So Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the East. And he looked, and saw a well in the field; and behold, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks. A large stone was on the well’s mouth. Now all the flocks would be gathered there; and they would roll the stone from the well’s mouth, water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the well’s mouth. And Jacob said to them, “My brethren, where are you from?” And they said, “We are from Haran.” Then he said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” And they said, “We know him.” So he said to them, “Is he well?” And they said, “He is well. And look, his daughter Rachel is coming with the sheep.” Then he said, “Look, it is still high day; it is not time for the cattle to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go and feed them.” But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and they have rolled the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.” Now while he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative and that he was Rebekah’s son. So she ran and told her father. Then it came to pass, when Laban heard the report about Jacob his sister’s son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. So he told Laban all these things. And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” And he stayed with him for a month.
Last week, we looked at Jacob the deal-maker. It seems that Jacob had made his service conditional to the Lord keeping His part. Not only this , he seemed to dictate the conditions of the covenant to God. He was far from the man who would later have his name changed to Israel. This is not the way the Lord works. The conditions of any covenant He makes with humankind are unilateral on his part. The fact that He would do all that Jacob asked is due to the fact that Jacob was thinking God’s Thoughts after Him.
Today, we will see Jacob’s arrival at his uncle Laban’s house. This would be the beginning of a journey hat would ultimately take over twenty years of Jacob’s life. This journey of faith would prove to be a long and arduous journey in which God starts the transformative process. This is part of the sanctification and maturation we all go through. God accepts us where we are, but His grace does not permit us to stay there. The transformative process Jacob goes through is similar to what God does in us as we progress from Egyptian bondage to sin to the full realization of Christian freedom.
It is never bothersome to remind you that every Scripture in the Bible is set in context with what comes before and after it. This is the literal context. Even though it would be centuries before Moses would write the Book of Genesis by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we are still talking about historical people. Jacob was a real person with whom God interacted with.
Jacob arrived at a well in Haran after a journey of over 100 miles. It must have been a hard journey win which he went through the whole gamut of emotions from fear, to fatigue, and to awe. He had left all behind him and only owned the few things he could take with him.
Jacob was instructed to find his uncle Laban by his mother and find one of his daughters to marry (Genesis 28:2.) And he arrives at a well around noontime which is sealed by a stone which must have been quite heavy. Water is the gold of the desert, and it was well guarded. We have already seen the run-ins which Isaac his father had had concerning the possession of wells with Abimelech and his men. Abrham, likewise, had the same experience. Jacob would have seen at least some of this striving over the wells of water.
Some years earlier, Jacob’s mother had been watering her animals at a well in Haran. We cannot be sure, but this may have been the very well which Eliezer the servant of Abraham went with instructions to find a wife from there. Eliezer prayed to the Lord for a sign who he should pick. This prayer was answered by Rebecca who came back to Abraham’s house as a wife for Isaac.
Meeting people at the well was a social occasion for the community. they would gather at the well and wait until everyone was present to open the mough of the well. This was to make sure every clan got its fair share of scarce water. By this agreement, many fights were averted.
What seems a bit unusual is that thie shepherds were gathered together at midday in the heat. Usually, water was drawn in the morning or the evening when it was cooler. It seems as the shepherds were waiting for a clan which had not yet arrived. This seems to have been Laban’s clan. How long were those shepherds waiting in the heat? They would probably become impatient and short tempered.
So when Jacob, a stranger, arrives at this well and asks about Laban and if anyone there knew him. They gave a very short answer, “We know him.” Then he asked about his uncle’s welfare. Again they gave a blunt answer, “He is well.” This time they look around and see Laban’s daughter coming with her clan’s sheep. Maybe they said, “finally” under their breath.
For Jacob, it was love at first sight. This was similar to the response of Isaac his father when he first laid eyes upon Rebekkah and took her into his tent. It says “He loved her.”
Usually it took several of the men to roll away the stone from the mouth of the well. But Jacob was so infatuated that he lifted the stone of the well’s mouth and allowed Rachel to watr the sheep. He was thankful that the Lord had blessed his journey, and Rachael was so beautiful. He kissed her, which at this time was the kiss of kinship. then Rachel went to her father and told him about Jacob. Laban went out to welcome him and invite him into his house. And it says he stayed about a month.
It looked like Jacob was off to a good start in his new home. He was among kin. He knew that his mother had instructed him to marry the daughter of Laban. Surely, the LORD had worked this out for him. And Rachael was so beautiful that it made Jacob’s heart flutter. Surely the rest of the way was going to be easy.
But the story does not end here. And Jacob’s quest for Rachael was just beginning. Just like grandfather Abraham before him who went at the call of God to go to the Promised Land, Jacob would have to learn that God often places some distance between promise and fulfillment. Jacob would soon enough discover this truth.
In addition to the historical context of Jacob, we have the context of Moses who wrote this book under the inspiration of the Spirit sometime during the latter part of the wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel as a means of their instruction. What did this text teach them?
In many ways Genesis parallels the Exodus experience. Abraham was promised that the land of Canaan would someday be possessed by his descendants. The children of Israel were on the very cusp of the realization of the promise. This was more than 400 years. Just like Abraham, the children of Israel had to wander around the perimiter of the land of promise waiting for its fulfillment. This Exodus which should have happened in a few short months was extended to 40 years due to their loss of faith in Yahweh.
Another parallel exists in Abraham making a sojourn to Egypt due to famine, just like Jacob would have to due with his family later in his life. Abraham’s wife ended up in Pharaoh’s harem, and God had to rescue him. He was expelled with great riches with his nephew and they left Egypt loaded down with spoil. Abraham returned to a life of sojourning around the Promised Land where the abundance in a wasteland became a snare to him and Lot which caused their separation.
What this lesson taught the Israelites is that God fuffills His promise in His own time and in His own way. This leads to long delays. Abraham waited for years to have Isaac, and Jacob would have to wait years for Rachael. the wilderness served as a sort of proving grounds to prepare the people for the Promised Land. Jacob had many lessons to learn before he was ready to attain the blessings which God had in store for him.
So the book oo Genesis had much to teach the Children of Israel in their day.
There are other contexts as well which are interesting. The passage of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4 has some interesting parallels. Jesus was faint at a place the Samaritans called Jacob’s well (not the physically same well). Jesus, who was driven by mandate to take an unusual detour back to Galilee through Samaria. Wearied terribly by the journey, he collapsed at this well, and His disciples resorted to go to a Samaritan village for food and water to save Jesus’ life. A solitary figure comes out in the noonday heat which was an unusual time to draw water. The Samaritan woman is won over and goes to her village to call the elders who come out, believe, and then bid Jesus to come to their village and stay for a while.
I would suppose that one will now say. “This is a nice story, but this happened so long ago. What does this passage tell us? What does this mean for us in our modern world? This is a good question.
First of all, we should see that God is sovereign over all. It should be seen that Jacob coming to the well and just happened to come at the wrong time for the shepherds to water the flocks, something Jacob obviously noted. Did it just happen to be that Laban’s daughter just happened to be coming at this unusual time. We must understand that no such thing as chance really exists, especially in a universe under the ordination of God almighty. God’s hand is to be seen in all events. this means that even the events.
We should understand that God’s promises, though sure, do not come on our schedule. He has a plan for our life, and we only realize these blessings when God has sufficiently prepared us for them. God burns out the dross in our lives because He is good. It is true that Jesus accepts us where he are, but His grace does not keep us there. Sanctification prepares the believer for the full blessing.
Finally we must realize that the ultimate blessing for the Christian does not come in this life. For all the temporal blessings Abraham received in this life, he still longed for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. The ultimate goal to press for is to hear the Lord say on the last day: “Enter into the joy of the Lord.” We can be dissapointed with temporal blessings and dreams, but our final destination and possession is sure if we will believe on the Lord Jesus. Let us press towards that goal.