Study Guide

Book of Genesis Chapters 29 - 33

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Chapters 29 - 33

Jacob and His Ladies

  • Jacob is heading east when he runs into some shepherds at a well.
  • The narrator emphasizes the big stone at the mouth of the well. The shepherds there roll it away every day to water the sheep. 
  • Then Rachel arrives to water her sheep. Cue spotlight.
  • Jacob removes the stone all by himself. Who is this guy, Hercules
  • Next attempt at a pick-up: Jacob waters his uncle's sheep for Rachel. 
  • And then, the big moment: he kisses Rachel and weeps. Yeah, he's strong and sensitive. Don't get too excited, it's just a hello kiss, European style.
  • Rachel tells Laban that Jacob has shown up, and Laban is psyched. He runs to welcome him and calls him "my bone and my flesh" (29:14). Remember what he got the last time these distant relatives visited him (recall 24:53)?
  • Jacob stays with Laban for a month and then tells him that he'll work for seven years for Rachel's hand in marriage.
  • Fast forward seven years. (Hey, why draw it out?)
  • Laban throws a big wedding party, but afterwards, Laban delivers Leah into Jacob' s tent. Of course, Jacob thinks it's Rachel, and they have sex. 
  • Oops.
  • In the morning Jacob realizes it's Leah, not Rachel, and he confronts Laban about the deception. 
  • Laban points out that it's not the regional custom to marry off a younger sibling when the older is available. He offers the same terms for Rachel, but he can marry her before the seven years of service are up. Jacob takes the deal. 
  • God makes Leah fertile because she is so unloved by Jacob, while Rachel is left barren. Guess he's just trying to even the playing field. 
  • With some pinch-hitting from their midwives, the final score is: Leah 8, Rachel 3. Of course, daughters don't count.
  • Jacob asks Laban to pay him with all of the speckled goats. He leaves out the fact that he's devised a way for the flocks to produce more speckled goats than not. Can you say embezzlement?
  • The Lord commands Jacob to return to the place of his birth, so with everyone in agreement, Jacob packs up the family and the property. 
  • While Laban's shearing his flocks, Rachel steals all of his household idols. And just like that, Jacob takes off.
  • Laban tries to go after him, but God intervenes via a dream and warns Laban to lay off or watch out.
  • Laban catches up with Jacob anyway, and after some idol-hiding, he and Jacob make a pact.
  • Jacob is moving closer to his homeland and he finally settles where he sees angels of God.
  • At this point, Jacob sends messengers to Esau, trying to make amends. 
  • Esau receives the message and sends word that he and 400 of his men will meet with Jacob.
    400 men? Yowza. Jacob panics. He thinks Esau is going to kick his butt. Don't forget that that Esau was plotting to kill Jacob before he left (27:41). So Jacob prays to God for protection. 
  • While it's still night, Jacob escorts his family across the Jabbok river. 
  • Then he stays on the other side alone, where he wrestles with a "man" until daybreak. The man then changes Jacob's name to Israel, which means something like "striving with God," as the narrator is sure to mention (32:28). 
  • The next morning, Jacob sees Esau coming with his posse of 400 men. It's the moment of truth.
  • And… here's where we all breathe a big sigh of relief. Esau's not going to slaughter Jacob. Phew.

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