So, after Jacob has his dream of grandeur, he heads east toward his uncle’s. After a while he comes upon some guys watering their sheep and asks them if they know his uncle Laban; they say yes and point out his daughter Rachel who’s approaching the well to “water” her sheep. So, Jacob goes over, helps her water her sheep and kisses her. After he kisses her, he tells her who he is. (29:1-12)
Rachel tells her dad about Jacob, and instead of killing him for attacking his daughter he invites him to his home, where Jacob tells him that he is his nephew. Jacob stays there for a month free of charge. (29:13-14)
After a while Laban asks Jacob what he wants and what he has to offer. Jacob offers seven years of service for Rachel, even though Rachel has an older sister Leah. Laban accepts the deal and Jacob works for him for seven years. (29:15-20)
At the end of seven years Jacob says it’s time for Laban to honor his deal and give him his wife so he can “…go in unto her.” So Laban throws a big feast, and that night Jacob takes his mother’s cousin, Leah and goes “in unto her.” (29:21-23) and Laban gives Leah his maid. (29:24)
Well, Jacob doesn’t realize that he went in unto the wrong sister until morning. He goes to Laban and complains about being tricked. Laban tells him that the youngest daughter can’t get married before the older, but if Jacob will work for him for seven more years he can have Rachel too. Jacob agrees, so he marries his sister-in-law, and works for her dad/his great-uncle for seven more years. During this time, he treats Rachel better than he does Leah. (29:25-30)
God sees how Jacob is treating his first wife, so he makes Rachel Barren and makes Leah quite fertile. Leah ends up having four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. (29:31-35)
Rachel starts getting jealous of her sister/sister-in-law’s having children when she’s not. At first she gets all dramatic and blames Jacob for her not having any kids, but then decides that if her maid gives birth in her lap then it’s the same as if she gave birth. She has Jacob sleep with her maid Bilhah. (30:1-4)
Jacob starts sleeping with Rachel’s maid and she starts having kids, which Rachel, who doesn’t seem to understand the idea of childbirth, starts taking credit for. Bilhah has two sons in Rachel’s place: Dan, and Naphtali. (30:5-8)
Not to be outdone, Leah pimps her maid Zilpah to Jacob, and Zilpah has two sons: Gad, and Asher (30:9-13)
As time goes on Reuben, Leah’s oldest boy, finds some mandrakes. Rachel tells Leah that she can have her turn with Jacob in return for the magic roots. Leah takes her up on her offer, and as a result has three more children: two boys, Issachar, and Zebulun, as well as a girl, Dinah. (30:14-21)
Now that Rachel has mandrakes God allows her to have a kid whom she names Joseph. (30:22-24)
After Joseph is born Jacob decides that it’s time for him to get ready to move back home, so he makes a deal with his great-uncle/father-in-law to earn some livestock. Jacob then uses magical animal-husbandry to increase his own stock while depleting Laban’s stock. (30:25-43)
Jacob finds out that his brothers-in-law/cousins are upset about his using magic to increase his own herds and depleting their father’s. Jacob and God decide that it’s time for Jacob to run away back to his father’s land. Jacob gathers all his livestock, children and wives together, and tells his wives to take whatever they think should be theirs. Rachel does as Jacob suggested, and the Jacob clan takes off. (31:1-21) It takes Laban, Rachel and Leah’s father, three days to notice that the Jacob clan had fled. (31:22)
Seven days later, Laban catches up with Jacob and company, and God tells Laban not to talk with Jacob, so Laban goes to talk with Jacob. (31:23-25)
Laban asks Jacob why he snuck away without a goodbye and subtly mentions that he could kill him, but chooses not to because God told him not to. Jacob uses a version of his father’s and grandfather’s old excuse and says he did it because he thought Laban would take his wives. (31:26-31) Then Jacob claims ignorance of Rachel stealing anything. (31:32)
So Laban searches for the stuff that Rachel had stolen, but doesn’t find it. Then Jacob throws a hissy fit, and Laban says that even though everything Jacob has is technically his he will make a deal with him. (31:33-44) Laban says that as long as Jacob doesn’t mistreat his daughters, then he will let everything slide. Jacob agrees and promises to do right by the girls, and the two men part amicably. (31:45-55)
Jacob takes all of his ill-gotten gains and heads toward home. On the way he sends a messenger to Esau to let him know he’s coming. The messenger comes back and says Esau is headed their way with 400 men, and Jacob gets scared, so he divides his crew into two groups, and then has some men take a bunch of livestock and get between him and Esau as an offering for Esau, then he prays for help, and hides his family. (32:1-23)
Then Jacob spends the night wrestling with some angel who decides to change Jacob’s name to Israel. (32:24-32)
Jacob meets with Esau in the morning, and introduces his family. Esau it seems was happy to see him and had brought the men to help Jacob defend his family and livestock, so Jacob had been scared of nothing. (33:1-15)
Then Esau goes home, and Jacob sets up camp in Shechem and builds an altar which he names Eleloheisrael. (33:16-20)
The local prince sees Dinah, rapes her, then decides that he would like to marry her, so he tells his dad to get her for him. (34:1-4)
So the boy’s dad meets with Jacob, and Jacob says that if every man in the city will get circumcised then he’ll agree to the marriage. The king says ok, and has every man get circumcised. Three days later when all the men of the city are hurting from the crude penile surgery, Jacob and his men go in and kill all of the men, take the women and children as slaves, and destroy everything else. He does this because he doesn’t want his children breeding outside of the family. (34:5-31)
God tells Jacob to go to Bethel. Jacob has his clan change their clothes and hand over all their jewelry and gods, which Jacob stashes under an oak tree by the city that he had just destroyed. (35:1-4)
As Jacob travels, everyone leaves him alone since he had already destroyed one city, and Jacob eventually arrives in Luz where he had started his run from Esau. While there, God promises him all the stuff that he had promised his father and grandfather, they bury Rebekah’s dead nurse, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, even though an angel had already done that, obviously without telling God about it, and Jacob renames the place Bethel having completely forgotten that he had already renamed the place Bethel before, and that he had gone there since God told him to go to Bethel. (35:5-15)
After leaving Bethel, Rachel dies giving birth to a son that she names Benoni. Jacob doesn’t like the name and changes it to Benjamin, then buries Rachel in Bethlehem, before heading out again “beyond” Edar. (35:16-21)
While near Edar, Reuben Jacob’s oldest boy, gets his late-mother’s maid Bilhah pregnant and she gives birth to a son who doesn’t get a name. (35:22-26)
Since the family tree gets quite convoluted in the preceding chapters I have include an updated family tree through Jacob (below left), and then a separate family tree for Jacob and his immediate family (below right). (Click on either table to see a larger image if need be) With explanations as needed below the trees.
Updates on the Abrahamic Family tree:
- Rachel and Leah are Jacob’s second cousins/wives
- Rachel is Leah’s sister/sister-in-law. The reverse is also true.
- Jacob has 13 children and 1 grandchild. 4 of the children and the grandchild are born out of wed-lock
- Bilhah is Rachel’s maid, Jacob’s mistress, and Reuben’s servant-with-benefits.
- Bilhah is the mother of two of Jacob’s children and the mother of his grandchild.
- Bilhah is Reuben’s aunt, and the mother of his child.
We learn about Esau’s huge family; more incest (of course); God kills some of Jacob grandkids; and we get into the story of Jacob’s son Joseph (of “coat of many colors” fame)