Connections 07.30.2023: Jacob and Laban

Genesis 29:15-28

We could call today’s lesson “The Trickster Is Tricked.” Jacob has deceived his twin brother Esau, fled from his anger, received an undeserved blessing from God, and moved in with his uncle Laban since he can’t go home. While God has plans to bring good out of Jacob’s trickery (see last week’s lesson), he must still suffer some consequences for his behavior.

As we modern readers study Genesis 29, we might be struck by the way Laban uses his daughters, Leah and Rachel, to bait and trap Jacob. It is appropriate to consider what it was like to live as a woman in those times and to explore the long history of women’s oppression. But our lesson’s main focus is on the two men and how Laban tricks the trickster. In that respect, the story has humor and a sense of justice.

First, Jacob isn’t just using the guest room at his relatives’ home for a while until his brother calms down. It turns out he has moved in for the long term. After a month of working for his uncle (see v. 14), Laban recognizes that maybe his nephew deserves some form of payment for his labor. Instead of money or land or animals, Jacob asks to have the “graceful and beautiful” Rachel as his wife (v. 17). His passion must be extreme, because Laban manages to get seven years of labor out of him before finally offering his daughter’s hand in marriage.

And this is where the trickster is tricked: Laban actually gives him his daughter Leah instead of Rachel, and somehow Jacob doesn’t realize this until the morning after the wedding (v. 25). Jacob’s obtuseness aside, the trick works because Laban gets another seven years of labor from his nephew in exchange for marrying Rachel as well (vv. 27-28).

Jacob deserved this, didn’t he? It certainly seems so. But he still had lessons to learn about favoritism. The fact that he “loved Rachel more than Leah” (v. 30)—and treated his wives accordingly—eventually led to family dysfunction, betrayal, and heartbreak. We can read the tumultuous story of Jacob’s twelve sons—six by Leah, two by Rachel, two by Rachel’s maid Bilhah, and two by Leah’s maid Zilpah (Gen 35:23)—in Genesis 35–50.

God can bless us and still hold us responsible for our actions. Jacob’s story is proof of that.


• How would you describe Jacob at this point in his story? Do you like him? Why or why not?
• What do you think of Laban’s hospitality? How does his deceit of Jacob change that?
• How do you feel about the idea that what goes around comes around? Is that what happens to Jacob in this story?
Last week, we read about God’s blessing and promise to Jacob. What does today’s lesson mean for that blessing?
• What are some ways that God has blessed you while still holding you responsible for your actions?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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