Thursday, November 05, 2009

Laban’s Daughters Respond -- Genesis 31:14-16


Rachel and Leah said to him, "Do we still have any portion or inheritance in our father's house? Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and has also entirely consumed our purchase price. Surely all the wealth which God has taken away from our father belongs to us and our children; now then, do whatever God has said to you."

You have just poured your feelings out to your wives about their father and told them that you want to take the families away and back to the land of your parents. Now you wait for their response. Just how will Rachel and Leah react? What’s the best you could hope for? What’s the worse? What’s the godly response?

As I read this short passage, I noticed a number of interesting things. Note that except for the first phrase, the rest of the words in these three verses are all in quotations. But notice the first phrase before the initial quotation mark. As you do that, you may be challenged about your beliefs regarding how Scripture is to be interpreted at times. Take a closer look. The Bible says, both Rachel and Leah said to him. And then my New American Standard Bible at least proceeds to give us sixty (60) words that these two sisters reportedly uttered in unison out loud. Now, I do not know about you, but personally while I believe that God could have had them do exactly that, I believe it is unlikely that this was indeed the case. There is no real need for it to be the case. Is the Bible less true because it may not be the case? I do not think so. What I believe the author is trying to get across to us is that both Rachel and Leah expressed similar feelings and ideas and basically, each in their own way, and one after the other, responded to Jacob along the same lines. So the quotation does not need to be taken literally as spoken in unison by the two women. But we would miss out on Scripture’s intent if we failed to agree that both women were of one mind as to their response to their husband. The reality is that this example of Scripture text is one of many where we need to take a similar approach.

And what exactly was the reaction of the sisters? Furthermore, was it a surprise to Jacob? It certainly was a surprise to me. Maybe I have been tainted by the awareness of so many women who today would not yield agreeably to those types of wishes from their husbands. But Rachel and Leah did so for their own reasons. This text gives us some insight to the questions we asked earlier in our study when we wondered how Rachel felt being passed over by her father Laban in order for him to marry off Leah first. Or, how Leah may have felt to be part of a marriage of trickery knowing that her husband Jacob was getting her instead of Rachel, the woman he expected and loved. Perhaps they responded the way they did because they too had realized, before Jacob told them, how their father had cheated him time and time again. So they respond the way they did.

The first concern that was verbally identified was whether or not either of them had any inheritance coming to them from their father. What exactly did that mean? The way the question is asked and especially when considered with the next question “are we not considered as foreigners to him?” clearly implies that Rachel and Leah have not been happy campers as Laban’s daughters. When a child considers him/herself a “foreigner” to his/her father, the implication is that the father has stopped being a true father. He stops showing any fatherly affection towards his child. A modern day example comes to mind and it is that of Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza’s father in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and later a play/movie entitled My Fair Lady. Clearly, Alfred P. wanted to be known as Eliza’s father only when she had came across some considerable means of financial support.

As far as Laban was concerned, his daughters no longer considered him the father he should have been. Although they were not looking for any financial gain from him, it ws clear he had nothing more to offer them emotionally or socially. In fact, they felt used by him, considering themselves as having been sold in a marriage for his own welfare. Rachel and Leah feel that way since Laban had been handsomely rewarded for them over and over again through Jacob’s labors.

Jacob’s wives believed the wealth they now had that originally may have stemmed from their father, was indeed theirs, and his losses were indeed warranted. They believed this was God’s doing. They saw His hand in all this and they now count their blessings, not the least of which was their households and children. Because of this, both Rachel and Leah give their whole-hearted consent to Jacob following the voice of God.

Here in these verses, we see a family that has strived for many years (from Jacob’s striving with his brother Esau and then with his uncle Laban and his cousins to Rachel and Leah striving and competing for Jacob’s affection and for children) becoming a family that is finally united in God’s purpose. Together they agree to move back to the land of Jacob’s family. What a goal for all of us with our own families. But it takes for each of us to see in fact the blessings that God has given us and what He has brought us through and protected us from before this can happen where it currently does not exist.

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