Monday, September 24, 2012

Players Get Played

So we follow Jacob into his adventure, fleeing the wrath of his elder brother.
This is when Jacob falls in luuuuuuv with the girl herding sheep. Her name is Rachel. She is described as “graceful and beautiful” (29:17). Jacob liked her so much upon seeing her he “rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban” (29:31).
Something I didn’t know: wells were meet-up places back then. Like Starbucks.  
According to the footnotes in my Oxford English Bible, this scene is a big deal. Jacob was impressively strong (which isn’t what I pictured up until this point, but that’s OK). He’s being studly for Rachel.
As women we will get you into trouble. And consequently Jacob made a mistake: he used his own brute strength to impress Rachel, fell in love with her beauty, but didn’t thank God for carrying him safely on this journey (Constable 197).
So Jacob likes Rachel (who is his cousin but that’s OK for this point in history). And he enters into an agreement with Uncle Laban regarding marrying his daughter. Back then it was customary to make a deal with the father regarding “I-will-work-for-you-for-a-certain-length-of-time-and-then-you-will-give-me-your-daughter”.
And from research it appears seven years was quite a deal which means only one thing: Jacob didn’t want Laban to refuse him. And Laban, being a bit crafty himself, decided to take advantage of Jacob, who has fallen hopelessly, madly in love with the beautiful woman.
You remember what happens next from Sunday school back in the day: Laban pulls a switch, and her name is Leah, Rachel’s older sister, who is described as having “lovely” eyes. “Lovely” apparently translates to “uncertain” (198).
And that’s all we hear about Leah’s appearance.
Regardless, the plan is brilliant: this switch only works because of the custom of the veil, because brides wore a veil upon being in their husband’s presence. So because Jacob COULDN’T SEE his bride, he was tricked, just like his father was tricked because he COULDN’T SEE his son (Constable 199).
You cannot convince me God doesn’t keenly appreciate irony.
As a kid I remember this story being about patience which paints Jacob as some sort of victim and Laban as the nemesis. And patience is a legitimate theme: Jacob had to be patient and work another seven years to get what his eyes fell in love with at the well that day.
But don’t feel too bad for Jacob: essentially the player got played. And there is a part of me which loves Jacob got what he deserved, albeit it is at the expense of two blameless parties.

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