Jacob Arrives in Paddan Aram
Then Jacob continued on his journey. He came to the land where the eastern tribes lived. There he saw a well in the open country. Three flocks of sheep were lying near it. The flocks were given water from the well. The stone over the opening of the well was large. All the flocks would gather there. The shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s opening. They would give water to the sheep. Then they would put the stone back in its place over the opening of the well.
Jacob asked the shepherds, “My friends, where are you from?”
“We’re from Harran,” they replied.
He said to them, “Do you know Nahor’s grandson Laban?”
“Yes, we know him,” they answered.
Then Jacob asked them, “How is he?”
“He’s fine,” they said. “Here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.”
“Look,” he said, “the sun is still high in the sky. It’s not time for the flocks to be brought together. Give water to the sheep and take them back to the grasslands.”
“We can’t,” they replied. “We have to wait until all the flocks are brought together. The stone has to be rolled away from the opening of the well. Then we’ll give water to the sheep.”
He was still talking with them when Rachel came with her father’s sheep. It was her job to take care of the flock. Rachel was the daughter of Laban, Jacob’s uncle. When Jacob saw Rachel with Laban’s sheep, he went over to the well. He rolled the stone away from the opening. He gave water to his uncle’s sheep. Jacob kissed Rachel. Then he began to cry because he was so happy. He had told Rachel he was a relative of her father. He had also said he was Rebekah’s son. Rachel ran and told her father what Jacob had said.
As soon as Laban heard the news about his sister’s son Jacob, he hurried to meet him. Laban hugged Jacob and kissed him. Then Laban brought him to his home. There Jacob told him everything. Then Laban said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.”
Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel
Jacob stayed with Laban for a whole month. Then Laban said to him, “You are one of my relatives. But is that any reason for you to work for me for nothing? Tell me what your pay should be.”
Laban had two daughters. The name of the older one was Leah. And the name of the younger one was Rachel. Leah was plain, but Rachel was beautiful. She had a nice figure. Jacob was in love with Rachel. He said to Laban, “I’ll work for you for seven years so I can marry your younger daughter Rachel.”
Laban said, “It’s better for me to give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” So Jacob worked for seven years so he could marry Rachel. But they seemed like only a few days to him because he loved her so much.
Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. I’ve completed my time. I want to sleep with her.”
So Laban brought all the people of the place together and had a feast prepared. But when evening came, he gave his daughter Leah to Jacob. And Jacob slept with her. Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter as her servant.
When Jacob woke up the next morning, there was Leah next to him! So he said to Laban, “What have you done to me? I worked for you so I could marry Rachel, didn’t I? Why did you trick me?”
Laban replied, “It isn’t our practice here to give the younger daughter to be married before the older one. Complete this daughter’s wedding week. Then we’ll give you the younger one also. But you will have to work for another seven years.”
So Jacob completed the week with Leah. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her servant. Jacob slept with Rachel also. He loved Rachel more than he loved Leah. And he worked for Laban for another seven years.
Jacob Becomes the Father of Many Children
The Lord saw that Jacob didn’t love Leah as much as he loved Rachel. So he let Leah have children. But Rachel wasn’t able to have children. Leah became pregnant. She had a son. She named him Reuben. She said, “The Lord has seen me suffer. Surely my husband will love me now.”
She became pregnant again. She had a son. Then she said, “The Lord heard that Jacob doesn’t love me very much. That’s why the Lord gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.
She became pregnant again. She had a son. Then she said, “Now at last my husband will value me. I have had three sons by him.” So the boy was named Levi.
She became pregnant again. She had a son. Then she said, “This time I’ll praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.
Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children by Jacob. So she became jealous of her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”
Jacob became angry with her. He said, “Do you think I’m God? He’s the one who has kept you from having children.”
Then she said, “Here’s my servant Bilhah. Sleep with her so that she can have children for me. Then I too can have a family through her.”
So Rachel gave Jacob her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her. And Bilhah became pregnant. She had a son by him. Then Rachel said, “God has stood up for my rights. He has listened to my prayer and given me a son.” So she named him Dan.
Rachel’s servant Bilhah became pregnant again. She had a second son by Jacob. Then Rachel said, “I’ve had a great struggle with my sister. Now I’ve won.” So she named him Naphtali.
Leah saw that she had stopped having children. So she gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob as a wife. Leah’s servant Zilpah had a son by Jacob. Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad.
Leah’s servant Zilpah had a second son by Jacob. Then Leah said, “I’m so happy! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.
While the wheat harvest was being gathered, Reuben went out into the fields. He found some mandrake plants. He brought them to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
But Leah said to her, “Isn’t it enough that you took my husband away? Are you going to take my son’s mandrakes too?”
Rachel said, “All right. Jacob can sleep with you tonight if you give me your son’s mandrakes.”
Jacob came in from the fields that evening. Leah went out to meet him. “You have to sleep with me tonight,” she said. “I’ve traded my son’s mandrakes for that time with you.” So he slept with her that night.
God listened to Leah. She became pregnant and had a fifth son by Jacob. Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me because I gave my female servant to my husband.” So she named the boy Issachar.
Leah became pregnant again. She had a sixth son by Jacob. Then Leah said, “God has given me a priceless gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor. I’ve had six sons by him.” So she named the boy Zebulun.
Some time later she had a daughter. She named her Dinah.
Then God listened to Rachel. He showed concern for her. He made it possible for her to have children. She became pregnant and had a son. Then she said, “God has taken away my shame.” She said, “May the Lord give me another son.” So she named him Joseph.
Jacob Becomes the Owner of Large Flocks
After Rachel had Joseph, Jacob spoke to Laban. He said, “Send me on my way. I want to go back to my own home and country. Give me my wives and children. I worked for you to get them. So I’ll be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.”
But Laban said to him, “If you are pleased with me, stay here. I’ve discovered that the Lord has blessed me because of you.” He continued, “Name your pay. I’ll give it to you.”
Jacob said to him, “You know how hard I’ve worked for you. You know that your livestock has done better under my care. You had only a little before I came. But that little has become a lot. The Lord has blessed you everywhere I’ve been. But when can I do something for my own family?”
“What should I give you?” Laban asked.
“Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “Just do one thing for me. Then I’ll go on taking care of your flocks and watching over them. Let me go through all your flocks today. Let me remove every speckled or spotted sheep. Let me remove every dark-colored lamb. Let me remove every speckled or spotted goat. They will be my pay. My honesty will be a witness about me in days to come. It will be a witness every time you check on what you have paid me. Suppose I have a goat that doesn’t have speckles or spots. Or suppose I have a lamb that isn’t dark colored. Then it will be considered stolen.”
“I agree,” said Laban. “Let’s do what you have said.” That same day Laban removed all the male goats that had stripes or spots. He removed all the female goats that had speckles or spots. They were the ones that had white on them. He also removed all the dark-colored lambs. He had his sons take care of them. Then he put a journey of three days between himself and Jacob. But Jacob continued to take care of the rest of Laban’s flocks.
Jacob took freshly cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees. He made white stripes on the branches by peeling off their bark. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the stone tubs where the animals drank water. He placed them there so they would be right in front of the flocks when they came to drink. The flocks were ready to mate when they came to drink. So they mated in front of the branches. And the flocks gave birth to striped, speckled or spotted little ones. Jacob put the little ones of the flock to one side by themselves. But he made the older ones face the striped and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. In that way, he made separate flocks for himself. He didn’t put them with Laban’s animals. Every time the stronger females were ready to mate, Jacob would place the branches in the stone tubs. He would place them in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches. But if the animals were weak, he wouldn’t place the branches there. So the weak animals went to Laban. And the strong ones went to Jacob. That’s how Jacob became very rich. He became the owner of large flocks. He also had many male and female servants. And he had many camels and donkeys.