First, let me say, I’m not a fan of soap operas or reality TV. Oh, there was a day when I didn’t miss an episode of Dallas. Yep! I admit it. Some of you are going, “Dallas? Isn’t that a city in Texas?”
I guess soap operas are still around, but today we have reality TV, modern-day soap operas lived out live before the camera. We seem to be fascinated by all the fussing and fighting, backstabbing and conniving. Maybe it makes us feel a little better about our own sinful hearts.
But sadly when you meet today’s cast of characters in our Old Testament reading, you’ll realize soap operas and reality TV have nothing on our spiritual ancestors.
The Bible is full of stories about love, sex, rejection, envy, jealousy, adultery, immorality, scheming, deceit, greed, thievery, contention, even murder (and that’s the short list)!
Why did God lay out humanity’s dirty laundry here and in other passage of Scripture? It wasn’t just for entertainment value.
Genesis 29 & 30
Soap Operas, Reality TV & the Bible
Genesis 29 & 30:
Love, Deceit, & God’s Plans
In yesterday’s reading, we witnessed how Isaac and Rebekah’s favoritism came to a head. Jacob had deceived his father Isaac with his mother’s help and stolen his brother Esau’s birthright. When the deceit was revealed, Rebekah convinced Isaac to send Jacob to her brother Laban in Padan Aram to protect him from Esau’s anger (Gen. 27.46, 28.1-5).
Leah, Rachel & Their Manipulative, Deceitful Father
Today’s reading picks up with Jacob’s arrival in Rachel’s homeland:
13 Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. So he told Laban all these things. 14 And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” And he stayed with him for a month.
15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance.
18 Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”
19 And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her. 21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her.”
Seven years have passed, Jacob has fulfilled his promise and plans are made for the wedding. But Jacob the deceiver is about to be deceived himself. Laban plans to marry off his older daughter Leah, as well.
Read verse 17 again. Imagine for a minute you are Leah. Apparently, she wasn’t considered beautiful in that culture. It says her eyes were “delicate.” The NASB says they were weak.
The word translated “delicate” or “weak” probably meant pale and may have been considered a blemish. The comparison to Rachel says it all, “… but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.”
The desire to look beautiful is nothing new. Even the serving women in Moses day had bronze mirrors (Ex. 38.8).
Leah probably felt the sting of comparison and the desire to have someone love her like Jacob loved her sister. I wonder how she felt as Rachel’s wedding date neared, being the older sister and still unmarried.
Now imagine: the wedding party is going on, the wine is flowing, people are singing and dancing.
And her father comes to her with a plan.
22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her (29.22-23).
As we’ll see in the next few verses, Jacob didn’t have a clue who was waiting in the marriage bed.
Imagine how that conversation between Leah and her father might have gone:
Dad: “Honey, I’ve got an idea. I haven’t told your mom yet, but since you haven’t been able to attract a man, I’m going to take care of it. I’ll sneak you into the bridal chamber in place of your sister.”
Leah: “But, Dad, what about Rachel?”
Dad: “Don’t worry about your sister. I told her this is the way it has to be. It’s not right that she should be married first.”
Leah: “But, Dad, what if he knows it’s me?”
Dad: “Don’t worry. We’ll give him plenty of wine and it’ll be dark. Just don’t say much.”
And what about the next morning?
Imagine Leah waking up early and laying there, waiting for Jacob to wake up. And thinking … “What will he say? What will he do? How angry will he be? Will he throw me out? Where will I go (no longer a virgin in a culture that made chastity a high priority for marriageable material)? What will Rachel say? And our friends and neighbors? Pretty soon everyone will know.”
And then that moment when he woke up and saw her next to him … think about it. Jacob had to be bribed with the offer of getting Rachel, too, just to complete the honeymoon!
25 So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?”
26 And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.”
28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also (29.25-28).
And Rachel—her knight in shining armor—well, her knight on camelback—had shown up and he was smitten with her. When he saw her taking care of her father’s sheep, he tried to get rid of the other shepherds so he could talk to her alone (Gen. 29.7). He showed off his muscles by rolling a stone off a well by himself (Gen. 29.10). Then he was willing to work seven years just to get her. How romantic was that! But her dad had a different plan. Was she angry over the unfairness? Did she ever think her father had ruined everything?
What we do know is that the years that followed were filled with jealousy and competition between the two sisters because of their polygamous marriage.
30 Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.
And then there’s Jacob. I wonder if he remembered the shock and anger his brother and father felt when he deceived them, now that he, too, had been deceived.
As I’ve said before, though the Bible does include polygamy, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of it. Over and over again we see why it is wrong.
In another context, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other …” (Matt. 6.24). Even though He was speaking there of God and money, the principle is true in marriages and relationships, as well.
Yesterday, we witnessed the consequences of favoritism. When we read about Noah, we saw the result of his obedience, but we also saw him get drunk and the shame it brought. With Cain we witnessed anger and jealousy. In other passages, we’ll see the consequences of adultery, fear, greed, poor parenting and more.
His Divine Purposes
Yet God was going to use this family for His divine purposes. This bunch? Jacob the deceiver? The beautiful but, as we’ll see, selfish Rachel? The less than beautiful Leah? And Laban? But first, they would be tested and tried and allowed to suffer the consequences of their choices before they were usable.
So why does God lay out these stories and let us see all their warts and blemishes?
He didn’t include them for entertainment value (although anyone who created aardvarks and hippopotamuses must have a sense of humor). He included them so we could learn from their examples, good and bad, and so we might be encouraged and have hope (Rom. 15.4). Among other things, it should give us hope that He can and will use us.
It’s often the things we least want to remember about our past or we least want to embrace in our present circumstances that God will often redeem in the most miraculous ways (Rom. 8.28-29).
Maybe it’s our family, or how we’ve been sinned against, or maybe it’s something we did or didn’t do. But God is using everything in our lives for His divine purposes.
Jeremiah 29.11, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'”
That promise, dear friends, is true for me and for you if we’ll turn to Him!
Today’s Other Readings:
Is He my Lord?
This psalm begins “O Lord, our Lord …”
“Our Lord,” that’s personal. He’s not just “the” Lord, but our Lord … my Lord.
How we need to guard against believing general truths about God without coming to understand them in a personal way. The Lord who is God must also be Lord of my life … personally … and your life … personally. Are there areas where you have failed to allow Him to be the Lord and Master of your life? In your finances? With your children? In your marriage? In your singleness? With your health? Important questions to consider.
The Blessings of Wisdom
The Bible and Proverbs, in particular, has much to say about wisdom. We are reminded over and over of the importance of asking for it, seeking it earnestly, and “taking hold” of it (Prov. 3.18). In this portion of Scripture, we are told it brings happiness, that it is more valuable than gold or silver and more precious than rubies, that it will lengthen our lives, and that it brings peace to those who gain it and obey its instruction.
This is not speaking about man’s wisdom, the world’s wisdom, or the wisdom gained from hard knocks … this is God’s wisdom. It is gained by knowing Him through His Word and by applying it to our lives daily.
But we can’t truly know Him or understand His wisdom unless we first know Him, personally, as Savior and Lord. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
Not for the Faint-Hearted
21 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel.
24 “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. 25 Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names! (vss. 21-25 NLT)
Have you ever been persecuted for your faith? Have you been criticized for “being excited about the things of God” or “actually believing the Bible” or “becoming a fanatic”? You’re in good company. Jesus warned us that being a true believer—a disciple—is not for the faint-hearted, but the rewards and blessings are out of the world!
Praying the Bible:
From Psalm 3.13-18:
13 Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding;
14 For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
And her gain than fine gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies,
And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
16 Length of days is in her right hand,
In her left hand riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who retain her.
Lord, help me to desire Your wisdom and understanding. When I’m tempted by what the world has to offer, let me remember that Your Word and Your wisdom are more valuable than silver or gold. Help me to remember, too, that true riches, honor, peace, and happiness belong to those who take hold of it. In Jesus name. Amen.
In the coming days, we’ll talk about the danger of small compromises, the unpardonable sin, whether God can redeem the past, and ask the question “If we act badly because of hormonal issues, is it biology or sin?”
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Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
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