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Lesson 4: Jacob and Rachel: Labor of Love *

Introduction: Last week, we left our story with everything going downhill. Jacob and his mother conspired to have Jacob receive the birthright through deception. This so angers the older brother, Esau, that Jacob flees from his home to avoid being murdered by Esau for defrauding him of the birthright. Jacob's cover story for his flight is that he is going to find a wife. Let's dive into our study and see what Jacob finds!

  1. Jacob Arrives

    1. Genesis 29 records that Jacob runs to the area in which his mother's family lives and he finds a young beauty named Rachel. Rachel is the daughter of his uncle Laban (Jacob's mother's brother). Let's pick up the story by reading Genesis 29:10-13. Why do you think Jacob weeps when he meets Rachel? Does this make him appear to be "husband material?"(Jacob has a lot of stress over his fraud, the threat to his life, leaving home and hoping to be able to find his relatives. He has now found his relatives and their warm greeting is a huge relief.)

    2. Read Genesis 29:14-15. Based on Laban's statement, what kind of man would you judge him to be? (He sounds very fair and honest. He will not take advantage of a relative.)

      1. Look closer. Is it appropriate to treat your nephew like an ordinary servant?

    3. Read Genesis 29:16-18. How long did it take for Jacob to fall in love with Rachel? (A month!)

      1. Why did Jacob fall for Rachel? (She had a great body and a beautiful face.)

        1. Why do you think the Bible mentions this?

        2. Is this an appropriate basis on which to fall in love?

      2. What do you think of the "deal" which Jacob offered Laban?

        1. Read Genesis 31:14-15. What did Rachel and Leah think of the "deal?"

        2. Read Genesis 29:19. What did Laban think of the "deal?"

        3. What is unusual about this marriage? (Jacob arranged it, not his parents.)

  2. The Marriages

    1. Read Genesis 29:20-25. What about this reminds you of Jacob's past life? (He fooled his father by substituting himself for his sibling. Laban now fools him by substituting a sibling.)

      1. Were Leah and Rachel part of this fraud?

    2. Read Genesis 29:26. What do you think of Laban's legal defense?

      1. What would you have said in response if you were Jacob? (I've been here seven years and you never disclosed your "custom" to me or mentioned that it made our contract impossible.)

    3. Read Genesis 29:27-29. What kind of wedding feast is given to Rachel? (It seems she got none.)

    4. Consider the impact of Laban's fraud:

      1. On Rachel;

      2. On Leah; and,

      3. On Jacob.

    5. What is God's view of all of this? (Read Leviticus 18:18.)

      1. What does this text suggest is the problem? (Rivalry!)

    6. What kind of a guy is Laban? (He thinks only of himself.)

      1. Can you put together a justification for Laban's actions? (Arranged marriages were probably normal. Jacob plans to marry for love, but Laban decides to "arrange" a marriage for him. He is going to give Jacob what he wants, but he will squeeze a little more work out of him (because Leah is worth it). If daughters are like possessions, you cannot be too concerned about their feelings.)

      2. What does this teach us about the relative merit of arranged marriages? (Contrary to expectations, parents can be as "bone-headed" as children in choosing a mate. The best marriages are those in which the parents and the children are praying for God's leading in finding a spouse.)

    7. What would have happened if Jacob had not chosen Rachel based on her looks and her body? What would have happened if Jacob had just accepted Laban's decision and he had not married Rachel?

  3. Married Life with Rival Wives

    1. Read Genesis 29:30-35. What kind of attitude does Leah have about her situation?

      1. What has God done that Jacob should have done? (God is trying to make the situation more just. To help Leah to be loved.)

    2. Read Genesis 30:1-2. Beautiful body, beautiful face, what kind of personality does Rachel possess?
    3. Read Genesis 30:3-6. Do you think God vindicated Rachel? (Rachel vindicated Rachel.)

      1. What should she have done? (Review Genesis 28:13-14; Genesis 25:21; Genesis 16:1-2. Both Jacob and Rachel are forgetting history. God made promises to Jacob about his descendants. Jacob should have followed the good example of his father and mother rather than the poor example of Abraham and Sarah.)

    1. Read Genesis 30:14-18. Mandrakes, which look like little yellow apples, were considered to be a fertility drug. What does this little story reveal about the relationship between the two women?

      1. Had God rewarded Leah? (We need to be careful what we attribute to God.)

    2. Read Genesis 30:22-24. Is Rachel satisfied? (She wants more sons.)

  1. Work Life

    1. Read Genesis 30:25-28. Is Jacob ready to quit? (His 14 years of service are at an end.)

      1. Why does Laban want Jacob to stay? Is he concerned about losing his daughters and their children?

      2. Does Laban sound generous? (Yes: "Name your wages and I will pay them!")

    2. Read Genesis 30:29-34. Describe the "deal" for Jacob's wages and tell me what you think about it? (Several commentaries say that oriental sheep were normally white and the goats normally black or brown. Jacob was asking for the few rejects.)

    3. Read Genesis 30:35-36. What does "Mr. Honesty" do to ensure that Jacob gets the wages promised to him? (Laban removes all of the animals that should belong to Jacob and he separates them from the rest of the flock tended by Jacob so that when they reproduce, they will be owned by Laban.)

      1. In Genesis 30:27 we learned that Laban believed he had been blessed because of the presence of Jacob. How do you think he justified this most recent fraud?

    4. Read Genesis 30:37-43. Do you agree with Genesis 30:43? Did Jacob become wealthy because of his ingenious plan to show the flocks pieces of wood which looked something like the offspring they should have? (Pregnant women: be sure to look only at handsome men and beautiful women!)

      1. What is wrong with Jacob's plan? (He has a scheme instead of trusting God.)

    5. Let's skip ahead for a moment. Read Genesis 31:10-12. What does this reveal was God's part in this plan? (God revealed to Jacob his "business plan.")

      1. Is there a lesson in this for us?

    6. Jacob finally leaves Laban to return home. Let's look at the pledge that Laban asks Jacob to make. Read Genesis 31:48-50. What does this teach us about Laban - that he is a caring father? (The Bible reveals only that Laban was the abuser of his daughters. He caused the "extra" wife and that act set in motion all sorts of strife. The Bible does not reveal that Jacob abused his wives. Accusing someone else of your sins and weaknesses is nothing new.)

    7. Friend, sometimes marriage is not perfect because of factors which are out of our control - such as Laban's fraud on Jacob. Sometimes, the problems in a marriage reflect mistakes in judgment that we made in the beginning. Jacob was deceived just like he deceived his father regarding the birthright. Whatever the source of the problem in our marriage, we need to become partners with God to minimize the problem. Will you make that your goal?

  2. Next week: Moses and Zipporah: Relating with Relations.
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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