyist’s eye ran into the wrong line, and so the gam should have stood before ’eth-Rachelv. 28 (K. C.). In any case, neither of the two very ancient witnesses, the Septuagint and the Vulgate, have it. It certainly does not make sense.

6. Jacob’s Children and His Increasing Wealth (29:31-30:43)

The last five verses of chapter 29 plainly belong to the subject matter of chapter 30. Now the account centres on the fulfilment of Yahweh’s promise to be with Jacob and to bless him. But incidentally parallel with this most delightful fact runs the observation that the house of the bigamist is a house divided against itself and the fruitful source of much mischief and the effectual disruption of all true discipline. Though the statement is not explicitly made that bigamy is bound to be a grievous evil, the chapter as such by its objective record conveys the truth of this statement.

31, 32. And Yahweh saw that Leah was slighted, so He opened her womb, but Rachel remained barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben ("behold, a son"), for she said: . . . . because Yahweh hath looked upon my affliction; for now will my husband love me.

For a third time in the line of Abraham barrenness occurs, but parallel with it runs fruitfulness on the part of the less beloved wife. For senûah, literally "hated," in connections such as this (cf. Deut. 21:15) means only "less beloved" or "slighted" (Meek). Yahweh, who has regard to his promise to Abraham as well as to the affliction of Leah, grants to the less beloved wife a son. "Rachel remains barren" in order that husband and wife may learn the more to trust in God’s mercy. It seems that Jacob’s love for Rachel savoured too much of infatution growing out of purely physical attraction. Higher motives should animate those to whom God’s rich promises are entrusted.

32. On the etymology of the proper names of this and of the next chapter it has been remarked: "The popular etymologies attached to the names are here extremely forced and sometimes unintelligible" (Skinner). Such a statement is the result of the critic’s confusion. He acts on the assumption that these etymologies are to be scholarly efforts based on a careful analysis of Hebrew roots according to the Hebrew lexicon. Whereas, in reality, these are not etymologies at all but expressions wrought into the form of proper names, expressing the sentiments or the hopes associated With the birth of these sons. So someone or even the mother may have remarked at the birth of the first-born, "Look, a son," Re’û-bhen. Result, the proper name "Reuben." What is there "forced" or "‘unintelligible" about such a name? The added explanation as to what further thoughts Leah associated with this name "Reuben" do, indeed, not grow out of the words, "look, a son," but they lay bare the inmost thoughts of her heart. Leah knows God as "Yahweh," an index of fine spiritual understanding and faith, and ascribes to him her fertility. She sees that Yahweh delights in being compassionate toward them that have "afflication" and hers was a state of affliction; and she anticipates that her husband will love her more. involves an ellipsis: (I have named him so) "because."

33. And she conceived again and bore a son and she said, . . . . because Yahweh hath heard that I am hated, and so He hath given me this one too. And she called his name Simeon (Hearing).

Yahweh "heard" (shama’), so she calls him "hearing" (shim’ôn). So in Hebrew the idea becomes more readily apparent. Leah implies that she had asked for this child in prayer. Again she ascribes the son to the graciousness of "Yahweh." She must have been a woman of faith.

If after the simple and convincing explanation given, "Simeon" is by some deduced from the Arabic root—which signifies a beast which is a cross between a wolf and a hyena, we can but marvel and let such an explanation pass as an instance of critical arbitrariness.

34. And she conceived again and bore a son, and said: Now this time my husband will grow attached to me, for I have borne him three sons. Therefore his name was called Levi (Attachment):

Here the play on words centres upon the root lawah which in the passive signifies "grow attached to." How poor Leah must have thirsted for the love that was denied her. Leah now stands on pretty firm ground: any man would be grateful for three healthy sons; especially are men in the Orient minded thus. On happa’am see 2:23.

35. And she again conceived and bore a son and said: This time I praise Yahweh. Therefore she called his name Judah (Praised). Then she ceased bearing children.

Apparently her hopes are by this time realized; she is no longer disregarded or loved but little. But in a sense of true devoutness she lets all praise be given to Yahweh and here contents herself with pure praise. Without knowing Hebrew one can hardly see the connection between the name and the words spoken. "I praise" — ’ôdheh, a Hifil, active form. The passive, third person, is yûdheh — "he will be praised." This form distends itself into Yehudwhah, a form still having the same meaning.

HOMILETICAL SUGGESTIONS

We cannot persuade ourselves that this chapter furnishes material for homiletical use. The portion, v. 1-20, could be used; but, for that matter, chapter 24 has already furnished more suitable texts on the same subject. Besides, the instruction of the Sunday school will always keep the subject matter of this chapter fresh in the memory of men. Certainly, v. 21-35 is not well adapted for use in the pulpit, important as the issues involved may otherwise be in sketching the development of Jacob’s character, the just retribution of God, and the essentials of the beginnings of the history of the fathers of the twelve tribes.

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