Jacob and Laban Bible Story

Jacob and Laban Bible Story

After receiving the patriarchal blessing from his father Isaac, Jacob set out on a long journey from Canaan to the region of Paddan-aram. He was following his parents’ instructions to find a wife from among their relatives, rather than marrying a Canaanite woman as his brother Esau had done.

When Jacob arrived in Paddan-aram after traveling over 500 miles, he came across a well where shepherds had gathered their flocks. As Jacob talked with the shepherds, his cousin Rachel arrived to water her father Laban’s sheep.

Jacob and Laban Bible Story

Jacob was immediately struck by Rachel’s beauty and kind heart. He eagerly introduced himself and told her he was the son of Rebekah, her father’s sister. Rachel excitedly ran home to tell her father Laban about this relative who had arrived from Canaan.

Laban came rushing out to greet his nephew Jacob, sweeping him into a huge hug. “You are truly my own flesh and blood!” Laban exclaimed with joy. For the next month, Jacob stayed as an honored guest with Laban and his family.

However, Laban soon realized how gifted Jacob was as a shepherd and livestock breeder. He didn’t want to lose such a valuable worker. So Laban proposed that Jacob stay on and work for him, asking, “Just because you’re a relative, why should you work for me for nothing? What would you like me to pay you?”

Now Jacob had fallen deeply in love with Rachel, Laban’s youngest daughter. He told Laban, “I will work for you seven years for the hand of Rachel in marriage. That is the bride-price I’ll pay for her.”

Laban agreed to the arrangement, so Jacob became like part of Laban’s family, laboring as his shepherding herdsman. The seven years seemed like just a few days to Jacob because of his love for Rachel.

When the seven years passed, Jacob asked Laban to give him his promised wife Rachel so they could be married. So Laban hosted a huge wedding celebration and brought his daughter into the bridal tent after feasting late into the night.

However, in the secret darkness of the tent, Laban had secretly substituted Leah, his oldest daughter, in the place of Rachel as the bride for Jacob! By morning, Jacob realized he had been terribly deceived, saying to Laban, “What have you done to me? I worked for you to marry Rachel, didn’t I? Why did you deceive me?”

Laban explained it was their cultural tradition that the older daughter had to be married off first before the younger one could wed. He insisted they have another week of celebrating, then Jacob could take Rachel as his second wife in exchange for seven more years of work.

Though angry at Laban’s trickery, Jacob still loved Rachel so much that he agreed to work another seven years just to marry her too. So a week later, Rachel became Jacob’s second wife after Leah.

Over the next years, both Leah and Rachel struggled with difficulty getting pregnant. Leah gave birth to four sons – Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. But Rachel remained childless, which caused her great sorrow and embarrassment. 

In desperation, both wives even gave their personal maidservants to Jacob as additional wives, hoping the maidservants’ children could count as their own. Bilhah gave birth to Dan and Naphtali on behalf of Rachel, while Zilpah had Gad and Asher for Leah.

Finally God showed miraculous favor to Rachel, allowing her to conceive her own children. First she gave birth to Joseph, which means “he will add” another son. Then later she had Benjamin, though the birth was so difficult and draining that it cost Rachel her life. Jacob buried his beloved wife Rachel along the road to Bethlehem.

After working a total of twenty years for Laban, God instructed Jacob to leave with his four wives, twelve sons, and all his acquired property to return back to the promised land of Canaan. However, Laban begged Jacob to stay since he had become so prosperous through Jacob’s efforts.

Jacob craftily struck a deal where all the streaked, speckled and dark-colored animals born to Laban’s flocks would become his wages. Using some traditional breeders’ tricks like putting streaked branches in the animals’ watering troughs, all the newborn lambs and goats were streaked or dark, becoming Jacob’s pay.

Over the next six years, Jacob’s flocks and wealth increased tremendously due to this breeding technique. When Laban’s sons realized Jacob was becoming richer than their father, jealousy and resentment grew between Laban’s household and Jacob’s family.

God appeared to Jacob in a dream, saying “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” So Jacob gathered his four wives, twelve sons, all his possessions, and the great flocks he had built up over twenty years to make the long journey home to Canaan.

When Laban realized Jacob had slipped away with his daughters, grandchildren and everything, he angrily took a group of men and chased after them for seven days through the hills. But God appeared to Laban in a dream with a warning not to harm Jacob. 

Eventually Laban caught up with Jacob and a tense confrontation occurred, with both men accusing each other of various offenses and deceptions over the years. Finally, they decided to make a peace covenant between their families, with a pillar of stones as a memorial marking the boundary neither side should cross.

Jacob named the pillar “Galeed” meaning “witness heap”, while Laban called it “Jegar-sahadutha” in his Aramaic language. They sealed their covenant with animal sacrifices and a meal together on the hill overlooking the border.

After twenty tumultuous years working for his uncle Laban, Jacob could now return to the promised land his forefathers Abraham and Isaac had dwelled in. He went his own way with his four wives, twelve sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel, and all the great wealth and property he had attained through God’s faithfulness.

This story reveals how God grew Jacob’s faith and character over many difficult years of trial and testing. Though Laban tried to take advantage of Jacob through deception and manipulation at every turn, God ultimately blessed Jacob by giving him a large family with twelve sons from the lineage of the Messiah would come through.

By staying faithful to God in the face of adversity from Laban’s schemes, Jacob held onto the covenant blessings promised to Abraham and Isaac – that his offspring would become a multitude of nations to inherit the promised land. Like Jacob, we too must endure lies, injustice and setbacks while steadfastly trusting God’s purposes to prevail in the end.