Genesis 29:15-30 (Seven Years and Seven Days, From the Law to Grace)

Genesis 29:15-30
Seven Years and Seven Days
From the Law to Grace

 Introduction: We’re in our 68th Genesis sermon and each one has reminded us that every single word in the Bible finds its fulfillment in Jesus. We could ask ourselves today, why is this story included. In all honesty, unless it’s showing us a picture of something else, it doesn’t really give us anything for guidance in our own life.

Jacob married two wives. That’s all that we need to know. Esau married two wives too and it didn’t include all the details. But here we’re told about Leah and it focuses on one of her defects, her eyes; they’re weak. Then it stresses the beauty of Rachel. Why?

Of what importance is it that Jacob spent seven years working for one wife only to find that he was given the other? It’s a fun read, but why do we need to know? And then Rachel is given right afterwards and the work for her follows the marriage instead of preceding it. Why?

I assure you, the pictures these things make show us of God’s great love for us by sending Jesus to do what we could not have done. And then just before finishing His work, He went though seven days of trial and sadness before the morning of joy came. Let’s look together at what God wants us to learn…

Text Verse: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. Psalm 32:1, 2

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus… it’s all about Jesus. When we strut around, glorying in our selection of getting to go to heaven and enjoy eternal splendor, we often forget that this blessing involved someone else’s work, trial, and death. May we never forget this and so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. Seven Years for a Beauty

The last verse we saw in our last Genesis sermon said, “‘And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.’ And he stayed with him for a month.” Laban, knowing that Jacob is his kin acknowledged that he was his bone and his flesh.

Because they are of the same stock and group of people; they are family and so he allowed Jacob to stay as a guest for an entire month. Jesus came to His own stock and people as well.

In John 1 we read this –

He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Jesus dwelt among us for a time just as Jacob dwelt with the house of Laban. This is where we start up today…

15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?

We can’t make the error here that most commentators do which is that Jacob showed up at Laban’s door with nothing to pay for his time or nothing with which to obtain a bride. There is no doubt that he went along with others on his journey.

He also would have brought enough to pay a bride price, just as Abraham’s servant did. Isaac and Rebekah went through this same thing about 100 years earlier and they knew what was required in order to make this type of agreement.

However, Laban in an attempt to look like a helpful chap offers him a job, but may have hoped for Jacob to decline and offer a bride price to obtain the wife. Even if not, Jacob has now spent a month with Laban and it’s probably apparent that he is a hard working person or he wouldn’t have said anything to him.

But at the same time, we see the same Laban that we saw many years earlier when Abraham’s servant came to get Isaac’s bride. He is a man of the world and he has his eyes set on profit, not the well being of Jacob. His selfish attitude is seen in this verse.

It is disguised behind a veil of acting kindly toward Jacob, but what he is doing is turning any possible gratitude that Jacob would feel for being taken in and instead making the proposition that he be hired like any other servant.

Whatever Laban is thinking, we have to consider Esau’s threats to kill Jacob. Jacob is probably just taking everything one day at a time and is in no hurry to do anything that would necessitate him going back to Canaan. Now Laban forces his hand.

Jacob, becoming a servant of Laban is picturing Jesus coming as a servant. Jacob will suffer through hardships, Jesus suffered through hardship. Jacob worked for a wife whom he received after his work and then received a wife for whom he would later work. This looks to Jesus’ work fulfilling the law and then bestowing grace.

All that we see is given to show us these things. The next words start us on the path…

16 Now Laban had two daughters:

Once again we see the number two being important in the account. The Bible time and time again uses the number two to signify a difference – usually of things at enmity or contrasting with each other. This time it’s no different.

At the same time that two shows a contrast, it will normally also show that the two contrasting things confirm each other. The two testaments of the Bible contrast – the Law verses Grace, but they confirm the word of God. Daytime contrasts with nighttime and yet they confirm the duration of a day, and so on.

Laban has two daughters who will contrast, and yet they will confirm each other as we will see.

16 (con’t) the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.

Leah means “wearied” or “labored” and Rachel means “ewe lamb.” Laban may have had other daughters, but these are of marrying age and are as yet unmarried. The others, if any, would be either married or too young to marry. The two that the Bible focuses on are these – Leah and Rachel.

Their names and how they become Jacob’s wives are important to help us understand the work Jesus did for each of us.

17 Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance.

Here we see the contrast between the two and yet here we will see the confirmation which results. It’s an astonishing thing to think of what Jesus did for us, but it’s pictured in these two girls. Leah pictures the law. Her name means “wearied” and it is the rote following of the law which actually wearies the Lord.

Isaiah tells us this and uses the root of Leah’s name to show us –

“Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.” Isaiah 1:14

The word for weary here in Isaiah is the word nileti which is derived from laah – it is tied to the name Leah.

Secondly, the word for her eyes which is translated “delicate” here is rakhot. It literally means ” weak.” The NKJV is being polite.

In the book of Hebrews chapter 7, the law, like Leah’s eyes, is described as weak –

18 “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (NIV)

Rachel on the other hand is called yephat toar v’phat mareh – “was beautiful of form and was beautiful of face.”

Rachel then pictures the gospel, the New Covenant of Christ. Paul describes it to us in Romans 10 –

And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (v15)

If the feet are beautiful, then how much more the gospel. None of this is stretching what we are to learn. We are shown the contrast and yet the confirmation of the work of Jesus in these two women as it will become apparent in the verses ahead.

18 Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”

The question that could arise is, if Rachel is a picture of the gospel, then why would works be included. It’s a good, but misdirected question. The gospel is good news which tells us we’re saved by grace through faith and that works are not involved in that process.

But it is also the case that the gospel resulted from work, just not ours. Jacob here pictures Jesus. The gospel is our faith in His work. Jacob is willing to work for Rachel, Jesus was willing to work for the gospel. Jacob’s love for Rachel is realized in Jesus’ love for us –

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5

While we’re looking at this verse, I want to read you one of the many commentaries which incorrectly interprets what is going on here. This is from the great Bible scholar Albert Barnes –

“…in his destitute state he could produce no dowry, and it was the custom of those times for the father to receive a portion for his daughter, and not to give one with her.”

Jacob is not in any way in a “destitute state.” He is 77 years old, the son of promise, the inheritor of Isaac’s estate, and he traveled with others to Padan Aram. The seven years of work which he agrees to as a dowry is not meant to show that he is destitute.

It is meant to keep him away from Esau. It is Esau’s threats which precipitated his move in the first place. Jacob is looking for a wife and obtaining her in a way which will keep him safe, employed, and on Laban’s good side during the process. When the 7 years are over, he will be 84 years old.

As incredible as it may seem, this verse then is a picture of a woman who is found in Luke chapter 2 –

36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

Anna, means “Grace” is the daughter of Phanuel, meaning “Face of God”. She was 84 years old after having been married for 7 years. She was from the tribe of Asher, which means “Happy.” The work of Jesus Christ is available to us by grace. It restores to us the face of God and which brings us our blessed state, our happiness; the veil is lifted.

All of these names, ages, places, and families are given to show us what God is doing and what the result of His Son’s work is.

19 And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.”

Laban is probably very happy about the arrangement. He’s getting seven years of work out of Jacob and his daughter will marry someone trustworthy and of close kinship. He is probably thinking he may benefit from this in other ways as well.

Jacob never asks for anything else, such as lodging or food and so this tells us that he didn’t come in a destitute state. Rather, the only thing he is receiving for his work is Laban’s daughter. In an attempt to seem gracious, Laban agrees and says “Stay with me.”

Knowing the type of person Laban is, as we saw in earlier chapters, it’s probable that he already has in mind what he is going to do, but he keeps his intent secret for now.

20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.

Seven is the number of spiritual perfection. If you ever want to see an astonishing breakdown of it or any other number in the Bible, you can read Numbers in Scripture by EW Bullinger. There he details so much information, it’s almost impossible to grasp.

Jacob’s seven years of working for Rachel picture Jesus’ spiritually perfect work on our behalf. Just as Jacob’s time was served for a wife he loved, Jesus served for the wife He loved too.

II. Deceiving the Deceiver

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her.”

Jacob’s time, when it was past, seemed like a few days, but his time is past and now the agreement must be settled. The time of servitude is accomplished and now the reward and payment is to be made.

22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast.

This is the fourth feast or mishteh noted in the Bible. As at other times, it is looking forward to something else. This one is being given as a picture of Palm Sunday, AD32 when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was hailed as the Messiah.

This will become clearer in a few verses. The men of the place have gathered for the wedding ceremony and a feast, just as those in Israel gathered together at Palm Sunday. At that time, the people called out, “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!” John 12:13

23 Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her.

Here we see Jacob the deceiver of His father being deceived by Laban. Instead of receiving Rachel, Leah is brought to him. These accounts are not a 1 for 1 comparison. No shadow or picture ever is, but they are given to show us what will happen and why.

This time is no different. Jesus wasn’t a deceiver, but the pattern of what happened when Jacob deceived Isaac was to show us Jesus, pictured by Jacob replacing Adam, pictured by Esau.

Israel had already called Jesus their King and yet there was still more needed before we could go from the law to grace. He had to fulfill the law in its entirety first. This included being betrayed, just as Jacob was betrayed by Laban.

24 And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid.

The usual custom was to give handmaids to a daughter at her marriage. Rebekah, Laban’s sister, was given many, but Laban being a cheap guy only gave one to Leah.

The name Zilpah comes from the Hebrew word zalaph which isn’t found in the Bible, but it means to trickle or to sprinkle. And this looks to what Jesus did as Peter tells us in his first letter –

To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: 1 Peter 1:1, 2

Zilpah, the Sprinkling, came along with Leah, the law. And for Jesus, along with fulfilling the law came dying on the cross and the sprinkling of His blood…. beautiful pictures here!

25 So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?”

It was the custom of the people at the time, as it still is in many places, for the bride to be veiled. Jacob never saw the face of the wife he worked for and was instead deceived by Laban. Although this is a sad thing, it is recorded for us to see the work of Jesus.

There were still seven days from Palm Sunday until His work was finished. Jacob served seven years for Rachel and Jesus served His time in fulfillment of the Law, pictured by Leah.

26 And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.

Laban makes up a horribly lame excuse. If this was the custom of the people, then he would have told it to Jacob seven years earlier. The fact is that he was blessed because of Jacob. We’ll see this in a few sermons. Laban wanted it to continue.

However, the picture is again fulfilled in Christ. We cannot receive the grace of God in Christ without there first being met the demands of His perfect law. Apart from that, we stand condemned. This is why we’re being shown this.

There is an order to everything, including how we relate to God. We must first meet the demands of the law and then receive the grace of God.

27 Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.”

Laban will profit from Jacob’s love for Rachel. He knows 100% that he will be willing to work another seven years without payment to have her hand. And to ensure that he accepts, he asks for him to only finish the bridal week of Leah. In seven more days, he may have his prize.

Jesus has seven more days left too. From Palm Sunday through Saturday will be His passion week, crucifixion, burial, and time in the tomb. When the week is over, he will have prevailed over the law. This is the picture we have in front of us.

Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

He fulfilled the law for us, just as Jacob fulfilled the seven years of work and the seven days of the bridal week for Leah who pictures the law. And as Leah’s weak eyes weren’t sufficient to draw Jacob’s love, the law was weak as well.

The torturous week of waiting for Rachel is mirrored by the torturous week of Jesus’ Passion. But both were fulfilled and the time of trouble passed. Sadness is for a moment, but joy lasts forever. Imagine it… the granting of the new bride; the resurrection of the Lord!

A thought we need to look at though and which will come up again is that Jesus comes through Leah, not through Rachel. It is through Leah’s fourth son Judah. Like I said earlier, God’s righteousness demands that the law must be fulfilled.

And so Jesus came through the law and fulfilled it on our behalf. Rachel will be the mother of Joseph and Benjamin both of whom will also picture Jesus in Genesis. Also, the blessing will go through Joseph and on to his son Ephraim.

Later in the Bible, Ephraim becomes synonymous with the northern tribes of Israel who are dispersed and become a multitude of nations – the fullness of the gentiles, according to Genesis 48. So even in the sons of these two women, the picture remains clear.

It all points to Jesus who was born under the law, fulfilled the law, and is therefore qualified to bestow grace on all people.

III. Seven More Years

28 Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week. So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also.

Jacob, instead of fighting at the prospects of having two wives, agrees to the terms. As unfair as it was for him, he was willing to complete the bridal week of Leah. And as unfair as it was for Jesus to complete the Passion week and die for sins He didn’t commit, He was willing to do so. As John says,

“Andof His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

In fulfillment of the bridal week, Rachel is given to Jacob. And in fulfillment of the law the Lord’s grace is bestowed upon us.

29 And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as a maid.

Again, only one maid is given away by Laban. He receives 14 years of work, marries off two daughters, and only provides two maids for his two daughters.

Bilhah means either foolish or timid. The only New Testament connection with Bilhah is in 2 Corinthians 6, where it says –

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?

The name Belial is connected to the name Bilhah. It means “beyond purpose;” something that is useless. Bilhah bore two sons to Jacob, one being Dan who followed a path of idolatry and is overlooked in the sealing of the tribes in Revelation 7.

She also slept with Jacob’s oldest son who was born of Leah which caused him to lose the birthright. Her being introduced here is probably then a picture of what not to do as a Christian. Don’t be sexually immoral or be unequally yoked with non-believers.

And don’t mix in the law, pictured by Leah, with grace, pictured by Rachel. In other words, for the good thing which came in Rachel came something bad. Just as in the church there are those that rely on grace and those who are foolish and abuse it.

30 Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.

Jacob finally receives his reward and he went into his little ewe lamb. Likewise, Jesus has received His flock whom He loves. The seven years of serving for Rachel are certainly symbolic of the spiritual completion of the time between the foundation of the church and the rapture of the church.

At some point, the work will be finished and the saints of the ages will be brought out of this land and into the promised inheritance. The time is coming and here we are patiently waiting. It is certain that Jacob lifted the veil of Rachel before he went into her.

And it has been the custom of Jewish people ever since to lift the veil of the woman they are to marry. This is called the bedekin or “veiling of the bride” and it is done in remembrance of this account. However, what it actually pictures in the Bible is recorded in 2 Corinthians 3 –

12 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

Moses went in to the presence of God and God’s glory shone so brightly on him that when he came out, he had to veil his face. Natural man cannot look at the purity of God’s holiness which is reflected in His law. We can never meet its requirements.

But Jesus did this for us. Now, the veil is lifted in Christ and we can look directly at His work which was done for us. As Paul says, “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” Phanuel – the Face of God…

Leah was veiled just as the law carries a veil. Rachel was unveiled and likewise, we receive the fullness of the splendor of Christ through the grace He alone bestows on us.

About this account today, Adam Clarke says this, “What a man soweth, that shall he reap. Jacob had before practiced deceit, and is now deceived…”

We have seeds of our own to sow. We can sow the seeds of the law and be overcome by the law, or we can put our trust in Jesus who fulfilled the law and thus we can overcome the law through Him.

We’ve seen this today in this interesting story of one man who goes from being unmarried to having two wives in only eight days. If you will give me just a couple more minutes, I want to clearly explain to you the way to be a part of what Christ has done. Because He did the work, the rest is easy…

Closing Verse: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.” Romans 9:25

Next Week: Genesis 29:31-35 (Four Sons for Leah) (69th Genesis Sermon)

The Lord has you exactly where He wants you and He has a good plan and purpose for you. Call on Him and let Him do marvelous things for you and through you.

From the Law to Grace

Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative
Should you therefore serve me for nothing? I think not
Tell me, what should your wages be, just a hint please give
Pick your wages,,, go ahead and give it a shot

Now Laban had two daughters, Leah was the elder’s name
The younger was Rachel and the two girls didn’t look the same

Leah’s eyes were delicate, some would say quite weak
But Rachel was a beauty in appearance, as the Bible does speak

Now Jacob loved Rachel and so he gave a clue
“I will serve you seven years for Rachel your youngest you see
And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you
Than that I should give her to another. Stay here with me

So for Rachel Jacob seven years did he serve
And they seemed to him only a few days
Because of the great love that he had for her
Yes Jacob was smitten by Rachel in all ways

Then Jacob said to Laban, “To me my wife give
For my days are fulfilled that I may go in to her
And Laban gathered together all the men where they did live
And he made a feast, it was a big one for sure

Now it came to pass in the evening time
That he took Leah his daughter instead
And brought her near to Jacob, such a crime
And he went into her and her wedding bed

And Laban gave Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid
But this didn’t resolve the problem of how Jacob was betrayed
So it came to pass in the morning, that behold
It was Leah in his bed, not Rachel like he was told

And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me?
Was it not for Rachel that I served you?
This isn’t Rachel, as anyone can clearly see
Why then have you deceived like this and been untrue?

And Laban said, “It must not be done so
In our country to give the younger before the firstborn
Fulfill her week and we will give you the other also
You will serve another seven years like the first that you had sworn

Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week as was bade
So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also
And Laban gave his maid Bilhah to Rachel as a maid
Then Jacob went into Rachel so happily you know

And he loved Rachel more than Leah as the time he did fill
And he served with Laban faithfully another seven years still

This story of great love is realized in Christ Jesus
Who came as a Man and fulfilled the law for us

Then He received His bride, the fulfillment of the law
And then another to Him did come
His grace descends upon us as we look back in awe
All because of Jesus and the work that He has done

What a marvelous story of the love of God
May we carefully read it and cherish it all of our days
And may we proclaim the gospel while on this earth we trod
Until we meet in heaven for the resounding choir of praise

There we shall sing eternally “Glory to our King”
And there with the angels shall to Him we sing

Hallelujah and Amen…

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