Parashah 7: Vayetse “and he went out”
B'reisheet “in the beginning” (Genesis) 28:10-32:2 T'hilah (Psalm) 3
Hoshea (Hosea) 11:7-14:9 Yochanan (John) 1:19-51
by Messianic Teacher Dr. Daniel Boley
10 Ya'akov went out from Be'er-Sheva and traveled toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed the night there, because the sun had set. He took a stone from the place, put it under his head and lay down there to sleep. 12 He dreamt that there before him was a ladder resting on the ground with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of Adonai were going up and down on it.
Be'er-Sheva is in the Negav of Judea, Haran (or Harran) was in Upper Mesopotamia (near the modern village of Altinbaşak, Turkey (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harran, accessed 16Nov15).
Ya'akov's travels could have taken him by way of Mount Moriah. Jewish writings indicate this incident took place on Mount Moriah (e.g. Rashi, cited in The Soncino Chumash, p. 164): the same place Adam offered his sacrifice (Kli Yakar, http://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/704635/jewish/Shiloh-Versus-Jerusalem.htm, accessed 16Nov15), where Avraham sacrificed Yitz'chak (Gen 22, Heb 11:17-19), and where the Temple was built (2 Chr 3:1).
angels: angel here is the Hebrew word מָלְאָךְ [mal-akh / mal'ak] meaning,
Strong's: “... to despatch as a deputy; a messenger; specifically, of God, i.e. an angel (also a prophet, priest or teacher)” translated as ambassador, angel, king, messenger
Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB): a messenger, a representative: a messenger; an angel; the theophanic angel
Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words
The noun mal'ak appears 213 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. The word denotes someone sent over a great distance by an individual (Gen 32:3) or by a community (Num 21:21) in order to communicate a message. The introductory formula of the message borne by the mal'ak often contains the phrase “Thus says …,” or “This is what … says,” signifying the authority of the messenger in giving the message of his master (Judg 11:15). As a representative of a king, the mal'ak might have performed the function of a diplomat (1 Kings 20:1ff). These passages confirm the important place of the mal'ak. Honor to the messenger signified honor to the sender, and the opposite was also true (1 Sam 25:14ff; 2 Sam 10:4ff).
God also sent messengers. First, there are the prophetic messengers (2 Chron 36:15-16).
There were also angelic messengers. The angel is a supernatural messenger of the Lord sent with a particular message (Gen 19:1). The angels were also commissioned to protect God's people (Ps 91:11).
Third, and most significant, are the phrases mal'ak Yahweh, “the angel of the Lord,” and mal'ak 'elohim, “the angel of God.” It denotes an angel who had mainly a saving and protective function (Ex 23:23). He might also bring about destruction (1 Chron 21:16).
The relation between the Lord and the “angel of the Lord” is often so close that it is difficult to separate the two (Gen 16:7ff; 21:17ff; 31:11ff; Ex 3:2ff; Judg 6:11ff; 13:21f. This identification has led some interpreters to conclude that the “angel of the Lord” was the pre-incarnate Christ.
13 Then suddenly Adonai was standing there next to him; and he said, “I am Adonai, the God of Avraham your [grand]father and the God of Yitz'chak. The land on which you are lying I will give to you and to you descendants. …”
Notice the brackets around the word [grand]. We know from the greater context that Avraham was the father of Yitz'chak and grandfather of Ya'akov, rather than Ya'akov's father as many English Bibles read. This is because אָב [av], the word translated as the “father” of an individual, can also mean:
Father: used of God as Father of His people
the head or the founder of a household, group, family, or clan
an ancestor: grandfather, forefather
an originator or patron of a class, profession, or art (i.e. Gen 4:20-21)
used of a producer, a generator (figuratively)
used of benevolence and of protection (figuratively)
used as a term of respect and honor
a ruler or a chief (specifically)
Rather than be an error in Scripture or translation as some might claim, a little study and some understanding of culture proves this to be a normal use of the term
The land on which you are lying I will give to you and to your descendants.
יהוה (the LORD) gave the land to Avram, Gen. 12:7
reiterating that promise in Gen. 13:15, 15:7 and 18, cf also 24:7
He also gave to Isaac in Gen. 26:3
and now to Jacob
reiterating the promise in Gen. 35:12, cf also 48:4, 50:24
If the LORD is Sovereign, Eternal, and All-Knowing (which we know He is); and
He “is not a human who lies or a mortal who changes his mind: When he says something, he will do it; when he makes a promise, he will fulfill it,” (see Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Ps 110:4; Heb. 7:21); and
He gave the land to Avraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their descendants; and
His promises stand as long as He does
why would anyone in their right mind try to fight the All-Mighty by trying to change what He has established and put in place?
14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the grains of dust on the earth. You will expand to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. By you and your descendants all the families of the earth will be blessed.
How this has been fulfilled throughout the ages has been wonderfully documented in the booklet, Supernatural or Just Remarkable? Has G-d been involved in our history, or have we simply been on our own? available through Heart of G-d Ministries at heartofg-d.org (accessed 16Nov15)
15 Look, I am with you. I will guard you wherever you go, and I will bring you back into this land, because I won't leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
יהוה promises Jacob
I am with you
not “was,” not “might be,” not “will be,” but right now, in the here and now
I will guard you wherever you go
the root word for “guard” here is שָׁמַר [shah-mahr] meaning
Strong's: properly, to hedge about (as with thorns), i.e. guard; generally, to protect, attend to, etc.
BDB: (here in the Qal perfect) to keep, to have charge of; to keep, to guard, to keep watch and ward, to protect, to save life; watch, a watchman (participle); to watch for, to wait for; to keep, to retain, to treasure up (in memory); to keep (within bounds), to restrain; to observe, to celebrate, to keep (sabbath or covenant or commands), to perform (a vow); to keep, to preserve, to protect; to keep, to reserve
I will bring you back to this land
the land which the great, eternal Sovereign of the universe has pledged to
your grandfather Avraham and his descendants
your father Yitz'chak and his descendants, and now to
you and your descendants
I won't leave you until I have done what I have promised you
Yeshua came and talked with them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim, immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember! I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20)
16 Ya'akov awoke from his sleep and said, “Truly, Adonai is in this place – and I didn't know it!” 17 Then he became afraid and said, “This place is fearsome! This has to be the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!” 18 Ya'akov got up early in the morning, took the stone he had put under his head, set it up as a standing-stone, poured olive oil on its top 19 and named the place Beit-El [house of God]; but the town had originally been called Luz.
We may know about God. We may even know God. But when we have a direct encounter with the living God, we will really know Him, and we will never be the same.
Standing-stone: the following is adapted from an article by Ray Vander Laan at followtherabbi.com
The greatest collection of standing stones is in the high place at Gezer. There, ten stones, some over 6 meters tall, stand in silent testimony to a long-forgotten event. Their size probably indicates the importance of what they represented. How they got there is not certain, but it is clear they came from some distance because there are no other stones like them in the area.
Long before the Israelites came to the region, pagans in the Middle East set up sacred stones to their gods. If they believed one of their gods caused something important to happen, they might set up a stone as a testimony to what the god did.
If a covenant or treaty was signed between cities or even individuals, stones were set up to testify of the agreement and to involve their gods as a witness to the treaty. [I.e. Gen. 31:44-53]
Travelers who saw the standing stones would ask, “What happened here?” and the people who knew the story would give testimony to their gods.
It was in this Middle Eastern culture, that God revealed Himself so He could accomplish the great work of restoring a lost world to Himself. His people worshiped Him and remembered His acts of deliverance according to their custom: by erecting stones.
These masseboth (from the Hebrew word “to set up”) are mentioned often in the Bible.
Scripture mentions ungodly pillars, or standing stones in various places, including:
Ex. 23:24 You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces.
Lev. 26:1 You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the LORD your God.
Deut. 16:21-22 You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself. 22 You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the LORD your God hates.
1 Kings 14:23-24 For they also built for themselves high places and sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree. 24 There were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel.
The Bible also mentions God-directed standing stones. They focus on God’s work in a certain place or in the lives of certain people. In each case, people became aware of the work of God and, through His work, aware of God Himself.
Genesis tells us about four occasions when Jacob set up a massebah after a significant event in his life:
In Genesis 28, God spoke to Jacob in a dream from the top of a ladder reaching to heaven. Overwhelmed, Jacob set up the stone he used as a pillow as a standing stone to God’s presence there, calling the place Bethel (“House of God”).
In chapter 31, God called Jacob to return to the Promised Land. As he left the pagan world of his father-in-law, Jacob erected a standing stone as a witness of his decision to leave. He went back to Bethel, and next to the original massebah, God appeared again to reaffirm His love for Jacob. There Jacob set up another standing stone as a monument to the presence and power of God (Genesis 35).
Finally, at Rachel’s grave near Bethlehem (Genesis 35), Jacob set up one last stone, a reminder of his beloved wife’s death and (apparently) his determination to live faithfully before God.
God’s covenant with Israel through Moses was represented by 12 masseboth at the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 24). They were a testimony to the great deliverance from Egypt and the faithful love God promised the Jewish people in the Sinai covenant. The traveler who saw these stones would know that something important had happened on this mountain. If one of God’s people were there, the traveler would know that the stones were dedicated to the one true God of the Hebrews.
The Book of Joshua records seven times that Joshua erected standing stones pointing to the dynamic power of God.
The dividing of the Jordan River, which displayed God’s power over the fertility gods the Canaanites believed caused flooding, was memorialized by 12 stones taken from the dry riverbed and erected on the bank, where they stood as an object lesson to Jewish children (Joshua 4).
Near the end of his life, Joshua challenged the Israelites to serve the only real God. Their spontaneous response of “we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:21) was the occasion for another standing stone: “Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD” (Joshua 24:26).
The idea of stone work is not only in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we’re told that Christ Himself is the foundation and chief cornerstone (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20).
In 1 Peter 2:4-12 the metaphor is applied to those who follow Christ.
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture: "BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." 7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, "THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone," 8 and, "A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. 9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
As stones, believers are being built into a house within which the presence of God lives. Each believer is a living stone making up the “house” of God.
Even though the main emphasis of this passage is on the house, the use of the stone metaphor can remind us of the cultural practice of standing stones. Each stone represents the work of God in a particular place or in the life of an individual and therefore points people to God Himself.
Verse 12 of our passage from 1 Peter emphasizes the idea: “Live such good lives among the pagans that...they may see your good deeds and glorify God.”
As followers of Jesus / Yeshua we must live so that the world will know that the Lord is God.
So......When we come to a crossroad in our lives, do we look to the Lord for His direction and guidance?
When our will crosses His will, do we put our will on a cross and follow Jesus?
When God places us on the crossroads of others where we can influence society or culture, like He did with ancient Israel, do we influence others in a Godly way, in a way that clearly points to God’s love, character, holiness and purity?
Does the world around us know Who He is, and what He is like because of how we live?
Or, do we allow the culture around us to influence us, so we end up becoming so much like it, no one can tell the difference?
As we stand in the gates, are we watchful for what comes into the “city” of our life? Whether through TV, music, magazines, misuse or overuse of various substances, through other people or even our own imagination.
Do we take an active stand against ungodly intruders, or simply allow anything and everything free access into our mind and heart?
As we live our lives, what kind of stone are we?
– Are we like sandstone? Easily shaped by the influences of the world around it.
– Or are we a solid, living, standing stone? Living in a way that when others look into our lives they see what God is like.
Life is full of choices. Let’s choose, let’s determine, right now,
– to do what we can to influence our world in a Godly way;
– to guard our hearts and minds from the tricks and schemes of the enemy; and
– to be a standing stone for the one true God.
20 Ya'akov took this vow: “If God will be with me and will guard me on this road that I am traveling, giving me bread to eat and clothes to wear, 21 so that I return to my father's house in peace, then Adonai will be my God; 22 and this stone, which I have set up as a standing-stone, will be God's house; and of everything You give me, I will faithfully return one-tenth to you.”
This vow is often taken as a type of conditional challenge: If God will do these things, then He will be my God and I will do thus and so. While this may have been the case, Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon brings out that the word translated “if” [אִם] may also be translated as “when,” “whenever,” and “since” which put Jacob's statements in a different light.
Ya'akov took this vow: “Since God will be with me and will guard me” and so forth ….
“then” (from the end of verse 21) comes from the Hebrew וְהָיָה [veh-hah-yah]
וְ (along with וּ, and וָ) is a demonstrative adverb and conjunction meaning “so,” “then,” and “and.”
Strong's: to exist, i.e. be or become, come to pass (always emphatic, and not a mere copula or auxiliary)
BDB: (here in the Qal perfect)
to befall: to happen, to fall out, to occur, to take place, to come about, to come to pass; to come about, to come to pass
to come into being, to become: to arise, to appear, to come; to become, to become like, to be instituted, to be established
to be: to exist, to be in existence; to abide, to remain, to continue (with word of place or time); to stand, to lie, to be in, to be at, to be situated (with word of locality); to accompany, to be with
“I will faithfully return one-tenth to you.”
Even those who wrongly assert that the entire Law has been done away with will recognize that returning to the LORD a tenth of what He allows us to work with (tithing), both predates and postdates the Law.
This act of worship and recognition of Gods provision was seen in Genesis 14 when Abram gave Melchizedek “a tenth of everything,” and now again here with Jacob.
Tithing was codified under the Law (e.g. Lev 27:30-32; Num 18:26; Deut 14:23-25).
Jesus commends tithing in His rebuke to the hypocritical teachers of the Law and Pharisees: “You pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin; but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah – justice, mercy, trust. These are the things you should have attended to – without neglecting the others!” (Matt 23:23, Lk 11:42)
Nelson's Bible Dictionary
In the New Testament the words tithe and tithing appear only eight times (Matt 23:23; Luke 11:42; 18:12; Heb 7:5-6, 8-9). All of these passages refer to Old Testament usage and to current Jewish practice. Nowhere does the New Testament expressly command Christians to tithe. However, as believers we are to be generous in sharing our material possessions with the poor and for the support of Christian ministry. Christ Himself is our model in giving. Giving is to be voluntary, willing, cheerful, and given in the light of our accountability to God. Giving should be systematic and by no means limited to a tithe of our incomes. We recognize that all we have is from God. We are called to be faithful stewards of all our possessions (Rom 14:12; 1 Cor 9:3-14; 16:1-3; 2 Cor 8:1-9:15).
Holman Bible Dictionary
TITHE A tenth part, especially as offered to God. Abraham presented a tithe of war booty to the priest-king of Jerusalem, Melchizedek (Gen 14:18-20). Jacob pledged to offer God a tithe of all his possessions upon his safe return (Gen 28:22). The tithe was subject to a variety of legislation. Num 18:20-32 provides for the support of the Levites and the priests through the tithe. The Deuteronomic code stipulated that the tithe of agricultural produce be used for a family feast at the sanctuary celebrating God's provision (Deut 14:22-27). The same code stipulated the third year's tithe for care of the Levites, orphans, widows, and foreigners (Deut 14:28-29). Some scholars think the differences in legislation reflect different uses of the tithe at various stages of Israel's history. The rabbis of the New Testament period, however, understood the laws as referring to three separate tithes: a Levitical tithe, a tithe spent celebrating in Jerusalem, and a charity tithe. Mal 3:8 equates neglect of the tithe with robbing God. Jesus, however, warned that strict tithing must accompany concern for the more important demand of the law, namely, for just and merciful living (Matt 23:23; Luke 11:42)
Easton's Bible Dictionary
… It cannot be affirmed that the Old Testament law of tithes is binding on the Christian Church, nevertheless the principle of this law remains, and is incorporated in the gospel (1 Cor 9:13, 14); and if, as is the case, the motive that ought to prompt to liberality in the cause of religion and of the service of God be greater now than in the Old Testament times, then Christians ought to go beyond the ancient Hebrew in consecrating both themselves and their substance to God.
In the opening verses of this chapter we see Ya'akov's encounter with shepherds from Haran. There were three flocks of sheep lying near a well with a stone covering the opening. This stone was large enough that all the shepherds of these flocks were waiting until all the flocks had gathered, then they would roll the stone away from the opening of the well and water the sheep. This must have been a very heavy stone!
Then in verse 10 we read that “Ya'akov went up and rolled the stone away from the opening of the well and watered the flock of Lavan His mother's brother.” Ya'akov might have been a quiet man who stayed around the tents, but he was no weakling!
Ya'akov had been sent to “choose a wife there from the daughters of Lavan” (Gen. 28:2).
God had promised Ya'akov descendants, blessing, protection, and guidance (Gen. 28:13-15).
Ya'kov prayed back God's promise (Gen. 28:20-22).
God took him to Uncle Lavan's house where he ended up marrying his two daughters: Le'ah and Rachel (and their slave-girl maid-servants Zilpah and Bilhah).
17 Le'ah's eyes were weak; but Rachel was good-looking, with beautiful features.
The Hebrew word translated “weak” here is רַךְ [rak] meaning:
Strong's: tender; by implication, weak; from רָכַךְ [ra-kak] meaning “to soften”
BDB: tender, delicate (used of the flesh); weak of heart, timid; soft (used of words); gentle words (substantive)
This doesn't necessarily mean that she could have used some glasses (though that may be). Since the eyes are a window to the soul (cf Mt. 6:22-23), that Le'ah's eyes were רַךְ could indicate that she was tender, gentle, and / or possibly timid.
Rashbam: give the Hebrew rakkoth its usual meaning 'soft,' hence 'beautiful' (Soncino Chumash, p. 170).
but Rachel was good-looking, with beautiful features
“good-looking” comes from יְפַת תֹּאַר [yeh-phat to-ahr]
יְפַת = beautiful (literally or figuratively): beauty, comely, fair (-est), pleasant, well
תֹּאַר = outline, i.e. figure or appearance
“with beautiful features” comes from וִיפַת מַרְאֶה [yeh-phat mar-eh]
the vav [ו] on a word means “and … ” connecting the previous word or phrase with the next (notice that the vav is used rather than the word אַךְ [akh] which is normally used for contrast, meaning “but” or “only”)
the rest of this first word comes from יְפַת [yeh-phat] which we just saw above
מַרְאֶה = (from רָאָה [ra-ah] “to see”) to view (the act of seeing); also an appearance (the thing seen), whether (real) a shape (especially if handsome, comeliness; often plural the looks), or (mental) a vision
This verse does not set up the stark contrast we tend to think of and are often led to believe: that Le'ah was plain, unattractive, dull, boring, weak eyed but Rachel, well she was good-looking, with beautiful features.
From looking at the Hebrew we can see this verse in a different light, possibly that Le'ah may have been timid, but she was tender and gentle, and beautiful in her own right. Rachel, on the other hand, had a nice figure (whatever that meant in that culture). What else Rachel had going for her we are left to conjecture.
Both these women must have had qualities worth emulating since both their names are included in the blessing still invoked over our girls today:
יְשִׂמֵךְ אֱלֹהִים כְּשָׂרָה רִבְקָה רָחֵל וְלֵאָה
ve-le-ah ra-khel riv-kah keh-sa-rah eh-lo-him yeh-si-mehk
“May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.”
[From http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Blessings/Shabbat_Blessings/Blessing_Children/blessing_children.html accessed 28 Nov 14.]
18 Ya'akov had fallen in love with Rachel ….
This is an unfortunate idiom that is not necessarily indicated in the original. The Hebrew simply says “and Jacob loved Rachel” (וַיֶּאֶהַב יַעֲקֹב אֶת רָחֵל). The idea that he had “fallen in love” with her may be inferred by the context's timeline: verse 14 states that Jacob had only been there one month.
The basic problem with the idea of “falling” in love is that it indicates an action (falling) that is by nature fast, most assuredly accidental, unplanned, of short duration with an abrupt and usually unfortunate end.
If it is possible to “fall” in love, then it is just as possible to “fall” out of love.
What is more likely, more honest, and to the point, is that the individuals have fallen in lust.
As is true with any other quality of value, our first and preeminent example is that of the LORD.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in Him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through Him, the world might be saved. (John 3:16-17)
Although we should be careful about making doctrine out of symbolic meanings of letters, looking at the paleo- or ancient Hebrew meanings of the individual letters can help us understand the concepts of the words those letters form. The Hebrew word for “father” is אָב [ahv].
The א (aleph) is the first letter of the Hebrew aleph-bet. It is represented by the head of a bull or ox and symbolizes what is first, of most importance, strength, power.
The ב (bet / vet) is the second letter of the aleph-bet. It is represented by a house or tent and symbolizes the house, tent, building, as well as the household, family. ב is also used as a prefix meaning in, on, and with.
Forming the word “father,” these letters tell us that the father is to be the leader of his household, their source of strength, their provider and protector: all of which our perfect heavenly Father wants to be for each of us.
ה (hey – the fifth letter) literally means “behold” and symbolizes “to reveal” or “to show.” As a prefix ה is the definite article (“the”); as a suffix “what comes from” (or feminine). When ה comes in the middle of a word it can indicate what comes from the heart of something.
When ה is added to the middle of אָב we behold what comes from the heart of the father: אָהַב (love).
True love emanates from the heart of the Father, and always points us back to the heart of the Father.
Anything else is not real love; it a counterfeit, it is inferior. Not being God the Father centered it is in danger of being ungodly.
20 So Ya'akov worked seven years for Rachel, and it seemed only a few days to him, because he was so much in love with her.
This was a tremendous dowry for this young woman and shows just how much he valued her.
Johnny Lingo’s Eight Cow Wife – A Parable
When I sailed to Kiniwata, an island in the Pacific, I took along a notebook. After I got back it was filled with descriptions of flora and fauna, native customs and costumes. But the only note that still interests me is the one that says: “Johnny Lingo gave eight cows to Sarita’s father.” And I don’t need to have it in writing. I’m reminded of it every time I see a woman belittling her husband or a wife withering under her husband’s scorn. I want to say to the, “You should know why Johnny Lingo paid eight cows for his wife.”
Johnny Lingo wasn’t exactly his name. But that’s what Shenkin, the manager of the guest house on Kiniwata, called him. Shenkin was from Chicago and had a habit of Americanizing the names of the islanders. But Johnny was mentioned by many people in many connections. If I wanted to spend a few days on the neighboring island of Nurabandi, Johnny Lingo could put me up. If I wanted to fish, he could show me where the biting was best. If it was pearls I sought, he would bring me the best buys. The people of Kiniwata all spoke highly of Johnny Lingo. Yet when they spoke they smiled, and the smiles were slightly mocking.
“Get Johnny Lingo to help you find what you want, and let him do the bargaining,” advised Shenkin, “Johnny knows how to make a deal.”
“Johnny Lingo!” A boy seated nearby hooted the name and rocked with laughter.
“What goes on?” I demanded. “Everybody tells me to get in touch with Johnny Lingo and then breaks up. Let me in on the joke.”
“Oh, the people like to laugh,” Shenkin said, shrugging. “Johnny’s the brightest, the strongest young man in the islands. And for his age, the richest.”
“But if he’s all you say, what is there to laugh about?”
“Only one thing. Five months ago, at fall festival, Johnny came to Kiniwata and found himself a wife. He pain her father eight cows!”
I knew enough about island customs to be impressed. Two or three cows would buy a fair-to-middling wife, four or five a highly satisfactory one.
“Eight cows!” I said. “She must have beauty that takes your breath away.”
“She’s not ugly,” he conceded, and smiled a little. “But the kindest could only call Sarita plain. Sam Karoo, her father, was afraid she’d be left on his hands.”
“But then he got eight cows for her? Isn’t that extraordinary?”
“Never been paid before.”
“Yet you call Johnny’s wife plain?”
“I said it would be kindness to call her plain. She was skinny. She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked. She was scared of her own shadow.”
“Well,” I said, “I guess there’s just no accounting for love.”
“True enough,” agreed the man. “And that’s why the villagers grin when they talk about Johnny. They get special satisfaction from the fact that the sharpest trader in the islands was bested by dull old Sam Karoo.”
“No one knows and everyone wonders. All the cousins were urging Sam to ask for three cows and hold out for two until he was sure Johnny’d pay only one. Then Johnny came to Sam Karoo and said, ‘Father of Sarita, I offer eight cows for your daughter.’”
“Eight cows,” I murmured. “I’d like to meet this Johnny Lingo.”
I wanted fish. I wanted pearls. So the next afternoon I beached my boat at Nurabandi. And I noticed as I asked directions to Johnny’s house that his name brought no sly smile to the lips of his fellow Nurabandians. And when I met the slim, serious young man, when he welcomed me with grace to his home, I was glad that from his own people he had respect unmingled with mockery. We sat in his house and talked. Then he asked, “You come here from Kiniwata?”
“They speak of me on that island?”
“They say there’s nothing I might want that you can’t help me get.”
He smiled gently. “My wife is from Kiniwata.”
“Yes, I know.”
“They speak of her?”
“What do they say?”
“Why, just ….” The question caught me off balance. “They told me you were married at festival time.”
“Nothing more?” The curve of his eyebrows told me he knew there had to be more.
“They also say the marriage settlement was eight cows.” I paused. “They wonder why.”
“They ask that?” His eyes lighted with pleasure. “Everyone in Kiniwata knows about the eight cows?”
“And in Nurabandi everyone knows it too.” His chest expanded with satisfaction. “Always and forever, when they speak of marriage settlements, it will be remembered that Johnny Lingo paid eight cows for Sarita.”
“So that’s the answer,” I thought, “vanity.”
And then I saw her. I watched her enter the room to place flowers on the table. She stood still a moment to smile at the young man beside me. Then she went swiftly out again. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, the sparkle of her eyes all spelled a pride to which no one could deny her the right.
I turned back to Johnny Lingo and found him looking at me.
“You admire her?” he murmured.
“She … she’s glorious. But she’s not Sarita from Kiniwata,” I said.
“There’s only one Sarita. Perhaps she does not look the way they say she looked in Kiniwata.”
“She doesn’t. I heard she was homely. They all make fun of you because you let yourself be cheated by Sam Karoo.”
“You think eight cows were too many?” A smile slid over his lips.
“No. But how can she be so different?”
“Do you ever think,” he asked, “what it must mean to a woman to know that her husband has settled on the lowest price for which she can be bought? And then later, when the women talk, they boast of what their husbands paid for them. One says four cows, another maybe six. How does she feel, the woman who was sold for one or two? This could not happen to my Sarita.”
“Then you did this just to make your wife happy?”
“I wanted Sarita to be happy, yes. But I wanted more than that. You say she is different. This is true. Many things can change a woman. Things that happen inside, things that happen outside. But the thing that matters most is what she thinks about herself. In Kiniwata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands.”
“Then you wanted ….”
“I wanted to marry Sarita. I loved her and no other woman.”
“But …” I was close to understanding.
“But,” he finished softly, “I wanted an eight-cow wife.”
∗ Patricia McGerr, marriagePartnership, Fall 1988 (Used in that publication by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd, © 1965)
“it seemed only a few days” is reminiscent of Rivkah's charge that Ya'akov go to her brother Lavan and stay with him “a few days” (Gen. 27:44)
the term יָמִים אֲחָדִים [ya-mim akha-dim] = “a few days” is found in both verses
21 Ya'akov said to Lavan, “Give me my wife, since my time is finished, so that I can start living with her.” 22 Lavan gathered all the men of the place and gave a banquet. 23 In the evening he took Le'ah his daughter and brought her to Ya'akov, and he went in and slept with her. 24 Lavan also gave his slave-girl Zilpah to his daughter Le'ah as her slave-girl.
It is incredible that this deception took place.
That Laban did it
That Le'ah and Rachel went along with it
That none of the guests saw or said anything
That Jacob was tricked
How dark was it?
How much drinking was involved?
Was the bride taken away to “get her ready” for bed?
This incident has given rise to the custom of the groom lifting away the veil of his bride before exchanging vows. That way he can be sure he has the right woman.
25 In the morning Ya'akov saw that he was with Le'ah, and he said to Lavan. “What kind of thing is this that you've done to me? Didn't I work for you for Rachel? Why have you deceived me?” 26 Lavan answered, “In our place that isn't how it's done, to give the younger daughter before the firstborn. 27 Finish the marriage week of this one, and we'll give you the other one also in exchange for the work you will do for me during yet another seven years.”
Lavan claims that custom prohibited the younger daughter marrying before the elder.
While this is the practice in some cultures, it should have been made known somewhere along the line. That not even Rachel would have said something about it is interesting.
Or was it “customary” though not “obligatory” and Laban simply used the excuse to excact more work out of Jacob?
Sforno: The people here would not let me keep my word. (The Soncino Chumash, p.171)
What was it that had brought about this situation, that Le'ah was still unmarried?
Was it something about Le'ah, herself?
Was it something about Lavan that kept suitors away?
When two people marry, it is also the binding together of two families.
When we marry, we inherit all the in-laws and outlaws that come with them.
“Finish the marriage week of this one, and we'll give you the other one also in exchange for the work you will do for me during yet another seven years.”
Fulfill custom and we'll give you the other also
Sforno: Then the townspeople will agree. (The Soncino Chumash, p.171)
Lavan then goes right into another “deal” with Ya'akov, showing his interest in “free labor.”
Was his ploy with daughters a means to an end, the end being “free labor” from his son-in-law?
Marriage celebrations would last for a week and would include food and wine, cf e.g.
Shimshon (Samson) Judges 14:10-18
Yeshua at a wedding in Cana, John 2:1-10
28 Ya'akov agreed to this, so he finished her week, and Lavan gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. 29 Lavan also gave to his daughter Rachel his slave-girl Bilhah as her slave-girl. 30 So not only did Ya'akov go in and sleep with Rachel, but he also loved Rachel more than Le'ah. Then he served Lavan another seven years.
Ya'akov agree to this
Even though Laban's deceit and cultural allowances would have him married to more than one woman at a time, what choice did he have since he loved Rachel, and still wanted to marry her.
Jacob, in this passage, can be seen as a Messianic type. The number seven can represent completeness and perfection. Jacob was willing to work for Rachel's completeness and perfection. At first his efforts seem thwarted and another was “saved.” The doubling (seven years now times two) proves Jacob's resolve and determination, and make the achievement of his goals emphatic. His goal is achieved along with much fruitfulness.
We can only be complete and perfect in Messiah. His work has accomplished what we never could, He has saved us to the uttermost, and makes our lives fruitful.
He loved Rachel more than Le'ah
This would be an understatement! If there had been any feelings for Le'ah, Jacob could have made that known in the seven years he was working for Laban, but there is nothing recorded.