Friday, September 17, 2010

Love at first sight

Jacob’s introduction to Rachel in Genesis 29 is preceded by a strange encounter with a group of shepherds. We get a detailed description of a well with a large stone covering it and then a dialogue between Jacob and the shepherds that goes on for six verses before Rachel shows up in much the same way that his mother Rebeka showed up next to a well for Abraham’s nameless servant in Genesis 24.
It is almost a doublet, which is how they refer to repeated stories in the Bible, except that instead of the girl fetching the water for the boy, this time it is the other way around. After seeming to argue with the shepherds and instructing them on how to raise their sheep, Jacob suddenly jumps up and in what would seem to be a bid to impress the pretty Rachel, moves the large stone on the well and water’s his uncle’s sheep.
He then kisses her and weeps aloud. How odd must that have been for Rachel to have a stranger kiss her and start crying? But maybe that sort of thing happened all the time back then. There certainly is a lot of rending of garments and crying throughout the Old Testament.

Jacob’s uncle Laban is more than happy to see him and after about a month offers to pay wages for the work that Jacob is apparently doing for him. Jacob clearly wants his daughter’s hand in marriage, but rather than just saying so he promises to work seven years for his uncle first. Seven years!?! That’s a long courtship! Why not seven months or something more reasonable?
Then, after the seven years, which is said to have passed like it was just a few days because of his love for Rachel, Jacob the trickster gets a dose of his own medicine. His uncle tricks him into marrying his oldest daughter Leah, instead of Rachel. Damn those veils!!
So now, Jacob has to work seven more years for his uncle to get Rachel, but at least this time he doesn’t have to wait seven more years before he can jump in the sack with her. But now God intervenes and determines that because Jacob loves Rachel more than Leah he will allow the unloved one to have children while the other remains barren.
Leah then gives birth to four sons who will play big roles later on - Rueben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.

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