Summary: Does God ordain all that happens or is He captive to Chance?
By Chance or by the Will of God
It is never bothersome to remind you that every Scripture in the Bible is set in context with what comes before and after it. This is the literal context. Even though it would be centuries before Moses would write the Book of Genesis by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we are still talking about historical people. Jacob was a real person with whom God interacted with.
Jacob arrived at a well in Haran after a journey of over 100 miles. It must have been a hard journey win which he went through the whole gamut of emotions from fear, to fatigue, and to awe. He had left all behind him and only owned the few things he could take with him.
Jacob was instructed to find his uncle Laban by his mother and find one of his daughters to marry (Genesis 28:2.) And he arrives at a well around noontime which is sealed by a stone which must have been quite heavy. Water is the gold of the desert, and it was well guarded. We have already seen the run-ins which Isaac his father had had concerning the possession of wells with Abimelech and his men. Abraham, likewise, had the same experience. Jacob would have seen at least some of this striving over the wells of water.
Some years earlier, Jacob’s mother had been watering her animals at a well in Haran. We cannot be sure, but this may have been the very well which Eliezer the servant of Abraham went with instructions to find a wife from there. Eliezer prayed to the Lord for a sign who he should pick. This prayer was answered by Rebecca who came back to Abraham’s house as a wife for Isaac.
Meeting people at the well was a social occasion for the community. they would gather at the well and wait until everyone was present to open the mouth of the well. This was to make sure every clan got its fair share of scarce water. By this agreement, many fights were averted.
What seems a bit unusual is that the shepherds were gathered together at midday in the heat. Usually, water was drawn in the morning or the evening when it was cooler. It seems as the shepherds were waiting for a clan which had not yet arrived. This seems to have been Laban’s clan. How long were those shepherds waiting in the heat? They would probably become impatient and short tempered.
So when Jacob, a stranger, arrives at this well and asks about Laban and if anyone there knew him. They gave a very short answer, “We know him.” Then he asked about his uncle’s welfare. Again they gave a blunt answer, “He is well.” This time they look around and see Laban’s daughter coming with her clan’s sheep. Maybe they said, “finally” under their breath.
For Jacob, it was love at first sight. This was similar to the response of Isaac his father when he first laid eyes upon Rebekah and took her into his tent. It says “He loved her.”
Usually it took several of the men to roll away the stone from the mouth of the well. But Jacob was so infatuated that he lifted the stone of the well’s mouth and allowed Rachel to water the sheep. He was thankful that the Lord had blessed his journey, and Rachael was so beautiful. He kissed her, which at this time was the kiss of kinship. then Rachel went to her father and told him about Jacob. Laban went out to welcome him and invite him into his house. And it says he stayed about a month.
It looked like Jacob was off to a good start in his new home. He was among kin. He knew that his mother had instructed him to marry the daughter of Laban. Surely, the LORD had worked this out for him. And Rachael was so beautiful that it made Jacob’s heart flutter. Surely the rest of the way was going to be easy.
But the story does not end here. And Jacob’s quest for Rachael was just beginning. Just like grandfather Abraham before him who went at the call of God to go to the Promised Land, Jacob would have to learn that God often places some distance between promise and fulfillment. Jacob would soon enough discover this truth.
In addition to the historical context of Jacob, we have the context of Moses who wrote this book under the inspiration of the Spirit sometime during the latter part of the wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel as a means of their instruction. What did this text teach them?
In many ways Genesis parallels the Exodus experience. Abraham was promised that the land of Canaan would someday be possessed by his descendants. The children of Israel were on the very cusp of the realization of the promise. This was more than 400 years. Just like Abraham, the children of Israel had to wander around the perimeter of the land of promise waiting for its fulfillment. This Exodus which should have happened in a few short months was extended to 40 years due to their loss of faith in Yahweh.