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Genesis 29:21-35

Context

29:21 Finally Jacob said 1  to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time of service is up. 2  I want to have marital relations with her.” 3  29:22 So Laban invited all the people 4  of that place and prepared a feast. 29:23 In the evening he brought his daughter Leah 5  to Jacob, 6  and Jacob 7  had marital relations with her. 8  29:24 (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) 9 

29:25 In the morning Jacob discovered it was Leah! 10  So Jacob 11  said to Laban, “What in the world have you done to me! 12  Didn’t I work for you in exchange for Rachel? Why have you tricked 13  me?” 29:26 “It is not our custom here,” 14  Laban replied, “to give the younger daughter in marriage 15  before the firstborn. 29:27 Complete my older daughter’s bridal week. 16  Then we will give you the younger one 17  too, in exchange for seven more years of work.” 18 

29:28 Jacob did as Laban said. 19  When Jacob 20  completed Leah’s bridal week, 21  Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 22  29:29 (Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.) 23  29:30 Jacob 24  had marital relations 25  with Rachel as well. He loved Rachel more than Leah, so he worked for Laban 26  for seven more years. 27 

The Family of Jacob

29:31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, 28  he enabled her to become pregnant 29  while Rachel remained childless. 29:32 So Leah became pregnant 30  and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, 31  for she said, “The Lord has looked with pity on my oppressed condition. 32  Surely my husband will love me now.”

29:33 She became pregnant again and had another son. She said, “Because the Lord heard that I was unloved, 33  he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon. 34 

29:34 She became pregnant again and had another son. She said, “Now this time my husband will show me affection, 35  because I have given birth to three sons for him.” That is why he was named Levi. 36 

29:35 She became pregnant again and had another son. She said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” That is why she named him Judah. 37  Then she stopped having children.

1 tn Heb “and Jacob said.”

2 tn Heb “my days are fulfilled.”

3 tn Heb “and I will go in to her.” The verb is a cohortative; it may be subordinated to the preceding request, “that I may go in,” or it may be an independent clause expressing his desire. The verb “go in” in this context refers to sexual intercourse (i.e., the consummation of the marriage).

4 tn Heb “men.”

5 tn Heb “and it happened in the evening that he took Leah his daughter and brought her.”

sn His daughter Leah. Laban’s deception of Jacob by giving him the older daughter instead of the younger was God’s way of disciplining the deceiver who tricked his older brother. D. Kidner says this account is “the very embodiment of anti-climax, and this moment a miniature of man’s disillusion, experienced from Eden onwards” (Genesis [TOTC], 160). G. von Rad notes, “That Laban secretly gave the unloved Leah to the man in love was, to be sure, a monstrous blow, a masterpiece of shameless treachery…It was certainly a move by which he won for himself far and wide the coarsest laughter” (Genesis [OTL], 291).

6 tn Heb “to him”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

7 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

8 tn Heb “went in to her.” The expression “went in to” in this context refers to sexual intercourse, i.e., the consummation of the marriage.

9 tn Heb “and Laban gave to her Zilpah his female servant, to Leah his daughter [for] a servant.” This clause gives information parenthetical to the narrative.

10 tn Heb “and it happened in the morning that look, it was Leah.” By the use of the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”), the narrator invites the reader to view the scene through Jacob’s eyes.

11 tn Heb “and he said”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

12 tn Heb What is this you have done to me?” The use of the pronoun “this” is enclitic, adding emphasis to the question: “What in the world have you done to me?”

13 sn The Hebrew verb translated tricked here (רָמָה, ramah) is cognate to the noun used in Gen 27:35 to describe Jacob’s deception of Esau. Jacob is discovering that what goes around, comes around. See J. A. Diamond, “The Deception of Jacob: A New Perspective on an Ancient Solution to the Problem,” VT 34 (1984): 211-13.

14 tn Heb “and Laban said, ‘It is not done so in our place.’” The order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons.

15 tn Heb “to give the younger.” The words “daughter” and “in marriage” are supplied in the translation for clarity and for stylistic reasons.

16 tn Heb “fulfill the period of seven of this one.” The referent of “this one” has been specified in the translation as “my older daughter” for clarity.

sn Bridal week. An ancient Hebrew marriage ceremony included an entire week of festivities (cf. Judg 14:12).

17 tn Heb “this other one.”

18 tn Heb “and we will give to you also this one in exchange for labor which you will work with me, still seven other years.”

sn In exchange for seven more years of work. See C. H. Gordon, “The Story of Jacob and Laban in the Light of the Nuzi Tablets,” BASOR 66 (1937): 25-27; and J. Van Seters, “Jacob’s Marriages and Ancient Near Eastern Customs: A Reassessment,” HTR 62 (1969): 377-95.

19 tn Heb “and Jacob did so.” The words “as Laban said” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

20 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

21 tn Heb “the seven of this one.” The referent of “this one” has been specified in the translation as Leah to avoid confusion with Rachel, mentioned later in the verse.

22 tn Heb “and he gave to him Rachel his daughter for him for a wife.” The referent of the pronoun “he” (Laban) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

23 tn Heb “and Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his female servant, for her for a servant.”

24 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

25 tn Heb “went in also to Rachel.” The expression “went in to” in this context refers to sexual intercourse, i.e., the consummation of the marriage.

26 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Laban) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

27 tn Heb “and he loved also Rachel, more than Leah, and he served with him still seven other years.”

28 tn Heb “hated.” The rhetorical device of overstatement is used (note v. 30, which says simply that Jacob loved Rachel more than he did Leah) to emphasize that Rachel, as Jacob’s true love and the primary object of his affections, had an advantage over Leah.

29 tn Heb “he opened up her womb.”

30 tn Or “Leah conceived” (also in vv. 33, 34, 35).

31 sn The name Reuben (רְאוּבֵן, rÿuven) means “look, a son.”

32 tn Heb “looked on my affliction.”

sn Leah’s explanation of the name Reuben reflects a popular etymology, not an exact one. The name means literally “look, a son.” Playing on the Hebrew verb “look,” she observes that the Lord has “looked” with pity on her oppressed condition. See further S. R. Driver, Genesis, 273.

33 tn Heb “hated.” See the note on the word “unloved” in v. 31.

34 sn The name Simeon (שִׁמְעוֹן, shimon) is derived from the verbal root שָׁמַע (shama’) and means “hearing.” The name is appropriate since it is reminder that the Lord “heard” about Leah’s unloved condition and responded with pity.

35 tn Heb “will be joined to me.”

36 sn The name Levi (לֵוִי, levi), the precise meaning of which is debated, was appropriate because it sounds like the verb לָוָה (lavah, “to join”), used in the statement recorded earlier in the verse.

37 sn The name Judah (יְהוּדָה, yÿhudah) means “he will be praised” and reflects the sentiment Leah expresses in the statement recorded earlier in the verse. For further discussion see W. F. Albright, “The Names ‘Israel’ and ‘Judah’ with an Excursus on the Etymology of Todah and Torah,” JBL 46 (1927): 151-85; and A. R. Millard, “The Meaning of the Name Judah,” ZAW 86 (1974): 216-18.



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