Genesis  ◦   Chapter 29

1Encouraged by his encounter with God, Jacob cheerfully completed his journey. As he arrived at the land of the eastern people, 2he looked ahead and saw a well in a field, with three flocks of sheep lying around it, because the flocks were watered there. There was a large stone covering the mouth of the well. 3It was agreed that all the flocks would gather there, and then the shepherds would roll the stone away, open the well, and water their sheep together. And once the sheep were watered, they would replace the stone over the mouth of the well.

4Jacob asked the shepherds, “My friends, where are you from?

“We are from Haran,” they replied.

5Hopeful, he asked them, “Do you know Laban, the grandson of Nahor?”

“Yes, we know him,” they answered.

6Then Jacob asked, “Is he well?”

“Yes, he is doing well,” they said, “and look, here comes his daughter Rachel with his sheep.”

7“Since it’s still the middle of the day and not yet time to bring in the flocks, why don’t you water them and take them back out to pasture?” asked Jacob.

8“We can’t do that until all the flocks are here,” they replied. “Then we will roll away the stone covering the well and water the sheep.”

9While Jacob was talking with the shepherds, Rachel approached with her father’s sheep, for she was the flock’s shepherd. 10When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of his uncle Laban bringing his sheep to be watered, he went over to the well and rolled away the stone and watered his uncle’s sheep. 11Then Jacob greeted Rachel with a kiss and cried for joy. 12Having been told he was her cousin, the son of Rebekah, Rachel rushed home and told her father.

13As soon as Laban heard the news that his nephew Jacob was here, he ran out to meet him. He hugged him warmly and greeted him with a kiss on both cheeks, and then brought him home and made him welcome. Jacob told his uncle all about his family, 14and Laban smiled and said, “You are my family – my own flesh and blood.” So Jacob stayed there for a month.

15Laban then said to Jacob, “Just because you are my relative doesn’t mean you should work for me for free. Tell me what you would like to be paid.”

16Now, Laban had two daughters: the older named Leah and the younger named Rachel. 17Leah had kind eyes, but there was no sparkle when they met Jacob’s. Rachel was not only shapely and beautiful, but her eyes lit up when they met Jacob’s. 18Since Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel, he answered Laban, “I will work for you for seven years to prove myself reliable and establish myself as capable if, at the end of that time, you give me your younger daughter Rachel to be my wife.”

19Laban smiled and said, “I would rather give her to you than to any other man. So, I agree. Stay here with me.”

20Jacob worked for his uncle for seven years to get Rachel as his wife, but he was so in love with her that the years passed by quickly, and they seemed like only a few days.

21When the seven years were complete, Jacob said to Laban, “I have completed my service to you. Now it is time for you to give me Rachel, so that we may be joined together as husband and wife.”

22Then Laban prepared a great wedding feast and invited all the locals. 23But that night, Laban took his daughter Leah into Jacob’s tent and gave her to him; and Jacob, believing it was Rachel, had sex with her. 24(Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maidservant.)

25The next morning, Jacob awoke and was horrified to find Leah lying there with him. Outraged, he found Laban and said, “Why have you done this to me? Didn’t I give you honest labor for Rachel? How could you be so dishonest with me?”

26Laban replied with a flimsy pretext, “It is not our custom to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27Complete this week’s wedding feast and then I will give you my younger daughter to also be your wife, in exchange for another seven years of work.”

28Jacob saw little choice if he wanted Rachel, whom he loved, to be his wife, so he agreed. He completed Leah’s week-long wedding feast, and then Laban gave him Rachel to be his wife. 29(Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant.) 30Jacob, in love, physically joined with his wife Rachel; and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.

31The Lord saw that Leah was not loved like Rachel, so he enabled her to become pregnant very easily, but Rachel remained childless. 32So Leah did become pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, saying, “The Lord has seen my misery and given me a son; surely my husband will love me now.”

33Leah became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. She named him Simeon (which means ’the Lord hears’), saying, “The Lord has heard that I am not loved, so he gave me this son too.”

34Again Leah became pregnant and gave birth to another son. She named him Levi (which means ’joined’), saying, “Surely my husband will be more tightly joined to me, because I have given him three sons.”

35Leah became pregnant once again and gave birth to a fourth son. She named him Judah (which means ’praise’), saying, “This time, rather than seeking to earn my husband’s love, I will praise the Lord.” After that, she stopped having children.