29 15Laban said to Jacob, “Just because you are my relative, should you serve me for nothing? Tell me what your wage should be.”
16 Laban had two daughters: the elder was named Leah, the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had quiet eyes, but Rachel was fair of form and lovely to look at. 18 Jacob loved Rachel and said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel, your younger daughter.”
19 Laban said, “My giving her to you is better than to another man. Stay with me.”
20 Jacob served seven years for Rachel, but they seemed only a few days because of his love for her.
21 Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, my time is done, so I may come in to her.” 22 Laban gathered all the people of that place and prepared drinking-feast. 23 When evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he came into her. 24 Laban also gave Zilpah his slave girl to Leah, his daughter, as her slavegirl. 25 When morning came, there she was—Leah! Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why have you deceived me?”
26 Laban said, “It is not done in our place, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Fill out the bridal-week with this one, and we will give you that one as well for which you will serve me seven more years.” 28 And so Jacob did. He completed the bridal-week for this one, and then Laban gave him Rachel, his daughter, as a wife. 29 Laban gave Rachel, his daughter, Bilhah, his slavegirl. 30 Jacob came into Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. He worked for Laban another seven years.
After a month of working as a family member, not receiving some form of a wage, Laban inquires of Jacob about an appropriate recompense.
Jacob considers an amount of silver and number of animals that can become his herd. He also thinks of Leah and her eyes (the Hebrew can be translated as dull or weak or odd-looking as well as soft, gentle, tender—it is left to the Reader). Jacob also has lovely, beautiful Rachel in mind. Jacob finally chooses Rachel, the Beautiful, over Leah’s eyes, silver, or livestock.
Laban, in bargaining mode, grudgingly accedes, “Better you than some local yokel, I suppose.” An unrecorded agreement is reached that seven years of service is an acceptable substitute for a bride-price.
After seven years, which is still seven years, no matter how quickly they seem to pass. In reality, waiting for a much-desired end builds pressure to be finished and slows the apprehension of time. This is revealed in Jacob’s craving to bed Rachel. The explicit nature of this statement cannot be piously covered over.
In due course, Laban prepares a feast, featuring drinking. Afterward, in the dark, a bride is brought to Jacob, who, presumably, quickly beds her. In the morning, the bride is clearly, Leah! Jacob, who, with Rebekah, took advantage of Esau and Isaac, has been taken advantage of, in turn, by Rebekah’s brother. What goes around can come around.
Jacob complains about this turn-about. After a “bridal-week” with Leah, Jacob is given Rachel as a second wife—in exchange for an additional seven years of servitude.
Both brides receive a gift from Laban of a slave girl. Leah receives Zilpah; Rachel receives Bilhah.