Today’s reading begins with Jacob being sent to his uncle Laban to find a wife and concludes with Jacob prospering as a shepherd for his now father-in-law Laban.
Shortly before Isaac’s death he sends Jacob to his brother-in-law, Jacob’s uncle Laban. He did so because he did not want his son to marry a woman from the people among whom he lived. On his journey to the home of Laban, Jacob had a dream. In the dream Jacob saw angels ascending and descending the ladder. God stood at the top of the ladder and from here He promises Jacob the land on which he laid and that God would multiply his offspring. In honor of the dream, Jacob named the place Bethel and vowed to God that of all God blessed him with that he would give God a tenth.
When Jacob reached the territory of Laban he met Rachel, Laban’s daughter and fell in love with her. Laban said he would give Rachel to Jacob if he worked for seven years as a shepherd for Laban. Jacob agreed and happily served the seven years. When it came time to marry Rachel, Laban tricked Jacob and gave him his oldest daughter Leah as a wife. Obviously, Jacob was displeased with the switch, but it was too late because the marriage had already been consummated. Laban told Jacob that it was improper for his younger daughter Rachel to be married before her older sister and if Jacob would work another seven years for Laban that he could also take Rachel as a wife.
Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah and in response, God blessed Leah with children while Rachel remained barren. Leah and Rachel were rivals for Jacob’s affections and as Leah continued to bear children, Rachel decided to give Jacob he servant as a wife through whom to bear children by Rachel to Jacob. Leah did the same in turn when she ceased bearing children. Finally Rachel was able to conceive and she bore Joseph. At this point in his life, Jacob had 11 sons–Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph–and 1 daughter, Dinah.
As if Laban’s treachery regarding the giving of his daughters in marriage wasn’t bad enough, he also attempted to deprive Jacob of the pay he was due for serving as a shepherd. Jacob was a wise shepherd and was able to manipulate the breeding habits of the goats in order to abide by his agreement with Laban while at the same time raising up a large strong flock of goats for himself. Through his wise shepherding of Laban’s flocks, Jacob was able to become a very wealthy man.