Sometimes I daydream about my future husband. I imagine how we’ll meet, the many dates we’ll go on, and how he’ll propose. Never once have I imagined my husband cheating on me or the inability for us to have children or one of us dying. I don’t like to think of those things because I don’t want them to happen. And deep down, I assure myself that those things won’t happen to me.
It’s not very realistic, I know, because as this chapter of the Bible shows, no amount of plans or hopes or dreams can stop bad things from happening. Things might even start off really well, like they did for Jacob, Isaac and Rebekah’s itinerant son. Searching for a wife, he finally arrives in Paddan Aram, where his rich uncle Laban lives with his two daughters. Jacob meets the younger daughter, Rachel, almost immediately. When she comes with her father’s sheep to water them, Jacob makes a huge scene of moving the heavy stone from the well, crying, and kissing his cousin. Realizing who he is, Rachel tells her father, and Jacob soon moves in with his uncle and starts to work for him.
Jacob doesn’t work for free. He asks Laban to allow him to marry Rachel in exchange for seven entire years of work! That’s a lot of time for a relationship to change and even sour, but Jacob is in love and he is faithful. In fact, the seven years “seem only like a few days to him because of his love for her” (verse 20). Isn’t that so romantic?! Rachel and Jacob were probably the cutest couple in all of Paddan Aram, but their joy didn’t last long.
On the night of the wedding, Laban makes a truly bizarre decision, giving Leah, not Rachel, to Jacob to consummate the marriage. In the morning, Jacob realizes the sickening truth – Leah is his wife now. He’s understandably furious, but Laban acts like it’s no big deal, because Jacob can now have both women for just two easy payments of seven years’ labor! With no other options, Jacob complies and Rachel is forced to share her husband with her sister. Soon insult is added to injury when Leah pops out four whole sons, while Rachel can only wonder why her womb is barren. Such a beautiful and hopeful beginning has turned into a living hell. Who could have seen this coming?
The Treasures Within:
The Search For Innocence
I have so many questions. Let’s start with “how?!” How did Laban manage this? Did he force Leah to do this? Did he tie Rachel up in a basement to keep up the lie, like in the movies? Or could Rachel have somehow been complicit in this? Basically, who is at fault? It seems as if Rachel is the victim and Laban and Leah are the evil masterminds. Imagine what poor Rachel was going through – the joy of being married to someone who loved her and bearing his children was ripped from her. And, according to verse 31, it was God’s decision that things should be this way. Why would He do this to an innocent person? But what if Rachel wasn’t innocent? Maybe she didn’t really love Jacob or maybe she began to rub Jacob’s love for her in Leah’s face. That would make her and God even, then, right?
This story frustrates me because I’m frantic to see justice get served. That is what God does, is it not? He brings punishment on the evil and joy to the innocent. He’s not supposed to let us hurt when we didn’t do anything wrong – else He would be unfair. These values and these beliefs about what’s fair and what isn’t comes from the world, society, and secular opinion. These things assure us that there are still good people, ones who don’t deserve pain and sorrow. They tell us that in the end, the truly good people will get the peace and happiness that they deserve. When that doesn’t happen, we feel angry because something has been broken. We blame our government, capitalism, or the justice system. We rally and protest, because we know deep down that justice must be served to the innocent and that happiness is within our reach, if only we take action and claim it.
Yet here the Bible seems to suggest the opposite. Innocence has been stolen, violated. Happiness consistently eludes Rachel and even Leah, who cannot seem to make her husband love her (verses 32-34). We cannot comfortably tie a bow around this story and draft a pleasing moral. This is no huge surprise, because we see the same thing happen every day of our lives. Babies die, children are abused, good people are killed or hit with disease. The innocent suffer. Happiness is nowhere to be found. And we are angry, because something has been broken.
Indeed, something has broken, but it’s not our God, as we so often assume. It is our world. Sin has broken our world. Sin has warped the very definition of innocence, because if we are all sinners from birth, then who is truly innocent? It is sin that continuously destroys our happiness and ruins our dreams. Sometimes it is the sins of others that rip us apart. Sometimes it is our own sins that eat away at our lives. Whoever the culprit, the crime remains the same: sin. Religion teaches us that the cure is righteousness, yet even when I give my heart to God, there are still people dying of illnesses and I still can’t stop children from being abused. It’s because our world is fundamentally broken. We need a new one.
God’s Message To Us:
“This world is not your home.” It was supposed to be, but, well, we ruined it. But we have a second chance. Our new home is being prepared for us. Our new home is better than even our wildest dreams. And unlike our wildest dreams, our new home is guaranteed. It is all made possible because our God sacrificed His life in order to give us the gift of innocence. We can waste our time playing church, crossing our fingers that the world is right and justice and happiness will just come to us. Or we can leave it all behind – the world and the sin that broke it, and set our sights on a new home. Then our trials and our sorrows will not cut so deeply because we’ll be too busy dreaming of our bright futures.
What do you think of this chapter? Who do you think is guilty and who is innocent? What did God want you to get from this chapter of the Bible?