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come to Abraham and Isaac, promising him strength: I am the Lord, the God of Abraham, thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee shall I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread to the west and to the east, and to the north and to the south; and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And behold, I am with thee, and I shall guard thee wherever thou goest, and shall bring thee back into this land; for I shall not leave thee until I have done that of which I have spoken to thee.' When Jacob awoke out of his sleep he felt the profound reality of his dream, and he exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not;' and he was afraid, and said, . How awful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.' And instead of Luz he called the town Beth-el, the house of God,' a name which has since been applied to every sanctuary throughout the world. Jacob's words, The Lord is in this place, and I knew it not,' have a peculiar fitness. There is, indeed, in the region round Beth-el nothing to indicate the Divine Presence; no religio loci, no awful shades, no lofty hills. Bare, wild rocks, a beaten thoroughfare ; these are the only features of the primeval sanctuary of that God, of whom nature itself there teaches us, that if He could, in such a scene, so emphatically reveal Himself to the houseless exile, He is “ with him," with His true servants everywhere, and will “keep them in all places whither they go."?! The stone that had been Jacob's pillow was sanctified by the vision of the night. Jacob set it up for a memorial, anointed it with oil, and thus it became an object of veneration for many later ages. The sacred narrative constantly returns to it, and we shall see
· Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 220.
Beth-el reappear in future centuries as one of the holy places of the kingdom of Israel, where the grossest idolatry was practised. Before Jacob left the spot, he offered up a vow, promising true and faithful worship to God and devoted charity to man. • This stone,' he declared, which I have set for a monument shall be a house of God, and of all that Thou wilt give me, I shall surely give the tenth part of it to Thee.'
19. JACOB'S SOJOURN WITH LABAN, HIS
MARRIAGE AND CHILDREN.
[GENES. XXIX.-XXX. 24.]
Jacob departed from the solitary field, and traversing the desert tracts in the east of the Jordan, he at last drew near to the town of Nahor. A well, surrounded by herdsmen with their cattle, showed him that he was approaching the dwelling-place of man.
The shepherds came from Haran, and were of course acquainted with the wealthy Laban. Whilst they were answering the questions of Jacob, they saw advancing towards them Rachel, the daughter of Laban, driving her flock of sheep before her. Like Rebekah, her occupations led her out into the field ; like Rebekah, she was respectful and courteous towards the stranger. Now, the shepherds were obliged to delay the watering of their flocks until all the herdsmen of the neighbourhood had assembled, for it was only by their united efforts that the heavy stone, which covered the mouth of the well, could be rolled away. Jacob, however, was determined to show by an act of attention his friendship for his kinswoman. When, therefore, Rachel approached, he went to the well, and with his own unaided strength performed the feat of removing the
ponderous stone. Filled with tenderness for the child of his mother's brother, Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. Then he told her that he was the son of Rebekah, her father's sister. Placing full reliance in the stranger, she at once hastened home to inform her father of his arrival. Laban, the cordial and hospitable Laban of old, came forth to the well to meet his kinsman, and to bring him back as the honoured and loved guest of his house. He was delighted with his young relative, and exclaimed, 'Surely thou art my bone and my flesh. ' But Jacob, full of strength and activity, could not bear to eat the bread of idleness; he took part in all the occupations of the house and the field, and Laban felt that, in all justice, his kinsman should not serve him without a reward.
Laban had, besides Rachel, another and older daughter, Leah. But Rachel was very beautiful, while the eyes of her sister were weak and dim. Jacob loved Rachel, and he offered to Laban to work for him during seven years, if, at the end of that time, he might receive Rachel for his wife. Laban apparently assented to the proposal, and replied, • It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man; abide with me.' "So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days for the love he bore to her. The time for the marriage had approached; but Laban felt vexed and disappointed that the younger sister should marry before the elder. With the deceit worthy of his sister Rebekah, Laban bethought himself of a scheme by which he might substitute Leah for Rachel. Taking advantage of the long and thick veil worn by the eastern maiden on her marriage-day, he brought Leah, thus closely shrouded, to the unsuspecting Jacob, who learnt the dishonesty of Laban too late. As he had deceived his father, so his own kinsman now deceived him. When he upbraided
Laban, the latter sheltered himself under vain excuses : • It is not done so in our place, to give the younger before the elder. But he proposed that Jacob should celebrate his marriage-week, and that he might then take Rachel as a second wife, and work for her another seven years. Jacob, unwilling to renounce the maiden whom he had loved so long, agreed to this unjust demand, and in seven days he married Rachel also. In accordance with the eastern custom, each daughter received her maidservant; Zilpah was given to Leah, and Bilhah to Rachel.
Jacob's love for Rachel was true and strong; he never could quite forgive the deception of Laban, and although Leah blessed him with offspring, and Rachel remained childless, still he clung to the younger sister with greater fondness than to the elder. Leah felt bitterly the indifference of her husband; so bitterly indeed, that at the birth of her firstborn son, Reuben, she exclaimed, Surely the Lord has looked upon my affliction, for now my husband will love me. But that love was still denied her ; and when a second son, Simeon, was born to her, she said again, Surely the Lord has heard that I am hated, and He has given me this son also. But the affection she so longed for was even now withheld; for when she became the mother of a third son, Levi, she gave utterance to her deep attachment in the words, Now this time will my husband be joined to me, for I have born him three sons. Jacob's heart must have been touched at last, for Leah was full of joy and gratitude when she exclaimed at the birth of her fourth son, Judah, This time I will praise the Lord. After a long interval she had two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun, and last of all a daughter, Dinah. Moreover, the two maids, Bilhah and Zilpah, bore children to Jacob; the sons of Bilhah were named Dan and Naphtali, those of Zilpah Gad and Asher. Rachel had envied her sister Leah, and full of
sorrow and vexation, she vented her disappointment in words of anger. God remembered her at last, and when she became the mother of a son, she called him Joseph, exclaiming in gladness, God has taken away my reproach; may the Lord add to me another son!'
Jacob had served Laban long and faithfully. During the fourteen years he had lived with his kinsman, the house of the latter had been blessed and had prospered, and his wealth and possessions had vastly increased. Jacob now felt that the time had come for him to return to Beer-sheba; he had never received from Rebekah the message which, at his departure, she had promised to send him. He was ninety years of age, and still an exile and a servant. So he entreated of Laban to let him depart. Laban, fully appreciating the advantage of Jacob's services, could not bear the thought of losing them. Therefore, he offered him any reward he might propose. Jacob bethought himself of a stratagem by which he hoped to secure the finest portions of Laban's flocks. He succeeded so well that in six years he found himself the master of very considerable wealth. The Bible, after detailing the scheme of Jacob, which is another stain upon his character, tells us that he increased exceedingly, and possessed much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.'
20. JACOB'S FLIGHT, AND HIS TREATY WITH
[GENES. XXXI.] The unprecedented increase of Jacob's property, and the corresponding diminution of his own, must have opened Laban's eyes with regard to the fraud of which he had been the victim, and he naturally regarded Jacob