Funny how just some months back I had to apologize for not doing enough Bible Stories series, I put it to not been inspired enough to tow that path at the time. Having consistently done it now almost on a weekly basis I feel like apologizing to my secular audience for what might seem like an abandonment of their issues to pander mostly to issues of a scriptural and spiritual nature. Inasmuch as I understand, and can empathize with that situation, I also know that I am hardly at my best when I write against the tide of my conviction, nay my muse. I can only rationalize this situation that’s caused me to write more on things spiritual to my current state of being, which writing about things scriptural have greatly helped to ease. I know it might sound selfish on my part, but knowing how things in life are never permanent, I can only plead that my secular audience understand and bear with me, until I’m able to get my acts together enough to not focus solely on things scriptural or spiritual (as the case may be). Thankfully, Eugene Gant has filled in some of the space for the non-scriptural that might’ve made this status quo go largely unnoticed, to much appreciation from readers, especially for his unique writing style.
I feel it trite to clear the air about the direction of my writing, in recent times, before once again delving into another story in the scriptural series that I’ve so far enjoyed exploring. I don’t know how far I can carry through with this, or even if I’ll live long enough to career through the the Bible as it were, that is including the apocryphal and other books that are currently not included in the typical Bible, in my lifetime. I’ve also considered doing a review of the Jewish texts like the Talmud, hopefully it will run pari passu my Bible Stories series when I eventually cook up the nerve to embark on that journey. In an age where unbelief is rife, with more atheists (in thought, many times even in word and deed as well) within religions than outside of it, it doesn’t seem popular a thing to do, as what I’m doing here, but it feels right to do, especially if lives are touched for the better, for and by it.
Ah! I didn’t think I’d need a whole paragraph to explain all that I’ve said so far, but seeing that it is now less than I would consider a blog post of its own, I would now go on with the story of Jacob from where we stopped. After the dream he had at Bethel, Jacob continued his journey towards the east, till he came across some shepherds by a well in an open field with, “… three flocks of sheep lying there by it, for out of that well they watered the flocks: and the stone upon the well’s mouth was great” (Genesis 29:2). When Jacob inquired to know who they were, they told him that they were from Haran, and under further queries confirmed that they know Laban (Jacob’s uncle) the son of Nahor (Abraham’s brother), and that he is well, further informing him that, “… Rachel his daughter comes (there usually) with the (her father’s) sheep” (v.6). Interestingly, the men were waiting for Rachel to arrive with the rest of the sheep, before rolling “… the stone from the well’s mouth, then we water the sheep” (v.8).
When Rachel finally approached with her father’s sheep, Jacob hitherto engaged in conversation with the shepherds by the well, went up to her and kissed her, “… and lifted up his voice and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s brother, and that he was Rebekah’s son: and she ran and told her father” (v. 11-12). It must be Jacob’s joy at seeing the much talked about Laban’s daughter that must’ve informed his behaviour when he saw her, and nothing amorous should be read into his kissing her, though in the past I used it as justification of “love at first sight“, seeing that one of the intendment of this journey by Jacob to Laban was to marry his daughter, to satisfy his parent’s heart desires. I decided to stick with the narrative that negates that assertion, because nothing in what is recounted as following that warm reception which Jacob and Rachel accorded each other, suggests that love at first sight, played a major role in what was to follow in the life of Jacob romantically, though it cannot with certainty be ruled out as not contributory.
Laban was delighted to receive Jacob into his household, even after “… he told Laban all these (circumstances surrounding his visit/exile) things” (v.13). Indeed, after a month, Laban inquired of Jacob, what he’d like to earn for serving him, apparently he must’ve been impressed by Jacob’s output (who appeared to have put behind his personal problems for the time being, focusing on making the best of his new realities, as we should all do when faced with similar conditions that should make the weak fall into despair and self pity), and rather than Jacob asking for money, or whatever means of emolument was obtainable at the time, he opted to “… serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter” (v.18), thereby offering his work for that period of time as dowry for the woman he had come to love, for the one month he had stayed with his uncle Laban. Yes, you may think it was too short a time to know a person fully, for Jacob to dedicate that amount of time to the cause of love, but try and understand the context. Jacob was left no choice (besides any of the daughters of Laban) as to who to marry in this case, he also had no money for dowry, again this was his place of exile, so there was no running anywhere else then, hence he chose an enterprise that would still get him all he wanted while still hiding out from his brother. Interestingly, even though Jacob served Seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage, “… they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (v.20).
This particular story of Jacob notches it up for me as one of the greatest love stories I have come across. It also shows Jacob for once exhibiting an uncommon level of unselfishness, all in the name of love. His must be an example of what love should be, as well as what lovers should aspire to. He could easily have simply married any of Laban’s daughters (the older Leah, was described in verse 17, as one whose eyes were tender, which might mean mature and more understanding of the ways and things if the world, and also about life), but he estimated that his seven years of labour is worth a reward that a “… beautiful and well favoured Rachel (like any male in his shoes would)” (v.17) will avail him. His definition of love involved sacrifice, a word that hardly finds space in today’s definition of love in life, as well as in works of fiction in the works we read, on stage or on screen. Rachel didn’t consider Jacob’s situation and place, as his father’s servant (what amounts to “worker/staff/employee” in our day), unlike many a “hopeful for a husband” women of our time, who prefer a “ready made man/husband” to a hustler, she could help to prop, or grow and develop with. The result of sacrifice, lost in our translation of love today, is evidenced in the number and ease of the broken marriages we see about us today. Hopefully, those of us left in marriages, and those about to wed, will do better to save the smallest unit of society from the constant fragmentation, that’s been found to be at the root of some of today’s societal ills on a macro level.
– Genesis Chapter 29 Verses 1 – 20, THE SACRED SCRIPTURES (Bethel Edition), An Assemblies of Yahweh ®, Publication, © 1981 (Fourth Printing, 1993).