The Story of Jacob and Rachel

As Jacob went on his way to the East he came to a well that was out in the field, near which lay three great flocks of sheep. And there was a great stone on top of the well. And the men who took care of the flocks would roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and give drink to the sheep. Then they would roll the stone back to the mouth of the well.

Jacob said to the men, Whence do ye come?

And they told him.

And he said, Know ye Laban, the son of Nahor?

And they said, We know him.

And he said, Is he well?

And they said, He is well. And there is one of his girls now, Rachel, and she comes this way with her sheep.

While Jacob yet spake with the men, Rachel came up with the sheep that she took care of. And when Jacob saw her, he came near, and drew the stone from the mouth of the well, and gave drink to the whole of her flock.

And as soon as he told her that he was Rebekah’s son, she ran home with the news.

And when Laban heard that his sister’s son was near, he ran out to meet him, and threw his arms round his neck and kissed him, and brought him to his house.

And Jacob dwelt there for the space of a month.

And Laban said to Jacob, Thou art bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, but it is not right for thee to serve me for nought. Tell me how much I shall pay thee?

Now Laban had two girls—Leah and Rachel. And Jacob was in love with Rachel; and he said to Laban, I will serve thee seven years if thou wilt give me Rachel for a wife.

And Laban said it would please him to have Jacob for a son-in-law, and Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days, so great was his love for her. And at the end of that time Jacob said to Laban, Give me my wife, for I have served thee my full time.

And Laban made a feast, and brought in Leah to be Jacob’s wife. In those days the bride wore a veil, and the man she wed could not look on her face till the next day.

So Jacob did not find out this trick till the next morn, and then he came in great wrath to Laban and said, What is this thou hast done to us? Did I not serve with thee for Rachel? and why did’st thou cheat me?

And Laban said, In our land the firstborn must wed the first. Serve me seven years more, and thou shalt have Rachel for a wife. And Jacob did so, and though he dwelt with both—which was thought to be no sin in those days—he was far more fond of Rachel than he was of Leah.

Leah bore Jacob a host of sons, but it was years ere Rachel had a child. And this made her sad. But at last she had a son, and she called his name Joseph. And as soon as Joseph was born Jacob told Laban to give him his wives and all the goods that he owned, and let him go back to the land he came from.

But Laban begged him to stay. He had found, he said, that the Lord had blest him for Jacob’s sake, and he might have some of the land and the flocks if he would still serve him.

So Jacob took care of Laban’s flocks, and had sheep and goats of his own, and things went well for a time.

But one day Jacob heard Laban’s sons say some hard things of him, and he saw that Laban did not give him the kind looks that he used to. And he felt that the time had come for them to part. And the Lord told Jacob to go back to the land he came from, and he would deal well with him. And Jacob took his wives, and the flocks and the goods he owned, and set out for the land of Canaan.

Jacob sent one of his men to Esau to say that he was on his way home, and was in hopes he would find grace in his sight.

And the man brought back word that Esau was on his way to meet Jacob with a large force of men. And Jacob thought of the wrongs he had done his brother, and was in great fear of him.

He sought the help of God, and God told him what to do. And Jacob sent great droves of sheep and goats, and ewes and rams, and camels and colts, and cows, and choice ones from all his live stock, as a gift to Esau.

And at night, when no one else was near, a man whose face shone with a strange light, came to Jacob and wound his arms round him and tried to throw him. And the two strove so hard that Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint.

And as it grew light the man said, Let me go, for the day breaks.

Jacob said, I will not let thee go till thou hast blest me.

And the man said, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.

And he said, Thy name shall be no more Jacob but Israel, for as a prince thou hast power with God and with men.

And when he had blest Jacob he went his way. And Jacob gave the place the name of Peniel, for, said he, I have seen God face to face and my life has been spared. For Jacob knew by this that Esau would not kill him.

When Jacob was an old, old man Rachel bore him a son; and they called his name Benjamin. And Rachel died. And it was hard for Jacob to have her die and leave him, for his love for her was great, and she was a good wife to him.

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