Before leaving his father and mother, Jacob received a charge from Isaac. “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.” With that charge, he departed for Paden Aram to his uncle, Laban.
On the first night of his journey, Jacob used a rock for a pillow. While he slept, he dreamed of a ladder extending to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it.
The Lord stood above the ladder and made the same promise to Jacob that He had made to Abraham and Isaac. He promised that the land on which Jacob was sleeping would be given to him and to his descendants. They would be as the dust of the earth and through his seed, all families of the earth would be blessed.
Upon awakening, Jacob was in awe of what had happened. He set his stone pillow up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it and named the place Bethel.
There is no written evidence previous to this that Jacob had any awe or respect for God. However, at that point, he vowed if God would care for him that the Lord would be his God. He would also return a tenth of all that God would give him.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” It was God’s plan from the beginning for a man to have only ONE wife, but man had other ideas. God sometimes uses man’s mistakes to carry out His will. We will see a prime example of this in the life of Jacob.
Upon arriving at his destination, Jacob met a group of shepherds watering their sheep. Among them was Rachel, a daughter of his uncle, Laban. He fell in love with her and promised to work for Laban seven years for her. At the end of the seven years, in the darkness of the marriage feast with the bride veiled, Laban deceitfully gave him her older sister, Leah. Jacob, the deceiver of his father, Isaac had been deceived himself.
Being confronted with his deception, Laban explained that it was not customary for the younger daughter to marry before the older. He promised Jacob that if he would fulfill Leah’s marriage week, he would give Rachel to him for a wife also. After marrying Rachel, Jacob was required to pay for her with another seven years of labor.
God allowed Leah to bear children and caused Rachel to be barren because Jacob’s love for Rachel was greater than for Leah. Leah became the mother of Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah.
With two women sharing the same husband, as could be expected, a bitter rivalry arose between Leah and Rachel. As Sarai had done many years earlier with Hagar, Rachel gave her maid, Bilhah to Jacob to bear a child for her. In time, two sons were born to Bilhah—Dan and Naphtali.
After the birth of her fourth son, Leah was unable to bear again. As the conflict between the two sisters continued, Leah gave her maid, Zilpah to Jacob and she bore Gad and Asher. Later, Leah did bear more children. There were two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun. A daughter, Dinah was also born to Leah.
God remembered Rachel and allowed her to bear a son to Jacob. His name was Joseph. Jacob’s family then consisted of two wives, their two maids, eleven sons and one daughter.
As we continue our study, we shall see how this family shaped the events that eventually led to the virgin birth, death, burial and resurrection of the Son of God.