Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Jacob Stays and Gets Offered Work -- Genesis 29:13-15

So when Laban heard the news of Jacob his sister’s son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Then he related to Laban all these things. Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” And he stayed with him a month. Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?”

What exactly did Rachel tell her father and family? Clearly for him, the connection with Jacob was related to the fact that this was his nephew, or more importantly his sister’s son. So Laban runs to meet him. He embraces and kisses him, and then brings him into the house. You do not ‘invite’ someone who is family to come to your house; you just simply and unequivocally ‘bring’ them in. We have made it a practice in our home to have a “you don’t ever need an invitation to come here” policy for our extended family including those close friends we’ve adopted as family. From my experience, I find this to be quite a rare approach to life today.

Now Jacob talks to Laban, bringing him up to speed on all the news from home. What exactly he told Laban about the two reasons for his trip, or the manner of his feelings about Rachel, we do not know. But he said enough to endear Laban to count him among his own bones and flesh and to allow him to stay as long as he wanted to. And the text says he stayed one month.

What he was doing to pass the days in that month is not clear. There are some that believe Jacob didn’t do much as he himself came from a very rich household and not used to hard work. But the next statement, at face value, seems to indicate that wasn’t the case. It is likely that as a guest, and based on his performance at the well, Jacob had been quite industrious around the house, serving and helping out wherever he could. So much so in fact that Laban valued his help and indicated that if he were to continue working for Laban as he had, then he should be paid something. In fact, he asked Jacob to name his price. Again we do not know Laban’s motive for his offer. Did he think that Jacob would be very reasonable and set a value on his wages far below anything Laban would be paying if he had hired the equivalent help locally? (Besides, he did have other sons, whom we’ll learn about later.) Was the offer made to keep Jacob around longer simply because he loved his nephew as family? Was he just trying to help Jacob financially as a young man? Or, did he have any plans for Jacob in relation to his daughters?

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