Rachel

The last of the matriarchs was Jacob's true love.

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Reprinted with permission from Who's Who in the Hebrew Bible (The Jewish Publication Society).

Rachel daughter of Laban was one of the two wives of her cousin Jacob, the love of his life, and the mother of his sons Joseph and Benjamin. Jacob, aided by his mother, had tricked his blind father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing that was intended for Esau, his older brother.

Furious at Jacob's trickery, Esau made a vow to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac passed away. To protect Jacob from Esau's revenge, Rebekah decided to send him away to her brother Laban in Haran.

Finding a Wife for Jacob

She went to Isaac and complained, "I am disgusted with my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries a Hittite woman like these, from among the native women, what good will life be to me (Genesis 27:46)?"

Isaac sent for Jacob, blessed him and said, "You shall not take a wife from among the Canaanite women. Up, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel, your mother's father, and take a wife there from among the daughters of Laban, your mother's brother (Genesis 28:1–2)." Jacob did what his father requested and went to Haran.

He arrived at the town and saw shepherds standing next to a well. He asked them, "Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?" They answered, "Yes, we do. There is his daughter Rachel, coming with the flock (Genesis 29:5–6)."

Jacob went to the well, rolled the stone from its opening, watered the sheep, kissed Rachel, and wept when he told her that he was the son of Rebekah, her father's sister.

Rachel ran home and told her father that a relative had arrived. Laban came out to see Jacob, embraced him, and brought him to his house. Four weeks later, during which time Jacob had fallen in love with his beautiful cousin Rachel, Laban said to Jacob, "Just because you are a kinsman, should you serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be (Genesis 29:15)?"

Jacob answered, "I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel." Laban said, "Better that I give her to you than that I should give her to an outsider. Stay with me (Genesis 29:18–19)."

Laban's Trickery

The seven years that Jacob worked for Laban seemed to him like only a few days, so great was his love for Rachel. After the seven years were over, Jacob told Laban, "Give me my wife, for my time is fulfilled (Genesis 29:21)."

Laban made a wedding feast and invited all the people of the place. After the wedding night, Jacob woke up to find that the woman next to him was not Rachel but her older sister Leah.

He went to Laban and complained that he had been deceived. Laban explained that it was the custom of the land that the elder daughter should be married before the younger; but, in this case, he would allow Rachel to marry Jacob a week later, with the condition that Jacob work another seven years for Laban. When the week was over, Jacob married Rachel. As a wedding gift, Laban gave her his maid Bilhah to be her servant.

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David Mandel studied at the University of Pennsylvania under Bible scholar Moshe Greenberg, and moved to Israel in 1970, where he founded Computronic Corporation, an Israeli software development company that specializes in biblical software.