Summary: If there is one trait of Jacob that stands out, it is his craftiness. Our chapter presents another crafty fellow who will out-fox Jacob.
Genesis 29:1-30 The Fox Out-Foxed
8/7/16 D. Marion Clark
When I moved to Lake Oconee and learned that I was living in the land of Br’er Rabbit, I decided I should read Uncle Remus. It doesn’t take long to size up the primary character of Br’er Rabbit. He is crafty with a chip on his shoulder. After a while, I even began to develop sympathy for Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear who wanted to eat Br’er Rabbit. And when I got to the story of the tar baby, I had some satisfaction in seeing Br’er Rabbit get out-foxed even though only for a little while.
If there is one trait of Jacob that stands out, it is his craftiness. He used it to obtain his brother’s birthright, and then later, in cooperation with his mother, to steal his brother’s blessing from their father. Our chapter presents another crafty fellow who will out-fox Jacob.
Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east. 2 As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well's mouth was large, 3 and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well.
4 Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” 5 He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” They said, “We know him.” 6 He said to them, “Is it well with him?” They said, “It is well; and see, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep!” 7 He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered together. Water the sheep and go, pasture them.” 8 But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”
9 While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10 Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well's mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. 12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's kinsman, and that he was Rebekah's son, and she ran and told her father.
So Jacob makes it safely to Haran. Recall that his mother Rebekah arranges for him to be sent away on the excuse to find a wife among the family relatives but in reality to protect him from the wrath of his brother Esau whom he has cheated twice. He comes to a well and engages in conversation with shepherds who have gathered for the purpose of watering their sheep. He immediately seeks information about finding Laban, his mother’s brother and now the head of the family. They make him aware of Rachel, who is on her way with her flock. Suddenly, he becomes interested in the shepherds’ work, enough to tell them what they ought to be doing, which is to leave. That would conveniently leave him alone with Rachel.
They remain, but the action moves forward as if they were not there. Jacob becomes a he-man and rolls the stone away. He waters Rachel’s flock. And just like in a Hollywood movie, kisses the girl.
What is happening? Jacob has sized up his opportunity and is making the most of it to make a good impression. From the moment before he was coming out of his mother’s womb and he grabbed hold of his brother’s heel, Jacob has been one who acted to get ahead. Even when the Lord God renews the promise made to Abraham and Isaac and now for him, Jacob cannot resist responding in terms of what works best for himself. It is clear to him that he must act according to his own wits.
Contrast Jacob with another man at a well – the servant of Abraham. He had been sent by Abraham for the express purpose of finding a wife for Isaac. He too stops at a well and devises a plan for choosing the prospective bride by her doing what Jacob did for Rachel. Rebekah – Jacob’s mother – was that woman. The servant also proved to be clever but with a noticeable difference to Jacob, viz., prayer. He prays humbly to God for success, and when God answers his prayer, he gives God the glory. There is no reference to Jacob doing the same, even though on his journey he had been visited by God.