How Jacob and Rachel’s Bible Story Show's us God's Love in Action
- Jessica Brodie Contributing Writer
- 2021 5 Nov
Among the many love stories in the Bible is that of Jacob and Rachel, a tale of love at first sight and trickery, of enduring passion and jealous aim. Their story comprises a large portion of the Old Testament, and while on the surface it might not be easy to understand the deeper truth behind their complicated romance, it teaches us much about the vast and merciful love God has for each of us.
Who were Jacob and Rachel, and what can we learn from their story?
Who Were Jacob and Rachel?
Jacob was one of two twin sons born to Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac was the son of Abraham, the miracle child borne of Sarah in their old age. Throughout Scripture, we hear God often described as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deuteronomy 9:5, Matthew 22:32, Acts 3:13), in honor of God’s covenantal promise that He would make their children numerous and give them land and other great blessings.
We first meet Jacob in Genesis 25, when he is born as the second of twin boys who comes from the womb grasping his older brother’s heel. His death is recorded in Genesis 49—roughly half of the Book of Genesis.
From the start, Jacob in his youth is portrayed as a deceiver, which is what his name means. His twin Esau is a man of the land, a hunter, and the favorite of their father, while Jacob, who preferred to remain at home, was the favorite of their mother. Eventually, his mother helps him steal Esau’s birthright and blessing, and Jacob flees his brother’s wrath.
This is where we meet Rachel, the beautiful second daughter of Laban, Jacob’s relative in another land (Genesis 29). Jacob, by now humbled after his treachery and desperate for family ties and a place to call home, falls madly in love with Rachel.
Rachel’s older sister Leah was also unmarried, but their father, Laban, agreed to let Jacob work seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage (Genesis 29:18-20).
What Did Jacob Have to Do to Marry Rachel?
Jacob’s work for Laban wasn’t easy—it was hard, grueling labor. Jacob worked with Laban’s large flock of sheep for the entirety of those seven years. But he was more than willing to do this in order to marry his beloved Rachel. Indeed, the Bible tells us those seven years of labor “seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her” (Genesis 29:20).
Then, after seven years, Jacob was ready to receive his wife, Rachel—only to be tricked by his father-in-law.
Why Did Jacob Marry Leah?
After the bridal feast, Jacob thought he was consummating the marriage with Rachel, but when morning came he realized he’d been fooled. Laban had sent Leah in to lie with him (Genesis 29:23). Jacob, the deceiver, had become the deceived.
When Jacob confronted Laban, Laban was resolute—in their culture, the younger daughter never marries before the older daughter. Jacob, as he had already lain with Leah, was stuck. But Laban told Jacob he’d give Rachel, too, as his wife if Jacob agree to seven more years of labor.
Now Jacob had two wives, Leah and Rachel, both sisters, one he loved and one he did not.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Paffy69
What Happened to Jacob and Rachel?
What ensued was a love triangle that expanded to include the sisters’ maidservants and many years of bitter jealousy and competition.
Jacob continued to prefer Rachel. God, as a consolation to the unloved Leah, enabled Leah to become pregnant with four sons in quick succession—Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. But he prevented Rachel from conceiving.
In desperation over her barrenness, Rachel begged Jacob to lie with her servant, Bilhah, and thereby give her sons through this union (Genesis 30). Jacob agreed, and Bilhah went on to have two sons, Dan and Naphtali.
Leah, not to be outdone, realized she had stopped bearing children, so she gave over her servant, Zilpah, to Jacob, and Zilpah bore two sins: Gad and Asher (v. 11-13).
Then Leah became pregnant again and bore Issachar, Zebulun, and a daughter, Dinah.
Finally, the Bible tells us “God remembered Rachel” (Genesis 30:22) and allowed her to conceive. She gave birth to Joseph.
After these 11 sons and a daughter, Jacob took his family and returned to his homeland—after still more trickery, deception, and conflict with his cousin and father-in-law, Laban.
Ultimately, Jacob makes peace with his older brother, Esau. He wrestles with God one night and endures, and God renames him Israel, because as God said, “You have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” (Genesis 32:28). Later, God blessed him again, reiterating Jacob’s new name as Israel and renewing the same covenant God had made with Isaac and Abraham, Jacob’s father and grandfather.
En route to resettle with his father, Isaac, Rachel died giving birth to Jacob’s 12th son, Benjamin. Jacob buried her in a tomb near Bethlehem and set up a pillar that reportedly still remains (Genesis 35:16-20).
Those 12 sons went on to become the 12 tribes of Israel.
What Does This Story Teach Us?
There are a few key lessons in this story.
One, we can understand that—like Jacob—in spite of our sins and weaknesses, we can still be reconciled to God. Even though Jacob deceived his own family, he later embraced humility and was deceived himself. Yet he still kept on deceiving, until he ultimately repented and was welcomed and blessed by God.
Likewise, we too are never too far gone for the redeeming love of God. Through his son, Jesus, God gave us a path to redemption. In fact, Jesus said, “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7).
Two, God has a plan that He will fulfill despite our all-too-human orchestrations, manipulations, and petty jealousies. Despite Rachel and Leah’s sisterly squabbles and the addition of two more wives into their already crowded marriage, God produced God’s people through what looked like a mess. Their complicated union ultimately produced 12 sons who went on to be the 12 tribes of Israel, who God claimed as His own people. God’s purpose and plan prevails. As we are reminded in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Three, we can see the love of Christ in the sacrifice Jacob made willingly to claim Rachel as his wife. Jacob suffered to win Rachel. Similarly, we know God loves us so much He is willing to go to any lengths to win our hearts and souls for His kingdom. He loves us so much He “gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself, dying a brutal death on the cross to pay our sin-debt and thereby serve as the path to heaven for those of us who believe and follow Him. We, too, must willingly suffer for Christ, knowing our ultimate reward will come—just like Jacob “won” Rachel.
In spite of their complicated courtship and marriage, Jacob and Rachel had a deep and passionate love for each other. Likewise, in spite of our own sin that has the potential to forever separate us from God, God loves us deeply and so passionately that He chases us down in love to win us back to Him and all the good He has in store for us.
Jacob and Rachel’s love story pales in comparison to the mighty, never-ending love God our father has for us. No matter what.
Photo credit: Pexels/luizclas
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.