Try to appreciate Jacob’s embarrassment and pathetic situation after Laban had mocked him by having a big feast for his wedding with Rachel only to find that he had taken Leah into his tent that night. Well could he feel that he was the laughingstock of the whole neighborhood. All knew that he loved Rachel and that he had worked seven years for her. The great love that he had for Rachel could not be hidden from anyone in Haran. And to Laban’s shame is the fact that after the seven years he did not give Jacob his daughter Rachel, but Jacob had to ask for her even after he had worked hard for seven long years for her. And when we read that they seemed as only a few days, so great was his love, it certainly means that more than the family of Laban were aware of so great a love. And how sheepishly Jacob must have come out of his tent to confront his father-in-law that morning. How could he face the whole neighborhood?
Let us not excuse Leah for her trickery. She undoubtedly loved Jacob and was happy to be married to him. But that does not make her part in the deception right. He who deceived his father is now deceived by his father-in-law and uncle, and by the woman he had taken as his wife under the impression that she was her sister. And undoubtedly Jacob was by God reminded in this of his own deception before his blind father. That, at least, seems the best way to explain his mild attack upon his deceptive father-in law. “What is this that thou hast done to me? Did I not serve thee for Rachel? Wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?” can hardly be called a strong rebuke. One would expect some rather nasty name-calling and a stronger flare of temper and anger than that.
Crafty Laban suggests seven more years; and Jacob in that great love agrees. He fills his week with Leah — and some “honeymoon” that must have been! Jacob’s mind throughout that week is upon Rachel and not upon Leah, while he lived with her as his wife. The seven years may have seemed like a few days; but this week seemed like seven years as he looked forward to getting Rachel as his wife. And when Leah’s week was up, Jacob did get Rachel. That must be the meaning. He did not have to work another seven years before he could take her into his tent. The account of the children born to Leah and Rachel makes that impossible. Jacob worked for Laban six years after the second seven for Rachel were over, and the ages of the children — particularly Joseph’s age in connection with Benjamin’s — makes it plain that Rachel got many of these children, and SO did Leah, before the last six years of work for Laban. When we say children, as far as Rachel is concerned we mean those of her maid as well as Joseph.
And after Jacob had fulfilled his second seven years for Rachel he did work for Laban another six years in which Laban changed his wages ten times. God blessed everything that Jacob did. He did, not have a “Midas touch” that caused everything he touched to turn to gold. God was with him, and this Laban even confesses in Genesis 30:27, “And Laban said unto him, I pray thee if I have found favour in thine eyes, tarry, for I have learned by experience that the Lord hath blessed me for thy sake.” Yet Laban does foolishly in spite of this insight and tries to trick Jacob and tries to get the advantage by changing the wages those ten times. The only explanation of it is that God was with Jacob as He had promised. No matter what Laban agreed or decreed to set as the wages so that Jacob would come out on the short end, God turned things about and Jacob always got the greater share of the cattle and the goods. One cannot outguess or outwit the living God. And Laban would have done wisely to cast his lot in with Jacob and assist him, and so — even as he had said — be blessed for Jacob’s sake. One cannot tight God’s people and prosper. One can share in that blessing when one allies himself with those whom God blesses. Unless you are allied with God’s people, you are standing in opposition to God Himself. The Church is the apple of His eye, His beloved; and you cannot oppose her without incurring His fierce wrath. It makes no difference whether you attack her in the truth she maintains or in her walk of life, you oppose God when you oppose His Church. And His blessing rests upon you when with those who hold the truth you walk in sweet communion, and when you pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
But it is the lack of peace in Jacob’s family, the many troubles he had, to which we particularly call your attention at this time. The truth of Scripture that a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh, is powerfully demonstrated here. In more powerful language than simply the statement that polygamy and bigamy are sinful, the Scriptures demonstrate, in the lives of those who practiced it, this very truth in a way that it stands out so clearly that it cannot be denied.
What a troubled life Jacob had! What a fierce rivalry is presented in Genesis 29 and 30 between Leah and Rachel! And, if we may anticipate, how clearly we see that this spills over into the four sets of children born to Leah and her handmaid and Rachel and her handmaid when Joseph is sold into Egypt; and Jacob has created the very situation in which he, who deceived his father, is deceived as father by his own sons.
Jacob did not treat fairly and decently Leah whom God had given to him as wife. Let it not be overlooked that God did this, be it through the trickery of Laban. But it was no accident; and let it not be forgotten either that it is to Leah that God gives the honour and privilege of bringing forth Judah, who brought forth David, who brought forth the Christ. No, God had this all planned, and had covenant considerations in mind when, according to His eternal, unchangeable counsel Jacob received Leah for his wife. And loving Rachel as much as he did, Jacob should have loved God more and been content with God’s choice of a wife for him, as strange as that may sound in modern ears that rate the love of man and woman above the love towards God. Today love for mankind is elevated to the point where, in hatred against God, the doctrines and the preaching have to be changed to gain men and lose God. He is belittled and insulted and denied His sovereignty in order to accommodate and elevate man.
And a fierce competition arose between Leah and Rachel to supply Jacob with sons and have the pre-eminence as wife. As we said, Jacob clearly showed, if not contempt, then dissatisfaction with Leah as his wife; and she sought to gain his favour by producing sons for him. Rachel became extremely jealous. She had Jacob’s love. She knew that, although she may have feared losing it in the long run because she could not fulfill the purpose of a wife, namely to be a mother and provide her husband with seed. She gave Jacob her handmaid when she saw that God would give her no children and had given Leah and her handmaid several, and undoubtedly saw that this meant much to Jacob and that he treated Leah a bit better. We read in Genesis 29:31 that the Lord saw “that Leah was hated,” and that means by Jacob, not by Rachel. The names Leah gives to her sons and those of her handmaid indicate that she was fighting for Jacob’s affection. She even states after the birth of her firstborn, “Now therefore my husband will love me.” After her second son she said, “Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, He hath therefore given me this son also.” And after the third son, “Now this time will my husband be joined to me, because I have born him three sons.”
And Rachel? In a rage of jealousy she blames her barrenness on Jacob and cries out, “Give me children, or else I die!” And now we read of Jacob’s anger at this woman that he loved so much. Yes, anger is not the same as hatred. He still loved her, but he was irked by her accusation as though he had been keeping her from having children.
Jacob was a miserable comforter, because he was so unspiritual about the whole matter. He did not seem to sympathize very much with his wife who wanted children and was denied them by God. Let that be understood before we, go on with the matter. It was God Who did not want Rachel to have children till He was ready to give them. And Rachel’s use of mandrakes (Genesis 30:14-16) did not increase her fertility. It was, as we read in Genesis 30:22, “And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened unto her, and opened her womb.” When it pleases Him He gives those whom medical “science” says cannot have children the children they desire; and when it pleases Him to keep those, whom medical “science” says are in every sense capable of bringing forth children, from having children, they will not have them. Jacob did not remind Rachel of this. Jacob did not in sympathy with her suggest that they make this a matter of prayer before the God Who decides how many children we shall or shall not have. No, Jacob becomes angry. And although he thinks of God and says, “Am I God?” all use of God’s name does not manifest necessarily a spiritual attitude before Him. Be not deceived by every mentioning of His name, as though this always reveals strong faith and piety. Satan used God’s name twice and seemed to believe that Jesus is the Son of God in that temptation in the wilderness at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. But it showed no faith and no piety. Jacob should have instructed his fiery tempered wife of the sovereignty of the God against Whom she was rebelling.
But that troublesome and sinful triangle is there. One man and two wives. And the trouble stems out of the sinfulness. Jesus said in Matthew 19:5, ‘”And they twain shall be one flesh.” He did not say that one man and two women would be one flesh. He did not say that three would be one flesh. He, Who is God Himself, interprets His own word in Genesis 2:24 that a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife and “they shall be one flesh.” They in Genesis 2:24 means one man and one wife. Never mind the fact that the saints did not heed this and took many wives. Jesus, the Son of God, said that twain make one flesh in God’s judgment. And with that we must deal. To Him we must listen; and when we see those who ought to know better go contrary to His Word, we must still take Him at His Word and condemn what we see in men who disregard it.
Nor must we argue from the fact that Christ came in the line of David and Bathsheba, which was a way of adultery on two counts. It was adultery since she was Uriah’s wife when he went in unto her. But had she been a virgin or a widow, it was still adultery in that he had a wife, and with her he was one flesh before God. Indeed, it pleased God sovereignly to use David in his sins to bring us the Christ; but let us say then that it was sin. It was also sin that brought Christ to His cross. With wicked hands they crucified and slew Him. And that God saved us by that cross does not mean that therefore the crucifying was not sin. Neither was it a nullifying of sin that Jacob took Rachel after God had given him a wife. A triangle like that always is sin, and always produces trouble, for God is not mocked. Even though this sin also can be forgiven, and Christ went to His cross that it might be forgiven in all of God’s people, we must not try to talk it right. And let us learn from the troubled life of Jacob that God does not approve of a man having more than one wife at a time, that is, two women who are his wives while both are living. Romans 7:1-3 is still in the Bible; and it was given by an unchangeable God Whose will in the Old Testament in regard to marriage was the same as in the New Testament dispensation.