Jacob and Rachel
“Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud” (Gen. 29:11).- Genesis 29:1–12
Today we return to the book of Genesis and resume our study of Jacob’s life. When last we read of Jacob, this patriarch of Israel had just had his first direct encounter with the Lord who pledged to protect and give him children even though he was on the run from Esau (Gen. 27:41; 28:10–22). As we will see, God was faithful to His promise.
Translated most literally, the Hebrew of 29:1 reads “Jacob picked up his feet….” As one commentator has put it, there is a new spring in his step following his encounter with Yahweh at Bethel. His journey to the east will be a speedy one, for Jacob has begun to realize the truth of God’s promises to him and the reality of the safety and purpose he finds under divine providence.
Hebrew narrative often teaches us about the Lord’s superintendence of all things indirectly, and this is the case in today’s passage. There are no explicit references to the Creator’s ordering of Jacob’s circumstances, but the event’s parallels with Genesis 24 indicate that Moses wants us to see God’s hidden providence when Jacob meets Rachel. In the first place, their first encounter happens at a well (29:10), and Abraham’s servant met Rebekah at a well (24:10–15), maybe even the same one where Jacob now finds himself. Furthermore, just as Abraham’s servant just “happened” to come to the right place, so too does Jacob “stumble upon” the location where he makes contact with Laban’s family (29:12). Finally, Rachel’s tending of her father’s flock (v. 6) sets her apart as a woman of industry like her aunt Rebekah who also had this praiseworthy quality (24:16–21; Prov. 31:13–19). These are not coincidences; the same Lord who found a wife for Isaac has now found one for Jacob.
Jacob is a man on a mission, and he does not let the shepherd’s reluctance to give him the information he is looking for stop him from taking the initiative to find Laban. The same tenacity that got him into trouble with Esau (25:29–34; 27) now serves him well as he flouts the shepherds’ custom and waters Laban’s sheep before all the other flocks had arrived (29:8, 10). He will find his uncle and fulfill the purpose for which he traveled (27:43; 29:12).
Often we are unaware of how the Lord is working in our lives to produce good for His kingdom. In his commentary on today’s passage, John Calvin gives helpful counsel: “Whenever we may wander in uncertainty through intricate windings, we must contemplate with eyes of faith, the secret providence of God which governs us and our affairs and leads us to unexpected results.” Our Father is ordering our lives to glorify Him even if we cannot always see it.
Passages for Further Study