Parashah 7: Vayetze (He went out)
Genesis 28:10 to 32:3
Ya’akov’s Lesson of Betrayal
At the urging of his wife, Rebecca, Isaac urged Ya’akov, to find a wife from his mother’s family in the Chaldees. This Laban was the son of the Laban to whom Avraham sent Eliezer to obtain a wife for Isaac. This story may be read in Genesis 28. Let’s just read a small portion of this passage: Isaac summoned Jacob, blessed him, and commanded him: “Don’t take a wife from the Canaanite women. 2 Go at once to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father. Marry one of the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3 May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you so that you become an assembly of peoples. 4 May God give you and your offspring the blessing of Abrahamso that you may possess the land where you live as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.” 5 So Isaac sent Jacob to Paddan-aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.”
It was not a coincidence, then, Ya’akov was betrayed by Laban and required to serve fourteen years for the woman he loved, rather than the agreed upon seven years.
How did Ya’akov display to Adonai his redemptive spirit? There were two instances, recorded in Genesis 28 and Genesis 32. In Genesis 28, we read of Ya’akov spending the night by an oasis, formally called Luz. While sleeping, he had a dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder, reaching from the earth to heaven. While having this dream, Ya’akov was aware Adonai was there with him and He said, I am Adonai, the God of Avraham your [grand]father and the God of Yitz’chak. The land on which you are lying I will give to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the grains of dust on the earth. You will expand to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. By you and your descendants all the families of the earth will be blessed. Look, I am with you. I will guard you wherever you go, and I will bring you back into this land, because I won’t leave you until I have done what I have promised you. (Genesis 28:13-15) Once again, for the third time, God made His covenant known, this time to the progenitor of the line of David and of Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus. In return, Ya’akov placed a ‘standing stone’ to commemorate the moment of interacting with God Himself. Listen to Ya’akov’s bargain made with Adonai, If God will be with me and will guard me on this road that I am traveling, giving me bread to eat and clothes to wear, 21 so that I return to my father’s house in peace, then Adonai will be my God; 22 and this stone, which I have set up as a standing-stone, will be God’s house; and of everything you give me, I will faithfully return one-tenth to you. (Genesis 28:20-23) You would think, with this promise of solidarity with God Almighty, Ya’akov would be a changed man. However, that was not to be the case. And once more we are privy to man’s basic nature winning over. In this passage, we read of Ya’akov striking a unilateral, conditional bargain with God. Did Adonai Elohim honour that bargain? Did Ya’akov? Let’s read on for the answers to these questions.
Ya’akov came to Haran, the land of his grandfather, Avraham, to select a wife from among his family. Weddings were much less complicated than they are today. First, we read of Ya’akov falling in love with Rachel, his cousin, recorded in Genesis 29, When Ya‘akov saw Rachel the daughter of Lavan his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Lavan his mother’s brother, Ya‘akov went up and rolled the stone away from the opening of the well and watered the flock of Lavan his mother’s brother. 11 Ya‘akov kissed Rachel and wept aloud. (Genesis 29:10,11) Now the man Lavan, in Genesis 29, was the same Lavan with whom Eliezer, Avraham’s trusted servant, brought Rivkah, Rebecca, to Isaac. Thus, now as a much older man, the granduncle of Ya’akov faced him with two of his remaining unwed daughters, Leah, the older, and Rachel, the younger. Ya’akov chose Rachel. But at this point the narrative takes a decidedly interesting turn.
Isn’t it interesting Ya’akov stayed with Lavan and his family for one month, before making known his love for Rachel? This was the proper protocol of courtship, at this time. Although Ya’akov was family, he was a stranger to all in Lavan’s camp; they needed time to know and to trust him. Why, then, you might ask, didn’t Eliezer follow the protocol, when he came to find Rivkah? Were the circumstances that different?
Eliezer was not there to marry Rivkah but to take her to Isaac; it wouldn’t matter how long he stayed there, Rivkah would not become trusting of Isaac any sooner. You may have read, in Genesis 24 of Lavan’s reluctance to let his sister leave, Let the girl stay with us a few days, at least ten. After that, she will go. (Genesis 24:55) Could you blame him? He was losing one of his best camel herders. But back to Ya’akov and Rachel.
When Ya’akov announced to Lavan his love for Rachel and his desire to marry her, Lavan agreed and a huge wedding feast was created, Lavan gathered all the men of the place and gave a banquet. (Genesis 29:22) Following the banquet, late at night, Leah, not Rachel, dressed in her wedding robes, including an opaque veil across her face, which probably only showed her eyes, went into Ya’akov’s tent. The practice of the day was for the bride to enter the tent of her groom still veiled; she would not remove her veil until after the lighted lamp was extinguished; there would be total darkness within the tent. Ya’akov would not be able to see Leah clearly and, quite naturally, would assume he was with Rachel. Imagine his surprise, when in the morning he discovered Leah lying beside him.
Well we don’t have to imagine, listen to Ya’akov’s understated anger, when he confronted Lavan,
What kind of thing is this that you’ve done to me? Didn’t I work for you for Rachel? Why have you deceived me? (Genesis 29:25) Why indeed did Lavan deceive his son-in-law? The reason given Ya’akov was tradition. Listen as Lavan explains, In our place that isn’t how it’s done, to give the younger daughter before the firstborn. (Genesis 29:26) One of the driving principles among peoples of the ancient Middle East, as it is today, is the avoidance of shame coming upon the family. If Lavan had allowed Ya’akov to marry Rachel instead of Leah, he would have brought shame upon both Leah and his entire family. There might have occurred traumatic consequences for this, including the killing of Rachel, Leah and, possibly, Ya’akov. However, Lavan offered a way to save face and to provide Ya’akov with what he wanted. Listen to his solution to the problem, recorded in Genesis 29, Finish the marriage week of this one, and we’ll give you the other one also in exchange for the work you will do for me during yet another seven years.
However, there was possibly another reason why Ya’akov was deceived by Lavan. Was this perhaps the consequence for his having deceived both Esau and Yitzchak? Although Adonai Elohim used Ya’akov and Rivkah’s deceptions for His purposes, there were still consequences to be paid. In Ya’akov’s case, it appears the consequences included fourteen years of working for Lavan, for the woman he loved. The first seven years would have gone by relatively quickly, as we read in Genesis 29, So Ya‘akov worked seven years for Rachel, and it seemed only a few days to him, because he was so much in love with her. (Genesis 29:20) I suspect, though, the next seven years would not have flown by so quickly.
It may be interesting to note, Ya’akov had four wives – Leah and her maid-servant Zilpah and Rachel and her maid-servant Bilhah. Both Leah and Rachel allowed Ya’akov to sleep with their maid-servants, when neither of them was able to conceive. Isn’t it amazing how man often tries to ‘give God a hand’, when things don’t go as smoothly or as quickly as we humans desire?
From these four women arose the twelve tribes of Israel, Rueben (see, a son), Shimon (hearing), Levi (joining), Y’hudah (praise), Dan (He judged), Naphtali (my wrestling), Gad (good fortune), Asher (happy), Issachar (hire, reward), Zebulon (living together) and Yosef/Joseph (may He add). Also born to Leah was Dinah, the only girl amongst the twelve boys. Binyamin/Benjamin came later and was the last boy born, before Rachel died in child-birth.
Once more we learn, in Genesis 30, of Adonai’s being with Ya’akov. As Ya’akov was preparing to leave Lavan’s camp and return to Canaan, Adonai Elohim (Lord God) provided him with a bounty of sheep and goats.
Please read Genesis 30, verses 29 to 43, to see how this miracle was performed. I ask you to reflect on God’s abundant blessings upon Ya’akov, even though he was not a fully ethical man. You might wish to read Chapter 31 and verse 13, where Adonai Tzivaot, Lord of Hosts, said to Ya’akov, I am the God of Beit-El (the House of God), where you anointed a standing-stone with oil, where you vowed your vow to me. Now get up, get out of this land, and return to the land where you were born. (Genesis 31:13) Think about God’s comment about Ya’akov’s vow and how seriously God received that vow.
With a large herd of goats, camels, donkeys and sheep, Ya’akov left Lavan’s camp and headed home. Unbeknownst to him, when Ya’akov and his large family left Lavan’s camp, Rachel took her father’s family idols. Why would she do such a thing? How is it Ya’akov would may someone who believed in idolatry? Do you find this strange that God would allow such a thing? What possible purpose could this serve? Perhaps Rachel had a change of heart and did believe in the God that Ya’akov believed. If that’s the case, and I believe it is, then what she was doing was a noble deed, removing the idols so as to help her father turn away from idol worship. Surely, the more than 14 years Ya’akov had with Rachel in her father’s camp provided a great opportunity for Ya’akov to witness the miracles performed by God. Indeed, Rachel could see the results of God’s hand in the phenomenal increase of her husband’s herds, whereas Lavan’s herds began to diminish. Or another understanding might arise from the conflicts that emerged between Ya’akov and Lavan. Seeing how her father had treated her husband, Rachel may have decided to ‘punish’ her father, by removing his household gods. Pure speculation, of course.
May you be fully and richly blessed.