Fourteen years

“Just because we’re family,” Laban told Jacob, “doesn’t mean you work for free. How shall I pay you?”

“Funny you should ask,” Jacob answered. Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachel, and although Jacob was embarrassingly aware that he had come without a dowry, his heart belonged to Rachel.

Customarily, the eldest daughter would have been married off first. But in this case, the eldest’s eyes were somewhat zombie-like and unattractive, while Rachel’s sparkled. Rachel was a picture of beauty, grace, and radiance.

“I’ll work for you for seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage,” Jacob said.

Laban agreed. That would surely give some other suitor ample time to come and take Leah. “It’s better for Rachel to be with you than any other man,” he said.

Jacob stayed with Laban’s household for seven years, watching over his flocks, herds, and lands. Because Jacob loved Rachel, it seemed only a few days had passed.

After completing his part of the promise, Jacob came to Laban to fetch his prize. “My time here is finished, as you know. I’m ready to make Rachel my wife.”

“Very well.” Laban invited everyone within the vicinity to celebrate at the wedding feast. After much dining, singing, and dancing on the first evening, the sun retired. Laban brought his daughter Leah to Jacob, and Jacob, being full of wine, went to bed with her.

In the morning, Jacob realized what had happened. He asked Laban, “Why did you do this to me? I became a seven-year servant for Rachel.”

“You know our custom,” Laban answered. “We give our firstborn to be married first.”

Laban had also become rich while Jacob managed his affairs, so he wasn’t in a hurry to be rid of him. “Finish this week of celebration, and I’ll give you Rachel as a wife also. The only condition is that you serve me for another seven years.”

So Jacob and Leah finished their week of celebration, and Rachel was presented to Jacob as well.

As Jacob began his second stretch of indenture, God saw that Leah was unloved. He therefore gave Leah the ability to become pregnant, while Rachel suffered barrenness. Leah had four sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.

After Judah, Jacob’s visits became infrequent.

Inspiration: Genesis 29

Abram’s call

Your son Canaan will bow to Shem.

From Shem’s family line, the Semites, a man named Abram emerged from Ur in Babylonia. He and his wife Sarai had lived with his father’s tribe north of Ur in Haran, but God told him to take his herds and head south and settle in an area he designated for the fulfillment of his promise to save humankind.

“You’ll become a great nation,” God told him, “blessed and renowned. Those who bless you will be blessed, and those who curse you will be cursed. Because of you, every family in the world will have reason to celebrate.”

Abram took God at his word. When he was seventy-five years old, he packed his bags and loaded up his wife, his nephew Lot, their livestock, and all the servants they had acquired in Haran and journeyed voluntarily into the unknown.

Traveling through Canaan, they stopped at Moreh Grove in Shechem. God said, “This will be the land of your children.”

Abram had no children and knew his wife was barren, but he built an altar anyway, willing to stretch himself beyond his personal bounderies, believing that God’s word was his bond.

From Shechem, he and his entourage continued south and lived off the land. All along the route, Abram would build one altar after another, fueled by a God who would show up indiscriminately to repeat his promise of wide, open spaces and endless descendants.

Inspiration: Genesis 10-12; I Chronicles 1