Jacob Deceived

Open Your Bible

Genesis 29:1-35, Genesis 30:1-43, Deuteronomy 21:15-17, Psalm 63:1-4

My family recently subscribed to a new television streaming service, one that walks me down memory lane with beloved after-school TV shows and movies that I watched as a kid. Revisiting those stories, and sharing them anew with my daughters, has been so much fun.

Narratives shape us. Good stories can awaken our desire for eternity, reminding us of the good in the world, while lifting the veil on the darkest parts of the human experience.

I think the story of Jacob and his two wives, sisters Leah and Rachel, checks all of those boxes. It is a story brewed in brokenness and stirred with deceit, envy, and deep sadness. As a kid, I thought it was so very sweet, a little like a fairy tale: How romantic that Jacob loved Rachel enough to work for seven years to marry her!

But revisiting the story as an adult unlocks deeper truths about what I’m reading. Laban used his power to deceive Jacob into fourteen years of labor. Leah was cast aside and considered ugly, while Rachel gloated over her favor with Jacob—that is, until Leah bore sons, while Rachel could not. What a desperately sad story about two broken marriages, rival sisters, and a deceptive uncle who repeatedly manipulated his kin for profits.

Jacob was deceived.
Leah was rejected and unloved.
Rachel was emptied out by envy.
Laban saw profits instead of people.

When Leah bears Jacob’s sons, she names them Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. With each son’s birth, she hopes that Jacob will love her. But by the time Judah is born, she seems to relent and refocus her affections on her God, saying, “This time I will praise the LORD” (Genesis 29:35).

Between Leah and Rachel and their servant women Bilhah and Zilpah, Jacob had twelve sons. These twelve sons would go on to be the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel, and from the tribe of Judah, Jesus would be born. This son of the unloved wife would lead to the birth of the Messiah, who would bear the weight of every broken relationship.

The sad twists of this story lead us to look forward to the cross, because it is the only lens that allows us to see the grief and sadness that come from broken relationships more clearly. And yet, the good news of Jesus doesn’t change what we feel when we are mistreated, deceived, or utterly distracted with envy.

Each of those scenarios tears at our relationships with other people, inevitably causing us to see people as less than the image-bearers God created us to be. We wound and are wounded. People become objects, wrong sources of our happiness (like Rachel was to Jacob), transactional sources of labor and economic gain (like Jacob was to Laban), or they make us the victim of our own disordered desires (like Rachel did to Leah).

But Jesus takes all of that–every objectifying, victimizing, heartbreaking, manipulative, broken interaction–and instead, offers us perfect healing and a gospel-paved way to reconciliation. As we read on, Jacob will experience total reconciliation with his brother Esau. While not every relationship experiences that kind of healing in this life, as we seek to treat other people the way Jesus treats us, we can lean on the shared gift of the gospel to be the common ground of grace. It is all we have to offer.

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52 thoughts on "Jacob Deceived"

  1. Jennifer Anapol says:

    In this life people will let us down, but Jesus will never let us down. He is the only person we can truly rely on. He is the only person who can satisfy our desires.

  2. Irene Esther says:

    The message of this passage of scripture is beautiful. God using our brokenness, again, and again.

  3. Tracy says:

    This was very good and brought new revelation regarding Leah.

    Leah tried to make Jacob love her. Every time she bore a son, she wondered if Jacob would love her. By the time Judah was born she relented and decided to worship God instead of trying to gain the favor of a man (or “man” in general) Genesis 29:35.

    Thinking about her decision to worship God instead of man…this is the very son that would produce the lineage of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Judah means “Praise”. Amazing that when we turn and choose to worship instead of whine, God’s provision is produced. When our eyes turn to the ONE where our help comes from, our help comes forth.

    I’d like to say that Leah stayed her course, but that’s another story for another time…

    I also wanted to comment that Judah was not Leah’s youngest son. Later, after the two maid servants produced 4 sons, she also gave birth to Issachar and Zebulun. Please feel free to help me, if I’m reading that incorrectly.

    1. Jennifer Anapol says:

      You’re right that Judah wasn’t Leah’s last son. I noticed this as well.

  4. Anja Etwal-Nielsen says:

    Reading the commentary markes me understand the text so much better. Thank you so much. Its not always clear to me what the gospel means, but the commentary really helps with that. Jesus is the best example for us to live.

  5. Mari V says:

    May I be mindful to treat others the way Jesus treats us. With grace. I sometimes have to remind myself (at work) that these are little children who are learning and I need to take a deep breath and remember to give them grace. But it’s not too hard because Kindergarteners are SO cute and sweet and they genuinely love you! I’m blessed by these little people! Knowing I’m going to see their cute little faces soon is what makes Monday a little easier. And in those quiet moments I silently pray for them.

  6. Allison Sherwood says:

    The gift of the gospel gives us the common ground of grace; not a truer word could be said in this world. This devotion is beautiful for me because – despite the brokenness of each individual, God uses every piece of their lives for His beautiful story! Amen!

  7. Tracie Nall says:

    In reading this familiar Scripture I can’t help but think about “Family Dynamics and Dysfunction”…I was recently having lunch with a close friend who was sharing some recent issues with her family dealing with her elderly moms health, care and safety, she shared that now that one of her siblings had passed and two remained, there was no longer a balance in the decisions because it was one on one rather than a majority rule. After our conversation as I was praying and reading SRT Genesis, I was reminded and comforted by the fact that God isn’t surprised by our difficult dynamics and devastating dysfunction, He was perfectly aware of the situation between Leah and Rachel long Before Jacob entered the scene and He was perfectly prepared for sibling rivalry between 12 sons and jealousy of Joseph! Since God ordained and appointed these human beings to be our example (good or bad), teachers of how to or not to handle family dynamics, I am comforted that He is well equipped to handle the issues and challenges that arise in my family as well! He isn’t devastated by dysfunction, He is the deliverer from it! If we will simply trust Him with our families!
    This is the advice I shared with my dear friend as she traveled to see her mom and advocate her concerns to her siblings just days ago, trust God! And I pray I take my own advice with my growing family of 4 adult and 1 teen child, as life gets messy and complicated with different personalities, backgrounds, expectations and convictions may I always turn to God and trust Him the designer of my family!

  8. Diana Degnan says:

    Also I always lean on the compassion for the servants who get thrown into these situations. Their bodies used and then their children taken on as someone else’s against their will I assume. It happens here with Rachel and Leah and Sarah. All a twisted mess. Reminds me that the Lord isn’t surprised by any of our sin, He knows it. We have a way back to Him no matter what we’ve done or been through. His redemptive nature always has no comparison. The way, the truth, and the life.