New American Bible (Revised Edition)
Arrival in Haran.[a] 1 (A)After Jacob resumed his journey, he came to the land of the Kedemites. 2 Looking about, he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep huddled near it, for flocks were watered from that well. A large stone covered the mouth of the well.(B) 3 When all the shepherds were assembled there they would roll the stone away from the mouth of the well and water the sheep. Then they would put the stone back again in its place over the mouth of the well.
4 Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?” “We are from Haran,” they replied. 5 Then he asked them, “Do you know Laban, son of Nahor?” “We do,” they answered.(C) 6 He inquired further, “Is he well?” “He is,” they answered; “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.” 7 Then he said: “There is still much daylight left; it is hardly the time to bring the animals home. Water the sheep, and then continue pasturing them.” 8 They replied, “We cannot until all the shepherds are here to roll the stone away from the mouth of the well; then can we water the flocks.”
9 While he was still talking with them, Rachel arrived with her father’s sheep, for she was the one who tended them. 10 As soon as Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of Laban, he went up, rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well, and watered Laban’s sheep. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. 12 Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative, Rebekah’s son. So she ran to tell her father. 13 When Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him. After embracing and kissing him, he brought him to his house. Jacob then repeated to Laban all these things, 14 and Laban said to him, “You are indeed my bone and my flesh.”[b]
Marriage to Leah and Rachel. After Jacob had stayed with him a full month, 15 [c]Laban said to him: “Should you serve me for nothing just because you are a relative of mine? Tell me what your wages should be.” 16 Now Laban had two daughters; the older was called Leah, the younger Rachel. 17 Leah had dull eyes,[d] but Rachel was shapely and beautiful. 18 Because Jacob loved Rachel, he answered, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”[e] 19 Laban replied, “It is better to give her to you than to another man. Stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, yet they seemed to him like a few days because of his love for her.(D)
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, that I may consummate my marriage with her, for my term is now completed.” 22 So Laban invited all the local inhabitants and gave a banquet. 23 At nightfall he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he consummated the marriage with her. 24 Laban assigned his maidservant Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her maidservant. 25 In the morning, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban: “How could you do this to me! Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why did you deceive me?” 26 Laban replied, “It is not the custom in our country to give the younger daughter before the firstborn. 27 Finish the bridal week[f] for this one, and then the other will also be given to you in return for another seven years of service with me.”(E)
28 Jacob did so. He finished the bridal week for the one, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife. 29 Laban assigned his maidservant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant. 30 Jacob then consummated his marriage with Rachel also, and he loved her more than Leah. Thus he served Laban another seven years.(F)
Jacob’s Children.[g] 31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he made her fruitful, while Rachel was barren. 32 Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben;[h] for she said, “It means, ‘The Lord saw my misery; surely now my husband will love me.’”(G) 33 She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “It means, ‘The Lord heard that I was unloved,’ and therefore he has given me this one also”; so she named him Simeon.[i] 34 Again she conceived and bore a son, and she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, since I have now borne him three sons”; that is why she named him Levi.[j] 35 Once more she conceived and bore a son, and she said, “This time I will give thanks to the Lord”; therefore she named him Judah.[k] Then she stopped bearing children.(H)
1 When Rachel saw that she had not borne children to Jacob, she became envious of her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children or I shall die!”(I) 2 Jacob became angry with Rachel and said, “Can I take the place of God, who has denied you the fruit of the womb?”(J) 3 She replied, “Here is my maidservant Bilhah. Have intercourse with her, and let her give birth on my knees,[l] so that I too may have children through her.”(K) 4 So she gave him her maidservant Bilhah as wife,[m] and Jacob had intercourse with her. 5 When Bilhah conceived and bore a son for Jacob, 6 Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; indeed he has heeded my plea and given me a son.” Therefore she named him Dan.[n] 7 Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah conceived again and bore a second son for Jacob, 8 and Rachel said, “I have wrestled strenuously with my sister, and I have prevailed.” So she named him Naphtali.[o]
9 When Leah saw that she had ceased to bear children, she took her maidservant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as wife. 10 So Leah’s maidservant Zilpah bore a son for Jacob. 11 Leah then said, “What good luck!” So she named him Gad.[p] 12 Then Leah’s maidservant Zilpah bore a second son to Jacob; 13 and Leah said, “What good fortune, because women will call me fortunate!” So she named him Asher.[q]
14 One day, during the wheat harvest, Reuben went out and came upon some mandrakes[r] in the field which he brought home to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” 15 Leah replied, “Was it not enough for you to take away my husband, that you must now take my son’s mandrakes too?” Rachel answered, “In that case Jacob may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.” 16 That evening, when Jacob came in from the field, Leah went out to meet him. She said, “You must have intercourse with me, because I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So that night he lay with her, 17 and God listened to Leah; she conceived and bore a fifth son to Jacob. 18 Leah then said, “God has given me my wages for giving my maidservant to my husband”; so she named him Issachar.[s] 19 Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob; 20 and Leah said, “God has brought me a precious gift. This time my husband will honor me, because I have borne him six sons”; so she named him Zebulun.[t] 21 Afterwards she gave birth to a daughter, and she named her Dinah.
22 Then God remembered Rachel. God listened to her and made her fruitful. 23 She conceived and bore a son, and she said, “God has removed my disgrace.”(L) 24 She named him Joseph,[u] saying, “May the Lord add another son for me!”
Jacob Outwits Laban.[v] 25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban: “Allow me to go to my own region and land. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I served you and let me go, for you know the service that I rendered you.” 27 Laban answered him: “If you will please! I have learned through divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.” 28 He continued, “State the wages I owe you, and I will pay them.” 29 Jacob replied: “You know what work I did for you and how well your livestock fared under my care; 30 the little you had before I came has grown into an abundance, since the Lord has blessed you in my company. Now, when can I do something for my own household as well?” 31 Laban asked, “What should I give you?” Jacob answered: “You do not have to give me anything. If you do this thing for me, I will again pasture and tend your sheep. 32 Let me go through your whole flock today and remove from it every dark animal among the lambs and every spotted or speckled one among the goats.[w] These will be my wages. 33 In the future, whenever you check on my wages, my honesty will testify for me: any animal that is not speckled or spotted among the goats, or dark among the lambs, got into my possession by theft!” 34 Laban said, “Very well. Let it be as you say.”
35 That same day Laban removed the streaked and spotted he-goats and all the speckled and spotted she-goats, all those with some white on them, as well as every dark lamb, and he put them in the care of his sons.[x] 36 Then he put a three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob was pasturing the rest of Laban’s flock.
37 Jacob, however, got some fresh shoots of poplar, almond and plane[y] trees, and he peeled white stripes in them by laying bare the white core of the shoots. 38 The shoots that he had peeled he then set upright in the watering troughs where the animals came to drink, so that they would be in front of them. When the animals were in heat as they came to drink, 39 the goats mated by the shoots, and so they gave birth to streaked, speckled and spotted young. 40 The sheep, on the other hand, Jacob kept apart, and he made these animals face the streaked or completely dark animals of Laban. Thus he produced flocks of his own, which he did not put with Laban’s flock. 41 Whenever the hardier animals were in heat, Jacob would set the shoots in the troughs in full view of these animals, so that they mated by the shoots; 42 but with the weaker animals he would not put the shoots there. So the feeble animals would go to Laban, but the hardy ones to Jacob. 43 So the man grew exceedingly prosperous, and he owned large flocks, male and female servants, camels, and donkeys.
Flight from Laban. 1 [z]Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father, and he has produced all this wealth from our father’s property.” 2 Jacob perceived, too, that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had previously been. 3 Then the Lord said to Jacob: Return to the land of your ancestors, where you were born, and I will be with you.(M)
4 So Jacob sent for Rachel and Leah to meet him in the field where his flock was. 5 There he said to them: “I have noticed that your father’s attitude toward me is not as it was in the past; but the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know well that with all my strength I served your father; 7 yet your father cheated me and changed my wages ten times. God, however, did not let him do me any harm.(N) 8 Whenever your father said, ‘The speckled animals will be your wages,’ the entire flock would bear speckled young; whenever he said, ‘The streaked animals will be your wages,’ the entire flock would bear streaked young. 9 So God took away your father’s livestock and gave it to me. 10 Once, during the flock’s mating season, I had a dream in which I saw he-goats mating that were streaked, speckled and mottled. 11 In the dream God’s angel said to me, ‘Jacob!’ and I replied, ‘Here I am!’ 12 Then he said: ‘Look up and see. All the he-goats that are mating are streaked, speckled and mottled, for I have seen all the things that Laban has been doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a sacred pillar and made a vow to me. Get up now! Leave this land and return to the land of your birth.’”(O)
14 Rachel and Leah answered him: “Do we still have an heir’s portion in our father’s house? 15 Are we not regarded by him as outsiders?[aa] He not only sold us; he has even used up the money that he got for us! 16 All the wealth that God took away from our father really belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.”(P) 17 Jacob proceeded to put his children and wives on camels, 18 and he drove off all his livestock and all the property he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
19 Now Laban was away shearing his sheep, and Rachel had stolen her father’s household images.[ab](Q) 20 Jacob had hoodwinked[ac] Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was going to flee. 21 Thus he fled with all that he had. Once he was across the Euphrates, he headed for the hill country of Gilead.
22 On the third day, word came to Laban that Jacob had fled. 23 Taking his kinsmen with him, he pursued him for seven days[ad] until he caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 But that night God appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream and said to him: Take care not to say anything to Jacob.(R)
Jacob and Laban in Gilead. 25 When Laban overtook Jacob, Jacob’s tents were pitched in the hill country; Laban also pitched his tents in the hill country of Gilead. 26 Laban said to Jacob, “How could you hoodwink me and carry off my daughters like prisoners of war?[ae] 27 Why did you dupe me by stealing away secretly? You did not tell me! I would have sent you off with joyful singing to the sound of tambourines and harps. 28 You did not even allow me a parting kiss to my daughters and grandchildren! Now what you have done makes no sense. 29 I have it in my power to harm all of you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Take care not to say anything to Jacob!’ 30 Granted that you had to leave because you were longing for your father’s house, why did you steal my gods?” 31 Jacob replied to Laban, “I was frightened at the thought that you might take your daughters away from me by force. 32 As for your gods, the one you find them with shall not remain alive! If, with our kinsmen looking on, you identify anything here as belonging to you, take it.” Jacob had no idea that Rachel had stolen the household images.
33 Laban then went in and searched Jacob’s tent and Leah’s tent, as well as the tents of the two maidservants; but he did not find them. Leaving Leah’s tent, he went into Rachel’s. 34 [af]Meanwhile Rachel had taken the household images, put them inside the camel’s saddlebag, and seated herself upon them. When Laban had rummaged through her whole tent without finding them,(S) 35 she said to her father, “Do not let my lord be angry that I cannot rise in your presence; I am having my period.” So, despite his search, he did not find the household images.
36 Jacob, now angered, confronted Laban and demanded, “What crime or offense have I committed that you should hound me? 37 Now that you have rummaged through all my things, what have you found from your household belongings? Produce it here before your kinsmen and mine, and let them decide between the two of us.
38 “In the twenty years that I was under you, no ewe or she-goat of yours ever miscarried, and I have never eaten rams of your flock. 39 (T)I never brought you an animal torn by wild beasts; I made good the loss myself. You held me responsible for anything stolen by day or night.[ag] 40 Often the scorching heat devoured me by day, and the frost by night, while sleep fled from my eyes! 41 Of the twenty years that I have now spent in your household, I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flock, while you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, you would now have sent me away empty-handed. But God saw my plight and the fruits of my toil, and last night he reproached you.”(U)
43 [ah]Laban replied to Jacob: “The daughters are mine, their children are mine, and the flocks are mine; everything you see belongs to me. What can I do now for my own daughters and for the children they have borne? 44 [ai]Come, now, let us make a covenant, you and I; and it will be a treaty between you and me.”
45 Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a sacred pillar.(V) 46 Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” So they got stones and made a mound; and they ate there at the mound. 47 Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha,[aj] but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 Laban said, “This mound will be a witness from now on between you and me.” That is why it was named Galeed— 49 and also Mizpah,[ak] for he said: “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are out of each other’s sight. 50 If you mistreat my daughters, or take other wives besides my daughters, know that even though no one else is there, God will be a witness between you and me.”
51 Laban said further to Jacob: “Here is this mound, and here is the sacred pillar that I have set up between you and me. 52 This mound will be a witness, and this sacred pillar will be a witness, that, with hostile intent, I may not pass beyond this mound into your territory, nor may you pass beyond it into mine. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us!” Jacob took the oath by the Fear of his father Isaac.[al] 54 He then offered a sacrifice on the mountain and invited his kinsmen to share in the meal. When they had eaten, they passed the night on the mountain.
Jacob’s arrival in Haran. The sight of Rachel inspires Jacob to the superhuman feat of rolling back the enormous stone by himself. The scene evokes the meeting of Abraham’s steward and Jacob’s mother Rebekah at a well (24:11–27).
The verse begins the story of Jacob’s time in Mesopotamia (29:1–31:54), which is framed on either side by Jacob’s time in Canaan, 25:19–28:22 and 32:1–36:43. In these chapters, Jacob suffers Laban’s duplicity as Esau had to suffer his, though eventually Jacob outwits Laban and leaves Mesopotamia a wealthy man. An elaborate chiastic (or envelope) structure shapes the diverse material: (A) Jacob’s arrival in Haran in 29:1–4; (B) contract with Laban in 29:15–20; (C) Laban’s deception of Jacob in 29:21–30; (D) the center, the birth of Jacob’s children in 29:31–30:24; (C′) Jacob’s deception of Laban in 30:25–43; (B′) dispute with Laban in 31:17–42; (A′) departure from Laban in 31:43–54. As the chiasm reverses, so do the fortunes of Laban and Jacob. Kedemites: see note on 25:6.
- 29:14 Bone and…flesh: the Hebrew idiom for English “flesh and blood” (cf. 2:23; Jgs 9:2; 2 Sm 5:1 = 1 Chr 11:1).
- 29:15–30 Laban’s deception and Jacob’s marriages. There are many ironies in the passage. Jacob’s protest to Laban, “How could you do this to me?” echoes the question put to Abraham (20:9) and Isaac (26:10) when their deceptions about their wives were discovered. The major irony is that Jacob, the deceiver of his father and brother about the blessing (chap. 27), is deceived by his uncle (standing in for the father) about his wife.
- 29:17 Dull eyes: in the language of beauty used here, “dull” probably means lacking in the luster that was the sign of beautiful eyes, as in 1 Sm 16:12 and Sg 4:1.
- 29:18 Jacob offers to render service (Jos 15:16–17; 1 Sm 17:25; 18:17) to pay off the customary bridal price (Ex 22:15–16; Dt 22:29).
- 29:27 The bridal week: an ancient wedding lasted for seven days; cf. Jgs 14:12, 17.
- 29:31–30:24 The note of strife, first sounded between Jacob and Esau in chaps. 25–27, continues between the two wives, since Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (29:30). Jacob’s neglect of Leah moves God to make her fruitful (29:31). Leah’s fertility provokes Rachel. Leah bears Jacob four sons (Reuben, Levi, Simeon, and Judah) and her maidservant Zilpah, two (Gad and Asher). Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah bears two (Dan and Naphtali). After the mandrakes (30:14–17), Leah bears Issachar and Zebulun and a daughter Dinah. Rachel then bears Joseph and, later in the land of Canaan, Benjamin (35:18).
- 29:32 Reuben: the literal meaning of the Hebrew name is disputed. One interpretation is re’u ben, “look, a son!”, but here in Genesis (as also with the names of all the other sons of Jacob), it is given a symbolic rather than an etymological interpretation. Name and person were regarded as closely interrelated. The symbolic interpretation of Reuben’s name, according to the Yahwist source, is based on the similar-sounding ra’a be‘onyi, “he saw my misery.” In the Elohist source, the name is explained by the similar-sounding ye’ehabani, “he will love me.”
- 29:33 Simeon: in popular etymology, related to shama‘, “he heard.”
- 29:34 Levi: related to yillaweh, “he will become attached.”
- 29:35 Judah: related to ’odeh, “I will give thanks, praise.”
- 30:3 On my knees: in the ancient Near East, a father would take a newborn child in his lap to signify that he acknowledged it as his own; Rachel uses the ceremony in order to adopt the child and establish her legal rights to it.
- 30:4 As wife: in 35:22 Bilhah is called a “concubine” (Heb. pilegesh). In v. 9, Zilpah is called “wife,” and in 37:2 both women are called wives. The basic difference between a wife and a concubine was that no bride price was paid for the latter. The interchange of terminology shows that there was some blurring in social status between the wife and the concubine.
- 30:6 Dan: explained by the term dannanni, “he has vindicated me.”
- 30:8 Naphtali: explained by the Hebrew term naftulim, lit., “contest” or “struggle.”
- 30:11 Gad: explained by the Hebrew term begad, lit., “in luck,” i.e., “what good luck!”
- 30:13 Asher: explained by the term be’oshri, lit., “in my good fortune,” i.e., “what good fortune,” and by the term ye’ashsheruni, “they call me fortunate.”
- 30:14 Mandrakes: an herb whose root was thought to promote conception. The Hebrew word for mandrakes, duda’im, has erotic connotations, since it sounds like the words daddayim (“breasts”) and dodim (“sexual pleasure”).
- 30:18 Issachar: explained by the terms, sekari, “my reward,” and in v. 16, sakor sekartika, “I have hired you.”
- 30:20 Zebulun: explained by the terms, zebadani…zebed tob, “he has brought me a precious gift,” and yizbeleni, “he will honor me.”
- 30:24 Joseph: explained by the words yosep, “may he add,” and in v. 23, ’asap, “he has removed.”
- 30:25–43 Jacob’s deception of Laban. Jacob has been living in Laban’s household as an indentured worker paying off the bride price. Having paid off all his obligations, he wants to settle his accounts with Laban. His many children attest to the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise of numerous progeny; the birth of Joseph to his beloved Rachel signals the fulfillment in a special way. To enter into the Lord’s second promise, the land, he must now return to Canaan.
- 30:32 Dark…lambs…spotted or speckled…goats: in the Near East the normal color of sheep is light gray, whereas that of goats is dark brown or black. A minority of sheep in that part of the world have dark patches, and a minority of goats, white markings. Laban is quick to agree to the offer, for Jacob would have received only a few animals. But Jacob gets the better of him, using two different means: (1) he separates out the weaker animals and then provides visual impressions to the stronger animals at mating time (a folkloric belief); (2) in 31:8–12, he transmits the preferred characteristics through controlled propagation. It should be noted that Jacob has been told what to do in a dream (31:10) and that God is behind the increase in his flocks.
- 30:35 By giving the abnormally colored animals to his sons, Laban not only deprived Jacob of his first small wages, but he also schemed to prevent the future breeding of such animals in the flock entrusted to Jacob.
- 30:37 Plane: also called the Oriental Plane, a deciduous tree found in riverine forests and marshes.
- 31:1–54 Jacob flees with his family from Laban. The strife that has always accompanied Jacob continues as Laban’s sons complain, “he has taken everything that belonged to our father”; the brothers’ complaint echoes Esau’s in 27:36. Rachel and Leah overcome their mutual hostility and are able to leave together, a harbinger of the reconciliation with Esau in chap. 33.
- 31:15 Outsiders: lit., “foreign women”; they lacked the favored legal status of native women. Used up: lit., “eaten, consumed”; the bridal price that a man received for giving his daughter in marriage was legally reserved as her inalienable dowry. Perhaps this is the reason that Rachel took the household images belonging to Laban.
- 31:19 Household images: in Hebrew, teraphim, figurines used in divination (Ez 21:26; Zec 10:2). Laban calls them his “gods” (v. 30). The traditional translation “idols” is avoided because it suggests false gods, whereas Genesis seems to accept the fact that the ancestors did not always live according to later biblical religious standards and laws.
- 31:20 Hoodwinked: lit., “stolen the heart of,” i.e., lulled the mind of. Aramean: the earliest extra-biblical references to the Arameans date later than the time of Jacob, if Jacob is dated to the mid-second millennium; to call Laban an Aramean and to have him speak Aramaic (Jegar-sahadutha, v. 47) is an apparent anachronism. The word may have been chosen to underscore the growing estrangement between the two men and the fact that their descendants will be two different peoples.
- 31:23 For seven days: lit., “a way of seven days,” a general term to designate a long distance; it would actually have taken a camel caravan many more days to travel from Haran to Gilead, the region east of the northern half of the Jordan. The mention of camels in this passage is apparently anachronistic since camels were not domesticated until the late second millennium.
- 31:26 Prisoners of war: lit., “women captured by the sword”; the women of a conquered people were treated as part of the victor’s spoil; cf. 1 Sm 30:2; 2 Kgs 5:2.
- 31:34 As in chap. 27, a younger child (Rachel) deceives her father to gain what belongs to him.
- 31:39 Jacob’s actions are more generous than the customs suggested in the Code of Hammurabi: “If in a sheepfold an act of god has occurred, or a lion has made a kill, the shepherd shall clear himself before the deity, and the owner of the fold must accept the loss” (par. 266); cf. Ex 22:12.
- 31:43–54 In this account of the non-aggression treaty between Laban and Jacob, the different objects that serve as witness (sacred pillar in v. 45, cairn of stones in v. 46), their different names (Jegar-sahadutha in v. 47, Mizpah in v. 49), and the two references to the covenant meal (vv. 46, 54) suggest that two versions have been fused. One version is the Yahwist source, and another source has been used to supplement it.
- 31:44–54 The treaty is a typical covenant between two parties: Jacob was bound to treat his wives (Laban’s daughters) well, and Laban was bound not to cross Jacob’s boundaries with hostile intent.
- 31:47–48 Jegar-sahadutha: an Aramaic term meaning “mound of witness.” Galeed: in Hebrew, “the mound of witness.”
- 31:49 Mizpah: a town in Gilead; cf. Jgs 10:17; 11:11, 34; Hos 5:1. The Hebrew name mispa (“lookout”) is allied to yisep yhwh (“may the Lord keep watch”), and also echoes the word masseba (“sacred pillar”).
- 31:53 Fear of…Isaac: an archaic title for Jacob’s God of the Father.