‘Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father.’
Jacob has a two-fold purpose in journeying to his mother’s relatives. His mother tells him he should go to escape the retribution his brother Esau wants to visit on him; and persuades his father to send him there to find a wife who won’t be a Hittite. In some ways this pattern of behavior echoes that of the past generation. Abraham didn’t want Isaac to marry a local girl, but one of his relatives, and here Jacob is also to look for a spouse from amongst his own kindred. However, whilst Abraham sent his chief servant to act as a go-between, Jacob is sent himself, with laudable reason that it conveniently gets him out of harm’s way.
There are other echoes of the past–meeting at a well, watering flocks or herds, the right girl coming at the right moment, the realization of being amongst relatives. Jacob creates a good impression, as he rolls away the stone from over the well, introduces himself as a relative and greets Rachel with a cousinly kiss; perhaps the tears indicate that he is overwhelmed to have arrived at this place–or perhaps he’s blown away by her beauty and falls head over heels! News of Jacob’s arrival is met with welcome and affection from his uncle. A major difference is that what’s missing from this account is God; whilst the earlier occasion was full of God–this one, at least from the purely human perspective of the narrator, is not.
Various studies suggest that the parallels in these stories, and the similarities and differences, deserve close attention, because they have important things to say about the purpose of telling the story. This typology also extends to the individuals here and the history of Israel; and the repetition of seeking a bride also resonates with our Christian understanding.
Looking back through your own life, are the lessons which you have had to learn on more than one occasion?