While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of Laban, his mother's brother, and Laban's sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle's sheep. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father. As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister's son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. Then Laban said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.” After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.” (Genesis 29:9-15)
Love is a Conduct, Not a Conquest
Love is a powerful stimulant for change, but it is not a permanent prescription for change. Falling in love doesn’t pay the bills of a debtor, do the homework of a procrastinator or break the chokehold of a habit. No love potion can remedy a spineless, boneless or clueless person. However, love will always lend a helping hand, to inspire and change a willing and motivated person.
The education of Jacob began when he changed from lazy bum and life support to hard worker. Before this incident, Jacob was the little emperor at home in Canaan. He came from money even if had yet to get any, but he really didn’t have much of a life outside of the home nor did he have to lift a finger at home; so he was the little brat who became the master of the house, spending his time picking on, toying with and scoring against his no-brainer of a brother, Esau. His brother’s vow to kill him (Gen 27:41) when Jacob deceived him of his birthright forced him to leave home and sent him hurtling across the desert to his mother’s ancestral homeland, where he found a different and uneven kind of match in his uncle Laban, who is the brother of Jacob’s mother (Gen 27:43). Jacob the smooth-skin (Gen 27:11), homely Mama’s boy grew of age without home, money and security in his new environment.
Jacob’s usefulness and breakthrough began day one in the desert. He had good influence around him and a powerful working model – Rachel, and he had better shape up because Rachel was no slouch! Rachel was a shepherdess, a good and responsible one to be able to keep her job in the company of men. Rachel proved herself as the eyes, the voice and the guide of the sheep under her care. She was not the type to stay at home, see the shepherds off, and leave the job to men.
Jacob discovered the value of hard work, and it was never late. He transitioned from boy to man when he showed a sense of accomplishment, a stomach for responsibility and a direction in life. Jacob, who had everything done for him by Mama, began to do something for himself and for others (v 10) – he rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle's sheep. Jacob knew that Mama would tolerate him as a freeloader, but potential in-laws would not. When he stayed with his uncle, he worked hard for his meals, room and board. He did not stop working from day one and even worked for nothing for a whole month. Work was a virtue and never a torture with Rachel by his side. His work ethic was second to none, his learning knew no bounds and his relationship with others improved by leaps and bounds.
Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It's better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.” So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant. When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?” Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant. Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years. (Genesis 29:16-30)
Love is a Commitment, Not a Ceremony
Jacob’s commitment to Rachel passed the test of time, errors and in-laws. Rachel the shepherdess was a unique woman. Inspiring the rich and spoilt Jacob to work was a goal, a test and a miracle, which Jacob passed with flying colors. He had superhuman commitment to Rachel. Working for the right of her hand in marriage was a joy, never a torture, to him. No dowry was too much to pay, no labor was too hard to endure and no duration was too long to wait. Jacob loved Rachel so much that he got on with his father-in-law, positioned himself as potential son-in-law and married himself into her family.
Rachel was beautiful (v 17). Not only was she one of the famed seven “beautiful” ladies in the Bible, along with Sarai (Gen 12:11), Rachel (Gen 29:17), Abigail (1 Sam 25:3), two Tamars (2 Sam 13:1, 14:27), Abishag (1 Kings 1:4) and Esther (Est 2:7), she was the only one qualified as “beautiful and beautiful” in Hebrew. None of the seven beauties was praised as such. The Hebrew text describes her as “Beautiful figure, beautiful appearance.” In other words, she was shapely and striking, body-beautiful and picture perfect.
However, Jacob’s devotion to Rachel was not skin-deep. The next verse, verse 18, tells us that it was not Rachel’s fabulous body or photogenic face that Jacob loved; it was the person. The word “love” occurs three times in the chapter (vv 18, 20, 30). Lust and infatuation could only last so long. Working seven years for a bride is comparable to paying a house for dowry. In today’s permissive society, even seven days or seven months is too long a wait to cohabit together for many men and women! Jacob loved Rachel in true sweeping romance fashion. The seven years were not an itch but a flash, not an eternity but an opportunity, not a chore but a climax. He was truly, madly, deeply in love with Rachel. Seven years was a steep price to pay, but he was the one who volunteered and mentioned it (v 18); Laban did not force him.
Conclusion: Married people know that love is a catalyst for change, but not a cure for all ills. The Chinese say, “Falling in love is easy, living together is hard.” Love is the most powerful force in the world, but is also the most perplexing thing in the world. Are you married or are you marrying to escape a controlling parent, a loveless family, a boring life or a low self-esteem? Have you dealt with the empty feeling or the character flaw you have to be the right person? Do you bring joy hope or misery and suffering to people around you?
* Excerpted from "Bible Couples, Pt. 4: Jacob and Rachel" by Victor Yap, http://epreaching.blogspot.com/2007/05/jacob-and-rachel.html :)