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14and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month.
15Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?”
16Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.
17Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.
18Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”
19Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.”
20So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.
21Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.”
22So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast.
23But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her.
24(Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.)
25And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?”
26Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.
27Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.”
28Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife.
29(Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.)
30So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.(Genesis 29:14–30 ESV)
What is the official flower of Father’s Day?
“The official flower of Father’s Day is the dandelion, because the more it is trampled upon, the better it grows.”
Jacob was like a dandelion, he was being stepped on by his father-in-law and his other life circumstances. The more they trampled on Jacob, he grew to become a better person.
The life of Jacob is really extraordinary. Let’s spend time to understand his life.
1) His Complicated Love Life (Genesis 29:14–30)
18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” (Genesis 29:18 NIV)
18 Since Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel, he said, “I’ll serve you seven years in exchange for your younger daughter Rachel.” (Genesis 29:18 NET)
Old Testament Background
According to the Old Testament background, Jacob had to give the usual dowry for Rachel to her father. In those days, a bridegroom-to-be has to offer a gift of money or property to his future father-in-law. As Jacob did not have money, he had to work for the dowry.
His Love for Rachel
Based on the description of the scriptures, we know Jacob loved Rachel very much. For the sake of marrying Rachel, Jacob was willing to serve his future father-in-law for seven years. To many of us, seven years are quite long, but they seemed like only a few days to Jacob. As you can see, Jacob’s love for Rachel was so great. Laban was a very crafty person that he fooled Jacob on this matter. For the love of Rachel, Jacob worked for Laban fourteen years. A Bible commentator called Jacob’s love for Rachel “the labor of love.” Many people saw Jacob as a self-seeking and crafty person, but I have to commend him for his love for Rachel. According to modern standard, Jacob was a pretty romantic person at heart. Also, his love is genuine and sacrificial in nature. Waiting fourteen years to be with a loved one is not easy. I like the concept of “True Love Waits.”
True Love Waits
True Love Waits (TLW) is an international Christian group that promotes sexual abstinence outside of marriage for teenagers and college students. The True Love Waits pledge states: “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.”
Dear friends and believers, do you love your girlfriend or boyfriend with a pure heart?
His Big Family
Jacob has a very big family. He has two wives and two concubines (Genesis 30:3, 9). These four women gave birth to 13 children, but there were not much affection and harmony in Jacob’s family. There are reasons behind the poor condition in Jacob’s family: first of all, Jacob’s love is limited; secondly, his attention is limited; thirdly, his energy is limited.
Man is limited
Dear friends and believers, please don’t be too harsh on your father! Our fathers are not supermen, but finite individuals. Their love is limited, their attention is limited and their energy is limited as well. So, what can we do for our fathers with limitations? How can we achieve a better family?
Here’s a wise saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Praying for your family members plays an important role in a healthy family. Also, praying for one another is crucial as well. So, what are the most important elements of a healthy family? Frank Crane mentioned these rudiments in his poem called “Beauty of a House.”
Beauty of A House
This poem says,
The beauty of a house is harmony,
The security of a house is loyalty,
The joy of a house is love,
The plenty of a house is in children,
The rule of a house is service,
The Comfort of A House Is God Himself
As Christian parents, we must ask Christ to be the head of our family. If you desire to have a healthy family, you must lead your family members to Christ.
2) His Problematic Family (Genesis 37:3–4)
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. (Genesis 37:3-4)
Owing to Partiality
Jacob encountered many family feuds. One of the reasons was because of his partiality. Jacob highly favoured his son Joseph, and all of his sons knew about it. Owing to the excessive favouritism towards Joseph, his brothers transferred their anger to him.
We are all familiar with the terms “Daddy’s girl” and “Mommy’s boy.” Here are some sayings: “The youngest daughter has robbed the heart of her parents” and “The youngest son is dearly beloved.” Many parents dote on or favour the youngest child. That’s favouritism.
Dear believers, have you ever considered the fact that favouritism was one of the causes of family feuds? Is favouritism normal? As parents, how can we avoid being partial?
Owing to Polygamy
God is the inventor of human marriage. His idea about marriage is between one man and one woman. The saddest thing is that human beings go against divine design and will, and polygamies are one of many rebellious ways that offended God.
There is a Chinese saying, “Polygamy makes a husband despicable.” Jacob had a large family. He had two wives and two concubines. The many family feuds and misunderstandings were created because of that.
Back in the old days in China, many men had many wives and concubines. As a result, they had many domestic problems.
Lack of Leadership
In Jacob’s life, he committed many mistakes, especially in the area of family matters. As the master of his family, Jacob did not exercise his special authority and responsibility. Jacob was manipulated by Rachel on many occasions (Genesis 30:1-3; 30:14-18). Again, in the event of making important decision, Jacob let his sons to take charge instead (Genesis 34:13-17), thus creating a big problem. Also, when Jacob’s son, Reuben, committed a big mistake, he did not discipline his son immediately (Genesis 35:22). For this reason, Jacob lost his credibility among his sons.
Definition of Leadership
Peter Drucker, a noted authority on leadership in the 20th century, says: “A leader is one who has followers. An effective leader is not someone who is loved or admired. He is someone whose followers do the right thing. Popularity is not leadership, results are. Leaders are highly visible. They, therefore, set examples. Leadership is not rank or privileges, titles or money. Leadership is responsibility.”
Fathers as Leaders
Dear fathers, we are the leaders of our family members. We should lead them by our example. Also, we are responsible for the physical and spiritual wellbeing of our family.
Lack of Respect
The two wives of Jacob lacked of respect for their husband. They treated Jacob as merchandise. For the price of mandrakes, Rachel forced Jacob to sleep with Leah (Genesis 30:1-17). In the ancient world, they believed mandrakes to possess magical and aphrodisiac powers. As you can see, dominant women created a lot of problems in Jacob’s house. Lack of respect for their husband not only made their spouse suffered, they and their children suffered as well.
Someone humorously said, “All marriages are happy. It’s the living together afterward that causes all the trouble.”-Bessie & Beulah
What are the most important factors in a successful marriage? Based on a survey, here is the most important finding, that is, mutual respect and trust. 90 percent of men thought this was important, and 95 percent of women agreed with the same thing.
What are the top traits of successful families? First, communicating and listening; second, affirming and supporting family members; third, respecting one another; fourth, developing a sense of trust; fifth, sharing time and responsibility; sixth, knowing right from wrong; seventh, having rituals and traditions; eighth, sharing a religious core; ninth, respecting privacy.
Jacob had twelve sons and one daughter named Dinah (Genesis 46:15). Taking care of his two wives, two concubines and thirteen children was a very, very, very heavy burden.
Two men were having a conversation. One man said, “My wife is very touchy. The smallest thing will set her off.” The other man responded in saying, “You’re fortunate. Mine is a self-starter.” As you can see, husbands are living in stress all the time!
Based on an old survey, women could live longer than men. Women could live 7 years longer than men. The average life span of women is 79.6 years old, and men 72.9 years old. Some people commented on this phenomenon in saying, “Husbands don’t know how to communicate their stress with their spouses, and that’s why they have a shorter lifespan than women.”
Many children complained that their fathers did not talk to them. Women often complained that their husbands were so silent at home. According to Pastor Charles Curtis, “My husband does not talk to me,” is the complaint of 80 percent of American wives. Men have family burdens and so have women. Let’s share these problems among family members.
3) His Changes (Genesis 32:27–32; 47:31)
His Name Change
His Original Name
The meaning of Jacob is heel-catcher, that is, supplanter. Jacob got his name at his birth. When Jacob was born, he grabbed his twin brother’s heel at birth (Genesis 25:26). In the younger days of Jacob, he was seen as an egocentric opportunity grabber.
His New Name
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” (Genesis 32:28) The new name that God gave Jacob was Israel. Bible scholars offer all sorts of meanings to this name, but I found the following meaning most convincing. The meaning of Israel is God fights.
Two Reasons Behind This Name Change
God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and there are two reasons behind this name change: First, owing to Jacob’s stubbornness and pride, God chose to fight against him. Second, it meant that God would fight for Israel.
Three Spiritual Lessons That Relate to This Name Change
Also, there are three important spiritual lessons relate to this name change.
Lesson one is the abandonment of self-centeredness and self-dependence. For most of his life, Jacob employed his own strength to attain physical and spiritual wellbeing. God fought with Jacob. God used Laban as one of the tools to accomplish it. God sent His messenger to fight with Jacob. Jacob was crippled because of this. God wanted Jacob to see his own limitation so that he could pursue divine blessings directly. God fought with Jacob that he could abandon from self-centeredness and self-dependence.
What is the secret to success? Asking or allowing God to fight for you is the key to success. Jacob tried very hard to fight for his own rights and wellbeing by his own hands; however, he encountered many setbacks and failures instead. God reminded him that without divine provision, life would be a mess. Only God is the key to a successful or victorious life.
From now on, Jacob bore a new name. The new name reminded him that he was a living testimony of God. Lesson three teaches Jacob that he ought to fulfill his duty as a living testimony of God. Jacob’s life conveyed the message that God was fighting for him.
31He said, “Swear to me.” So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed. (Genesis 47:31 NASB)
31 “Swear to me,” he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. (Genesis 47:31 NIV)
Bowed in Worship
Shortly before Jacob died, he met his son Joseph, he responded with an act of worship. The translation of NASB is different to NIV. The reason is simply because the variant readings in manuscripts. My interpretation is chiefly based on KJV, NKJV and NASB. Owing to time restriction, I will skip the argument and present my understanding to you. Bowing down in worship was an act of humility and reverence. Most probably, Jacob turned over at the head of his bed to prostrate himself in silent gratitude to God for granting his last wish.
Jacob was old and frail now, but the beautiful thing was that his spiritual life had changed to the better. When Jacob was young, he was very self-dependent and egocentric. After many years of failure and personal encounters with God, Jacob experienced positive changes. As an old man, Jacob depended on God more and more. As fathers and Christians, we can all learn from the example of Jacob. Life transformation is a must for all of us!
Thomas Dorsey was a Christian singer and songwriter. In 1932, he sang at a revival meeting in St. Louis and the crowd responded well; however, at the end of the meeting, he received a telegram with the tragic news that his wife had died in childbirth in Chicago. Within hours, the baby boy also died. He was devastated. A few days after the death of his wife, Dorsey sat down at the piano and began to play. Finally sensing God’s peace and closeness, he began to sing some new words and play a new song: “Precious Lord, take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand; I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light; Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.” There are tribulations in this world, but we can all experience God’s comfort and grace so that we can grow spiritually.
Eric Liddell was a famous Olympic sprinter. After winning the Olympics, he went to China as a missionary. In the film Chariots of Fire, Liddell fell down just a few strides into a 440-yard race, but amazingly, he rose to his feet and finished first in the race. Someone says it well, “It’s not how you begin the race but how you finish that is important.” Perhaps, Jacob didn’t start well in his spiritual journey with the Lord, but he finished well at the end of the day.
What can we learn from the life of Jacob?
Jacob’s Special Love for Rachel
For ladies who are still single, don’t lose heart! If God is willing, ask Him to grant you a man who would love you with a genuine and sacrificial love.
Although Jacob was imperfect, God was gracious and patient with him! Wives, although you husbands aren’t perfect, they deserve your respect. Children, I agree that your fathers are far from perfect, but respect them anyway!
Jacob’s Life Transformation
Beloved, our fathers are not perfect, but respect them and love them. Most important of all, pray for the salvation of your unbelieving fathers. If they are already believers in Christ, pray for their spiritual growth. As fathers, let’s encourage one another and pray for one another that we can change for the better. Most important of all, let’s change for the sake of God’s kingdom!