29 Jacob continued on his journey until he came to the land of the people who lived in the east. 2 As he approached, he saw a well in the field and three flocks of sheep lying beside it because the flocks were used to being watered from the well. The stone on the well’s mouth was large; 3 and when all of the flocks were gathered, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well, give water to the sheep, and then roll the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well. 4 Jacob spoke to them as he approached.
Jacob (to the shepherds): Brothers, where do you come from?
Shepherds: We are from Haran.
Jacob: 5 Do you know Laban, son of Nahor?
Shepherds: We do.
Jacob: 6 Is he well?
Shepherds: Yes, he is. Look, here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep right now.
Jacob: 7 Look, it’s still broad daylight, too early to gather the livestock together for the evening. Why don’t you water the sheep and take them out to graze in the pasture?
Shepherds: 8 We can’t—not until all of the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well. Then we water the sheep.
9 While Jacob was still speaking to the shepherds, Rachel came with her father’s sheep for she, too, was a shepherd. 10 Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, along with Laban’s sheep, he went up to the well, rolled the stone from the well’s mouth by himself, and watered Laban’s flock. 11 Then Jacob greeted Rachel with a kiss and cried for joy. 12 Jacob told Rachel he was her father’s relative—Rebekah’s son—and she ran and told her father.
13 When Laban heard the news about the arrival of his sister’s son, Jacob, he ran to meet him. He hugged him and kissed him, and he brought Jacob to his house. Jacob told Laban everything.
Laban: 14 You are surely my flesh and bone!
And Jacob stayed with Laban for a month and helped out with all his livestock.
15 Then Laban spoke one day to Jacob.
Laban: Just because you are my relative, that doesn’t mean you should be working for me for nothing! Tell me what I can pay you.
16 Now Laban had two daughters. The older was Leah, and her younger sister was Rachel. 17 There was no brightness to Leah’s eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful shape and was lovely to look at. 18 Jacob truly loved Rachel.
Since Jacob has no money to pay a bride-price, he offers a creative solution to the problem.
Jacob: I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll serve you for seven years in exchange for the hand of your younger daughter Rachel in marriage.
Laban: 19 Agreed. I’d rather you have her than any other man I know. You may stay here and work.
20 So Jacob served Laban for seven years in exchange for Rachel. The years went by quickly and seemed to him to be only a few days because of the immense love he had for her.
21 When the time came, Jacob approached Laban.
Jacob: I have now completed seven years of work for you. I ask you now to give me my wife so that I may consummate my marriage.
22 So Laban gathered together all of the people in the area and prepared a great feast. 23 But in the evening, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob slept with her thinking she was Rachel. 24 Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant. 25 When morning came, Jacob realized Leah was the one with him in the marriage bed.
Jacob: What have you done to me? Did we not have a deal—seven years of labor in exchange for your daughter Rachel? Why have you deceived me?
Laban: 26 That isn’t something we do here in this country—giving the younger daughter in marriage before the firstborn. 27 If you complete this wedding week with Leah, then I will also give you Rachel. But in return, you must serve me another seven years.
Wedding celebrations last seven days, plenty of time for Leah to become pregnant with Laban’s first grandchild.
28 Jacob agreed and completed his week with Leah. And then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel in marriage. 29 Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant. 30 Then Jacob also slept with Rachel, and he clearly loved Rachel more than Leah. As agreed, he served Laban for another seven years.
31 When the Eternal One saw how Leah was unloved, He made her fertile, but Rachel remained barren. 32 Leah conceived and gave birth to a son, and she named him Reuben.
Leah: Because the Eternal One has been compassionate to me in my painful predicament, allowing me to bear this child, surely now my husband will love me.
33 In time, she conceived again and gave birth to another son.
Leah: Because the Eternal One has heard I am unloved, He has given me this son too.
So Leah named the second son Simeon. 34 Then she conceived for the third time and gave birth to her third son.
Leah: Surely now my husband will be more attached to me, because I have given him three sons.
Leah named the third son Levi. 35 And once again, she conceived and gave birth to her fourth son.
Leah: This time I will praise the Eternal One!
So Leah named this son Judah. After Judah, Leah didn’t have any more children for a while.