Read Genesis 29:1-30. How and why does God allow for Laban’s deception? What lessons did Jacob learn?
The first thing that Jacob sees when he arrives at the place of destination is a stone, perhaps a hint referring back to the stone of Bethel, which signified God’s presence (Genesis 28:18-19). It is this stone that will, after all, give Jacob the opportunity to interact with Rachel. When Jacob hears from the standing shepherds that Rachel is coming with her sheep to water her flock, he urges the shepherds to roll away the stone. They refuse, which gives Jacob the opportunity to do it alone, and to introduce himself to Rachel (Genesis 29:11).
Rachel responded by running to her family. This first contact between Jacob and Rachel was productive: “Jacob loved Rachel” (Genesis 29:18), so much that the seven years he worked for Laban in exchange for Rachel were like “a few days” (Genesis 29:20).
However, after these seven years, Jacob is deceived. On the night of the wedding, it is Leah, the elder sister, and not Rachel, whom Jacob discovers in his bed. Taking advantage of the confusion of the feast and of Jacob’s intense emotion and vulnerability, Laban had managed this trick. Interestingly, Jacob uses the same root word for “deceive” (Genesis 29:25, NKJV) that Isaac had used to characterize Jacob’s behavior toward his father and his brother (Genesis 27:35).
Note that the same thinking is also implied in the lex talionis (law of retaliation), “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Exodus 21:24; compare with Genesis 9:6), which forces the culprit to identify with his/her victim in that the culprit faces what the victim did. In a similar way, then, what Jacob had done to someone else had now been done to him.
Jacob understands now what it means to be the victim of deception. Ironically, God teaches Jacob about his own deception through Laban’s deception. Although Jacob as “deceiver” (Genesis 27:12) knows well what deception means, he is surprised when he is the victim of deception. Thus, he asks the question, “Why … have you deceived me?” (Genesis 29:25, NKJV), which shows that he knows deception is wrong.
|Though Jacob was the deceiver, he himself was the deceived. How can we learn to trust God when we don’t see “justice” being done, when we see people who do evil get away with it, or when we see the innocent suffer?|