Summary: God completes the next phase of the promise to Abraham when He provides the first sons of the promise.
Jacob has fled to Haran on the pretense of finding a wife. God met him along the way and promised to take care of him and confirmed the promise; Christ will eventually come through Jacob’s lineage. But at this point in the story, these things might be hard to see. Jacob is running for his life and he doesn’t yet have a wife or children. But Jacob believes God, and says, “the LORD will be my God” (Gen 28:20). The following story shows how God begins to fulfill His promise:
Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east. 2And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth. 3And thither were all the flocks gathered: and they rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the sheep, and put the stone again upon the well’s mouth in his place.
They kept the well covered to prevent it from filling with sand or other debris. Once everyone was gathered around they opened it long enough to drink and covered it again.
4And Jacob said unto them, My brethren, whence be ye? And they said, Of Haran are we. 5And he said unto them, Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We know him. 6And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep.
His whole purpose in leaving is to find a wife from Laban, so it’s fortunate that he happens upon some men from Haran who know Laban and his daughter. Note the differences in these verses from when Abraham’s servant got a wife for Isaac. The servant went to a well and found the woman too, but he very clearly sought God’s direction. Jacob may or may not have asked anything of God, but the situation shows God’s hand just as He had promised.
7And he said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them. 8And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.
He may want them to hurry up and water so he can be alone with Rachel, but since she’s already in view this doesn’t seem right. Or he may simply be giving advice about how to shepherd, but this also seems strange because he’s obviously more interested in her than in the shepherds. I think perhaps he wants to make sure she’ll stop and water her flock so he tries to get the shepherds to open the well early. They refuse, but God’s plan is already at work so Jacob doesn’t need them anyway.
9And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep; for she kept them. 10And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.