Jacob, after he left home in Caanan, at length came to Haran. This was the place where Abraham, his grandfather, had halted till the death of Terah, his father. It seems clear that Nahor, the brother of Abraham, had settled here with his family. There we find Laban, the grandson of Nahor and brother of Rebekah, living with his sons and two daughters, Leah and Rachel.
Jacob like Abraham's servant comes to a well of water (Genesis 24.11 ; 29.1-6). There he meets Rachel. Jacob greets his cousin with a kiss. This was the beginning of what became a partnership, which, though short, was to be blessed of God through their offspring. Jacob later meets his uncle, Laban, a crafty man, who barters with him for his services. Jacob loved Rachel and agreed to serve seven years for her. The prophet says,
"And Jacob fled into the field of Aram, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep" (Hosea 12.12).
Laban cheated Jacob and contrary to Jacob's wishes and the agreement between them Leah was the wife given to Jacob first, so that Jacob was called upon to serve seven years more for the woman he loved.
The detailed account of the birth of Leah's sons has instructive lessons. In those days wives wanted children, and often they sought the LORD for them. Godly women received children as their heritage from the LORD. Today, husbands and wives have their own family plans, and the all-wise Creator, who does all things well, is often left out. Leah calls her first-born, Reuben, and said, "Because the LORD hath looked upon my affliction." When her fourth son, Judah, was born, she said, "This time will I praise the LORD." She knew that she was given second place. But Leah was honoured indeed! The promised Seed (the Christ), came through Leah. The kingly line was through Leah. Furthermore, the priestly line was through her third son, Levi. Leah's posterity was to be great indeed. Half of Jacob's family of sons were sons of Leah (Genesis 29.81-35; 30. 17-20).
Rachel, nevertheless, is not forgotten. She was to be the mother of the best of Jacob's sons, even Joseph, who was later to be used of God to save Jacob and his family. She was not privileged to see the end as Jacob was. Happy mother she would have been to see Joseph exalted in Egypt! It was not to be, for at the birth of Benjamin her brief life ended.
After the birth of Joseph, Jacob desired of Laban that he might go back to his own people. Laban wished him to stay, thinking only of his own enrichment, for God had blessed him for Jacob's sake, but Jacob, the experienced shepherd, devised a plan to which Laban agreed, but which ultimately brought the greater blessing to Jacob. Then the LORD instructed Jacob to return to Canaan:
"Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee" (Genesis 31.3).
This dictated Jacob's movements, and after confiding his purpose to his two wives he completed arrangements to flee from Laban.
In the journey homewards we observe Rachel's weakness. She stole her father's teraphim. Evidently she had kept this secret from Jacob. This was failure on Rachel's part. Joined to Jacob, what a good thing it would have been for her to serve unreservedly Jacob's God! Husbands and wives need to co-operate to seek from God a straight way for themselves and for their little ones (Ezra 8.21). Jacob, faithful to his God and faithful, also, to his fatherin4aw, in hard, rigorous service, gives a graphic description of the happenings of a generation,
"Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep fled from mine eyes. These twenty years have I been in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy flock:
and thou hast changed my wages ten times. Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now hadst thou sent me away empty" (Genesis 31.40-42).
Laban had been a hard, crafty man, but Jacob, looking to God, survived an extreme trial. God was with him and this he well knew, and Jacob was to know more of divine leading. He had many fears like us all. Who would assert that they were without fear? God understood. He spoke to Jacob in dreams.
Jacob was strengthened by God for his meeting with his brother Esau whom he greatly feared. Jacob, the supplanter, gained both birthright and blessing from his brother, but he wanted more. And so from God he asked and it was given, "and He blessed him there." To Jacob the overcomer God said, "Thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed." Jacob could never forget this experience. He had known the divine touch. Has God touched us? Happy, too, are we if we know and experience the touch of God and remember always His hand upon us! (Genesis 32.22-32).
God again appeared to Jacob at Bethel. There he built an altar calling it El-beth-el, the God of the house of God. Again, he set up a pillar at the place where God spoke with him (Genesis 35.1-15).
In our path of trial, with its problems and anxieties, Jacob's God is ours.
"Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help,
Whose hope is in the LORD his God" (Psalm 146.5).