The resourcefulness of the Lord is a quality that often goes without adequate appreciation and attention. We are much better off when we consider the manifold purpose in His creation. The extent to which we can be enlightened by His methods should never be limited, whether it is literal, spiritual or allegorical. Every earthly movement of God overflows with spiritual meaning and is inspired by His desire to provide us with prophetic insight into His ways. He is eager to uncover the mysteries of His plan to those who seek Him with pure motives and righteous intentions.
For our benefit, God’s hand was heavily involved in the lives of the Hebrews in order that He might clearly establish His covenant and meticulously demonstrate His will for mankind. There is especially much to be learned from the Lord’s association with the biblical Patriarchs. Before or during many of His encounters with Israel’s leaders, God would refer to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [Exodus 3:6], and this was because He performed a unique and intentional work through them. His self-proclaimed association with their generations was a flash of His sovereign credentials; it served as a declaration of His track record of perfect love, great mercy and unrivaled power.
The Lord has emphasized elements of His will and nature throughout their narratives, and we must diligently seek to discover them. We have already seen the great significance in Abraham and Sarah and unveiled the deeper truths within Isaac and Ishmael. Throughout the remainder of this analysis of Israel, we will look closely at the next generation of Jacob. We will discover the great revelation included within his existence, his sons and their surrounding events which speak heavily of the future of all people to this very day. Every aspect of Israel’s narrative carries weight and significance beyond its location in time, so we will evaluate some of their encounters specifically as scripture outlines them. Though many modern Christians have minimized the scriptural contributions of Israel, it is important to become familiar with their history, because it greatly impacts our future. The following events of Jacob’s life will be the primary basis for our continued examination.
***Genesis Chapter 29:1-30 (NAS)
Jacob Meets Rachel** 1Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the sons of the east. 2He looked, and saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep were lying there beside it, for from that well they watered the flocks. Now the stone on the mouth of the well was large. 3When all the flocks were gathered there, they would then roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the well.
4Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?” And they said, “We are from Haran.” 5He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” And they said, “We know him.” 6And he said to them, “Is it well with him?” And they said, “It is well, and here is Rachel his daughter coming with the sheep.” 7He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” 8But they said, “We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”
9While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. 11Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted his voice and wept. 12Jacob told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father. 13So when Laban heard the news of Jacob his sister’s son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Then he related to Laban all these things.
Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel
14Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” And he stayed with him a month. 15Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 16Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face. 18Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.” 20So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.
Laban’s Treachery 21Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her.” 22Laban gathered all the men of the place and made a feast. 23Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him; and Jacob went in to her. 24Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. 25So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?” 26But Laban said, “It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn. 27“Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years.” 28Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. 29Laban also gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid. 30So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years.*
The story of Jacob’s family is incredibly eventful, full of romance, jealousy, treachery, manipulation and even murder. As it begins, Jacob, who has escaped the wrath of his angry brother, Esau, runs to His Uncle Laban who is raising his family in Haran. There, he encounters one of Laban’s daughters, Rachel while she is tending sheep. The Bible describes her as being very beautiful in the eyes of Jacob and even shapely. Conversely, Leah, Rachel’s older sister, was weak-eyed and unattractive.
After staying with Laban and working for him a while, Laban offers to pay Jacob for his continued services, and the two of them agree that Jacob would work for Laban seven years in exchange for Rachel’s hand in marriage. For Jacob, those seven years would only feel like a few days because of His intense love for her.
After the fulfillment of Jacob’s commitment, Laban organizes a wedding feast and invites all the people of his family to gather together for the party. The night of festivities concludes, and the time comes for Laban to give Rachel away to consummate the union, except he doesn’t. In an act of fraudulence, Laban causes the older sister Leah to sleep with Jacob rather than Rachel, and Jacob fails to recognize that it wasn’t the woman who he had long labored for. Whether Jacob was drunk with wine, excitement or both, he didn’t notice until the following morning that Laban had “beguiled” him, and he and Leah were now conjugally connected in a covenant.
Sobered and frustrated, Jacob confronts Laban about his deception and Laban’s excuse is that it isn’t customary to marry off the younger daughter before the older. Amazingly, even after this, Jacob agrees to complete the bridal week with Leah in exchange for Rachel immediately afterward. Finally, Laban accepts and surrenders his younger daughter, Rachel, but this time as an advance payment for another seven years of Jacob’s servitude.
Now, let’s stop to observe the prophetic allegories already infused in Jacob’s narrative. There are immediately some familiar concepts within this portion of the storyline that suggest a presence of some deeper meaning. Take, for instance, the three 7’s which transpire throughout these events. They are the initial seven-year work period for Leah, the seven-day bridal week for Leah and the seven-year work period for Rachel. These are not arbitrary details, and they are important in the context of the entire plot.
The number 7 and multiples of 7 are used notably and extensively in scripture to communicate completion and/or perfection, and these 7’s are no different (Genesis 2:1-2; Matthew 18:21-22; 2 Kings 5:9-10, 14). When applied to this story, an amazing picture is painted by this otherwise, unusual sequence which metaphorically illuminates the timing of the plan that God ordained to process mankind.
Like his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham, God is using Jacob to reveal His own mind and thoughts. Rachel is beautiful, and the ideal bride for Jacob. In her reality she prophetically symbolizes the beautiful, ideal bride of Christ which the Lord desires. She represents God’s perfect will for all of creation—that all men would come to exist with Him in eternity. So, all of Jacob’s work imitates the extent and process of God’s work to have Rachel—man, created in His ideal image.
The first seven-year work period denotes the Old—or first—covenant, beginning with God’s declaration of devotion to work for man, created in His image. But God knew His work would be challenged by Satan’s deceiving ways, so He included it in the story as well. This is where Laban’s deceit comes into play. It symbolizes Satan’s trickery upon men, beginning with Adam, which was intended to exchange the ideal bride for an imperfect woman, represented by Leah.
Now Leah is “weak-eyed” and unattractive older sister, and she embodies the flawed, sinful nature of men. She was the bride Jacob received, not the one he wanted, but God caused Jacob to remain committed to this covenant. Here is the meaning: Through His unrivaled form of love, God remains devoted to saving men from their broken nature, even though they exist in a condition that is less than His ideal choice. His devotion is represented by the Jacob’s willingness to complete Leah’s seven-day wedding week before receiving Rachel. This seven-day week most likely represents the time Jesus spent fulfilling or “completing” the law of the first covenant in the Earth.
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Jacob did not destroy His first covenant to Leah, and Jesus did not come to destroy the law. Both of them remained committed to the wives of their first covenant—Jacob to Leah and Jesus to men existing in their sinful state.
As the story continues, Jacob marries Rachel, but this time it is as an advance payment for the second seven-year work period. This advance payment symbolizes that our salvation and righteousness was made available in advance, even before the full manifestation of the sons of God [Romans 8:19]. Jacob’s work afterwards is a reflection of God’s work during the second covenant or seven year season as He inspires us to “work out [our] soul’s salvation” (Philippians 2:12). This work continues until the actualization of our “new birth” as His spiritual sons and daughters—manifestation of the ideal bride, Rachel.
As Jacob’s drama continues, so does the allegorical meaning of every scene and event.
As the saga continues, Rachel is interestingly unable to bear children, and the Lord sympathizes with the unloved Leah. He opens her womb to conceive Jacob’s first four children, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. As a result, Rachel becomes so overcome with jealousy that she uses her servant, Bilhah, as a surrogate to give her children, and she gives birth to Dan and Naphtali. Then Leah, who’s womb had been closed, acted in jealous retaliation by giving her servant Zilpah to Jacob as a surrogate. She gives birth to Gad and Asher. At this point, God re-opens Leah’s womb and she gives birth to her final three children, Issachar, Zebulun and the only girl, Dinah. Finally, after eleven children (10 sons and 1 daughter) between three of the women, God opens Rachel’s womb to conceive, and she gives birth to Joseph.
Throughout this part of the story, there are more things to consider. There is an obvious, divine influence upon the order of births, and it is also peculiar that each birth is accompanied by a statement from one of Jacob’s two wives. Both the order of the children and the mothers of each birth are very important.
Remember, Rachel is the ideal, chosen bride who fittingly represents the ideal nature of the Lord’s spiritual elect, and the children she bears are the manifestation of her perfect nature. Remember, also, that Leah is the imperfect bride representing the flawed nature and condition of mankind. Her children are the manifestation of impure and imperfect men and God’s covenant commitment to them. As the partner of Jacob’s first covenant, Leah also denotes Israel the recipient of God’s first covenant.
Bilhah and Zilpah are not the resulting wives of either of Jacob’s covenants with Laban, but servants of the covenant holders’ purposes. As such they they represent those who are also servants in their spiritual calling. Although they aren’t a part of the initial, marital covenants, they are able to bear children thanks to the jealous relationship between the other two women. Therefore, in this story, Bilhah and Zilpah represent the involvement of Gentile nations who have no physical covenant with God but benefit from the righteous jealousy of God and the unrighteous jealousy of Israel. When they bear children, God is illustrating His own utilization of Gentile nations to spur and advance the agendas of His covenants.
Accounting for these women and who they represent, a profound revelation unfolds. By His control, the Lord is actually using the birth of each child to illustrate the seasons or dispensations of mankind’s experience within His overall plan. It begins with the imperfection planted by Satan’s deceit but ultimately ends with children born from Rachel’s idealistic and perfect nature. This is why Leah conceives, first, followed by Bilhah and Zilpah. Then, Leah conceives again before Rachel finally gives birth last. This progression denotes the divine process of God who first focused on Israel, within the old covenant, then the Gentiles; it also prophesies that He will turn His attention to Israel again.
When Leah stops bearing children after seven, God completes His work with the Jews and all imperfect men, and finally, Rachel’s womb produces seed. Then Joseph, who’s entire life is a widely-recognized, allegorical representation of Jesus’ life and spiritual purpose, becomes the first-born of God’s ideal creation, men created in His image.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Jacob prospered through his people and his flocks as many more events transpired throughout his life. He wrestled with God, dislocated his hip and was renamed Israel after the incident. Several other events occurred, each with prophetic meaning and value. Within the fascinating plot of Jacob’s account, there are revelations infused in every detail which not only speak of those events, but prophesy of events to come.
In his ripe, old age, Jacob’s memory was impeccable and his foresight was divine. Many of his words make sense in relation to the past, but others are spoken without much historical evidence to suggest their meaning. Moving forward, we’ll take a closer look at His words, their relation to the past and their bearing on our future. When combined with numerous supplementary scriptures, we will also see just how the individual blessings of Jacob’s sons in Genesis 48 and 49 contain the keys to unlocking the extended allegories that were their lives. Their experiences provide prophetic insight into our very own destiny. We will discover how the story of Jacob and his family is perhaps the most undiscovered yet revealing insight into God’s complete plan for us all.