« PreviousContinue »
THE MARRIAGE OF JACOB.
For many days Jacob kept on his journey, supported and comforted by the sweet assurance of the presence of bis God ; and at length he arrived safely in the Land of Haran.
It was noon when he paused near a well, around which three flocks of sheep were lying, awaiting the time when all the flocks should be assembled, and the stone rolled from the well's mouth, that they might receive the fresh cool waters for which they panted.
With these shepherds Jacob sat conversing and enquiring of the welfare of Laban, his kinsman, when lo ! as he spake a maiden approached, leading with gentle care the flock which she tended. It was Rachel, the daughter of Laban. When Jacob saw her, he arose and rolled away the stone, and assisted her to water her sheep ; then he told her who he was, and
; why he had quitted the Land of Canaan ; and as he recounted the sad history of his sins and sorrows, he lifted up his voice and wept, and her heart turned with ready sympathy towards her kinsman.
And Jacob kissed her, and she ran and told her father of his arrival. Laban hastened to the well to welcome and invite him to his house, and to hear how his long absent sister fared, and with kisses and words of affectionate greeting he brought him to his home.
For a month Jacob remained with Laban, and wrought for him without wages; but Laban said “Because thou art my brother, shouldst thou therefore serve me for nought? tell me what shall be thy wages ?” Jacob did not ask silver or gold or a portion of the flocks, but Rachel the younger daughter of Laban; the maiden who had given him the first welcome to this strange land, and who had wept with him at the well. Rachel was very beautiful, and Jacob had listened to her sweet words of tender sympathy, and watched the tears that fell from her eyes, when first he met her at the well. Those words
and tears had fallen upon his heart, and sprung up in a deep and fond love for the maiden ; and now he offered to serve Laban seven years, if at the end of that time he would give him Rachel for a wife; and Laban heard him gladly.
The time passed, and it seemed to Jacob but a few days, for the love he had for her. When, with the setting sun, he returned from his labours, faint and weary, as soon as he saw Rachel at the door awaiting him, his weariness fled ; one smile of hers, one fond look or word of welcome, made him forget that he had toiled through the day beneath the burning sun, and he bounded forward with eager joy to meet her. Often, in the sultry noontide hour, he would catch the sound of her loved voice as she raised it in song, and it would cheer him onward in his task. Did his thoughts turn towards his distant home, and sadness steal like a cloud over his spirit ? Rachel would turn her dark eyes full of tenderness upon him, and the cloud passed away ; the heaviness gave place to joy.
“ All the stars of heaven, The deep blue noon of night ; lit by an orb
That looks a spirit--or a spirit's world-
comingThe forest shade-the green boughs—the bird's
voice All these were nothing to his eyes and heart, Like · Rachel's' face !"
But Laban had an elder daughter, Leah; who possessed not the beauty of her sister. And when the seven years were passed he deceived Jacob, and gave him this daughter instead of Rachel When Jacob discovered this cruel fraud, sorrow and anger filled his mind, and he exclaimed reproach fully, “What is this that thou hast done to me? did I not serve thee for Rachel ?" Laban excused himself by saying that in that country it was not lawful to give the younger in marriage before the elder ; and he promised to give him Rachel also if he would serve him another seven years. Long as was this time, and unjust and cruel as was the conduct of Laban, yet Jacob hesitated not to accept the offer, so great was his love towards her.
But Leah was not loved by her husband.
Long, long she strove by every gentle and endearing attention to win a place in his heart, but in vain. Then sorrow settled upon her spirit, and she mourned and wept before God. The Lord saw and pitied her wretchedness and gave her a son. How did her lonely heart rejoice and lift itself up in thankfulness to the Almighty Giver, when she gazed upon the fair features of her firstborn. “Now, now," she fondly exclaimed, “will my husband love me, the mother of his firstborn. Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction.” And she called him Reuben, signifying "See a son."
Yet did not Jacob look kindly upon or love her, for all his heart was Rachel's. Even his child he loved not as well as if it had been that of his younger wife. Another son was given to the sorrowing Leah, who cried with jealous indignation towards her husband and with gratitude to God, “Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated he hath therefore given me this son also,” and she called him Simeon, which signifies, “Heard, because God had heard her."
Again she bore a son ; and now she thought