Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. East. Mesopotamia, where Laban dwelt. (Haydock)
Ver. 2. Stone. Not of such an immoderate size, but that Jacob could remove it. In that country water was scarce, and preserved with care. (Calmet)
Ver. 3. Sheep. Instead of this, Kennicott would read shepherds; as also ver. 2. and 8. In which last, the Samaritan, Arabic and Septuagint agree with him; as the two former do likewise in this third verse. (Haydock)
Ver. 4. Brethren. Jacob understands and speaks their language, either because it was not very different from his own, or he had learnt the Chaldean language from his mother. In the days of Ezechias, the Jews did not understand it. (4 Kings xviii. 26; Jeremias v. 15.) (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Of Nachor, by Bathuel, who was not so well known. (Menochius)
Ver. 6. Health. Hebrew, “in peace;” by which name all good things are designated. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 7. To feed. He shews his knowledge of pastoral affairs, and his concern for them. (Menochius)
Ver. 9. She. Hebrew He, ipsa. Eva is put for Eia, the letters being similar, chap. iii. 15. (Haydock) — Other copies agree with the Vulgate and the Septuagint (Calmet)
Ver. 10. Cousin-german, and uncle, are put for brevity’s sake by St. Jerome, instead of the Hebrew, “the daughter of Laban, brother of Rebecca his mother,” and “his mother’s brother.” (Haydock)
Ver. 11. Kissed her, according to the custom of the country, (Chap. xxiv. 26,) having told her who he was. He was not so young, that she could suspect him guilty of an unbecoming levity, being above 77 years old, chap. xxvii. 1. (Haydock) — In that age of simplicity, beautiful maids might converse with shepherds, without suspicion or danger. (Menochius) — Wept, through tenderness, and perhaps on account of his present inability to make her a suitable present. (Calmet)
Ver. 12. Brother, or nephew. The name of brother, in Scripture, almost corresponds with the Consanguineus of the Latins, or our relation.
Ver. 14. My flesh, entitled to my utmost protection and friendship. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. Blear-eyed. Hebrew, racoth. Watery and tender, unable to look steadfastly at any object, but at the same time very beautiful. (Onkelos; &c.) — The beauty of Rachel was perfect; not confined to one part. These two sisters represented the synagogue and the Church of Christ. Lia, though married first, never gains the entire affection of her husband. (Calmet)
Ver. 20. For Rachel. It was then the custom to buy or to pay a dowry for a wife. (Chap. xxxiv. 12; Osee iii. 2.) Herodotus says, i. 196, that the Babylonians sold their beautiful women as high as possible, and gave part of the price to help off the more deformed. The Turks do the like. (Calmet) — A few, &c. So highly did he esteem Rachel, that he thought he had obtained her for just nothing, though delays naturally seem long to lovers. (Tirinus) — Calmet supposes that he was married to her the second month after he arrived at Haran; and on this account, easily explains his words, as love made all labour tolerable, and even easy, in the enjoyment of the beautiful Rachel. Usher also places the birth of Ruben in the first year of Jacob’s service, A. 2246[the year of the world 2246]. But Salien and the context decide, that he waited full seven years, and then obtained Lia, by fraud, of Laban; and seven days after, Rachel. (Haydock) — He was then 84 years old! (Du Hamel)
Ver. 21. Go in, &c. To consummate my marriage; (Menochius) as the time is expired. (Haydock)
Ver. 22. Friends. Hebrew, Septuagint and Chaldean say, “all the men of that place.” He was rich, and, though very greedy, could not well avoid conforming to the custom of making a splendid entertainment on such a joyful occasion. (Haydock)
Ver. 24. A handmaid, by way of dowry, as he did afterwards to Rachel. Both sisters considered it so small, as to say they had nothing, chap. xxxi. 14. — Lia, who committed a great sin of adultery, though she was more excusable than Laban; inasmuch as she obeyed his order. (Menochius) — Jacob might justly have refused to marry her; and then what a dishonour would have been entailed upon her for life! In consequence of this imposition, the legitimacy of Ruben’s conception was rendered doubtful. We may suppose, that shame hindered Lia from opening her mouth; so that Jacob had no means of discovering the cheat till day-break, having gone into the nuptial chamber after it was dark, according to custom, and the woman being also covered with a veil, Tobias viii. 1. Hence Jacob was guilty of no fault, as his mistake was involuntary. (Haydock) — He afterwards consented to marry her, (Calmet) probably on the second day of the feast. (Haydock)
Ver. 26. Custom. This appears to be a false pretext: for all the people saw that Rachel was adorned like the intended bride, (Haydock) and were invited to her wedding. (Menochius)
Ver. 28. Week. Seven days; not years, as Josephus would have it. The nuptial feast lasted a week, Judges xiv. 15.
Ver. 30. Latter. Jacob is the figure of Jesus Christ; who rejected the synagogue, and treated his Church, gathered from all nations, with the utmost affection. (Calmet) — Lia means “painful or labourious;” and Rachel a sheep; denoting, that a quiet contemplative life must be united with an active one; and that the Church must suffer here, and be crowned in heaven. (Haydock) (St. Gregory, Mor. vi. 28.)
Ver. 31. Despised, or loved less; so Christ orders us to hate father, &c., Matthew x. 17.[37.?][Luke xiv. 26.] (Calmet)
Ver. 32. Ruben. “See the son, or the son of vision;” alluding perhaps, distantly, to ver. 24, He saw Lia. (Haydock)
Ver. 33. Despised, or the hated wife, Deuteronomy xxi. 15. — Simeon, “hearing or obedient.”
Ver. 34. Levi, “adhesion or union.” My husband will now stick to me.
Ver. 35. Juda, “praise or confession.” (Calmet) — Left bearing for a time. (Haydock) — In the imposition of these names, Lia testified her gratitude to God. (Tirinus)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Jacob serveth Laban seven years for Rachel; but is deceived with Lia: he afterwards marrieth Rachel.—Lia bears him four sons.
1 Then Jacob went on in his journey, and came into the east country.*
2 And he saw a well in the field, and three flocks of sheep lying by it: for the beasts were watered out of it, and the mouth thereof was closed with a great stone.
3 And the custom was, when all the sheep were gathered together, to roll away the stone, and after the sheep were watered, to put it on the mouth of the well again.
4 And he said to the shepherds: Brethren, whence are you? They answered: Of Haran.
5 And he asked them, saying: Know you Laban, the son of Nachor? They said: We know him.
6 He said: Is he in health? He is in health, say they: and behold, Rachel, his daughter, cometh with his flock.
7 And Jacob said: There is yet much day remaining, neither is it time to bring the flocks into the folds again: first give the sheep drink, and so lead them back to feed.
8 They answered: We cannot, till all the cattle be gathered together, and we remove the stone from the well’s mouth, that we may water the flocks.
9 They were yet speaking, and behold Rachel came with her father’s sheep; for she fed the flock.
10 And when Jacob saw her, and knew her to be his cousin german, and that they were the sheep of Laban, his uncle: he removed the stone wherewith the well was closed.
11 And having watered the flock, he kissed her: and lifting up his voice wept.
12 And he told her that he was her father’s brother, and the son of Rebecca: but she went in haste and told her father.
13 Who, when he heard that Jacob his sister’s son was come, ran forth to meet him: and embracing him, and heartily kissing him, brought him into his house. And when he had heard the causes of his journey,
14 He answered: Thou art my bone and my flesh. And after the days of one month were expired,
15 He said to him: Because thou art my brother, shalt thou serve me without wages? Tell me what wages thou wilt have.
16 Now he had two daughters, the name of the elder was Lia; and the younger was called Rachel.
17 But Lia was blear-eyed: Rachel was well favoured, and of a beautiful countenance.
18 And Jacob being in love with her, said: I will serve thee seven years for Rachel, thy younger daughter.
19 Laban answered: It is better that I give her to thee than to another man; stay with me.
20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel: and they seemed but a few days, because of the greatness of his love.*
21 And he said to Laban: Give me my wife; for now the time is fulfilled, that I may go in unto her.
22 And he, having invited a great number of his friends to the feast, made the marriage.
23 And at night he brought in Lia, his daughter, to him,
24 Giving his daughter a handmaid, named Zelpha. Now when Jacob had gone in to her according to custom, when morning was come he saw it was Lia.
25 And he said to his father-in-law: What is it that thou didst mean to do? did not I serve thee for Rachel? why hast thou deceived me?
26 Laban answered: It is not the custom in this place, to give the younger in marriage first.
27 Make up the week of days of this match: and I will give thee her also, for the service that thou shalt render me other seven years.
28 He yielded to his pleasure: and after the week was past, he married Rachel:
29 To whom her father gave Bala, for her servant.
30 And having at length obtained the marriage he wished for, he preferred the love of the latter before the former, and served with him other seven years.
31 And the Lord seeing that he despised Lia, opened her womb, but her sister remained barren.
32 And she conceived and bore a son,* and called his name Ruben, saying: The Lord saw my affliction: now my husband will love me.
33 And again she conceived and bore a son, *and said: Because the Lord heard that I was despised, he hath given this also to me: and she called his name Simeon.
34 And she conceived the third time, and bore another son,* and said: Now also my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons: and therefore she called his name Levi.
35 The fourth time she conceived and bore a son, and said: Now will I praise the Lord: and for this she called him Juda.* And she left bearing.
1: Year of the World 2245.
20: Year of the World 2252, Year before Christ 1752.
32: Year of the World 2253, Year before Christ 1751.
33: Year of the World 2254.
34: Year of the World 2256.
35: Matthew xii.[i. 2.?]