Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 24 2019 - Genesis 29:13-35 – The trickster tricked

Jacob had arrived safely in Paddan Aram, to the house of Laban, his mother's brother. Immediately he seems to have fallen in love with Rachel, his uncle's beautiful younger daughter and offers to work for Laban for seven years in return for Rachel becoming his wife. Genesis touchingly recounts that, "Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her" (29:20).

But Jacob the trickster had met his match in uncle Laban. On his wedding night, when it has become dark, Laban arranges that weak-eyed Lear, Rachel's sister, is handed over to Jacob in his tent in place of Rachel, and Jacob sleeps with her. Genesis dramatically exclaims, "When morning came, there was Leah!" (29:25). We can readily imagine Jacob's dismay, horror and anger when he saw who was beside him in his bed. He went straight to Laban with the bitter accusation, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?" But Laban simply answers "It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the elder one" (29:26).

I wonder if Jacob the trickster thought about these telling words. He, the younger of Isaac's sons had sought through trickery to get the blessing that would rightly belong to the elder. Now, in accordance with custom, he is tricked into receiving the elder daughter as wife rather than the younger.

God had promised to be with Jacob, but this did not mean that everything would turn out just the way Jacob would have liked. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that heavenly Father disciplines his children so that we might share in his holiness (Hebrews 12:5-11). Jacob is being made to learn the price of trickery.

Laban requires Jacob to work another seven years as the bride price for Rachel, the young woman he loved – though Rachel is given to him after only a week. We are not told that these second seven years seemed like only a few days to Jacob.

On the contrary, these were years filled with trouble as Jacob had to contend with the rivalry between these two sisters, his two wives, rivalry provoked by Jacob's far greater love for Rachel than for Lear. Favouritism had brought trouble into Isaac's household, and now it is the cause of trouble and discord in the home of Jacob. These second seven years must have been hard years indeed.

Nevertheless, through all the trickery and deceit, God is at work to accomplish his purposes. God had promised to make a great nation of Abraham and Sarah's descendants but they had only one son, Isaac, and he only had two sons. Now Jacob, the one on whom this promise rests, begins to have children – many of them. He gains three sons through Leah in the verses we have read today but before many years are past he will have twelve sons, ten born to Leah and two to Rachel, not to mention several daughters. It is precisely through the trickery of Laban and the rivalry between Leah and Rachel that God is at work to fulfil his promises.

As you look back at your own life can you see times when you have made a mess of things and yet God has worked through your mess to bring blessing? We can thank God that he is not limited by our folly but remains steadfast and faithful in his purpose to bless us.

Father God, we thank you for the assurance that in all things you work for the good of those who love you. But we know that this does not excuse or justify our folly and our poor decisions. Lord we ask your forgiveness for the times we have not lived in the way that we should. Help us by your presence and your Spirit within us to live to please you. Make us the source of blessing to those around us.

Peter Misselbrook