Genesis 29 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Genesis 29 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east.

2 And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth.

3 And thither were all the flocks gathered: and they rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well’s mouth in his place.

4 And Jacob said unto them, My brethren, whence be ye? And they said, Of Haran are we.

5 And he said unto them, Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We know him.

(29:5) "Laban the son of Nahor" Who was Laban's father?

6 And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep.

7 And he said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them.

8 And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.

9 And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them.

10 And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.

11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.

12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebekah’s son: and she ran and told her father.

13 And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things.

14 And Laban said to him, Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. And he abode with him the space of a month.

15 And Laban said unto Jacob, Because thou art my brother, shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me, what shall thy wages be?

16 And Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

17 Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.

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

(29:18) "I will serve thee seven years for Rachel."
Jacob offers to work for seven years to pay for Rachel.
Yes, why didn't banks just loan him the money so he could satisfy his desire straight away?
Facetiousness aside, the most precious thing a father has, is his daughter. So some kind of dowry doesn't seem unreasonable. A second reason in those days was security. The dowry could support the wife if a man divorced her. In our days support is outsourced to the taxpayer.

19 And Laban said, It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man: abide with me.

20 And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.

21 And Jacob said unto Laban, Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.

(29:21-30) "Give me my wife ... that I may go in unto her."
Jacob is tricked by Laban, the father of Rachel and Leah. Jacob asks for Rachel so that he can "go in unto her." But Laban gives him Leah instead, and Jacob "went in unto her [Leah]" by mistake. Jacob was fooled until morning -- apparently he didn't know who he was going in unto. Finally they worked things out and Jacob got to "go in unto" Rachel, too.
Like Jacob deceived his blind father, so here the darkness allowed Laban to fool Jacob.
What Jacob should have done here is to accept what had happened, and forego Rachel. He would have had a far happier life it seems to me.
It is also remarkable that Leah seemed to have been a godly woman, while Rachel served the idols, so in God's providence Jacob married a godly woman. But he still wants to have the idol serving one.

22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.

23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.

24 And Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid.

(29:24) "Laban gave unto his daughter Leah Zilpah his maid for an handmaid."
As part of the deal with Jacob, Zilpah and Bilhah (Laban's slaves) are handed over to Leah and Rachel.
I'm not sure what the alternative was the author of the SAB had in mind: release these handmaidens, sent them away? To where? Who would provide them with the necessities of life? We can also ask the question why the author of the SAB is so sure these handmaidens did not desire to stay with Leah and Rachel?

25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?

(29:25) "And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah."
Jacob "goes in unto" Leah by mistake! (Hey, it happens. -- a lot in Genesis! See 19:33, 19:35, 29:23, 38:16)
The author of the SAB says these things happened a lot, but the only example he can come up with is this verse. In Lot's case he had no intention of making such mistakes. In Judah's case it was an intentional act.

26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.

27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.

28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.

(29:28) "He gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also."
Laban gives Rachel and Bilhah to Jacob.

29 And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid.

30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.

(29:30-33) (29:30) "He went in also unto Rachel."
Jacob finally gets to "go in unto" Rachel. He loved Rachel more than Leah.
He did indeed love Rachel more and clearly hadn't yet come to terms that what happened to him here was what he had done to his father. And we see again that polygamous marriages are not happy ones.

31 And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

(29:31) "When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb."
Since Jacob hated Leah, God decided to "open her womb" and make Rachel barren. (Like he did to Sarah and Rebekah.)
God hears the cry of those who call upon him, which Leah had done.

32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.

33 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the LORD hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.

(29:33) "Because the LORD hath heard I was hated."
Leah conceives and bears four sons. And it's a good thing, too, since Jacob hated her until then.
The sad truth on polygamous marriages.

34 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.

35 And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.