The old bait and switch game might have had its beginnings here in this story of Jacob. What is “bait and switch”? The advertising industry has used it for centuries along with “and that’s not all” to get you to buy something that was not want you originally wanted to purchase. Webster defines this practice:
Definition of bait and switch
1: a sales tactic in which a customer is attracted by the advertisement of a low-priced item but is then encouraged to buy a higher-priced one
2: the ploy of offering a person something desirable to gain favor (such as political support) then thwarting expectations with something less desirable
Yep, this has happened to me more than once! How about you?
Laban was a master at the game of bait and switch. He didn’t seem to care about the damage it would do to his own daughters, especially to Leah. He saw an opportunity to fool his nephew and he took it. Jacob fell for it, hook, line and sinker. We must learn and remember that women of the culture of those days were treated merely as stock options. Love was considered secondary, if considered at all, in the buying and selling of daughters in marriage for the purpose of continuing the generational line.
Jacob came to find a wife from his mother’s family. It was “love at first sight” between Rachel and Jacob. Jacob, who deceived his brother, is now deceived by his Uncle Laban for Rachel’s hand in marriage. This is a test of faith that is being built by God daily in Jacob.
How will Jacob respond when Uncle Laban does the old bait and switch to his hardworking nephew?
Genesis 29, The Message
1-3 Jacob set out again on his way to the people of the east. He noticed a well out in an open field with three flocks of sheep bedded down around it. This was the common well from which the flocks were watered. The stone over the mouth of the well was huge. When all the flocks were gathered, the shepherds would roll the stone from the well and water the sheep; then they would return the stone, covering the well.
4 Jacob said, “Hello friends. Where are you from?”
They said, “We’re from Haran.”
5 Jacob asked, “Do you know Laban son of Nahor?”
6 “Are things well with him?” Jacob continued.
“Very well,” they said. “And here is his daughter Rachel coming with the flock.”
7 Jacob said, “There’s a lot of daylight still left; it isn’t time to round up the sheep yet, is it? So why not water the flocks and go back to grazing?”
8 “We can’t,” they said. “Not until all the shepherds get here. It takes all of us to roll the stone from the well. Not until then can we water the flocks.”
9-13 While Jacob was in conversation with them, Rachel came up with her father’s sheep. She was the shepherd. The moment Jacob spotted Rachel, daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, saw her arriving with his uncle Laban’s sheep, he went and single-handedly rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the sheep of his uncle Laban. Then he kissed Rachel and broke into tears. He told Rachel that he was related to her father, that he was Rebekah’s son. She ran and told her father. When Laban heard the news—Jacob, his sister’s son!—he ran out to meet him, embraced and kissed him and brought him home. Jacob told Laban the story of everything that had happened.
14-15 Laban said, “You’re family! My flesh and blood!”
When Jacob had been with him for a month, Laban said, “Just because you’re my nephew, you shouldn’t work for me for nothing. Tell me what you want to be paid. What’s a fair wage?”
16-18 Now Laban had two daughters; Leah was the older and Rachel the younger. Leah had nice eyes, but Rachel was stunningly beautiful. And it was Rachel that Jacob loved.
So Jacob answered, “I will work for you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”
19 “It is far better,” said Laban, “that I give her to you than marry her to some outsider. Yes. Stay here with me.”
20 So Jacob worked seven years for Rachel. But it only seemed like a few days, he loved her so much.
21-24 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife; I’ve completed what we agreed I’d do. I’m ready to consummate my marriage.” Laban invited everyone around and threw a big feast. At evening, though, he got his daughter Leah and brought her to the marriage bed, and Jacob slept with her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her maid.)
25 Morning came: There was Leah in the marriage bed!
Jacob confronted Laban, “What have you done to me? Didn’t I work all this time for the hand of Rachel? Why did you cheat me?”
26-27 “We don’t do it that way in our country,” said Laban. “We don’t marry off the younger daughter before the older. Enjoy your week of honeymoon, and then we’ll give you the other one also. But it will cost you another seven years of work.”
28-30 Jacob agreed. When he’d completed the honeymoon week, Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. (Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid.) Jacob then slept with her. And he loved Rachel more than Leah. He worked for Laban another seven years.
31-32 When God realized that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb. But Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and had a son. She named him Reuben (Look-It’s-a-Boy!). “This is a sign,” she said, “that God has seen my misery; and a sign that now my husband will love me.”
33-35 She became pregnant again and had another son. “God heard,” she said, “that I was unloved and so he gave me this son also.” She named this one Simeon (God-Heard). She became pregnant yet again—another son. She said, “Now maybe my husband will connect with me—I’ve given him three sons!” That’s why she named him Levi (Connect). She became pregnant a final time and had a fourth son. She said, “This time I’ll praise God.” So she named him Judah (Praise-God). Then she stopped having children.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
God dealt with Jacob in the wilderness with promises to be with him always as works through Jacob to fulfill His original promise to Abraham. Jacob has turned to God with all that is in him. God is doing things in Jacob that we haven’t seen before this “meeting”. Jacob, the deceiver has changed his ways. He is no longer the arrogant man he used to be. Is that what attracts Rachel to Jacob?
When God meets us in the wilderness of our lives of searching for significance; a relationship forms and then begins to grow and mature in us. He changes our way of thinking. Our behaviors begin to change as well.
What changes do we see happening in our own lives because of our relationship with God?
When we give our lives to God, through Jesus, everything within us changes. God grows our character to be more like His character. Jesus told us this would happen. Jesus, while on earth, shows who God is because He is God. Then Jesus gave his life for ours.
Jacob offers himself to Laban as a hardworking servant and then employee for fourteen years of his life so he can have Rachel, his beloved. Yes, Jacob has changed. His response to Laban’s bait and switch is miraculous. The former Jacob would have just taken what he wanted and run away. But he stayed.
This story has collateral damage. Leah, the girl with “nice eyes”, is used in the bait and switch scheme of Laban, her father, to not only get Jacob to remain in service and debt to him, but to marry off the oldest daughter. How does it make Leah feel? The scripture portrays her pain clearly. It also shows the compassion of our God who sees her pain and blesses her with sons through Jacob that will eventually form the “Twelve Tribes” of the nation of Israel. Rachel is barren during this time. But, sons are given to Leah. The names of her sons reveal her emotions and feelings as well as her relationship with God.
When we have been “put aside”, betrayed or ignored all together, God sees us. God comes to us as and settles our souls. God provides the balm that soothes the woundedness of our being. Jesus, despised by the world knows all levels of pain. He experienced all the excruciating pain the Roman world had to offer to humans—a cross.
But Jesus also had a pain we don’t think about as much as we should. It grieved him in prayer the night before the cross experience to know that God would have to turn his back on him while Jesus carried all the sins of the world on his shoulders to that cross. Only when “it was finished”, the mission complete, all the debt of sin paid in full, could God turn back around to His Son, the “One in whom He was well pleased” with power to raise Him to life everlasting, defeating death and pain altogether.
I have to ask…Have you ever felt like the girl with “nice eyes”—unloved, ignored, set aside, used? It is in those times we feel closer to God, if we allow Him in. Jesus came for the broken. Jesus came for you and me. The most important relationship we will ever have is with God.
Remember that God, with His Son Jesus, know pain. God sees and hears our cries of pain. He sees you. He sees me. He knows our hearts. His Holy Spirit comes to us with all we need to work through the pain and get us to the other side. Pain is momentary; God’s love and compassion is forever and never fails us.
Pain teaches us, strengthens our faith resolve, and shows us the love of God to us and in us. Like Paul realized, to really know Christ is to know pain.
“God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death,so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (Philippians 3:9-11, NLT)
Pain is part of life here. Pain is not forever. There will be no pain there for believers who endure with faith in God. He promised and God does not lie. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4, NLT)
There are no “bait and switch” games with God, our Father! What He says, He will do!
There is so much that you are teaching me today through this passage! There is not enough space to get it all down and I must stew the personal thoughts you have given to me. I pray for every reader of this passage today to be blessed, to know how very much they are deeply loved by you. You are not finished with us yet. I’m still your work in progress. Continue to change me and transform me to be all you created me to be. I know the pain is used for strengthening me. Thank you for painful times that taught me and brought me closer to you.
In Jesus Name, Amen