Boundaries

Boundaries

Genesis 28-31 is a familiar story to most who attended Sunday school as a child. Isaac has blessed Jacob instead of Esau and now sends him away with specific instructions not to marry a Canaanite woman, but to find a woman of his father’s house. When Jacob returns to the land in which Abraham’s descendants lived, he sees some men waiting to water their livestock. Jacob asks if they knew his uncle Laban. They reply, “We know him, in fact, here comes his daughter, Rachel.” Jacob removes the stone that covered the well so that she could water the sheep (something she probably couldn’t have done on her own). She goes and tells her father how Jacob was helpful and a relative, and Laban invites Jacob to stay with them.

Jacob quickly noticed how beautiful Rachel was and offered to work for Laban for 7 years if he could marry Rachel. Laban agrees, so Jacob works diligently for seven years. The Bible notes that he loved Rachel so much that those seven years seemed to fly by! The morning after the wedding, Jacob removes his wife’s veil, only to find…LEAH?!? That can’t be right! He goes back to Laban and says, “What is this dirty trick you played on me?” Laban explains that it is their custom for the eldest daughter to marry first. Jacob is understandably angry. “That wasn’t the arrangement! I worked seven years to be able to marry Rachel, not her sister. (Note: Leah is noted as having tender eyes. It is likely that she had blue eyes, which was  considered a sign of weakness, while Rachel was beautiful and well-favored, likely meaning in good shape)

Laban offers a great deal: just work another 7 years and then you can marry Rachel. I have to think Rachel was REALLY something special because Jacob agrees! At the end of the second 7 years, Jacob gets to marry the love of his life. This caused no shortage of jealousy and resentment between the sisters. Leah thought, “Sons are the sign of a man’s prosperity and success. If I can give Jacob sons, he will love me then.” Six sons later, Rachel was still the favorite, and this continued to create problems.

But on the success side of things, Jacob was on top of the world. He made an arrangement with Laban that Laban would keep all the “good” sheep and cattle, and Jacob would take the misfits. The only problem with that was, it seemed that all the cattle and goats and sheep started having misfit babies. God was blessing Jacob, not only in quantity, but quality as well. As the tensions grew, Jacob made the decision to return to his father. He leaves without telling Laban, and this made Laban mad. He chases down Jacob and his family and says, “You were going to leave without letting me say goodbye to my family?” After an accusation of theft, a search of all Jacob’s stuff, and some goodbyes, Laban says, “Let’s put a marker here. I won’t come any closer than right here to you, and you don’t come any closer than here to me. We’ll let this place be the boundary between us.”

So Jacob has his family, he is finally free from his father-in-law after 20 years of working for him, and he is returning to his father’s house. Everything seems great, but next Friday, we’ll see that everything was far from great.

Why did God bless Jacob through all of this? He had followed the Lord just as he promised he would in Genesis 28. I’m not saying that if you follow God all your cows and sheep and goats will start producing like crazy, but I will say this: If you want to have success in life, whether the world sees that success or not, the way to do so is to follow God at every turn.

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