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Book Of Genesis – Lesson #20

Lesson 20:  Genesis 29;  and Genesis 30   

Read  Gen. 29:1-14   

Jacob was seventy-seven when he left Beersheba for Haran. He would spend twenty years serving his uncle Laban, thirty-three years back in Canaan, and the last seventeen years of his life inEgypt. Arriving in Paddan Aram, he was guided to the very field where some shepherds from Haranwere tending their flocks. So perfect was God’s timing that Rachel was just arriving with her flock when Jacob was talking with the shepherds.

Read  Gen. 29:15-35

Laban agreed to give Rachel to Jacob in exchange for seven years of service. The years seemed to Jacob but a few days because of the love he had for her. Rachel’s sister Leah was weak-eyed and not attractive. Rachel was beautiful.

According to custom, it was arranged that the bride should go in to the groom on the wedding night, veiled and perhaps when the room was in darkness. You can imagine how irate Jacob was in the morning when he found that his bride was Leah! Laban had tricked him, but excused the trick on the ground that the older daughter should be married first according to the local custom. Then Laban said, “Fulfill her week (that is, carry through on the marriage to Leah) and we will give you this one also (Rachel) for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.” At the end of the week-long wedding feast, Jacob also married Rachel, then served seven more years for her. Jacob had sown deceit, and now he was reaping it! When the Lord saw that Leah was hated (that is, loved less than Rachel) He compensated for this by giving her children. Leah acknowledged the Lord when she named her children (Gen. 29:32, Gen. 29:33, Gen. 29:35). From her comes the priesthood (Levi), the royal line (Judah), and ultimately the Christ. In this chapter we have the first four of the sons of Jacob. The complete list of Jacob’s sons is as follows:

The sons born to Leah:

Reuben—(see, a son) (Gen. 29:32)    Simeon—(hearing) (Gen. 29:33)  Levi-(joined) (Gen. 29:34)

Judah—(praise) (Gen. 29:35)  Issachar—(hire) (Gen. 30:18)        Zebulun—(dwelling) (Gen. 30:20)

The sons born to Bilhah, the handmaid of Rachel:

Dan—(judge) (Gen. 30:6)        Naphtali—(wrestling) (Gen. 30:8)

The sons born to Zilpah, handmaid of Leah:

Gad—(a troop or good fortune) (Gen. 30:11)      Asher—(happy) (Gen. 30:13)

The sons born to Rachel:

Joseph—(adding) (Gen. 30:24)         Benjamin—(son of the right hand) (Gen. 35:18)

Read Gen. 30:1-13

In desperation to have a child playing on her knees, Rachel gave her maid, Bilhah, to Jacob as a wife or concubine. Even though such arrangements were common in those days, they were contrary to God’s will. Bilhah bore two sons, Dan and Naphtali. Not to be outdone by Rachel, Leah gave her maid, Zilpah, to Jacob, and two more sons were born, Gad and Asher.

Read Gen. 30:14-24

The mandrakes which Reuben found were a sort of love-apple, believed by the superstitious to impart fertility. Since Rachel was barren, she was anxious to have some of the mandrakes. In exchange, she agreed to let Leah live as wife with Jacob. (For some unexplained reason, Leah had apparently lost her privileges as wife.) After this, two more sons were born to Leah—Issachar and Zebulun—and also a daughter, Dinah. At last Rachel bore her first son and named him Joseph, expressing faith that God would give her still another son.

Read Gen. 30:25–43

When Jacob told Laban that he wanted to return home toCanaan, his uncle urged him to stay. Laban said he had learned by experience that the Lord had blessed him because of Jacob, and he would meet his wage demands if he would stay. Jacob agreed to continue serving if Laban would give him all the speckled and spotted sheep and goats and all the dark lambs. All other animals in the flock would be acknowledged as Laban’s. Laban took most of the animals designated for Jacob and gave them to his sons to shepherd, realizing that they would probably reproduce with markings that identified them as belonging to Jacob. Then he entrusted his own animals to Jacob, separated from his own sons by a three-day journey. This made it impossible for the marked animals in the herds tended by Laban’s sons to breed with Laban’s unmarked animals that were tended by Jacob.

When breeding Laban’s herd, Jacob put rods that he had peeled in front of them, whether they were of solid color or marked. The lambs or kids were born streaked, speckled, and spotted. This, of course, meant that they belonged to Jacob. Did these rods actually determine the markings on the animals? There may or may not have been a scientific basis to the method. (New genetic evidence suggests that there might have been, based on what the specific rods were.  If they contained certain chemicals, they could influence the characteristics if gnawed by the animals.)

How else might the animals have been born with the markings Jacob desired?

First of all, it may have been a miracle (see Gen. 31:12).

Or it may have been a clever trick on Jacob’s part. There are indications in the narrative that he knew the science of selective breeding. By careful breeding, he not only produced animals with the markings he desired, but he was also able to produce stronger animals for himself and feeble ones for Laban. Whatever the explanation, Jacob’s wealth increased during his final six years of serving Laban.