Last time, I let slip that Jacob was off to Haran. And that is exactly what happened. Jacob drops by and falls instantly in love with Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother, and offers to work for his uncle for 7 years so that he can marry his first cousin. Apparently that sort of thing was less frowned on back then. On the day of his wedding, his uncle gives Jacob Leah (the elder cousin) as his bride because, as “…Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.” (Genesis 29, v. 26). So Jacob offers to work for an extra week so that he can have Rachel as well. Oh, and he signs up for another 7 years. So 14 years and 1 week gets you two brides.
As she was his first choice, Jacob loves Rachel more than Leah. The Bible says that Leah was despised. So Rachel is made barren by God and Leah bears 4 sons, because God wants that – neither woman is at fault, it’s all Jacob’s and his Uncle’s doing, but one woman gets punished. All perfectly fair.
Genesis 30, verses 1 -13 are quite simply a child bearing competition. In the red ring, we see Rachel: totally barren but happy to give her handmaid to her husband so the handmaid can bear children that Rachel can claim as her own. In the blue ring, we see Leah: already given birth 4 times and now newly barren, also willing to offer up her handmaid so that children can happen. I declare Leah the winner: both handmaids bear 2 sons each, but Leah started off with 4, so 6 sons in total against Rachel’s 2.
Leah then has 2 more sons and a daughter, she must have been exhausted. At this point, Leah thinks she has won overall. But no, God repents (is God supposed to do that?) and Rachel bears Joseph, the first of several Josephs in the Bible, and Jacob asks if he can leave the country and set out on his own. Probably scared that there’s something in the water that causes mass fertility. As a parting gift, Jacob screws over his uncle, he offers some scheme to separate out one batch of sheep and goats from another and contrives to leave weaker ones with his uncle and take the stronger ones. Fairly convoluted and absolutely sets him amongst the evil geniuses of the Bible. The moral being that when you leave your place of employment you should steal the stationery and a fax machine and a couple of computers.
Chapter 31 is an argument between Laban and Jacob which Jacob wins (even though I think he was, in the tradition of the OT, a dick). Chapter 32 is yet another of those important Bible bits which is smaller than it should be. 23 verses deal with Jacob planning to deal with his brother Esau who, as you may remember, now runs things. Verse 24 to 32 is Jacob fighting with an angel or God and getting a new name – Israel.
And in Chapter 33 we discover that all the planning was for nothing as Esau has stopped being a dick and was just very very happy to see his brother again.
3 chapters dealing with family matters. The Bible teaches that we must all try as hard as we might to screw over our family because He is with us. And to steal fax machines.