Genesis – Chapter 29

The Bible – Old Testament



Chapter 29


1 After Jacob resumed his journey, he came to the land of the Easterners.


Looking about, he saw a well in the open country, with three droves of sheep huddled near it, for droves were watered from that well. A large stone covered the mouth of the well.


Only when all the shepherds were assembled there could they roll the stone away from the mouth of the well and water the flocks. Then they would put the stone back again over the mouth of the well.


Jacob said to them, «Friends, where are you from?» «We are from Haran,» they replied.


Then he asked them, «Do you know Laban, son of Nahor?» «We do,» they answered.


He inquired further, «Is he well?» «He is,» they answered; «and here comes his daughter Rachel with his flock.»


Then he said: «There is still much daylight left; it is hardly the time to bring the animals home. Why don’t you water the flocks now, and then continue pasturing them?»


«We cannot,» they replied, «until all the shepherds are here to roll the stone away from the mouth of the well; only then can we water the flocks.»


While he was still talking with them, Rachel arrived with her father’s sheep; she was the one who tended them.


As soon as Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his uncle Laban, with the sheep of his uncle Laban, he went up, rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well, and watered his uncle’s sheep.


2 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and burst into tears.


He told her that he was her father’s relative, Rebekah’s son, and she ran to tell her father.


When Laban heard the news about his sister’s son Jacob, he hurried out to meet him. After embracing and kissing him, he brought him to his house. Jacob then recounted to Laban all that had happened,


3 and Laban said to him, «You are indeed my flesh and blood.» After Jacob had stayed with him a full month,


Laban said to him: «Should you serve me for nothing just because you are a relative of mine? Tell me what your wages should be.»


Now Laban had two daughters; the older was called Leah, the younger Rachel.


4 Leah had lovely eyes, but Rachel was well formed and beautiful.


5 Since Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel, he answered Laban, «I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.»


Laban replied, «I prefer to give her to you rather than to an outsider. Stay with me.»


So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, yet they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.


Then Jacob said to Laban, «Give me my wife, that I may consummate my marriage with her, for my term is now completed.»


So Laban invited all the local inhabitants and gave a feast.


At nightfall he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob consummated the marriage with her.


(Laban assigned his slave girl Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her maidservant.)


6 In the morning Jacob was amazed: it was Leah! So he cried out to Laban: «How could you do this to me! Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why did you dupe me?»


«It is not the custom in our country,» Laban replied, «to marry off a younger daughter before an older one.


7 Finish the bridal week for this one, and then I will give you the other too, in return for another seven years of service with me.»


Jacob agreed. He finished the bridal week for Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel in marriage.


(Laban assigned his slave girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant.)


Jacob then consummated his marriage with Rachel also, and he loved her more than Leah. Thus he remained in Laban’s service another seven years.


When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, he made her fruitful, while Rachel remained barren.


8 Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben; for she said, «It means, ‘The LORD saw my misery; now my husband will love me.'»


9 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, «It means, ‘The LORD heard that I was unloved,’ and therefore he has given me this one also»; so she named him Simeon.


10 Again she conceived and bore a son, and she said, «Now at last my husband will become attached to me, since I have now borne him three sons»; that is why she named him Levi.


11 Once more she conceived and bore a son, and she said, «This time I will give grateful praise to the LORD»; therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing children.

1 [1] Easterners: see note on ⇒ Genesis 25:6.
2 [11] Burst into tears: literally «raised his voice and wept,» i.e., for joy.
3 [14] Flesh and blood: literally «bone and flesh,» i.e., a close relative; on the Hebrew idiom, see ⇒ Genesis 2:23.
4 [17] Lovely eyes: the adjective modifying eyes is often translated as «weak,» but «lovely» is the more probable word.
5 [18] Jacob offers to render service (⇒ Joshua 15:16, ⇒ 17; ⇒ 1 Sam 17:25; 18;17) in lieu of the customary bridal price (⇒ Exodus 22:16, ⇒ 17; ⇒ Deut 22:29).
6 [25] Jacob was amazed: he had not recognized Leah because a bride was veiled when she was brought to her bridegroom; cf ⇒ Genesis 24:65
7 [27] The bridal week: an ancient wedding lasted for seven days of festivities; cf ⇒ Judges 14:12.
8 [32] Reuben: the literal meaning of the Hebrew name is «look, a son!» But in this case, as also with the names of all the other sons of Jacob, a symbolic rather than an etymological interpretation of the name is given, because the name and the persons were regarded as closely interrelated. The symbolic interpretation of Reuben’s name, according to the Yahwist source, is based on the similar-sounding raa beonyi, «he saw my misery.» In the Elohist source, the name is explained by the similar-sounding yeehabani, «he will love me.»

9 [33] Simeon: in popular etymology, related to shama, «he heard.»

10 [34] Levi: related to yillaweh, «he will become attached.»
11 [35] Judah: related to odeh, «I will give grateful praise.»